Shin Megami Tensei V review - a character posing for a picture with his hands up

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review – Deeper Pleasures, Deeper Agony

Back with a ... well, vengeance.

Released in 2021, Shin Megami Tensei V, designed by SMT IV director Kazuyuki Yamai, featured the return of several gameplay features and a storyline all about the clash between angels and demons. Being originally announced as a Switch exclusive in 2017, it suffered quite a few development problems, coming out only four years later. Now SMT V is back, with a re-release bringing a brand-new storyline, a few QoL features, and, of course, a PC/console release. But is it worth your time or is this only for hardcore fans? Let’s head to the Netherworld and find out.

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A God giving their hand to the player
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

Shin Megami Tensei V brings the classic JRPG vibe that you might be familiar with if you’ve ever played a Persona title. Explore a huge location, solve quests, get into fights, and level up your character and his party. While the story begins in the same way as the original, with an ordinary Japanese student being transported into the Netherworld and fused with a god to form a new being called the Nahobino, after a few hours the game will start bringing in the new storyline.

This selection between new and old is right at the conclusion of the intro sequence, where the player can choose the original storyline or the new “Canon of Vengeance”. The new story brings new demons to the forefront: the Qadištu, four demonesses of the female variety which will cause us quite a great deal of trouble, as they will try to stop us from interfering in the war. While overall, the narrative does not really bring much new to the table for fans of the series, it will definitely provide enough new story bits (they are intertwined with the original, it’s often hard to tell them apart) to be of interest.

Nuwa looking at the player
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

But of course, that’s not where the new features in Vengeance end. The Netherworld we will traverse, namely the D’Aat desert (which is supposed to be “New Tokyo”), is now much easier to navigate, thanks to more teleportation points, along with being able to go back at any time to the last “save” column we visited. Plus a ton of new sub-quests which bring up the total gameplay to 160 hours, if you plan on experiencing both narratives. For those fearing the difficulty would be sacrificed, have no fear; SMT V is still as hard as ever. You can never let your guard down for a moment and going back and killing demons to level up is still the main mechanic to progress.

Much like Persona 5 Royal did for Persona 5, no major gameplay features have been altered in SMT V: Vengeance. There are new demons to meet, for a grand total of 270 (also available in the non-Vengeance story), but the game is essentially the same experience you might have played back in 2021. The good news is that, since this release hits all major platforms, Vengeance also solves one of the biggest fans’ complaints, namely the poor Switch performance of the game. Unfortunately, Vengeance does not offer any upgrade files or a way to port over your party from SMT V, even on Switch, so you will have to start over the game in any case.

Talking with a demon in Shin Megami Tensei V
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

Everything else in the gameplay is pretty much intact, and anyone familiar with the series will feel right at home. Explore, get into fights with demons, befriend them to get them to join you, and use their essence to strengthen them while fusing their essences with your Nahobino form. Combat takes place in familiar turn-based format, with physical attacks and magic skills to perform, which will have to be used to hit the enemies’ weak points. The Magatsuhi gauge is still also important; a power that you fill up slowly while fighting and that you can unleash when filled up for powerful skills. Bosses are quite frequent, with minor bosses being relatively easy, even when going in unprepared. Storyline bosses, like the Qadištu demons, require quite a bit more planning.

You have the choice of deepening your relationships with your demons, plus gifting them items, which makes you access new spells and affinities. But of course, this is much less exciting than the friendship system in the Persona series, as you aren’t really uncovering “stories” but just having conversations. Some of the demons’ dialogue, especially when trying to get them to join our side, is quite funny, and horny at times, which is a welcome respite to the harshness of the deserted Netherworld.

Overall, SMT V is the right entry point into the series for newcomers. Still, as mentioned, the new “Canon of Vengeance” story doesn’t bring relevant narrative context to the table, sadly skipping on the possibility of providing new details on the human characters of SMT V. Instead, it prefers to focus on the new demonesses who are of course menacing and Luciferian, but don’t have much of a personality otherwise.

The Matador talking with the main character
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

This version of Shin Megami Tensei V does look incredibly pretty in its new Vengeance package and runs without any hiccups. The character design still shines through, especially now in higher resolutions, and the frame rate is stable in all situations. Also, let’s not forget that Shin Megami Tensei V is still one of the best Atlus RPGs of the last few years, despite its development problems. Vengeance is definitely the best way to experience its demons vs angels story and exciting turn-based battles. If you can adapt to its different narrative flavor, from the more “human” and contemporary stories of Persona, you will find much to explore and discover.

The start of a player turn in the combat in Shin Megami Tensei V
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance doesn’t bring anything new to the table, not even with its new narrative, so if you have not “vibed” with the series before, this won’t do much to change your mind. Still, considering Vengeance also combines all the DLCs previously available for SMT V, if you’re a hardcore fan of the series, chances are your pre-order is already being processed as you are reading this. As for newcomers, well, with its strong combat, great graphical performance, exquisite soundtrack, and many demons to sedu- uhm, convince to join our party, Shin Megami Tensei V is simply a fantastic RPG all around.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance
Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance brings a new story and new content to an already extensive game, but this new version won't do much to change your mind about the series.
Pros
  • Much improved graphical performance from the Switch version
  • The new demons have a great character design
  • Turn-based battles are still as exciting as ever
Cons
  • The new story does not add much detail about the characters.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PC.

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Author
Image of Damiano Gerli
Damiano Gerli
Damiano Gerli is a gaming historian and freelance journalist, born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. He has been writing about games for 20+ years, with articles on gaming history published on Kotaku, PC Gamer, PcGamesN and Retro Gamer magazine. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).