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a new demon named Manananggal, a demon of Philippine origin, which can separate it's upper and lower body to fly through the night to hunt pregnant women to eat, here depicted as a naked woman with a severed torso, so maybe exercise caution when clicking this link to the artwork.
I've never heard of this demon and will be looking up more about the history of this. My assumption would be that it's miscarriage related based on the specifics of the attacks, but the separating in half is such a unique thing to be a part of demon lore that I'm curious to know more. Probably long lost to time but very interesting.

Also I like how you kill it:

Sprinkling salt, smearing crushed garlic or ash on top of the standing torso is fatal to the creature. The upper torso then would not be able to rejoin itself and would perish by sunrise.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I made it to the first boss and barely eeked out a victory on my first attempt; there were 2 separate turns where the MC was left with either 1 or none allies left, and critical usage of items was all but necessary. But, with all the new options for character building it wouldn't have taken much effort to reconfigure things for a much better lineup against it.

My memory of SMT4's mechanics is hazy at best, and I never played Apocalypse, but this might be my favorite iteration in the series of character building for the MC. Your skills aren't nearly as much of a commitment as Nocturne (as long as you don't mind putting in some effort to get demon Essences), but you still have to make decisions about opportunity costs for what you want to build towards, and it's also never been easier to fill in whatever small gaps your demon roster might need.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
The first ten to fifteen hours of this are sublime. I'm not into all of it (Amanozako's portrayal still stings; in-game context only worsens the deal) but so much of it lands so strongly and exceeds the "remember Nocturne" trappings it's clearly playing with from the outset. Is the compendium inspired? Not at all. Is the human-centric writing, when it intermittently pipes up, worth a hoot? I don't think so, and there are stirrings of it overtaking things increasingly as the game goes on. Will the sand dunes aesthetic ever make way for something else? I'm not hopeful. All the issues that may arise are consistently observable, but the trick the game pulls is in arranging all its individually blasé components into a legitimately enthralling moment-to-moment concoction where play outside of the battles and menus is just as interesting and enjoyable as within them. "Open world" does not do this game's level design justice in how considered, layered and looping in and around itself it is, the dense verticality of it, or what jumping, climbing and high-speed movement does to traditionally slow-paced genre movement. You have a character who's fun to control in a genre that's not usually known for such flourishes, and within that context you get to take in a world that matters more than as just a vehicle for the Real Stuff in whatever you're going to be fighting next; it's just as important how those opponents exist in the spaces they inhabit, and in this presentational style they can truly be claimed to do so. All of the demons have behavioural tics, movements patterns, distinct habitats, terrific and sometimes terrifying sound design to them that convincingly portray them as living beings eking out existences on the same terms you are, the gap between one and all greatly diminished. It's why I've mostly stopped grousing about seeing the same bulk of the compendium in the billionth series game, because they all feel fresh and exciting again in this context, trodding the blasted earth.

Scale benefits all of the game from the demons to the environmental work, allowing the giants to be thus and the places you go appear as such as well, and never feeling like anything's just filling out space in light of the blazing immediacy the Nahobino can navigate their surroundings with when needed. If the writing starts on some untoward bullshit eventually, even that feels like it probably has a silver lining in how sparsely told the primary yarn is, with the game allowing the majority of its setting and textual writing be conveyed by its sheer atmospherics and by the demons that inhabit the land, with whom you're interacting the majority of the time instead of humans intermingling in the ruins. The majority of the game's attention is dedicated to its most compelling aspects, in exploring its world and the mechanics that manifest through doing so, so it cannot be argued to be out of step with itself, and that's greatly reassuring going into the rest of it.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
There's a lot of DLC and that makes me worried?
Most of it is extra boss fights that are end-game levels, and I don't really get why they're there, but it also doesn't bother me. The Mitama options aren't quite as easy to exploit as one might expect; Mitama weaknesses in this one change every time you encounter them, and they're always immune to everything but 1 element.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I have now made it to another "field area" and this game is just... really really good. After hitting a section that develops a whole lot of Plot, I am extremely curious to know what's going to happen with this story and these characters. Echoing Peklo's heaping praise as well, field map traversal really is sublime; rather than your typical SMT dungeons mostly featuring maze-like locations, the world of Da'at has a sense of scale and verticality to it that is a completely new experience for the series, and it's executed wonderfully.

