10 Tips For Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Beginners

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A big, bonkers promotional image for Shin Megami Tensei V.

Image: Atlus / Kotaku

It’s been a good year for fans of Atlus RPGs. Between the launch of Persona 3 Reload in January and Metaphor:ReFantazio coming this October, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is available right now on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox and PlayStation platforms. As the definitive version of 2021’s Shin Megami Tensei V, Vengeance is a stellar turn-based adventure that I can easily recommend to RPG fans and monster collecting fanatics alike. For Persona fans who are curious about the series those games spun off from, this is a great place to start.

Of course, if you’re new to Shin Megami Tensei—or it’s just been a while since you played it—you may have some trouble getting your bearings. After all, the series has a (frankly overexaggerated) reputation for its difficulty. So to help you on your way, here are 10 tips that should help ease you into the opening hours of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance.

The Essence screen in Shin Megami Tensei V.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Essences in Shin Megami Tensei are kind of like TMs from the Pokemon games—they’ll let you improve and embellish your party’s skills. By using them on either your protagonist or your demons in the World of Shadows (which will appear at the Leyline Fount save points once you’ve made enough story progress), you can learn spells that help round out your party’s elemental coverage. You may feel tempted to hold onto your Essences in case you need them later, but I’d strongly advise against this.

Shin Megami Tensei V gives out Essences like candy. You may have difficulty grinding out a specific Essence in some cases, but generally speaking, you’ll only find progressively better Essences as you progress. By the time you’ve spent only a few hours in Da’at, you’ll already find Essences that outclass the ones you started out with. Don’t struggle trying to make your party’s default skill sets work; use what you got to flesh out your kits!

Remember, Demons can pass on skills whenever you fuse them, including ones they’ve learned via Essences. Additionally, as you advance the main story, you’ll have the option of buying Essences from the Cadaver’s Hollow shop. Vengeance even marks Essences you can purchase with a distinct symbol (pictured above). So if you’re the type who plays Final Fantasy games feeling too afraid to ever use a Megalixir, that should ease your anxiety.

Battling in Shin Megami Tensei V.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Another cool feature of Essences is that you can use them to change your protagonist’s weaknesses and resistances. This does require the “Divine Amalgamation” Miracle, but you’ll fortunately gain access to this early in the game. By selecting “Essence Fusion’’ and then “Affinities,” after selecting your protagonist in the World of Shadows, you can select which monster’s defenses you’d wish the Nahobino to mirror. You’ll want to do this as soon as you find a suitable Essence, as by default, your Protagonist has a dangerous weakness to Mudo.

For those new to Shin Megami Tensei games, Hama and Mudo (the Light and Darkness elements, respectively) have unique properties. Not only do these elements inflict damage in Shin Megami Tensei V, they can instantly KO anyone who is weak to them. Considering that you’ll instantly get a Game Over if your protagonist loses all his health, sticking him with a perpetual Mudo weakness is courting disaster. All it takes is one unlucky battle where the enemies attack first and you’ll immediately lose all your progress without recourse.

For the early game, Cait Sith and Halphas are mostly neutral Essences that should keep your protagonist from becoming a liability. Unicorn and Apsaras are also helpful, as they pack resistances to the Charm status effect as well. We’ll get back to why this is important later.

A big save swirl.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Even if you protect your protagonist from instant-death spells, your party is far from invincible. Shin Megami Tensei V doesn’t have random battles, but you never know when a quest or a story beat is going to lead into a boss fight. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it by saving as frequently as you can.

Fortunately, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance allows players to save at any time. In fact, there’s a shortcut for it (Left on the D-Pad for controller users, the “4” key for those using a mouse and keyboard). You can save by visiting Leyline Founts too, but you don’t have to use those. Aogami will warn you when boss battles are coming up in the main story, so those are always a good time to save. But whenever you’re approaching side quest objectives, you should record your progress just in case.

It's a matador.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Items are incredibly useful in Shin Megami Tensei V. They essentially give any human characters access to on-demand healing and a full array of elemental attacks, which can easily turn the tides in battle when you’re in a pinch. While you’ll want to keep at least a few of each item on hand, prioritize grabbing Spyglasses as soon as you access the Cadaver’s Hollow shop.

Spyglasses are your “Scan” spell. They instantly reveal an enemy’s weaknesses and their moveset, which is invaluable in boss battles. While you can ascertain this information via trial and error, you’ll typically waste turns in battle while running the risk that the enemy might block or reflect your attacks. Spyglasses are so cheap that you don’t have much of an excuse not to use them.

Sentient apostrophe, Mitama.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

If you’re a fan of the Persona series, you’ve probably fused a Mitama once or twice before. However, in Shin Megami Tensei V, Mitama are much more than generic demons. Instead, these are your equivalent to the Metal Slimes in Dragon Quest, or Audino in Pokemon Black & White. Mitamas drop valuable loot when defeated, including consumable items to level up your party and relics you can sell for cash.

