Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review - Screenshot 1 of 5

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is an enhanced re-release of Atlus' 2021 dungeon-crawling RPG, originally exclusive to Nintendo Switch, and makes its long-awaited debut on PS5 and PS4. It takes a great game and makes it even better with a slew of essential quality-of-life improvements, a glossy graphical upgrade, and a new storyline, all running at a consistent 60 frames per second. That said, it's a significantly more hardcore experience than players of Atlus' other tentpole franchise, Persona, might expect. It's very combat-heavy, with its dense narrative stretches, full of pontification about the nature of God and demons, being few and far between.

Vengeance's biggest draw is the new storyline, the Canon of Vengeance. It introduces many new characters to contend with and is more engaging than the game's original narrative, now known as the Canon of Creation. Players are locked into one or the other from the start, taking on the role of a student-turned-demigod known as the Nahobino. Whereas the Canon of Creation tells a more traditional SMT story, primarily concerned with the machinations of Heaven and Hell, the Canon of Vengeance introduces new antagonists in the form of a mysterious demon group known as the Qadištu, as well all new companions, such as Yoko Hiromine.

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Both paths initially share much of the same content but diverge later on, and the Canon of Vengeance has a few entirely new endings. Atlus says a single playthrough will take players around 80 hours, which is accurate; less if you played the original, are familiar with its mechanics, or aren't attempting to do everything. What's quite nice is the addition of human guest characters this time, who can fight alongside the Nahobino and captured demons, occasionally chiming in with extra story snippets.

Set in modern-day Tokyo, the protagonist is an ordinary high-school student who, after being caught up in a mysterious earthquake, finds himself in the post-apocalyptic Netherworld of Da'at, where the eternal battle between angels and demons rages. Almost killed in a chance accident, he is saved by a being known as Aogami, with the two fusing to create a creature known as the Nahobino, neither human nor demon and closer in essence to a god. The stakes only increase from there, and the semi-open regions of Da'at correspond with actual areas of Tokyo, such as Shinjuku and Yoyogi, and serve as dense open-air dungeons full of demons to battle, converse with, or capture as you see fit.

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It's well known that Persona is a subseries of the mainline Shin Megami Tensei franchise — but those evolutionary pathways diverged almost 30 years ago now. While Persona has only become more popular, innovating and appealing to ever larger audiences, SMT has stayed doggedly true to its roots, for better or worse. Both series have issues with pacing, but if Vengeance is going to be your first SMT game, it's worth knowing that combat and demon fusion is the focus here, and what you will spend the vast majority of your time engaging in. Everything else is secondary.

Building upon the series' Press Turn system of elemental exploitation, combat is a tense, turn-based affair where a single mistake or lapse in concentration can result in a game over. Players must attempt to target weaknesses and, by doing so, gain additional turns to overcome the enemy. The difficulty level is quite high, and demands consideration of each move. Of course, the devilish AI operates under the same system and will ruthlessly exploit any weakness that you present. If the Nahobino falls at any time, that's an instant game over, and so one bad turn can seal your fate.

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While quality of life improvements are rarely anything worth writing home about, in SMT V: Vengeance, the inclusion of two, in particular, are genuinely game-changing: the ability to save the game anywhere and the ability to teleport back to the last visited Leyline Fount (fast travel points / demon fusion stations, previously the only place where you could save) significantly reduces the amount of backtracking required, and the frustration experienced when combat inevitably goes wrong.

Already serving as a much more mature version of Pokémon, the addition of 40 new beasties in Vengeance means there are now over 270 demons, with many of the most powerful only available through fusion. Demons born of fusion can inherit their former skills, so you'll spend a significant amount of time trying to create new, more powerful monsters, tailoring them to overcome the next progress-blocking boss. All these demons now have innate skills, which will trigger automatically under the right circumstances, and new Magatsuhi skills, which give specific demons unique attacks and are only useable after filling the associated gauge.

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Demon conversations have received a bit of a buff, and rather than being paper-scissors-rock-coded, they now include some genuinely surprising quizzes or minigames. Winning these battles of wits will result in extra EXP and Macca (money) being awarded, and the Nahobino can now chain together consecutive battles for greater risk and reward. To aid in the mandatory grinding, Auto-Battle has also received an overhaul and can now be divided between Auto-Attack and Auto-Skill, allowing players to conserve or spend MP as needed. Meanwhile, Magatsuhi Rails dot the environment, allowing easier traversal and granting access to secret areas.

If the Netherworld ever starts to get you down, Demon Haunts are newly added places of respite, where the Nahobino can interact with the demons under their command, human allies, or Aogami, depending on the situation. Demons can be given gifts found throughout the overworld, resulting in stat increases, with valuable items sometimes offered in return. You can even use a free camera mode in these areas, taking happy snaps of your favourite fiends.

Finally, the music is about as excellent as expected, with haunting, evocative soundscapes for exploration interspersed with black metal and howling guitars for tense boss encounters. Character dialogue is pretty good, too, and there is a surprising amount of voice acting in the game, but barks from Demon navigators quickly become grating, reusing the same three lines ad nauseum.


Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the definitive way to play Atlus' devilish game of demon fusion, with a new suite of bells and whistles to smooth over what can, at times, still be an abrasive gameplay experience. It's incredibly combat-heavy, which can become oppressive, but working towards raising that perfect demon remains as engaging as ever.