In terms of mechanics, I can see how an SMT-hardliner could bemoan some of the niceties added to this entry, but I am for sure welcoming it. Normal is still plenty challenging and dangerous, and there's still a Game Over when the Nahobino dies, but I have been able to defeat boss fights even when scrambling to fix a bad situation. And there's always Hard mode for people who do want the extra oomph from their SMT game.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
i'm not a huge fan of the desert vibes so i haven't found the exploration elements super enticing so far, but i appreciate it on a conceptual level. i think perhaps it could do with a few more landmarks?
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I've got a fairly minor gripe: it feels like bosses have just a little too much HP. I have a feeling they balanced it like that to make you engage more with the Magatsuhi gauge. But basically every boss/mini-boss battle tends to take all of the MP from multiple characters.
 
Glad I was right in my guess about Tokyo vs Wasteland in game structure terms! Was not at all up for one continuous desert slog.

About 14 hours in now, am enjoying the balance of 3 and 4 that seems to be present. Exploring being actually fun is certainly an improvement given how much of it you tend to do in an SMT game. Am aiming to do a Law run first and then try to blast through the rest on NG+.

YangusKhan - Miitama are still plenty abusable, as you can just use Spyglass in turn 1 with the MC and find the weakness that way, then use the remaining 3-6 turns hitting it (though that usually just means using Pass until you reach anyone with that element, then obliterating it in one hit). A friend of mine who's new to SMT apparently thought it would be wise to grind them, and in a few hours of doing so hit Level 50 (from the instant-level-up items they drop) in the first area (since your little helper spirit thing takes you to respawning spots where Miitama can appear).
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Miitama are still plenty abusable, as you can just use Spyglass in turn 1 with the MC and find the weakness that way, then use the remaining 3-6 turns hitting it (though that usually just means using Pass until you reach anyone with that element, then obliterating it in one hit). A friend of mine who's new to SMT apparently thought it would be wise to grind them, and in a few hours of doing so hit Level 50 (from the instant-level-up items they drop) in the first area (since your little helper spirit thing takes you to respawning spots where Miitama can appear).
Oh sure, you can still do this, but I was just pointing out how it's not quite as easy as "buy Mitama DLC, spend a few effortless battles grinding and steamroll the game." I really like how single Mitama rewards aren't ridiculously lucrative, since it lets the player be really granular with what they want to grind, but there's also options for pumping the gas a bit: eventually you can get a Miracle that lets other demons use items, and also the Element-type demons have a Magatsuhi skill that increases EXP and Macca rewards.
 
I feel obligated to post something on Talking Time about SMT5.

Beat it and then reloaded to see the other endings. My scores:

Gameplay: very fun (9/10 kool-aid mans in strange journeys)

Story: very bad (2/10 kool-aid mans in strange journeys)

This series sure is something else.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
Good to see you, Eirikr.

I'm a ways off from finishing yet, but from what I've seen at over the projected halfway point bears out that assessment. It's as expected!
 

Zef

Find Your Reason
(He/Him)
Shame, I saw the optional superboss fight and I was actually interested in the gameplay, but I always put story and characters ahead of everything else when it comes to RPGs. I'll just skip it and watch an LP of it like I did for 4A.
 
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MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Yeah, ever since Persona took off the changing of the guard, the story's been a place where Atlus's Shin Mega Ten line and spawn have been a letdown (and also really problematic) for a while now. I think about picking up SMT4 again sometimes but then I remember the story arc about purging cannibalistic demonized interpretations of Chinese deities from part of Japan and I'm like "Nope".

And whatever good Persona 5 does in calling out how fucked-up corruption of people in high positions of power is is tainted by all the misogyny and gay panic* stuff. Learning about blackmailing your teacher into being your personal meido being a social link was where I decided I didn't really need to play that game.

