Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance - Key Art

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Review: The Definitive SMT Experience

Not for you if:

  • You didn’t like the original SMT V
  • You’re not a fan of turn-based JRPGs
  • You don’t like very difficult games
  • You don’t like grinding for hours
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Atlus has gained a notorious reputation for re-releasing its titles and charging full price for new editions. While Persona 3 Reload is a (almost) full remake, Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal are the same games they initially released, only upgraded and expanded. This is what Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is in a nutshell. 

Originally released in 2021 as a Nintendo Switch exclusive, Shin Megami Tensei V divided the series fanbase with its superficial story, shallow gameplay, and a lack of familiar ‘SMT atmosphere’. Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance aims to amend that by launching on all platforms and with plenty of extra content. Is this title worth revisiting in 2024 and does it offer enough new content for those who already played it to revisit the game?

(Learn more about our thoughts on the original SMT V by reading our full review)

TL;DR

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is now the game it should have been at launch. It expands the original story with a brand-new campaign, new demons, locations, mechanics, and balance tweaks. It runs at silky-smooth 60FPS and offers over 100 hours of pure JRPG fun.

Story – Between Heaven and Hell

Contrary to its spin-off series, Persona, SMT games have always had stories which are darker and more apocalyptic. Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is no different. Players take control of an unnamed protagonist, a high school student in Tokyo. On his way home one day, he finds himself in an underground tunnel which collapses with him and his friends inside. 

When he wakes up, he finds himself in Tokyo, 20 years from when he entered the tunnel. The city is overtaken by angels and demons locked in war. On top of it all, he somehow merges with a demon and becomes something known as a Nahobino, a half-human half-demon who can control other demons. Unfortunately, the story, while interesting at first, doesn’t go anywhere by the time you’ve finished Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance. 

During its 50h runtime, you’ll rarely come across a surprising twist or a revelation that you couldn’t predict yourself. SMT games have always had strong stories with deep messages about humanity, SMT III Nocturne and SMT IV in particular. For Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance, it’s all about the gameplay, so you should manage your expectations from the start.

Canon of Creation VS Canon of Vengeance

One of the biggest differences between the original game and this new version lies in the second campaign. The existing campaign has now been labelled as ‘Canon of Creation’, while the new story is called ‘Canon of Vengeance’. You’ll get to pick which one you want to play at the beginning and there’s no way to switch to the other campaign until you’ve finished the game (or started a new save file). 

While both campaigns start in the same place, they diverge radically around the halfway mark. The new story is much better and filled with new information and revelations about the world of Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance, so it’s worth playing both of them. Just keep in mind that there is some overlap between the two, so you’ll see familiar events happen twice, but with unexpected twists.

Gameplay – The Best That SMT Has Ever Played

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is a third-person, turn-based JRPG where you’ll control a party of four characters. Unlike Persona, where you’ll control four humans with their personas, SMT asks you to control one human and three demons instead. This means you have a lot more freedom to create a party that suits your playstyle and the situation you find yourself in. It’s especially useful in boss fights (of which there are plenty in Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance). 

It feels like a crime to label the SMT series as ‘niche’ but that’s just what it was until SMT V came along. Each previous game was exclusive to a single console, and often it was a Nintendo handheld device. This means that fewer players got to play these amazing games, contrary to Persona. 

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance features the smoothest and richest gameplay the series has had so far. The Nahobino controls very well and you’ll easily travel different levels and dungeons by jumping and sliding around without difficulty. With many of the previous games being grid-based first-person dungeon crawlers, this is truly a breath of fresh air for the series.

Building your Demon Army

Just like in every Persona and SMT game before it, the core of Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is in creating your perfect party. You’ll do this through the World of Shadows, a place where you can fuse the demons that joined you into more powerful ones. Think of Pokémon but with creatures from various religions and mythologies. 

As you travel the world of post-apocalyptic Tokyo, you’ll negotiate with demons and convince them to join you. When you have enough brand-new demons to experiment with, you’ll be able to create very powerful creatures, even the bosses you previously defeated. This is another gameplay aspect that Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance improves on compared to the original. 

It’s much clearer which demons you can get from which combinations, and which skills they can inherit from their predecessors. The game also introduces a separate zone called Demon Haunt, where you can chat with demons, deepen your connections with them, get free items, and so on. It’s not too complex but it’s a nice addition as it adds more character to your otherwise silent group of followers. 

