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Review: Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Reaches Its True Potential

Atlus games are the heartbeat of my love for gaming, be it Persona or Shin Megami Tensei. However, the original Shin Megami Tensei V severely disappointed me in terms of its empty world, forgettable characters, bland storyline, and lackluster performance. Fortunately, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the true definitive version, addressing all of my concerns and then some.

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In some aspects, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is akin to what Apocalypse is to SMT IV, as it is a better game with a stronger story in the same world, but also unique at the same time. For the most part, Vengeance is the game this JRPG should have been from the start. I will go ahead and say it right now. Outside of 100% completing the JRPG, there is no reason to go back to the original Canon of Creation storyline.

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The new Canon of Vengeance path feels much better in every single aspect. The start of the story is pretty much identical to the original plot, but with some neat twists. For one, you get new characters like Yoko who accompany the player from pretty early in the story. This is one of the best changes in Vengeance, as the game feels much more alive with frequent character development. Most of the plot has at least one, if not two, other people journeying alongside the Nahobino. They can even optionally fight alongside you in battle, Persona-style, if you so choose, but they don’t have to.

Comments and interjections from party members like Yoko on the main plot points, developments, and even side quests are a welcome addition. They feel so natural, such as musing over whether or not I should’ve helped out a particular demon in a side quest. This makes replaying the almost identical first half of this JRPG so much more vibrant and thrilling. It didn’t feel like trudging through this barren open wasteland without much purpose. I wanted to keep going to see how the story would change or what Yoko and others had to say about my choices.

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Without delving into spoilers too much, the plot of Canon of Vengeance is solid from start to somewhat awkward finish. The highlight of the original SMT V for me was the first dozen hours or so. Adventuring through the initial Da’at area felt exciting and mysterious in the original, plus the more horror-like high school dungeon section afterward felt like the peak part of the story. Fortunately, Canon of Vengeance takes the best parts of the cast from that initial dozen hours I loved and included it throughout the rest of the game. You spend so much more time with all of the cast members in the main story. This even sometimes happens through limited-time side quests that flesh them out more.

SMT V: Vengeance completely changed my perspective on certain characters. I won’t spoil things here. However, I went from disliking them in the original to now loving them. There are even some characters I still hate, but with an even more burning passion than before because they had the proper time to develop their motivations better and earn that ire.

Even better yet, there is a brand new area exclusive to Canon of Vengeance. Fortunately, it is also the best open-world area to explore as well. Players can now visit Shinjuku in Da’at. This area is absolutely massive. You start out in the gorgeous, purple-themed Shibuya, and you literally travel from that ward all the way to Shinjuku. The area is a refreshing break from the other areas. It is so detailed and just keeps going. In fact, it trades out the Chiyoda map in this story path, which I felt was by far the most annoying area in the original, so that made me happy as well.

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The only real downside to the Canon of Vengeance storyline is the ending. There are two new endings to unlock in this game, and they felt a bit lackluster to me. They didn’t necessarily move the needle as much as I would have liked, especially with everything else this version changes.

When it comes to the gameplay, though, we see the classic turn-based Press Turn system at work with some minor, but helpful, improvements. You pick to attack, use skills that cost MP, defend, and so on each turn. These tactical battles are just as challenging, freeform, and stylish as before. That said, there are a lot more ultimate Magatsuhi Skills to unlock and use in battle, and you’ll want them, too. After all, the new Canon of Vengeance storyline felt much more challenging than the base game with its new bosses.

There is an early boss, for instance, who has a weakness to physical, but nullifies basically everything else. You would think this would make for a swift and breezy fight then, right? Just mash away the attack button or use physical skills and you’ll gain extra turns, so it sounds pretty easy. Well, the boss makes up for its weakness with unbelievably powerful attacks and various status effects. These skills nearly obliterated my early party on the Normal difficulty. This continues through the rest of the game with each boss truly forcing the player to reevaluate their team and make use of the Essences to change resistances, skills, and the like.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance SMTV Vengeance Review
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Playing this game on the PS5 meant the battles were much smoother and swifter than ever before as well. The frame rate was steady no matter what I was doing, including exploration. Speaking of which, the exploration felt much more engaging. This is especially true with the neat quality-of-life features like new open-world shortcuts you can find and unlock.

This made me want to uncover every inch of each open map area and find every secret. I actually wanted to do every side quest as well, especially the new ones. Most of the newer optional content has quick, witty, and intriguing storylines worth checking out. There is one recurring side quest storyline following the Hare of Inaba wanting to stronger, which I adored. There are even more experimental quests where you can briefly take on the role of demons. One of my favorites was this puzzling and comedic whodunnit case.

In general, the demons have much more fascinating personalities than ever before. This is seen through the side quests and the new Demon Haunt area. This new location lets players interact with demons, give them gifts, and receive gifts in return. It almost feels like a very light bond system with the demons and other party members. This all added a nice touch. Even some of the previous DLC from the base game feels more naturally integrated into the world. This even includes the beloved Return of the True Demon side quest.

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Screenshot by Siliconera

In the end, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance accomplished exactly what I hoped for. It took the messy base game, made it look and play better, and expanded upon every single aspect. This results in a polished and finally complete experience worth (re)visiting. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance reaches its full potential in almost every way possible and now confidently stands toe-to-toe with its predecessors.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance releases for Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC on June 14, 2024.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance

Become a mighty demigod and battle through a decimated Tokyo in a war between angels and demons. PS5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the JRPG we should’ve gotten with the original version. The immense quality-of-life features, better character development, and much more interesting story make the Canon of Vengeance path leaps and bounds better than the base storyline.

Food for Thought
  • Reach out and take the girl’s hand near the start of the game if you want to experience the Canon of Vengeance.
  • You can now visit the Demon Haunt to chat and bond with your demons.
  • Your save progress will not carry over on Switch from the original game.

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Cody Perez
Cody is a writer who has been sharing his love for video games and anime since his high school days in 2012. When he isn’t writing about the latest JRPGs and anime series, he can be found in Final Fantasy XIV, occasionally playing some Call of Duty, or lurking on Twitter @SoulcapCody.