* That scene was edited in Royal's localization at least.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Based on where I am in the game, I don't see how it would be "obvious" that the story goes in a bad direction? I'm not sure what constitutes the halfway point; I'm close to 30 hours (level 35) and I think I'm about to wrap up the second area of Da'at (I'm supposed to visit a fairy village to find some of the captured students). Granted, there still hasn't been a lot that's happened with the plot yet, but so far I'm fairly neutral with the writing and probably leaning positive for now.
 
I don't see myself getting to this any time soon, and I would be curious to know what the specific story issues are with this one (no need to dance around it to avoid spoilers), if anyone is willing and able to share.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I don't see myself getting to this any time soon, and I would be curious to know what the specific story issues are with this one (no need to dance around it to avoid spoilers), if anyone is willing and able to share.

I will get into "shit I didn't like" territory now as contrasted with the earlier positive impressions, partly as a response to the query here, and partly as post-game wrap-up now that I've finished the game. I think it follows fairly naturally to divide the subjects like this as the gaps in quality the game possesses are rather extreme, and almost always clearly delineated between thematics and narrative crashing against the play mechanics, never to find union or coherence. Spoilers aren't a concern beyond this point, just to be clear, though I do tend to speak in generalities.

If the premise as given is that Shin Megami Tensei V is a storytelling flub, it's certainly not a novel conclusion to come to; that has largely been the narrative baseline of the series and larger franchise for the past decade or so. Whether one holds this view or feels frustrated by it, the reasons don't seem so mysterious or out of reach: major creative voices have departed, the series has increasingly felt the pressure of its own history and lineage, and past risk-taking is replaced by trend-chasing external to the voices and direction that defined the rebellious spirit of the works that gave the series form in the first place. It has been an inevitable process, and at this point I'm no longer gnashing my teeth at the futility of it; the series exists, and even thrives, in the shape it now has and my interactions with it are made tenable by a curated sense of compartmentalization. I can praise SMTV for the set of game mechanics it presents; it is just as natural to deride it for the story it cannot convincingly tell.

For all the time I spent with it (and it is a long game), should I be pressed to detail or even describe what SMTV is about, I'm not sure I could do it. Elevator pitches aren't crucial to telling a worthwhile narrative but the ability to summarize the central tenets and thematic matter of a tale isn't a boon to be taken lightly, especially in a series that at its most compelling has landed on those all-encompassing thematic throughlines. Nocturne has its story of cyclical creation, rebirth and ideologies driven by significant personal interiority; Strange Journey unites a multi-cultural cast to face the consequences of global environmental abuse and suffer the rage of mother earth in turn. These are the stories that stand out because they have a unique voice of their own that is not wholly dependent on the insistent and pervasive Judeo-Christian scuffle bubbling under the surface in the series's archetypical setups for its conflicts; they can function both independent and attuned to it if needed, but are never defined by it. SMTV doesn't eke out a space for itself to say anything distinctive with; it feels like a work completely beholden to semiotics of past entries in a way that is both reverential and terrified of straying from those comfortable fixtures. This also is not new, as SMTIV for its part was excessively cowed by adherence to the old status quos of the Super Famicom duology in a bid to seem superficially "authentic"--the only difference now is that V looks to the third game for guidance instead.

Dancing in Nocturne's shadow is a risky play to make, not least for the complicated reputation the game holds depending on personal context. In North America and Europe, for being one of the earliest games brought over in the franchise, the context of the game as a series-iconoclastic deviation has been largely lost and only restored if independently traced back in the years since; it was further muddled by the inconsistent and incongruous Maniacs expansion material present in all English-language versions by default and which became definitive to the text as a result. SMTV's using of Nocturne's supernatural protagonist concept, Vortex World aesthetic, direct incidental nods and even the very brazen "do you know what happened 18 years ago? It was wild" premise that maintains the cosmology of the previous game all seem like a holistic attempt to both play to the fondness Nocturne holds for English-language audiences, and for the home-grown developers to pay due tribute and so "repatriate" the outlier in the lineage as just as significant a player as the iconic foundations. It is an attempt to anchor the game's identity to a strongly-defined previous work, but the gesture rings hollow as the game does not hold sway over its own proceedings, so all that's left is empty gesticulation at past glories and the pandering inherent to such acts if they are so devoid of substance as they are here.

