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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review

The Chad catch-em-all

The parent series of the massively popular Persona series Shin Megami Tensei is bringing back its Switch-exclusive fifth entry for all modern platforms in a definitive package that Atlus has shown a lot of love. This turn-based demon-negotiating catch-em-all title doesn’t buck the plot tropes of this series, with war breaking out in Tokyo some 20 years in the future after the forces of angels and demons have taken over the world. Your destined hero, a teenage high-schooler, fuses with the president of Japan into a demon-human hybrid called a Nahobino. You must then convince the invading demons of global mythology to join your ascension to godhood. A lot of other weird nonsense is going on with secret government societies, the politics of the Judeo-Christian Pantheon, and an overall familiar tale of taking down gods to become the very best. It’s a plot that generally doesn’t stray too far from where the series has been previously. This time around the fifth entry is presented in full HD with all the glossy trimmings that look pretty good freed of the Switch’s dated hardware. There’s a brand new story mode to occupy you some 80 hours, all in a package dressed in quality-of-life improvements that make the series its most approachable yet.

This new edition of SMTV offers two ways to experience this weird and esoteric post-apocalyptic turn-based JRPG. For those interested in checking out the original experience that graced the Switch, there is the Canon of Creation option. For new and returning players, I recommend the new Canon of Vengeance, which is largely the same experience as Creation but with the inclusion of actual villains and stakes along the journey.

I’m famously a divine young lad

There’s no clear thematic brush you can tar SMTV with. Dark post-apocalyptic fantasy is far too grim for the brash tone that interacting with this world’s demons brings. The parent series of Persona remains as arcane and loose as ever. It starts with cutscenes lengthily monologuing aimlessly on religion and philosophy. This alienating jumble of fringe, apocryphal interpretation only continues from there, and overflows with biblical allegory that tangles in on itself. This is true of all the core SMT games I have played and is a swampy mess of the world’s mythologies enveloping one another in a way that is fun in its anime grandiosity. It’s enjoyable nonsense that I still haven’t quite untangled on my second foray through SMTV, but I would argue this is all a part of the appeal and I do adore getting lost amongst its many layers.

The story of the Canon of Vengeance peppers in a quartet of villains called the Qadištu. They neatly fit into the overall familiar proceedings of SMTV, adding greater layers of insight into the plot and add a tension that the Canon of Creation lacks. This new story mode even adds two well-written new cast members who will tear at you with moral choices that will steer you towards one of six endings. As elegantly as the additional story elements fit into the mould of the base game, it does mean that I estimated about 70% of the Canon of Vengeance as territory I had already well-trodden back in 2021. Fortunately, the remixing of difficulty, fights, enemy abilities and the new rail-grinding traversal system that greatly opens up exploration in the familiar doom-world Tokyo locations means that revisiting the old in this high-res and lovingly remixed fashion is still comforting rather than exhausting. 

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The new soundtrack additions slap right out of the gate

I’m an especially big fan of the difficulty toggle as we saw in Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster. These are hardcore JRPGs that expect gradual systems mastery. If you’re just not feeling up to the eventual hour-long boss fights that require managing energy attrition, it’s no trouble flicking the difficulty to casual and reattempting. This is masterfully implemented with boss fights, where they change their move sets and behaviours to require a more manageable, less prolonged strategy without dumbing down the challenge or reward. 

Surprisingly, Mara isn’t weak to the Heavy Blow

As we’ve come to expect from the talented sonic artists at Atlus’ studios, there are excellent audio additions across the board here. Though some weaker existing English VO from the base game remains, the new cast members all bring their anime A-game. The new soundtrack additions slap right out of the gate and are mixed in naturally right from the start of the game. Music never tires in SMTV, with battles dynamically mixing the soundtrack depending on how you approach encounters, with all the new boss themes being exceptionally energetic and weird mashups of synth and industrial rock. 

Minimal loading, smooth frames, and uber-tight interfaces (from the studios that have perfected game interfaces with Persona) mean that this game can zip by at a pace that suits the player. Heck, there are even build crafting options to empower powers who prefer to have the combat play out via the sped-up auto-battle mode (which is how I like to grind trash mobs). By giving the player all the tools to tweak their SMTV experience to their liking without fear of compromising the creative intent of their game, Atlus has worked a miracle. Even at 80 hours of playtime to hit the credits, nothing stopped me from speeding through combat, exploration, and menus at a pace that kept up with my caffeinated brain. It makes a lofty runtime like that cruise on by and ultimately respects my time.

My spirit demon

Final Thoughts

There’s simply nothing else on the market right now like this series – a tonally unhinged pop-cosmopolitan-apocrypha-anime-apocalyptic JRPG that plays like Pokemon on steroids. Just like the best SMT games, its plot is rich as syrup and just as opaque. Read too close into the nonsensical jumble of mythological creatures and themes and you’re sure to be nauseated. However, supposing you can appreciate the excess of everything and have played a few turned-based RPGs before, Vengeance is simply the most approachable and engrossing core Shin Megami Tensei game currently on the market and the best way to check out this weirdo series.

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Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review
God President Nahobino
While giving players the option of a core and arguably ‘fixed’ SMTV experience, Atlus delivers the most approachable core Megaten title worthy of all JRPG fans’ attention.
The Good
Spoiled with heaps of great new music
Welcome approachability options
New characters and story are arguably better than the base game
All new gameplay additions and tweaks are improvements
Awesome interfaces empower a menu-diving experience to suit any playstyle and pace
The Bad
Some weaker characters and VO carry over from the core game
Most of the experience will feel like a retread for returning players
The story may be too indulgent in the pseudo-religious weirdness for some
9
Bloody Ripper
  • Atlus
  • Sega
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • June 14, 2024

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review
God President Nahobino
While giving players the option of a core and arguably ‘fixed’ SMTV experience, Atlus delivers the most approachable core Megaten title worthy of all JRPG fans’ attention.
The Good
Spoiled with heaps of great new music
Welcome approachability options
New characters and story are arguably better than the base game
All new gameplay additions and tweaks are improvements
Awesome interfaces empower a menu-diving experience to suit any playstyle and pace
The Bad
Some weaker characters and VO carry over from the core game
Most of the experience will feel like a retread for returning players
The story may be too indulgent in the pseudo-religious weirdness for some
9
Bloody Ripper
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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