Shin Megami Tensei V doesn’t mess around. We recommend you don’t, either if you plan to survive more than literally one turn of combat in the aggressive new JRPG. Sheer bad luck will almost certainly kill you regardless, but there’s no reason not to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible!
The game doesn’t make that easy as it obfuscates or conveniently forgets to explain certain key facts that can help you get through its demon-infested world of attrition. That’s why we’ve collected a number of those helpful details here in one of our latest guides! So, let’s take a look at those SMTV tips and set out to change the world.
Save. All. The. Damn. Time.
Technically this “tip” applies to most games — at least ones without robust autosaves. And Shin Megami Tensei V does not have robust autosaves. In fact, it doesn’t have checkpoints of any kind. If you die, you get launched to the title screen and need to reload your last manual save. The game is also absolutely brutal. After I beat its second boss, just by the skin of my teeth, I meant to ask my coworkers Michael and Imran if winning the hour-long war of attrition was actually mandatory, or if it was one of those “we expect you to lose” bosses. Perhaps I had just gotten lucky! Yet Michael messaged me for tips on how the hell to beat them before I could ask.
It’s not just bosses, either. One lucky critical hit can absolutely end you in Shin Megami Tensei V. Foes can destroy your party in one or two normal hits, while an entire salvo from your team might not kill one of theirs. Any items you find, abscesses you clear, demons you recruit, or experience points you gain are simply lost in such cases. So, yeah… Save early, save often, and probably make a backup just in case. If you reach a save point and think not enough time has passed to bother topping off, you’re wrong. Period.
Grab Every Relic At least Once
Relics return from Shin Megami Tensei IV as your primary source of Macca in Shin Megami Tensei V. (That’s the in-game term for money, by the way.) You need Macca for two things: shopping and summoning demons from the compendium. The latter gets expensive quickly if you do a lot of fusion, so you want as much cash as you can carry! Grabbing Relics from the many vending machines around Tokyo will help.
More than that, interacting with each gathering point once marks it permanently on your map. The icon will then change color when you can collect more items (which should be sold to Gustave). Usually, more items become available when you leave and return to an area after enough time has passed — though you can always tell once the Relic point is marked. Mark them!
Misses Override Crits
Shin Megami Tensei games typically use the “press turn” system of combat. You get as many actions per turn as you have party members (i.e. four). Any critical hit or strike against a foe’s weakness then gives you exactly one bonus move per action. Meanwhile, missing or having your attack blocked, repelled, and/or absorbed takes away some of your actions.
This gets even more complex when you incorporate multi-target spells. You might hit one demon’s weakness while absolutely whiffing against another — at the exact same time. In such cases, the negative overrides the positive. You’ll simply lose turns instead of gaining any. This means you almost never, ever want to attack a foe who would block or absorb your spell when using multi-target moves, like Mabufu, Mazio, Mazan, Maragi, and so on.
Not All Whiffs Are Created Equal
Speaking of which: different whiffs, like those mentioned, above have higher degrees of consequences. A blocked or missed shot will take two turns out of your action points. However, an absorbed or repelled attack is even nastier — you’ll lose three out of your four maximum actions. That’s in addition to the damage you take from any repelled hit. In contrast, if an enemy merely resists (i.e. takes half damage from) an attack, no actions are lost or gained.
There Are Status Weaknesses, Too
Elements — like wind, fire, and ice — aren’t the only weaknesses in Shin Megami Tensei V. Most demons are also susceptible and resistant to statuses like poison and confusion. Hitting these weaknesses with the right spell will even earn you some press turns, like more directly damaging spells! But the affinities don’t show up when you target a particular demon the way they do for elements. You need to enter a deeper profile menu first.
To do so, you can follow these steps during combat:
- Wait for your turn.
- Press the Y button (labeled Stats in this case).
- Select the demon you want to examine.
- You’ll see a more detailed page about them, including full weaknesses and resistances.