The misconception that Nocturne "has no story" is a challenge that SMTV rises to meet in its efforts to live up to its forebearer in imitating parts of the form but little of the function therein. The textual narrative of the earlier game had thematic weight on its own but it was amplified and made resonant through choices of direction and presentation--the framing of scenes, the lighting of them, the choices to withold information if it wasn't prudent. It's not a false dichotomy of little text vs. much text, but the recognition of what kind of writing to focus on and how to deliver it, and knowing that the visual presentation of characters is as much a part of the writing process as a script is. SMTV's characters are as slight as the usual series standard in the arcs they undertake to reflect their alignments, but the pretense of a philosophical texture that does not exist still maintains throughout; as a result, the shifts in their portrayal appear as hokey and unearned to the role they've been allotted in the frankly artificial maneuverings of the narrative to reach its pre-ordained endpoint. Everywhere in the treatment there appear seams of undeveloped, dropped ideas and story threads, with plot points lectured and explained at the player in isolated bulks, the discovery of a world secondary to the insistence that it be justified by the contrivances of the plotting. The sense of troubled development shines through in how oddly lopsided the storytelling is, with one alignment hero receiving vast and consistent focus which both undersells the contributions of the others by contrast and exposes the lack of a compelling follow-through when their arc reaches its clumsily staged zenith, undoing the development attempted until then.

The artifice present in the evocation of a celebrated precedent is the larger unmaking of SMTV's all wider labors in conceptualizing an identity of its own. Is it a pulpy modern occult yarn like what begat the series? Is it an internally-concerned journey of self-actualization in a devastated world? Is it reflective, somehow, of contemporary society in some insightful way through allegory or direct commentary? The game gestures at all of these in turn but never has the time, drive or commitment to develop any idea further than the echo or reverberation of thematic substance. It drops big ideas--what if your existence in the normalcy of today was a godly and illusory Matrix scenario and the world had actually "ended"--and simply doesn't develop them as their stature would require to reach a point beyond mere proper noun chatter. It is at the same time terrified of ambiguity and feeling the pressure to overexplain itself, which sabotages the possibility of nuance in what is said or how it's conveyed; the anvils that get dropped are particularly damaging to the structure of the story as they find no good place to belong amidst all these storytelling inadequacies. The second "chapter" in particular takes a grand nosedive in introducing a bullying story that feels adrift in its placement and the stakes ostensibly involved; the jarring pretend-return to everyday routine is an attempt to shock the audience in its just as swift destruction, but it has no hope of eliciting much other than a shrug for how simultaneously abrupt and belaboured it is as a point of dramatic upheaval. The game rests at this uncomfortable juncture of being unable to reconcile between brevity and elaboration, undercutting itself at both ends as it goes. It presents a simplistic conflict of divinity and demonkind while attempting to imbue the fringe plotting with surface complexity, never finding footing beyond regurgitated clichés.

I did not find anything to hang to in SMTV as a story in its basest components, and if I have any angle on more specific frustrations, it is unquestionably going to be its gender and other social politics evident in the text. Absent of a particular framing device, I'll just go through things that I noted in my time with the game.

This is the first series game I've played featuring Masayuki Doi's demon designs; it is his third overall, after IV Apocalypse and Strange Journey Redux. Doi's work is superficially aligned with Kaneko's precedent, and at its best--standouts here include Fionn mac Cumhaill, Kaya-no-Hime, Loup-garou, Hydra and the redesigned Angel--operates as the best-case successor his position with the series ostensibly entails, but there is a lot of friction in the execution of the concepts at large, particularly in the portrayal of women. As a generality, Kaneko's work integrated sexuality into his demon designs as a regular fixture, but the crucial division between exploitative sexualization was usually maintained; it is part of the remarkable artistic legacy he left behind. Doi cannot walk this line and nearly every subject is rendered a visual embodiment of a highly active Madonna-whore complex--the only universality is that women must be sexualized in either case, which is continually emphasized by different aspects of the game's presentation.

