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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review – Late Night With The Devil

Platform(s): PC (version reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Japanese role-playing game, Pokémon but demons, post-apocalypse

Old habits die hard.

In the case of Atlus, the Japanese role-playing game-making group is known for releasing enhanced versions -or revamping- its previously-released turn-based JRPGS into “deluxe royale” versions, justifying its existence with new story content & gameplay additions. See Persona 4 golden and Persona 5 Royal for egregious examples.

However, in Shin Megami Tensei V’s case, this is wholly justified given that (a) the original 2021 Nintendo Switch exclusive JRPG ran on subpar hardware by today’s standards and (b) the core series isn’t as popular as its Persona cousins. Any sort of re-release or revamp of the series that started it all, and also introduced the concept of recruiting monsters & demons before Pokemon came into the picture (go look it up) is A-OK in my book, especially if it’s done right.

And Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance does it right.

 

The Devil You Know

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is about a Tokyo student who becomes a Nahobino through the powers of a stranger-turned-aide named Aogami, a literal demon-slash-godlike figure who can reshape the world and is fated to change the current state of the world. Said world is a combination of a near-empty Tokyo metropolis coupled with a stylistic avant-garde-at-times slew of biome hellholes that used to be modern Earth. You’re essentially thrust into a global war between angels and demons, with other mystical entities thrown in within the mix.

Gameplay-wise, you go through the plot motions, fighting enemies in turn-based format, recruit demons to be in your party (by bribery or sweet-talking via the conversation system), and take your sweet time as you explore the many open worlds offered in the game -the hellscapes and wastelands called Da’at. Each of them have their own purposely-complex map layout, but also many avenues and secrets to discover and find new demons to recruit. After all, without powerful demons to find, you’re not going to survive even with your new Nahobino powers. To amplify your power further, your character can equip new passive power-ups called Miracles that affect your summoning and overall skills, as well as fuse demons to make better ones with greater power and protection. The game will throw a ton of curveballs and difficulty spikes at you thanks to tough bosses, but you have all the demons and tools at your disposal to solve the problem.

In addition, the game’s Press Turn system lets you gain additional turns if you exploit enemy weaknesses -use fire spells on an enemy weak to fire, and you score an extra turn to do more attacks and moves. Enemies can do the same though, and usually start off with more turns, so using and abusing the system is a requirement to get ahead. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance will not pull any punches with its bosses, much like a From Software game, but the feeling of overcoming its many challenges the first time around will feel damn good. Plus, you can summon defeated bosses to be recruited in your demon party for a substantial price tag (actual money and/or a combination of rare demons).

The 2021 game’s plot is pretty vague and is purposely so, which won’t gel with current JRPG players. However, the Vengeance revamp not only adds extra scenes to add further context & story to the base plot, but also offers an alternate Vengeance story path -dubbed the Canon of Vengeance- that features a ton more depth and new antagonists called the Qadistu that have their own reasons for committing worldwide villainous acts.

The most important addition is the new character Yoko, an exorcist from another school who basically helps the Nahobino but also has her own agenda. She’s pragmatic, but also charming in her own right given the seriousness of SMT’s general plot. Plus, she’s a nifty human ally who can take a spot in your party with her own set of skills tailor-made for the stage she’s in. Her kit isn’t game-breaking, but it is viable for most of the game if you want to ease off spending time recruiting demons.

On top of that, this path has new stages and bosses to fight that will test your mettle at about the same level as the base game. It’s the better plot with more at stake, if I’m being honest, and worth jumping in straight whether you’re a newbie or a veteran.

For the veterans who played through the 2021 game, there is a lot to love in this revamp. In addition to new stages not found in the base game like new Da’ats (the Japan open-world wastelands), you can access Magatsu Rails that take you to hard-to-reach areas and secret spots (and lessens backtracking), an option to see the area through a top-down bird’s eye view lens to see what’s ahead, consecutive encounters for maximum experience gain, and Virtual Battles that let you replay epic boss fights to escalating levels for that added challenge. There’s even a new Dyad Compendium Fusion option in the Cathedral of Shadows which combines a demon in your possession with one from the demon compendium, making for easier fusion options.

