Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Review – Demons Exorcised

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Review – Demons Exorcised

First released in 2021, Shin Megami Tensei V was a well-regarded modern JRPG held back in some ways by stagnation of the genre and the Nintendo Switch hardware to which it was exclusively bound. I spent a number of hours with this version before tiring of the pedantic battle system, fixed save points and the frequency with which players could occasionally be insta-killed in some encounters, which combined with the infrequent saves to lose me sizeable progress on a few too many occasions. None of these issues stopped the game achieving acclaim both critically and commercially, a boon given its release on current gen hardware features numerous tweaks, new content and improvements making it not only a definitive version of SMTV for first-timers but also one that will ensure returning players are in for a treat.

SMTVV Screenshot 1

Having been eclipsed by the relatively sunny disposition of its wildly successful spin-off series, Persona, Shin Megami Tensei now comes off as the weirdly edgy older brother, concerned frequently with philosophy, religion and the ultimate fate of humanity rather than how much you can get your friends and acquaintances to like you before the school year ends. Vengeance is no different as reflection on player feedback across the past few years has honed the experience. Upon launching the game, players can now choose between one of two story routes; Canon of Creation, the vanilla experience of SMTV, or Canon of Vengeance, a modified version of the original which significantly upends events in a number of ways. Both still focus on the protagonist, a player-named Tokyo High School student awakening after a serious accident in Da’at, a post-apocalyptic Tokyo now ruled by Demons. To survive this harsh environment, the player character must become a Nahobino, the forbidden merging of human and Aogami, a Proto-fiend type Demon.

SMTVV Screenshot 2

For a number of reasons, Vengeace is simply a much better version of SMTV, so much so that the original Switch digital release is being replaced entirely on the eShop. With more demons to recruit and fuse, design adjustments leading to better visibility in the overworld and streamlined traversal, new campaign aside there is still reason to dip back in. The crucial addition though is the option to save anywhere – it really is a godsend in a game that can remind you just how easily you can be crushed in the space of a single combat encounter. Moving to the PlayStation 5 hardware from the Switch, there are obvious performance and resolution enhancements as well which might edge out the portability factor for some.


Regardless of difficulty setting, the Battle system in SMTVV requires mastery to make it to the next (occasionally infrequent) story beat. Vengeace demands players exploit weaknesses and shape their team to the foes found in each location. Failure to do so will result in game overs without question – there’s no cushy “restart last battle?” option here, just the crushing realisation that autosave is not a feature and it’s quite easy to lose progress if saving manually slips your mind for a period of time.

SMTVV Screenshot 3

To keep things even more decidedly old school, grinding, questing and Demon Fusion are mandatory. I mean, grinding and JRPGS; name a more iconic duo, it’s a given for designs which like to keep it more traditional in some aspects. Quests, which aren’t generally exciting in their design usually bestow items which increase the efficacy of certain Demon types alongside some experience points, but these often aren’t enough to shift even a single level. Quests are now assigned a recommended level which helps organise the order in which they should be completed, but there’s often no getting around the fact that the right thing to do is tick them all off your checklist before proceeding with the main story.

Recruiting demons during battle remains a fun activity to partake in when exploring a new location, with limited slots early in the game pushing the idea that true power in SMTV can only be gained by killing your darlings via Fusion, turning your less effective party members into powerhouses over time in a reductive process that constantly demands fresh recruits. The Fusion process has been slightly streamlined like much of Vengeance, with the new Dyad Compendium Fusion allowing a blend of an on-hand Demon with one already registered, although for my tastes the Reverse Compendium Fusion is still my favourite way to find the best addition to my line-up which involves showing what Demons are available from what the player has access to.

SMTVV Screenshot 4

Despite the many improvements Vengeance demonstrates over it’s vanilla version, there’s no getting around the still sluggish pacing, which is somewhat improved with a few diversions to keep players going and breaking up the sometimes monotonous overworld exploration and battling. The Demon Haunt is a new area populated by befriended demons that allows conversations with them and the occasional level up, stat bump or item bonus when prompted to visit. This is cute and allows some more development between the protagonist and Aogami than would otherwise be possible. In some respects, to demand more of SMTV would be also demanding it to become something it isn’t; there’s a reason the Legend of Heroes series has become my de facto JRPG go-to this past decade, but I wouldn’t expect the SMT series to suddenly pivot to be more like LoH, especially when LoH itself has been cribbing from Persona for quite a while now. There’s something admirable about the way Atlus are remaining faithful to the principles on which SMT was founded rather than twist it into something more like Persona which might find more commercial success as the expense of integrity.

It’s no secret I like my JRPG’s portable these days, preferring to kick back in bed into the wee hours rather than be stuck in front of a TV or Monitor, but it’s hard to argue with the smooth performance and reduced loading times the PlayStation 5 console offers. Were I to have one on hand, I think A PS Portal, Backbone or similar would be the ideal scenario for SMTV Vengeance – I find it hard to believe the Switch is still the best place to experience this game in 2024. Anyone wanting to get a taste of Shin Megami Tensei who missed the 2021 release should be happy to know now is the best time to jump in. The numerous Quality of Life adjustments ensure Vengeance is the definitive SMTV experience and the Canon of Vengeance campaign rewards returning players with unique experiences alongside a slew of refinements.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance was reviewed on a PlayStation 5 console with code kindly supplied by the publisher. 

SMTVV Review Box

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