The first of these is most prominent among the more adult figures in the roster, like Anahita, Manananggal, Cleopatra, or Nuwa. It's through design choices in both the bodies and costuming, the posing of the subjects in key art, idle animations and signature attacks that the sex-object-first approach makes itself clear; these are figures whose femininity in myth and history are taken as synonymous with a kind of common seductive sensuality in how they're presented here, seeking to titillate through perpetually arched backs and emphases of bodily curves. It is an uninteresting, and contextually wholly inappropriate approach to take, seemingly only done because the "license" to do is pre-built in depicting a female figure of myth; male or genderless subjects are not subject to the treatment, rendering its intentions highly transparent.

The flipside or even uglier companion piece to this is the game (and series's) attitude toward its mythological women rendered as young girls. Once is an accident, twice a coincidence, but we are way past this with Doi to an extent that it's now an active and wilfully invoked predilection that he and the rest of the team making these decisions double down on. Amanozako's reimagining from a volatile and violent partnerless mother into an impetuous, tsundere stock character imp is the infantilization of a powerful woman so severe that it will never be unwarranted to specify; the dreaded context provided by the game actually makes things worse, as the protagonist and his godly half in Aogami are revealed to be Susano-o--Amanozako's father in myth, which means the game spends all of its run to weave this "naughty" adversarial interplay between parent and child in a dynamic that is one of the most central in all of its storytelling and absolutely horrid in its implications and undertones.

Demeter returns from Strange Journey Redux, along with her terribly-designed brother Zeus, and she remains as massive an injustice to mythic authenticity in the exact same ways; mother goddess rendered a child, and while a bad choice on its own, there's always something more to exacerbate the surface foibles. In SMTV, she's the center player in the longest string of sidequests available in the game, and while the content of said tasks isn't objectionable, the presentation of her during them really bears down on the intentions of the portrayal. In a complete break from common cinematography utilized by the game, during Demeter's dialogue the camera often adopts a first-person view to face her at close proximity and head on, to clearly communicate and sell the effect that she's (through her much more elaborate and painstaking animations and emoting) addressing you, the player. The SMT protagonists may be self-insert avatars with little selfhood to speak of absent of what the player brings to them, but in this game's visual language you are always looking at the Nahobino while they face down whatever next opponent or exchange words with someone else. In this highly conspicuous instance meant to highlight an improperly diminutive girl-goddess, that relationship is suspectly severed.

The third of Doi's miserable trifecta comes in the form of Idun of Norse myth. While not explicitly a mother as sourced, Idun is associated with fertility and youth, and is a wife which comes with some associations of maturity even if older mythological text is not necessarily subject to the same contemporary ethics we view the world through. Regardless, a precedent exists in portrayals of Idun that it would behoove an interpretive text like SMT to uphold, as it has woven as a core component of its appeal in the past. What Doi does instead is again deprive a woman of any suggestions of adulthood, and construct a completely incomprehensible bullshit etymology to justify the twisting of "Idun" into an "idol" in the commodified music and entertainment industry sense--an industry infamous for its chewing up and spitting out of young girls while profiting off of their sexualization, so I guess it would be ironic if any sense of self-awareness existed here. It is definitely what's happening here, as all of Idun's dialogue and sound clips, her animations in idle stances and attack motions directly reference that false thematicism that has no relevance to who she is or is supposed to be. At the same time, the sexualization is ever-present, as her miniskirt leaves her underwear exposed at neutral head-level, while visible garters frame her legs. It's so fucking tiresome and insulting to behold.

