Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review | A Nonstrous Throwback

Estimated read time 7 min read

While remakes and remasters have come to be a common thing nowadays, you don’t often see titles like Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance. It’s a re-release of a 2021 Nintendo Switch exclusive that comes with an expansive number of quality-of-life improvements, optimized to run on every modern gaming system out today. Atlus could’ve stopped there and called it a day. But they went the extra mile and developed an entirely new alternate campaign in the form of Canon of Vengeance, all packaged alongside the remastered original game. In terms of practical value, this game already gets an immediate win. It’s the technical improvements and the commitment to provide a unique alternate experience is what elevates Vengeance to whole new levels.

The original Shin Megami Tensei 5 left a good impression. Good enough to warrant the developers from wanting to revisit it and bring it back to a new audience. The game leaned heavily into its turn-based combat and progression systems, often at the expense of character development and narrative depth. This approach made it a distinctive entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series and even within Atlus’ portfolio. Departing from its dungeon-crawling roots, the fifth installment embraced open-zone exploration, a bold move that introduced a fresh dynamic to the series. Despite the inevitable growing pains associated with this shift, the game’s ambitious design and solid combat mechanics was enough for fans to look back fondly.

Back better than ever

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is a testament to what can be achieved with well-informed improvements and fresh content. The original SMT V on the Nintendo Switch had technical constraints, which is expected out of the hardware, but with its re-release on multiple platforms, the game now shines with its full potential. The world of Da’at, a post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo, can now be explored in a much smoother state, free from the frame rate issues that plagued the original. Playing it on PC, running at 400-500 fps was definitely a treat. The game ran like butter. No crashes or noticeable performance hiccups.

There are over 50+ gameplay improvements in Vengeance, ranging from minor tweaks such as UI fixes in the map to systematic game changers like being able to save at any point in the game rather than having to only do it at every leyline. Even coming from just watching old footage of the original SMT 5, I can immediately tell how much of a smoother, more streamlined, and much more refined experience Vengeance is. This alone should be plenty enough reason for veteran players to pick Vengeance up to re-experience the game in a completely new shiny lense. But there’s also the other side of the coin where the game shows how bright, or in this case, dark it can go.

Canon of Vengeance feels like it’s made in direct response to feedback towards the Canon of the Creation. The story loves to show what fans would expect, then completely go in the opposite direction. This makes it fresh to veteran players while providing an enjoyable rollercoaster of a narrative for newcomers like me. You can tell that there’s a high level of self-awareness from the developers with the material that they have and played around to see just how unexpected they can get to the most number of players possible. I won’t be going into it any further but just know that there’s a lot to enjoy and be surprised about here.

Vengeance brings in a new zone and a new dungeon. Shinjuku serves as the backdrop for majority of the new story developments. As you would’ve expected from the name itself, it is much noticeably more mature than the original SMT 5 story. The new dungeon, Shakan, parallels the Demon King Castle. It features room puzzles instead of platforming. Fundamentally, navigating Shinjuku is much like exploring any other area in the game, maintaining the familiar exploration mechanics players are accustomed to.

Do temper your expectations. While it is an alternate story scenario, you’ll still be playing through some of the same zones that were already present in the Canon of Creation. This is less of a complete revamp and more of an interesting shakeup.

It’s like déjà vu

The gameplay retains the excellent press-turn combat mechanics, where hitting enemy weaknesses and landing critical hits is both satisfying and crucial to a convincing victory. However, there are areas where enemy density feels overwhelming, making encounters tedious rather than challenging. It also doesn’t help that once you fall in battle, it’s completely game over. You better hope that you saved before that fight, or you’ll just load into the last leyline you touched. And they’re not all that common to begin with. A chained-sequence fight system could have mitigated this issue by streamlining multiple battles into a single, cohesive encounter.

Enemy designs are visually impressive and mechanically engaging. Trying to recruit them is also equally great, encountering some of the wackiest conversations you can have in an RPG. The writers definitely enjoyed their time thinking about the dialogue in some of these recruitment scenarios. One time you can have a demon ask for a simple gift before joining while the next expects you to dance in front of them or call them cute. You never know what to expect, and that makes it much more exciting every time a conversation prompt pops up.

Speaking of exploration, the introduction of Magatsuhi Rails stands out as one of the most practical improvements. Scattered throughout the explorable zones of Da’at, these rails sometimes lead to small new areas within each zone, offering collectibles, demons, or never before seen quests. Several of these rails function as shortcuts, simplifying re-traversal across the zones. Remember those times when you had to backtrack in SMT 5? Just surf and cover large distances within a few seconds. It’s quick, and you look dang cool in doing it.

Vengeance also introduces the Demon Haunt hideaway, a space where you can interact with allies and demons. You can try to improve your relationship with each one of them by having conversations or even giving gifts. While amusing at the start, it did become quite tedious when I realized there’s not much variety. You’ll constantly get told that your demons want to talk to you and there will come a point where it becomes too repetitive. You can definitely ignore this part of the game, but you might miss on some useful stat improvements.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review Final Verdict – 8.5/10

For newcomers, the remixed approach of Vengeance could be disorienting. Admittedly, even I was confused until I had to look around for explanations as to what Vengeance really is all about. All you need to know is that the original SMT 5 is still here with all the fantastic systematic improvements Atlas made. But the Canon of Vengeance provides a compelling alternative should you want a slightly different experience. It doesn’t overshadow or replace the original story; instead, it adds more depth and replayability to an already content-rich RPG.

Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance captures the essence of the original game while addressing its shortcomings and expanding its narrative. The improved performance, new storyline, and quality-of-life changes make it a great reason to be given some attention.

The post Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review | A Nonstrous Throwback appeared first on UnGeek.

You May Also Like

More From Author