Confusion and Charm Aren’t Guarantees
As far as statuses go, Confusion and Charm are pretty good! They can trick your opponents into attacking each other. The same goes for you, naturally, so you want to avoid it. In either case, it’s good to know these status effects are not guaranteed to work. Note even if the status effect lands! Charmed and Confused enemies still have basically a 50/50 chance of acting normally. That makes simply telling them to guard or pop an Amrita Soda (to cancel the effect) pretty good options.
In contrast, Seal, Poison, and Sleep all seem to work no matter what (so long as the effects land). Seal makes you unable to use spells (like Silence in Final Fantasy games). Poison does damage at the end of every action that character takes (as you might have guessed) and Sleep effectively stuns a character until they take damage.
Stock Up on Spyglasses
The aforementioned status screen is actually identical to what you see when using the “Spyglass” item in combat. The difference is that once you’ve killed or recruited a demon, you can bring up that same menu for free at any time. The Spyglass is simply a consumable that lets you perform this check on enemies you don’t already know. That’s decent for bosses and Abscess enemies. Its main use, however, is against “Mitama.”
These floating faces from previous SMT games return as rare enemies in the style of Metal Slimes from Dragon Quest. That means they’re hard to kill, run away almost immediately, and provide tons of great rewards. Mitamas don’t attack directly, but they’re immune to all but one damage type that’s randomly chosen at the beginning of each new battle with them. Said damage type is also hidden every time. You need to either guess (and get lucky) or use a Spyglass as soon as you see one. Once you do, it usually only takes one hit from whatever element they’re weak to in order to kill the Mitama.
The rewards for doing so vary depending on the type of Mitama. They include tons of XP, money, expensive Relics, and consumables that permanently strengthen your protagonist and demons.
Abscess Enemies Don’t Change Weaknesses
Abscesses are those big, red hives of mini-boss fights that muck up your map and spawn waves of demons to harass you. Shin Megami Tensei V explains the basics of clearing them out pretty early on (such as how destroying an Abscess will grant access to new upgrades). However, the game tries to hide one useful note: each Abscess can only spawn normal enemies. That includes the supercharged mini-bosses you fight to actually destroy the danger zone.
These foes work somewhat like Mitama in that they obfuscate their elemental strengths and weaknesses. However, those affinities aren’t actually random. They’re exactly the same as on the “normal” versions of the demons you can fuse or recruit in the wild; they just have more health. Anubis, for example, is weak to wind, resists darkness, and blocks light attacks. An Anubis you encounter inside an Abscess will hide its elemental profile with “?” symbols, but still remains weak to wind, resistant to darkness, and immune to light. Memorization or reloading a save will let you strike an Abscess mini-boss in its soft spot right off the bat!
You Can Farm Glory (Without the DLC)
Before we move on from strengths and weaknesses, let’s talk about the lowly Mitama again. The most important of these tricky little beans will drop Glory Crystals on death. What’s a Glory Crystal? Pretty much what it sounds like: it’s a consumable you can use outside of combat to get a dollop of the skill points. Glory is more often found in the open world, from glowing white deposits and the dancing little Miman NPCs that function as collectibles, but those are limited. Glory Crystals (and specifically the Mitamas that drop them) are unlimited, which means you can infinitely farm the vital resource to unlock more Miracles (a.k.a. the permanent character upgrades that lead to everything from regenerating mana to throwing better fireballs) without DLC. It might just take a while.
There’s a Miman Map Later On
If you’re looking for even more Glory, or just being a completionist, don’t worry too much about hunting down every single Miman in an area. You can eventually just buy a map of every little guy’s location near the end of each zone. The markers are fairly cheap and simply note every Miman on your existing map. Each one is well worth the purchase for the easy Glory alone!