Demons are my first concern but it's not like the human cast fares any better. The aforementioned bullying storyline revolves around a character that only exists for its duration, Sahori, who is embroiled in the demonic intrigue intersecting with the cast's school and the demon Lahmu, her supposed Nahobino "other half" that the game concocts to contrive to tell its story with. As much as Persona 5 sabotages the messaging in its own bullying chapters, it is equally failed here, in using Sahori as a sacrificial vehicle to introduce this shoddy power-up true-form concept to the game's internal lexicon, to be put into action with characters the game deems actually matter later on--Sahori is just here to be made into a perpetual sufferer and disposed of at the end to make a cast of dudes sad for the few minutes they continue to remember her. That is the inarguable intention of the arc as not one woman's death suffices but it's a bargain of two, as the saintly Tao is written out in the same moment of narrative table-clearing--it was getting a little crowded with all the excess estrogen, since as beholden as SMTV is to series traditions, we all know only boys can survive the apocalypse and represent their respective ideologies. That Tao eventually "returns" as the titular new reincarnation of the goddess only further clarifies the strict gender essentialism and restrictive role-playing that exists in the story that no measure of a beautiful protagonist character can salvage.

The last and least emphasized member of the human cast's handful of women is Miyazu, the sister of Chaos hero Yuzuru. If Yuzuru is underplayed next to his counterpart and equal opposite Ichiro, Miyazu is close to nonexistent. She features in almost no mandatory, integral scenes throughout, and exists in a state of vague peril for her brother to be motivated by. Things change in that they don't really, at all, when a late-game questline involving one of the major--but similarly less featured--cultural deities in Khonsu has his optional storyline interwoven with her, where she's bizarrely rendered into his object of affection and safeguarding. Not only does this remove any possibility of Miyazu herself having an arc to develop her role in the game, it actively twists her existence into a motivator for a deity and demon, in casting Khonsu as a proactive figure and presenting a dramatic conclusion for the sake of his development. It's a reversal of the tenets that allow the series to tell the stories it does, with the fallible and dynamic humans contrasting and bouncing off against the capricious but essentially static myths and folklore around them. I don't understand or agree with the direction of the narrative in this semi-hidden corner of the game--even in the rare instance that it seems to break away from stale precedent, the ideas SMTV contributes appear as misguided as the rest of it.