Expanded and Rebalanced

The game justifies being a new version of an existing game by rebalancing the existing gameplay. Features are tweaked and made more user-friendly, combat is snappier and more engaging, and creating new demons is more straightforward than ever. 

Bosses have also been reworked across the board, with new skills and level scaling added to make the experience of playing Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance much more approachable. You can now save the game anywhere as opposed to the original where you could only do it at certain locations. Playing this version of the game simply feels tighter and more enjoyable compared to the often unforgiving original.

Learning the Wrong Open-World Design Lessons

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is an open-world game…for better or worse. While the game’s open areas are very fun to explore, its side quests make Ubisoft games feel like The Witcher 3. They are truly the definition of basic. Collect X items, deliver Y, defeat enemy Z several times—and you’re done. 

They are a good source of experience, money, and items, but they are the definition of boredom, and this new version of the game doesn’t make an attempt to fix them. Worse yet, new side quests are tacked on top of the existing ones and they feel just as tedious to play. And you’ll have to do these quests because otherwise, you’ll be under-levelled for the next boss encounter. 

Japanese developers, not just Atlus, have struggled with embracing the open-world design principles companies like CD Project RED have already figured out. Like a Dragon games come the closest, and it’s a shame that there are so few developers who tackle side content the right way.

Visuals – Free of the Shackles of the Nintendo Switch

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance, just like the original, is built on Unreal Engine 4. SMT V was the first game Atlus ever made using UE4 and despite that, they’ve managed to make really good use of it. The game benefits from a cell-shaded art style, colourful world design, and detailed creature designs. 

However, the game was locked away on the Nintendo Switch for a long time, struggling to showcase its beauty at 720P, 30FPS. Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance runs at 60FPS, 4K on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, truly letting the game breathe and show everything it can do. The framerate never dips and we’ve encountered no bugs or technical issues while testing the game on the PS5. 

Again, this is the state in which the game should have launched in the first place, as it would have made a much more positive impression. However, now that it’s on multiple systems, more people have access to it and can finally try out the main series that Persona games originally came from.

Audio – Eerie and Oppressive Just like SMT Should Sound

The original SMT V launched with 117 tracks and it was already considered very good for an SMT game. Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance had 89 of its tracks redone to match the needs of its new campaign. 

Technically, it’s an entirely new soundtrack compared to the original, and a part of it is also dynamic. Battle tracks speed up or slow down based on what’s going on, adding to the atmosphere. Exploration tracks also shift and flow from one to another as you explore every open-world area. SMT always had very good music and this game is thankfully no exception. 

The mix of industrial techno and classical orchestra is unlike any other JRPG franchise out there and it’s amazing to see Atlus continue this tradition. Where Persona games have upbeat and inspiring soundtracks, SMT always leaned into desperate, haunting, and mysterious music that really lends to the overall atmosphere of every title.

Solid Voice Acting Despite the Cliché Script

Given that the story of Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance isn’t anything to write home about, the script also reflects that. If you’ve ever watched anime, you know what to expect. High school students saving the world. There’s a nerdy girl. There’s a guy who always gets into fights and does poorly in class. There’s a class representative who studies twice as much as everyone else. 

Their dialogue feels copy-pasted from a dozen other games, including Persona. While the angels and demons do make the story more original and interesting, the voice acting is typical of early 2000s anime with over-the-edge acting. You can however choose between English and Japanese voiceovers in Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance, so there’s always that option.

Conclusion – Should you Play Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance?

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance is a great JRPG with a poor story and very addicting gameplay. Depending on what you expect from it, you’ll either love it or hate it. The new campaign adds a lot of content for fans to revisit the game, while newcomers can enjoy 100+ hours of solid JRPG fun. 

Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into–endless hours of grinding with an occasional twinkle of a story here and there. In many ways, it’s your typical JRPG, but the SMT license really elevates the experience from good to great. If you’re on PC, you can get Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance from DL Gamer. The game is also available on PlayStation, Xbox consoles, and the Nintendo Switch.

Rastislav Filip

Posts published: 52

Professional copywriter, full-time nerd, and a loving husband. Loves playing JRPGs and story-driven games, binging TV shows, and reading sci-fi/fantasy books. Probably writes content in his sleep.