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Review

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance (Switch) Review

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Going into Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, I had just one question: why does this exist? I’ve played SMT5, I played through all of its DLC, and while Atlus isn’t a stranger to enhanced ports of its games, this whole thing seemed a little bit odd. Vengeance is the Persona 5 Royal of SMT5, and like Persona, it had a lot of heavy lifting to do to prove its existence worthwhile. 

Before we dig in, I want to point you to our original Shin Megami Tensei V review, written by my friend and colleague Paul Roberts. I agree with just about everything Paul had to say in his review, and I think it’s a great assessment of the game. It’s important reading, too, because at its core, Vengeance is the same game. Sure, it’s got a few extras here and there, a new story route, some QoL additions, and a few new monsters, but you’re still getting SMT5 at the end of the day. 

Make no mistake, this is still SMT V.

So let’s quickly recap, then. SMT5 is a tough-as-nails turn-based RPG that takes place at the end of the world. After a series of killings strikes Tokyo, our protagonist wanders into a tunnel while following his school friends, and after a bit of rumbling, wakes up in the apocalypse. Demons and angels – which are really just a different kind of demon – are fighting to enact their own new world based on their own values and ideals. The protagonist finds an ally in this new world in the form of Aogami, a proto-demon who can merge with the protagonist to become the Nahobino and fight back against the world. 

That story doesn’t fundamentally change in Vengeance, it all happens in much the same way, but there is a new path that can be chosen at the very start of the game. Despite some of the marketing, which suggested it’s only really the last act of the game that changes, there is a lot of new stuff happening throughout the story, right from the get-go. It doesn’t drastically change things until later in the game, but it’s interesting to see some things play out a little bit differently. 

It’s not enough, though, if I’m being honest. While there are some differences here and there, most of the new path plays out very similarly to the original game, and it takes a good 30 hours or so before you get to the big changes. If you have a high tolerance for sitting through things you’ve already experienced, then this will be just fine, but as somebody who rarely, if ever, replays games, there’s a lot to slog through and the payoff isn’t particularly worth it. 

The gameplay is where things get a little more interesting. Yes, it’s more or less the same game as before, with the same gameplay even, but there are little tweaks here and there that make it a lot more enjoyable. Playable human allies occasionally join your party, which is a very nice addition and relieves a little bit of the stress that comes with managing your posse of demons. 

Human allies can join you in battle in Vengeance.

Demons all get a unique passive skill, too, which makes each demon much more interesting — you won’t just be picking whichever demon has the highest stats and loading all your abilities onto that, each demon has its niche. There’s some neat synergy with these skills too, like Angel’s skill Blessed Melody, which increases the light damage of the entire team when in the active party. 

You can also hang out with your demons in a new area called Demon Haunt. Here, you can increase your friendship with your demons by talking to them, which can result in them leveling up, gaining stat boosts, and giving you items. It’s a silly little social element, but it’s a nice break from the doom and gloom, and it shows off the very well-written personalities of the demons. 

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Speaking of those personalities, I’ve personally found it much easier to recruit demons. In the original game I always found that conversations with demons were opaque and frustrating to follow, but in Vengeance it’s much clearer what the personality of a demon is, and it’s much easier to intuit what the demon might want to hear. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be successful, but it takes a little bit of the frustration out of the experience. 

There are some changes to the overworld, some extra side quests, and quite a few new demons sprinkled throughout the world, too. None of these change the game by any measurable degree, but hey, new content is new content, and when the game is working so hard to justify its existence, any little bit helps. 

The difficulty seems to be much more even, without any major spikes like in the original. It’s not that the game is easy, it absolutely isn’t and you still have to spend every moment thinking and strategising, but if you’re not running from every battle then you should be able to avoid any major grinding. 

Combat isn’t easy, but the difficulty is a lot more evenly paced.

I did actually notice one strange thing to do with difficulty, though. I was under the impression that Vengeance included all of the base game’s DLC, including the Safety difficulty. That does not seem to be the case. I don’t know if I’m missing something, if there’s some kind of secret to unlocking it, or if it’s the result of playing on a pre-launch copy, but there is no Safety difficulty in my menu when starting a game or when changing difficulty in-game. Again, this could be a pre-launch issue, so I’m not willing to slam the game too hard for it, but it’s a weird choice if it’s missing. 

One area in which Vengeance is an obvious upgrade is in the performance. The original game on Switch had some issues with performance, particularly in docked mode. It was blurry, dropped frames left and right, and really seemed to struggle. You can mitigate this in Vengeance with a few tweaks to the settings — turning off ambient occlusion, motion blur, and anti-aliasing helps make the experience perform in a much more stable way. It comes at the cost of visual fidelity, but it’s worth the tradeoff for a more stable experience. 

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I have a bit of an issue with the way Vengeance has been handled, to be honest. I don’t like to talk about value and pricing in most of my reviews – value is different for every person and every situation, after all – but I can’t really talk about Vengeance without touching on it. 

I’ll be blunt: Vengeance should not be a full-priced game, at least not on Switch. I could give it a pass if there was an upgrade path, a $30 fee to upgrade the original game to Vengeance, but there’s not, and as somebody who paid for the original game, I think I’d be annoyed at the prospect of paying again for something that’s mostly the same. New path or not, extra demons or not, quality of life changes or not, this is a DLC expansion, and that’s what it should have been. 

Being besties with your demons doesn’t justify spending $20 more on the same game.

So the question remains: does Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance justify its existence? I’d argue it doesn’t. I mean it’s a good game, SMT 5 always was, and it’s better than the original version of the game. I can’t fault it for what it is, but I can fault it for what it isn’t. It isn’t a DLC, and it isn’t a big enough change to justify charging $20 more than the last game, and both of those things are frustrating. If you’ve played it before, you can probably skip it, otherwise, enjoy playing the best version of an already good game. 

Rating: 4/5 

Note: Images in this review were provided by Atlus via the Nintendo eShop, but accurately represent the game’s visuals.

The Good

+ The same great game, now with more stuff
+ Quality of life additions are much appreciated
+ The difficulty is much more even, with minimal grinding

The Bad

- It's still SMT V, just more expensive now
- The new path isn't substantial enough until way too late
- Probably should've been a paid DLC

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Final Thoughts

So the question remains: does Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance justify its existence? I’d argue it doesn’t. I mean it’s a good game, SMT 5 always was, and it’s better than the original version of the game. I can’t fault it for what it is, but I can fault it for what it isn’t. It isn’t a DLC, and it isn’t a big enough change to justify charging $20 more than the last game, and both of those things are frustrating. If you’ve played it before, you can probably skip it, otherwise, enjoy playing the best version of an already good game. 

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About The Author
Oliver Brandt
Deputy Editor, sometimes-reviewer, and Oxford comma advocate. If something's published on Vooks, there's a good chance I looked over it first. I spend way too much on games and use way too many em dashes.

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