You’ll occasionally see Mitama roaming the overworld. If you have a demon companion, they might dig up a Mitama when they spot points of interest too. The catch is that Mitamas resist all but one element that’s randomized every battle, and if you don’t kill it on turn one, it’ll most likely run away. This is another reason why Spyglasses are so valuable: they all but guarantee a successful encounter with a Mitama.

When you encounter a Mitama, have the Nahobino use a Spyglass. If it’s weak to an element that your active party can’t use, let the next party member switch out for one who knows the spell you need. Let the remaining party members use “Pass,” which will trigger extra turns that will let you wrap around to the ally whose spell you need. Defeat the Mitama, collect your rewards, and repeat whenever the opportunity arises.

Alternatively, the Almighty element essentially indicates that an attack is neutral. Enemies aren’t weak to it, but neither do they resist it. So once your party starts to learn some Almighty moves, you can use these during Mitama encounters as well.

Caspar the friendly ghost wears a fox hat.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Shin Megami Tensei V doesn’t necessarily have many “best spells,” since an attack that dominates one boss battle could be useless in the next. However, buff and debuff skills are almost always worth having on your team. Even a strong boss monster can feel like a common enemy encounter after you lower its attack, defenses, and accuracy.

Granted, you don’t want to go too overboard on support skills. Meticulously casting Tarujaka eight times to boost your party’s offenses isn’t necessarily great turn economy. But considering the sheer number of monsters you can keep in your party at any time, you’d do well to diversify your buff and debuffs just as much as your elemental coverage.

The extraordinarily detailed stat screen for Kikuri-Hime.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Speaking of elemental coverage, don’t make the mistake of only focusing on your offenses without paying attention to your defenses. Shin Megami Tensei V uses the series’ signature “Press Turn” battle system, which rewards your party with extra turns whenever you hit an enemy’s weakness or score a critical hit. However, this also applies to the enemy party. Even if your demon can shrug off taking the extra damage of an attack it’s weak to, it’ll put your entire party at risk of a wipe if an enemy party exploits that weakness to hit you up to six more times in a single turn.

For this reason, you often don’t want to assign specific niches to each party member that no one else can fill. Instead, spread your support skills and elemental attacks across demons with varying weaknesses to avoid the risk of letting an enemy pin you. Additionally, passive skills like Resist Fire can cover up a demon’s weakness and make it viable in more encounters. If a boss monster is giving you trouble, focus on building demons that best resist its attacks.

A blue-haired lady stares in astonishment.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

This tip’s a bit more specific than the others. But for the sake of those playing the Canon of Vengeance story, don’t get caught off-guard by the Charm status ailment. You’ll encounter a recurring boss early on in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance whose signature move is a party-wide Charm spell, which can massively debilitate your entire party. If you aren’t prepared to counter status ailments, this enemy in particular can turn into a real pain.

To handle this, Apsaras is one of the lowest level demons you can find who has full immunity to Charm. Additionally, she naturally learns Petra, which cleanses an ally of status ailment. Later, you can also fuse Vouivre, who carries the Willpower innate skill. Willpower specifically minimizes the effects of Charm as long as she’s in the party, allowing you to (somewhat) circumvent the entire mechanic.

Remember, Amrita Soda also cleanses status ailments, and any human character can use items. Use this to your advantage!

Chatting with a winged demon.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

One of the primary ways you’ll recruit new demons to your party is by using the “Talk” option in battle. You’ll typically have to gauge their responses and eventually coerce them to join by giving them gifts. However, if you already have a particular demon in your active party, the Talk option becomes a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

Typically this will make the enemy say something along the lines of “take care of my buddy!” and then leave with no questions asked. Sometimes, they’ll even give you money and items. This is an especially handy trick if you get stuck in a battle you don’t want to fight, as using the Escape option can fail on you.

Our blue-haired protagonist walks through a dusty city street.

Screenshot: Atlus / Kotaku

Shin Megami Tensei V has so much for you to see and do at any given moment. It can feel overwhelming at times, especially if you’re just wondering when the next story beat will finally pop up. But to really get the most out of the game, your best option is to simply take your time.

You’ll inevitably reach points where your party is too under-leveled, either because you’re stuck on a boss or you need to get stronger to recruit new demons. And, sure, you could grind regular encounters to level up, but where’s the fun in that? Taking the time to uncover new corners of the map and complete side quests will naturally take care of that grind for you, plus you’ll earn several key items in the process. You might not need every Magatsuhi skill in the game, but you’ll enjoy having them nonetheless.

So much of Shin Megami Tensei’s appeal comes from getting lost in its mechanics. Fusing the perfect monsters and uncovering cool new combat synergies can consume hours of your life alone. So relax, take in the sights, and only advance to your next story objective when you feel ready to. And please, for the love of whatever god rules over Da’at, don’t lose an hour of progress because your main character has a Mudo weakness.

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