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July 2024

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: June 14, 2024


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PS5 Review - 'Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 12, 2024 @ 7:00 a.m. PDT

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance allows players to enjoy the story of Shin Megami Tensei V in its entirety, with a new story path, untold in the original.

It's been quite some time since the PlayStation has had a new mainline Shin Megami Tensei game. The last time was the PS2's Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, while everything else has been spin-offs. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, an updated port of the original Switch version, finally gives PlayStation fans a chance to try the other side of the Persona coin, and thankfully, it's a darn fine port. While the core strengths of the game are the same as in the Switch original, the weaknesses have been lessened or even removed.

There are two separate plotlines in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, but they start from the same place. You play as a regular Tokyo schoolboy who finds himself sent to a postapocalyptic version of Tokyo called Da'at. To survive, he's forced to fuse with a robotic being known as Aogami to create a powerful demigod-like being called the Nahobino. The two branches of the story, Creation and Vengeance, split based on whether you choose to release a girl named Yoko early in the story. Her presence changes the plot and events of the story, with Creation being the original Switch version and Vengeance being entirely new.

The easiest way to describe the new Vengeance storyline is that it's a remix of the original story. It hits a lot of the same basic plot beats, and it goes to a lot of the same basic places, but it changes the focus of the story. While the original Shin Megami Tensei V was plot-driven, almost to its own detriment, Vengeance is more character-focused. You spend significantly more time with the various characters and their interactions together, and the major changes in the plot tend to revolve around that. In comparison, you gloss over some of the world elements and some of the character segments in the original. Events will happen off-screen and are vaguely discussed, or characters may show up with new power or new forms that are only significant if you saw how they had attained them in the other timeline.

The result is that Vengeance feels like a companion to the original Creation storyline, rather than an equal choice. It feels much more like you're intended to play Vengeance after finishing Creation at least once; that's how the changes, fake-outs and plot changes feel most significant. In some ways, it's a more fun New Game+ mode, since you'll be going through a lot of the same areas but with new bosses or enemies. Vengeance feels like it was made to quell criticisms with the original game's plot. That also means it will feel very similar at times. The first area feels almost identical, so it doesn't put its best foot forward, but it rapidly improves from that point.

The biggest change to the combat system in Vengeance is probably the addition of passive skills for the demons, which is an absolutely fantastic change. Each demon now has an innate passive skill that alters how they — or their allies — play in combat. Some are straightforward, such as increasing the damage of a specific element. Others can be more specific in interesting or cool ways. For example, several "theme" demon types have passives that power up each other. The three weavers from Greek mythology get special abilities if they are in a party together, and cat-like demons have "paw-to-paw combat," which increases the attack power of the party based on the number of cats in it. My favorite is that Forneus and Decarabia have a unique pairing of skills as a reference to Shin Megami Tensei III.

The passive skills count for both friend and foe, and they spice things up. Bosses with passive skills mean that some of them can require extra consideration, while allies with passive skills mean that lower-level demons can remain relevant far longer than they would otherwise. This change alone is enough to make Vengeance feel like an entirely new game compared to the original version. The penalty for there being a large gap in level between demons has also been reduced, which means "weaker" demons remain viable a lot longer.

There's also a much larger variety and selection of Magatsuhi skills. In the original game, the default critical skill was so powerful that there was little reason to use anything else, but Vengeance puts a lot of effort into making more things viable. Most demons get access to at least one powerful Magatsuhi skill; many get the ability to do incredibly strong heals or massive damage that also applies a more powerful "debilitate" effect. There are also combo skills that require specific demons in your party but usually have enough payoff to justify it.

The demons also get a lot more personality due to the new Demon Haunt feature. At most save points, you can choose to enter a demon haunt, which is a safe zone where all of your demons hang out. You can talk to them, and they have a shocking amount of dialogue, much of which is unique to them, so it gives them more depth. More importantly, you can befriend demons by fighting alongside them or giving them gifts. Make them happy enough, and you'll gain a bonus — usually a random stat increase for the demon or a new skill. This means that if you keep a demon longer than expected, they'll gain a lot of free stat boosts and skills that can help them keep up past the point that their stats start to wane. In addition, there's a much wider variety of demon navigators to help in exploration, including a bunch of series favorites like Alice.

All of these combat changes play into the new difficulties and fights made available to the player. It's possible to level up to level 150, and that plays into the new virtual combat challenges as well as the Godborn difficulty mode. The combat challenges are special fights where you battle multiple strong opponents in a row; defeating them allows you to take them on again with much higher stats. Godborn applies that latter effect to the entire game, making sure everything hits like a ton of bricks. The DLC enemies from the original game are also included for those who want to take on the Fiends from Shin Megami Tensei III.

There's also a host of changes to the game to make things more convenient. Exploration has been given a big overhaul. Not only has the map been improved, but you can also use a new satellite view to zoom out overhead and get a better idea of the terrain. New Magatsu Rails are located all over each map and function as unlockable shortcuts, allowing you to quickly return to difficult-to-reach locations, so exploring the map becomes far easier and more comfortable. Likewise, the fog of war effect from Abscess has been removed, which makes finding and getting to them far less annoying. In general, a lot of the rougher edges have been sanded off.

One of the other biggest improvements to Vengeance over the original is in how well it runs. The original game, despite being designed for the Switch, suffered from severe frame rate issues and poor loading times. The PS5 version runs buttery smooth. There have been some updates to the visuals, so they look better than the Switch version, but the largest improvement is that it runs well. The music and voice acting remain solid; some new songs join the old, and most of the new tunes are genuinely quite good.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is easily the definitive version of the game. Almost every gameplay change is an improvement that makes the game more fun to play, and the addition of the new storyline means that even returning players have plenty of fresh encounters to experience. At its core, it is still the same game but polished and improved enough that I found the entire experience to be a delight. It's a must-have for fans of the franchise, and even those who prefer the more plot-heavy Persona titles will find a lot to enjoy in Vengeance.

Score: 9.2/10

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