The revamp also introduces a Demon Haunt spot in each Da’at, which are quiet spots that let you chill out with your party and also gift them gifts so that they get stat boosts. In addition, your Nahobino can also sit on a park bench in these Haunts and talk to Aogami to power yourself up; 3 stat points per prompted visit is nothing to sneeze at in a game that loves to beat you to a pulp with its plethora of Goethic wind fiends and sexy Zohar fiends with jiggle physics intact.

The new quest types are also fun and cute, like timed scavenger hunts (and actual demon hunts) in one section of the map before the in-game moon turns full, and the demon tracker sidequests where you temporarily play as one of the cuter demons as they explore the world and area through their own lens and showcase their personalities. Speaking of which, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance adds 40 more demons to summon, ranging from a special dastardly angel from a classic DS Shin Megami Tensei game to a “Turbo Granny” which is a fast-moving on-all-fours ugly old lady with high evade rate.

My personal favourite newbie is the Nahobeeho, which is a Jack Frost demon who is cosplaying as our blue-haired svelte main character to comical effect. You’ll recruit him late in the game and after a short-but-sweet quest, but he’s worth the search just for his powers and comedy value alone. I commend the game’s designers and writers for injecting moments of levity like this amidst its overall dark apocalypse-slash-judgment day setting.

Most importantly, you can save anywhere on the map. In a game where death is usually footsteps away when you least expect it, saving anywhere means less pointless backtracking and do-overs. In terms of difficulty, you can still toggle between Casual and Normal (the latter for the default SMT experience from hell) so at the very least this SMT title is a lot more accessible than past titles. This also means anyone who wants to jump in a hardcore JRPG experience but can turn the game into a less hostile experience can just do so, which means more people will not have their time wasted through pointless deaths and backtracking due to one tiny slip-up. And if you want to keep your SMT experience pure, the Hard option is available from the get-go.

There are a few chinks in this near-perfect definitive armour, such as the base game’s confusing Da’at and dungeons that still don’t have enough of the new rails and additions to make the experience less painful. Still, with the ability to save anywhere and reloading from where you started before you got lost or killed, this stings way less than it should.

 

V For Vendetta

Shin Megami Tensei V back in 2021 was an epic JRPG that really needed a better core story (or a superior method of telling it) and better hardware to run, along with some interface tweaks. The Vengeance revamp fixes all of that and adds in a lot more, making this entry the definitive version of an already-stellar post-apocalyptic demon-summoning Nahobino-ing experience. With a lovingly crafted world with warranted upgrades, a huge cast of powerhouses to summon and recruit for your uber-demon army, a banging soundtrack with more awesome aural extras added, and a better framerate for the overall graphical experience, this is one literal hell of an adventure to dive into.

Plus, there’s also a New Game plus mode so you can replay the game and get the additional endings, or just play through the other story path. And also the speed-up battle option so you can cut down animation times when you’re doing the old-fashioned JRPG grinding and demon-recruiting. I’d say you’re getting about 60+ hours in for your first playthrough in either Canon storyline path, with the remaining 40 hours (at minimum) getting all the endings and sorting out the other path.

If you’re new to this side of Atlus’ origin RPG series that predated Pokémon, you’ll find a lot to love in this game whether you’re on the PC or on the PS5/Xbox Series. Players who spent 100+ hours on the original game will also find a lot of new additions & upgrades that warrant its current price tag, further proving that sometimes vengeance isn’t completely bittersweet when executed right.

 

Pros

  • A 2021 hit JRPG made better with new story additions & alternate pathways.
  • Great and challenging turn-based combat system with deep demon fusion mechanics.
  • Fun open-world level design.
  • Plethora of endings & New Game plus options for replayability.
  • Much-needed quality-of-life changes, performance upgrade, & save anywhere option for past players.

Cons

  • A few open-world sections & dungeons could use less roadblocks & confusing layout.

 

Final Score: 90/100

Review copy provided by publisher. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is out on 14 June for PC and consoles. 

 

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Comment(1)

  1. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Sold Tons In Launch Week | Kakuchopurei

    June 20, 2024 at 10:04 am

    […] storyline you can access from the start, and new demons to recruit and fuse for your perusal. Check out our review of the game here, as well as a guide on its plethora of conclusions (spoilers, […]

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