Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance
Image: Atlus

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance review – Back with a vengeance

A stellar upgrade.

Shin Megami Tensei is one of the longest-running RPG series out there, but despite its storied history, it’s never been as recognized as other genre staples. Even its spinoffs — mainly Persona — have dwarfed the main series in such a huge way that they’ve even dropped the SMT branding from their titles. Fans prop up every new Shin Megami Tensei release as the possible breakout moment for the mainline franchise in the West, and 2021’s Shin Megami Tensei V was seemingly the best chance the series had at reaching a wider audience.

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Being stuck on the Nintendo Switch and releasing during a remarkably busy holiday season didn’t do Shin Megami Tensei V any favors, though, but now the game is back with a Vengeance. Keeping with typical Atlus tradition, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is an expanded and enhanced version of the original RPG, addressing feedback from the initial release, adding a ton of new features, and — most importantly — releasing on multiple platforms. This is much more than an expanded port, however, and in many ways, it feels like the game SMTV was always meant to be.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Humans
Image: Atlus

Back with a Vengeance

The main new addition of SMTV: Vengeance is an all-new storyline, aptly titled the Canon of Vengeance. The original Shin Megami Tensei V story is still there too, now called the Canon of Creation, and you can choose between the two at the very start of the game. Unlike the expanded editions of Persona games, this isn’t one main story with a new chapter bolted onto the end. The Canon of Vengeance differs significantly from the Canon of Creation, even if the opening hours are similar.

The original story of Shin Megami Tensei V was criticized for being light, even by SMT standards, and rightfully so. Characters felt severely underutilized and there wasn’t much of a plot to keep things going outside of the basic framework to guide you toward the credits. Thankfully, the Canon of Vengeance offers a more compelling narrative.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Aogami Demon Haunt
Image: Atlus

In addition to the new story changes, human characters can now join your party as temporary guests and you can chat with them and your collected demons in the new Demon Haunt hangouts. It’s not as fleshed out as something like Persona, but that’s not really what the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series is about.

Welcome to Hell

Mainline SMT is all about hellish vibes and stellar combat, and Vengeance excels in both regards. Regardless of your chosen story route, the atmosphere of Shin Megami Tensei V is unmatched. It’s a lonely and oppressive game in a way that is unapologetically Shin Megami Tensei, and it’s lovely to see that Vengeance not only refrained from backing away from its abrasive side but also doubled down on that identity.

In the opening hours of the game, you’ll explore the sand-swept ruins of what was once Tokyo, familiarizing yourself with a new world that isn’t necessarily evil, but uncaring. Dissonant whispers fill the air, occasionally broken up by the shred of an electric guitar. Directionless, you set out in search of answers. And then a demon asks you for twenty bucks. When it comes to vibes, Vengeance is peak Shin Megami Tensei. It’s so confident in itself that it’s not afraid to let you chat with a wayward demon about haircuts.

Press the Advantage

The bulk of the SMTV experience is still combat and party building, though, and the core features that the series is known for are even better in Vengeance. The main press turn combat system remains, granting bonus turns for striking weaknesses or landing critical hits and removing turns for missing attacks.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Nahobino Inflaming Divinity
Image: Atlus

In Vengeance, additional waves of enemies can appear after you win a fight in a crowded area. You also can now speed up animations to make grinding less of a headache, and there are also new auto-attack and auto-skill options to let the game take the wheel. The game’s turn-based battles feel much more dynamic in Vengeance with just these small tweaks.

Plus, various tweaks have been made to experience and level scaling to make battles against high-level foes less punishing as long as you use the right tactics. You’re not going to be able to auto-attack your way through boss fights, but you can take out strong demons at lower levels if you come prepared with the right buffs, debuffs, and party composition.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

The most significant changes to Vengeance’s combat are actually related to party building and strategy. Assembling a demonic dream team is the main goal in SMT games, and Vengeance adds multiple new layers to team building. Demons now have innate passive skills that cannot be transferred, incentivizing you to use specific demons over others. Demons of the same type can also join together and perform powerful group attacks during battles, giving you one more thing to pay attention to when putting your team together.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance King Frost
Image: Atlus

Fusion is even easier with the addition of Dyad Compendium fusion, too, which lets you combine a demon in your possession with one registered in your compendium so you don’t have to go through the trouble of summoning a demon just to immediately discard it in a fusion. Slowly building up your demon roster and fusing them together to create hybrid movesets like some sort of scientific concoction is the real meat of Shin Megami Tensei V, and Vengeance just gives you even more tools to play with.

Additionally, one of the things that set the base version of Shin Megami Tensei V apart from its predecessors was its focus on exploration and side content. Vengeance makes that even better. It’s still a blast to run around and collect recovery orbs, searching for hidden Minami and other collectibles, and Vengeance has added new modes of transportation like Magatsu Rails which allow you to quickly zip around to different parts of the map and even discover new areas. Powerful new foes called Magatsuhi demons can randomly appear as well, and there are new Aogami Husks that can be collected to unlock new skills exclusively for the protagonist.

It’s Fun to Be Unfair

With all these quality-of-life improvements and new features, SMT’s combat is the best it’s ever been. Don’t get the wrong impression that the game has been made easier, though. Shin Megami Tensei V is still a mean game, but the beauty is that it lets you be mean back. It can feel overwhelming at first, especially for newcomers to the series, but slowly mastering the game’s systems and exerting your dominance over demons is what makes Shin Megami Tensei so compelling.

Yes, you can miss your attacks, lose your turns, and then get rolled by a random demon in a few seconds (made less frustrating by the new save anywhere feature!), but you can also do the same to them. It feels like bullying to attack eight times in a row thanks to the press turn system and to activate a powerful Magatushi skill that forces all eight of those attacks to be critical hits, but that’s what makes SMTV so thrilling.

Shin Megami Tensei V Vengeance Guest Character
Image: Atlus

The Verdict

When you add everything together, Vengeance makes the original version of Shin Megami Tensei V feel shockingly incomplete in comparison. It’s easily the biggest revamp of a game that Atlus has ever developed, and so many new features fit so well that it’s hard to imagine that they weren’t there in the first place. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is exactly what the series needed, adding a ton of much-appreciated quality-of-life features and a wealth of new content to the already stellar skeleton that SMT is known for.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance
Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is exactly what the series needed, adding on a ton of much-appreciated quality-of-life features and a wealth of new content to the already stellar skeleton that SMT is known for.

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Diego Perez
Currently serving as a Senior Staff Writer at PC Invasion, Diego Perez has been writing about video games since 2018, specializing in live service games like Destiny and Final Fantasy XIV. His work is featured at publications like Game Rant and Attack of the Fanboy (where he served as Associate Editor), but PC Invasion is home to his best work. When he's planning content or writing guides, he's yelling about Ape Escape or grinding Lost Sectors in Destiny. Plus, he has a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunication Media Studies for Texas A&M University.