There was always something unappealing and grossly inappropriate behind the corner in the game, so here are some additional distasteful morsels that I encountered: in addition to Doi's crimes against demonkind, the specific usage of Kaneko veterans in the little-girl mold left me questioning the intent thanks to the surrounding precedent. Muu Shuwuu has already been tied to a sidequest in Strange Journey that acknowledged (and tried to render comical) the pedophilic attention she might be a target for thanks to her depiction in the series, and she is very heavily featured in this game; she might in fact be the most common demon NPC one can talk to through the game. Alice only exists as a special fusion, but her fusion with Idun results in Mishaguji, the second-most infamous penis in the series. I could not find any precedent of a Megami and Fiend creating a Vile race demon in other games and their fusion tables, but I acknowledge I'm not an expert in those mechanics and may be reading a degree of deliberation and malice to something that is a result of the systems at a benign level. Still, several of those combinations toward Mishaguji involve the little girl demons as ingredients, so it's a connotation that arose whether I wanted it to or not. Moving on, the old-world collectables for selling include school swimsuits and maid uniforms, just in case you were in danger of forgetting the otaku intersections of the material. As a last and baffling bit of wish-this-wasn't-here minutiae, Adramelech's--a near slam dunk from Doi in being authentic to the Le Breton illustration, but at the last moment deciding to include unnecessary queerphobic signifiers because of the peacock connection--portrayal here dredges up a ghost of shitty pop culture past, in his body language and aural and textual exclamations lifting directly from early 2000s shithead comedian Masaki Sumitani, who rose to a degree of prominence in that era for his "Hard Gay" character and schtick, with overexaggerated flailing of his arms and exclaiming repetitive catchphrases like "hoo" and "sei." Adramelech is given these mannerisms here to further propagate the queerphobic intent of the portrayal, reinforcing it with retrograde bigotry.

~~~
How to feel about SMTV? It's a game so removed of itself in its respective strengths and weaknesses that it might be impossible to land on a convincing aggregate of said impressions. I have chosen, for my own peace of mind, to remove myself from the friction between those differing takeaways, leaving me free to both commend and denigrate it at my leisure. It's not something I would easily recommend to others, but neither does it seem like something that will go on to haunt oneself in frustration toward what it could have been. Its ingenuities are mechanical and structural recontextualization of the series that can be retained, molded further, or dropped entirely going forward, and as a playground for those aspects it excels. Otherwise, I expected little, received less, and did not feel especially betrayed by the fact that I did. I guess that's the solemn reality of the series as it exists in the now, for better and for worse.
 
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R.R. Bigman

Coolest Guy
Wow, that all sounds really bad, Peklo. I was tempted to play this since I had heard people talking about how fun the gameplay was, but now I’m glad I gave up on SMT after Persona 5 left me ice cold.

Still have the Digital Devil Saga games to play in the future, at least.
 

Kazin

did i do all of that?
(he/him)
I am currently in the "bullying" chapter of the story, and it's crap, yeah, for all the reasons Peklo listed. I'm having a great time exploring Da'at and fusing demons and fighting and stuff, but that's about it.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
i think i'm gonna turn the difficulty down to casual because the way that levels effect damage is really harshing my buzz tbh
 

Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
i think i'm gonna turn the difficulty down to casual because the way that levels effect damage is really harshing my buzz tbh
I don’t know where you are in the game, but this is a big issue with the 4th major area of the game. It’s kind of bullshit because the way the zone is designed, it is very easy to accidentally stumble upon an enemy over 10 levels higher than you without any kind of warning before the battle starts.

After 3 areas in which enemy strength is generally well balanced against your own progression you suddenly have to worry about stumbling into a sudden buzzsaw. It’s a bad change that is at odds with the rest of the game.
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I liked the structural shakeup there a lot because after having established a baseline of wearing "open world" trappings for the duration, but only the pretense of, the very guided sprawl of the earlier regions is exchanged for a truly open sandbox for the first time, dropping you in the middle of a dangerous frontier and leaving you to decide where to go from there. Until then, the exploratory rhythms had become somewhat predictable and dulled if only for their reliability and consistency, so the abruptness of the final stretch for me reinstated some of the tension of the beginning hours when the rules were still being taught and felt novel. You're so incredibly mobile as the Nahobino that for most situations in the game, combat can be avoided entirely in favour of booking it to explore the spaces the enemies guard, so in that context the significantly increased threats of the opposition when first beginning to chart the last playground made it feel like a game of cat and mouse where you'd weave between the crowds in search of the important legs-up that come not from idle battling, but from exploration and discovery of sidequests and treasure in a hostile environment. It was the culmination and realization of the game's wide spaces, open skies dungeon design that it largely substituted in place of the previous traditions, and put it compellingly and distinctly in that last variation on a theme.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
I don’t know where you are in the game, but this is a big issue with the 4th major area of the game. It’s kind of bullshit because the way the zone is designed, it is very easy to accidentally stumble upon an enemy over 10 levels higher than you without any kind of warning before the battle starts.

After 3 areas in which enemy strength is generally well balanced against your own progression you suddenly have to worry about stumbling into a sudden buzzsaw. It’s a bad change that is at odds with the rest of the game.