Talk to Every NPC
Speaking of the Miman maps: the person you need to speak with is just a random NPC, indicated with the same icon as every other random NPC in a zone. That’s fine, though, since you should really talk to anyone and everyone in Shin Megami Tensei V. Folks with a dialogue marker over their head might just offer a few pithy words. Or they might give you free items, hidden side quests, and other useful things. There’s a shocking amount of stuff to get from each NPC for the low, low price of pressing a single button. Some of the items they offer are even quite rare!
Circle Back for Overleveled Demons
On the topic of powerful demons, you usually can’t recruit anyone stronger than your protagonist, the Nahobino. A successful negotiation will end with that demon saying you’re too weak to command them — at least until you match their level. These negotiations aren’t a waste, though! Once you level up enough, simply talk to the same type of demon again. They’ll respect your previously successful negotiation and instantly join your roster, just as they would have if you had been the right level before.
Strength Characters Can Still Hit Weaknesses
Physical attacks don’t seem… great… early in the game. Physical skills cost mana now, for one. That’s a fairly notable change for Shin Megami Tensei combat as a whole. Not counting your normal attack, physical skills have traditionally cost health instead of mana across games in the series. This made up for their inability to strike elemental weaknesses with a small chance to crit, as well as how much easier it is to restore hit points compared to mana points. Now an entire volley of normal attacks is lucky to kill one enemy at your level, while spells across the board cost precious MP.
It’s still safe to level up your strength stat, though. It may even be better. You eventually gain access to “Dracostrike” skills, which are elemental attacks that scale with your physical strength. Each has a name corresponding to its element type (e.g. Wind Dracostrike). You still need to match weaknesses appropriately. However, Dracostrike skills can also critically hit — without using up your Magatsuhi gauge — since they’re also physical attacks. That’s a lot of extra damage if you can line everything up properly.
Don’t Pause Near Enemies
Perhaps it’s a side effect of the many performance issues with Shin Megami Tensei V on Switch. Perhaps it’s intentional! Either way, pausing and unpausing the game seems to produce a tiny bit of “lag.” If you do so around enemies — particularly if you’re very close to them — they seem to get a head start before you can start moving again. This leads to them initiating battles against you and potentially getting the first turn. Unless you’re very confident you can beat any enemies in a given area, you generally don’t want to give them the opening blow. It’s very possible to get killed (and forced to load a save) before you even get to act. Put some distance between roaming bands of bad guys before checking your map, items, etc.
Finishing Fights Stuns Foes In The Overworld
If you instead want to get demons to leave you alone, one of the best ways is by starting a fight. Finishing a battle “stuns” all nearby enemies in the overworld for a few seconds. You’ll still initiate a fight if you literally walk into them, of course — not to mention the freeze effect seems to expire if you pause within their line of sight. But beginning a battle on your own terms is often better than getting surrounded and dragged into a fight where you’re more likely to act second.
Essence Inventory is Kinda Weird
Early in the game, you may find yourself unable to pick up new Essences from chests or as gifts from your allied demons. The game will tell you that your Essence inventory is full. That’s not entirely true, however. It’s not well-explained, but your Essence inventory is unlimited in Shin Megami Tensei V. That is to say: you can hold as many different kinds as you want at one time. The tradeoff is that you can only hold one of each at any given time. After which you need to use the Essence once to make room for another, and so on. Not even your inventory or the World of Shadows (where you can use the Essences in the first place) indicate this one-for-one limit.
Don’t Get Precious with Your Party
If you haven’t played Shin Megami Tensei (or even Persona) much before, you may not realize that demons aren’t Pokémon. You can’t easily use your starter and a few favorites from beginning to end. There are pretty brutal diminishing returns on things like their HP, stats, and abilities. The aforementioned Essence system helps a bit by letting you equip more powerful spells to nearly any demon you desire.
