Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Review – Persona could never

Reviewed June 13, 2024 on PS5


Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


June 14, 2024





Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, to put simply, is a director’s cut. It’s the original game with a whole bunch of new features – new ways to explore, fight, and experience the story. But most importantly, Vengeance finally breaks SMTV out of its Switch exclusivity prison and into every modern console. Returning mostly unchanged are the fantastically tense battles and exploration, with a plethora of mechanical additions, updates and significant changes to the story. But major and minor tweaks elevate Vengeance as the best version of an already fantastic RPG. 

The biggest, most obvious change to Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance comes right at the beginning, when you’re asked to choose one of two story campaigns. The Path of Creation follows the original story of SMTV, while the new Path of Vengeance is (more or less) brand new. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is an interesting point of comparison with Atlus’ last major director’s cut, Persona 5 Royal. That too was an updated version with gameplay adjustments and new story content, but almost all the new story was tacked on to the end of the existing tale. Perhaps based on reactions to that, the Paths of Creation and Vengeance both start similarly, but Vengeance makes the story changes known surprisingly early.

You are an unnamed, silent teen boy attending school in modern-day Tokyo. While walking home from school, an earthquake sends you to Da’at, the ruins of Tokyo, 20 years after the apocalypse. As soon as you arrive, a cyborg falls from the sky and asks you to fuse with him into a blue-haired being called the Nahobino to survive this harsh world ruled by angels and demons. This opening and subsequent tutorial are the same as in SMTV 1.0, but you quickly meet one of the game’s new characters: Yoko, a student from another school, who joins your party as a guest. Our review of the original SMTV described how the plot “doesn’t seem to mind if you are confused or not”, and the addition of Yoko seems to be a response to that critique.

Guests are new to SMTV: Vengeance. While most of your party will be the demons you recruit into it, now your NPC friends might join you in combat during certain stretches, with Yoko being by your side throughout most of Vengeance’s story. While the Nahobino continues to be the emotionless blank slate he always was, Yoko has complicated, firm opinions about everything and everyone, including your actions during side quests, on top of hinting at various mysteries related to her past. Yoko is the jolt that SMTV’s story needed. The pacing is still subdued, and heady philosophical topics still get thrown around like confetti, but having a relatable character react to what’s going on helps ground the story into something greater than what you have to click through to make the next bit make sense. As soon as she enters the story, she is weaved into most scenes, including old scenes that she wasn’t in before. If you’re familiar with the Path of Creation, it won’t be long before the plot takes a drastic left turn into new territory, with the help of the other new characters.

Your new major villains in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance are the Qadištu: a team of four scantily clad sexy lady demons (the camera is all over their jiggle physics) who are as powerful as they are mysterious. Their actions and motivations drastically change events in this new timeline, affecting the returning characters in substantial ways, including which of them live and die. They’re also charismatic, chatty and creepy compared to SMTV’s original stoic villains, making them fun to watch whenever they appear on screen. Until you have to fight them.

Shin Megami Tensei V’s rockstar combat system returns with only minor changes. It’s still tense and punishing: your chosen party gets extra turns for hitting criticals and weaknesses, and the whole party loses turns for hits missing and getting blocked. Now each demon has a unique passive ability that affects their role in the party, like strengthening skills of a particular element, which makes you think twice about demons you may have been neglecting. Negotiating demons into your party is as obtuse as ever, but now there are new surprising ways those conversations could go. Not to spoil, but it gives you something new to look forward to. Most helpfully, there is now an auto-battle option, handy for fighting weak enemies. You have to choose between two kinds of auto-battle: your party only does regular attacks or they only use their strongest MP-hogging moves. Both options are inconvenient in various ways, smartly encouraging you not to rely on either, but they save time when used properly. Each new location and boss fight presents a new difficulty spike, but dealing with them is all about carefully planning your existing party build rather than brute force grinding for EXP. 

“Adding save scumming to Shin Megami Tensei may sound blasphemous.”

While combat is what you’ll be doing for most of your time, SMTV introduced a bit of exploration and platforming to the series. The large open zones with hidden secrets and mild platforming return in Vengeance, with several quality-of-life additions, the biggest one sharply changing the way you play this game: a save button. Saving can now be done with a button press anytime outside of combat, as opposed to needing to lug (or later teleport) your ailing party to a save point. Adding save scumming to Shin Megami Tensei may sound blasphemous, but in cases where you’ve explored a large area and found lots of secrets (particularly secrets that grant Glory, currency to buy permanent power-ups) you’ll be glad to save on the spot before getting ambushed by a team of demons who start with the first turn. It doesn’t make the game easier, but fairer, and plays well with the other changes made to exploration. Save points are still vital for healing, shopping, and fusing your demons into new ones, so you’ll still be leaning on them. 

Magatsu Rails are magical lines you can surf to reach new areas in these expanded zones. Some rails appear as small red towers marked on the map, but a lot of them you’ll have to find through your companion fairy’s treasure hunt ability, so they’re a delight to stumble onto. Some Rails serve as shortcuts to previous save points, or let you explore places you didn’t think you could, making them an important new tool in your arsenal. Plus, surfing across the skies of the desolate wasteland always looks cool. 

The game will introduce you to several new features and changes, such as a private safe space for you to chat with your demons, glowing enemies who can kill you in one hit, and towering abscesses that now block optional side areas instead of the critical path. Importantly though, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance won’t necessarily make the series more approachable to a wider audience, especially compared to its more popular spinoff series, Persona. The mainline SMT series is about incompatible ideologies crashing into each other, and players being pressured to choose sides in a world where neither choice is good, and those aspects are prioritised more than, say, relationships or a traditional plot. Still, this influential series deserves to be played (the original Megami Tensei let players recruit monsters into the party years before Pokémon even existed) and I would argue Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the best entry point into the series yet.




  • Saving anywhere significantly improves quality of life
  • New mechanics are meaningful and enjoyable
  • New characters are fantastic additions to the narrative
  • Combat is as gratifying as ever


  • Non-tradtional storytelling may be offputting

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance adds numerous quality-of-life improvements and drastic changes to the story and exploration that make the original game seem outdated. Plus, since the original campaign is still available in the Path of Creation, you are technically getting two games in one package. The new characters give you more reasons to care about the narrative, the new exploration options are thrilling, and the Press Turn combat system is as rewarding as ever. The series’s eccentricities may not be for everyone, but no other franchise provides an experience quite like Shin Megami Tensei.