honestly it was about getting into the diet building in the first area. by that point i felt like i had had my fill of this area of the game and wanted to progress the plot (especially given my Extremely Limited Available Gaming Time these days), and then it was like BAM Eligor roadblock.

(i continued on Normal and got through all the story stuff that followed and into the second area. which, um, i have thoughts on the story stuff, but i guess i appreciate the intermission to break up exploring the wasteland)
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
I am approaching the end of the game, just completed the Demon King's Castle, and I'm still loving it. The story sequences so far haven't wowed me or anything, but I'm also not disliking anything that's happened yet; I don't know if Atlus is ever going to be able to re-capture what made Nocturne's narrative compelling. I've been pretty liberal with taking screenshots during story sequences, but I'm regretting missing one during the 3rd area where Surt says something like "Your efforts are useless because God is still dead" and that's just a perfect snapshot of this series and a particular subset of JRPGs in general.
 
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I just reached the second area of the netherworld. The story in this game is very strangely paced. The human characters got so little screen time before the netherworld that I could barely remember who they were by the time they showed up again, but there was a ton of exposition in between the first and second areas, and it felt like the game was just beginning at that point, even though I had played for around 25 hours already. Now that I'm getting an idea of what the story is going to be like... I don't think I'm going to be that into it. The high school drama tropes aren't doing it for me, and the main story has some potential, but it seems to be going back to law vs. chaos after Apocalypse's admission that that well had run dry. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but reading other posts here and elsewhere, I'm not too optimistic.

The gameplay is great, though. Running really fast, jumping around and picking up shinies are like, the most "fun video game activities" there are, and this game has a lot of all of them. The combat's good, too. I'm finding myself switching demons in battle a lot, which never seemed like a very useful option in previous SMT games, and I'm also using items and defending sometimes, which are rarely necessary in JRPGs in general. I don't like gathering relics that much on a conceptual level, but they respawn so quickly that I can just sweep through the most lucrative areas from time to time and get plenty of money. I've been able to fuse whatever demons I want as a result, and I'm usually perpetually broke in these games if I use the compendium even a little, so this is very welcome. Also, sometimes I'll find a Miman I'd missed in previous runs though those areas. I do kind of miss being able to kill bosses in a round or two like in SMTIV, but I don't miss the smirk mechanic that made that possible.
 

Pajaro Pete

(He/Himbo)
honestly the magatsuhi critical skill is just the Smirk repackaged and on demand, but also you can nullify the guaranteed Crits with guarding so it's pure profit
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Am I an outlier for liking how this game paces its story? I am at what I assume is the final area now, and it's at least been consistent about the way it doles out story-heavy segments mixed with smaller scenes throughout your exploration.
 

ozacrot

Jogurt Joestar
(he/him)
I finished this two days ago. A few things I loved (spoilers through entire game behind the labels):
  • Being a lil guy running around and picking up mimans and relics
  • The Press Turn system, which I'd never really engaged with but love very much now
  • When one of my demons would take over negotiation and start talking to an enemy (A Black Frost decided to accost a Jack Frost to give him lessons on how to be more evil. Lesson #1: When you're grocery shopping, take the milk at the back of the fridge.)
  • The meeting of Bethel International: The idea of theological UN is hilarious, even if it does seem just a little conspicuous that the represented countries are Greece, Norway, and Egypt.
But by the end it lost its flavor like chewing gum. Things that I disliked:
  • Plot: You start out as a high schooler, then you go to the Netherworld, then you discover Tokyo was actually destroyed 20 years ago, and ALSO God is dead, and ALSO one of three high schoolers is going to remake the world in the image of their dreams. Despite the scale of what's happening, it feels a little de rigeur, and the high school setting ends up being thoroughly discarded by the end. In short, the plot really seems like a premise extended to full game length.
  • Of the three women in the cast of high schoolers, one is killed by a demon, one is killed by a demon later to be resurrected as the Goddess of Creation, and one is diagnosed with a terminal disease in an optional endgame sidequest. It's not great!
  • I wasn't bothered as much by the treatment of Amanozako as far as design or characterization goes, although like seemingly every other plot thread, her story sort of tapers off to a shrug in endgame sidequests. Just really disappointing how one of the characters with more dialogue than almost any human character (and textual theological connection to the Nahobino) ended up being as paper-thin as everyone else.
  • SMTV follows the RPG equivalent of verse-chorus-verse: field area, dungeon, field area, dungeon. I love the field areas as much as everyone else has here, and I think they escalate well - the fourth and final field area is a little bit of a Gran Pulse situation where its much larger scale and relative directionlessness helps reintroduce some threat to the game shortly after you kill the guy who killed God, and each one after the first field area adds new wrinkles to the environments. The dungeons, however, don't fare as well. The school is fine as far as it goes, but the demon king's palace sucks. It's bad enough that Atlus is patching it to make it less bad, but even if the puzzles are streamlined, it feels constrained and hallway-ish in a way the field areas largely avoid.
  • I have never beaten an SMT game, but the ending I received felt a lot like it was one of several (that is to say, it felt like an afterthought.) Is this how they usually are? Or did I miss the hidden ending despite my best efforts?
All in all a game I'm glad I played but one I won't remember that fondly. 3 out of 5 Jack Frosts.
 
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