However, many extra-powerful abilities are locked to specific creatures. “Skill Potential,” which is the plus or minus number next to each creature’s skills that dictates how potent they are with particular abilities, can be upgraded. But it requires a number of rare items that are hard to come by early on. It’s much more practical to be ruthless: recruiting and fusing demons as you progress into more powerful beings you can then upgrade to be even more powerful.
Sukukaja Isn’t What It Once Was
Maybe you have played Shin Megami Tensei before! Maybe you played Nocturne HD earlier this year, in which accuracy and evasion spells like Sukukaja reign supreme. Enemies lose turns when they miss attacks against you, too, after all. Well… These particular buffs and debuffs aren’t as reliable as they once were. At least not early in the game. Shin Megami Tensei V knows better than to give you the party-wide evasion buff, Masukukaja, until after your first few big bosses. Even then, the dodge chance it adds seems lower than in past games; that is, of course, until you start upgrading your Skill Potential with things like the Support Mastery Miracle. You can still become a nimble little nuisance, but it takes more work than before.
Pick Up Assistant Items
Speaking of nimble… You usually have a tiny little helper with you throughout Shin Megami Tensei V. These flying fairy assistants call out items and mark them on your map. It’s neat! Though the tiny pittances they provide might not seem worth the time it takes to gather them. Keep at it, though. You’re not even really after the items (even if those are a nice bonus). Gathering items has a small chance to spawn an enemy encounter instead of an item or cash. These encounters, meanwhile, have a very high chance of including a Mitama: those rare, valuable enemies mentioned above. This makes item gathering one of the best ways to farm money, XP, and Glory.
Use Your Battle Items
More so than other games in the series, Shin Megami Tensei V really wants you to use items. Don’t hoard them like you might in other turn-based RPGs! Many of them have very limited inventory caps and will just go to waste if you earn any more — like the spell Shards and Gems. These deal specific damage types to enemies, which will earn you press turns while saving MP. You can only hold 10 of each type, as opposed to the 50-unit cap on items like Life Stones. Speaking of Life Stones, these drop like candy. Don’t ever be afraid to use them en masse for quick heals or as negotiation fodder. Finally, after every major boss you beat, Gustave adds new stock to his store that allows you to simply buy items that might have previously seemed rare.
Magatsuhi Skills Don’t End Your Turn
You might notice this early in Shin Megami Tensei V when you first use your default “Omagatoki: Critical” ability, but it’s easy to forget as you unlock more (and more directly useful) super-skills. Magatsuhi powers simply don’t burn an action. That makes using them at the start of your turn, especially if it kills a dangerous enemy before they get to act, extremely useful. You can then follow up with appropriate skills accordingly.
Here’s What “Cornered” Means
You eventually start to unlock skills that trigger when demons become “cornered.” However, Shin Megami Tensei V never directly explains what that means. A demon has a chance to feel “cornered” when you kill every other unit on its side of the battle — leaving it alone and usually wounded against your squad. Though it’s only a chance, not a guarantee.
Why is this important? It basically lets you shake demons down for money, items, or even recruitment much easier than usual. It’s somewhat random beyond the conditions of leaving the demon alone, but it can still help you plan to get the most out of your fights.
Your Party Order Matters
Your Shin Megami Tensei V party always acts from left to right during your turn, starting with the Nahobino and then following whatever order you set. That matters more than it seems! You want to stack your demons who can get guaranteed press turns towards the front. If you don’t have a press turn ready — either from landing a crit or hitting a foe’s weakness — every attack effectively eats up a potential extra action until you do.
Luckily, you can basically always know at least one enemy’s weaknesses in any fight you’re about to face. If you attack a Succubus in the open world, for instance, there’s going to be a Succubus in that fight. So put an ally with holy attacks (which the enemy is weak to) at the front of your lineup — or at least make sure you have matching shards and gems for your protagonist to use from their inventory.
And there you go! Hopefully, these tips help you survive the brutal world of a blasted Tokyo in Shin Megami Tensei V. Best of luck and have fun, you wacky blue kids!