SMT V Vengeance Preview

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Hands-On Preview – A Taste of Heaven

Shin Megami Tensei V is back with a vengeance.

Shin Megami Tensei V’s original release in 2021 was a bittersweet moment for series veterans. Between an eight year wait since the release of the utterly fantastic Shin Megami Tensei IV and a shift in focus to the rampant success of Persona, it felt like SMT had fallen to the wayside a little bit. The day did come for the fabled fifth entry, though. While SMT V launched with an ambitious new vision for the seminal series and best-in-class combat, it failed to deliver the same narrative heights as its predecessors while collapsing technically due to the Switch’s aging hardware.

These pain points open up a unique opportunity when it comes to ATLUS’s tendency to release definitive versions of their titles. While it’s sporting the usual gameplay additions and quality of life features, Vengeance also frees SMT V of its hybrid handheld prison. Most exciting, is the addition of an entirely new alternate storyline to be experienced separately from the vanilla narrative. It’s a bold and wildly different approach to how ATLUS usually handles re-releases, and my time with Vengeance thus far has left me very eager to play more.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

My preview session kicked off from the Tokyo Diet Building in Da’at, which is around five hours in. The first thing I immediately noticed is how much Shin Megami Tensei V is benefitting from modern hardware. Vengeance runs at a buttery-smooth 60 frames-per-second, a far cry from the Switch’s constant drops and stutters. It also looks gorgeous. SMT V’s distinct colour palette is brought to life in glorious fashion in Vengeance, and the much improved cutscenes make it clear that ATLUS made a real effort to take advantage of the PlayStation 5’s graphical output.

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These cutscenes also weren’t one-for-one with the original game. Despite it seemingly following a similar path to the original, this new alternate storyline in Vengeance peppers new details into story beats that are otherwise unchanged. More time is spent exploring Aogami and his relation to Bethel, and the moral clashing of SMT V’s myriad characters is shown in a different light through Vengeance’s new character – Yoko Hiromine.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

ATLUS has a tendency to introduce new characters into their re-releases that shake up the original plots quite a bit. While reception to these has been mixed, Yoko sidesteps any potential issues by being exclusive to the new storyline. As a student of Saint Marina’s girl school, Yoko was taught to exorcise demons and seems familiar with Bethel’s purpose and the war between heaven and hell. Despite having an unforgiving outlook on life, she has brief flashes of sympathy and consideration that make her endearing once you get past her fierce demeanour.

While the ensuing cutscenes discussing the existence of Bethel and its role feel familiar, they give way to an entirely new boss encounter with Naamah of the Qadištu. This new enemy faction weren’t explored much in the segments I got to play, but it’s clear they have a large role to play in the overall narrative. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit regarding this, is that the Naamah fight takes place in modern-day Tokyo, which is an incredibly rare occurrence in the original game and has some interesting narrative implications surrounding the Qadištu.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

While changes in the broader narrative have yet to be seen at this point, things quickly shift as I return to Jouin Highschool following Lahmu’s attack. Without spoiling too much, the events of this set-piece unravel in a fashion that is vastly different from the original game. The combination of a new direction, the impact that Yoko has on the narrative, and a desire to explore new themes in Vengeance culminates in an unexpected and exciting turn that I didn’t expect. It had my mind racing with what-ifs, and painted a picture of how Shin Megami Tensei V’s latter half could change and evolve with the impact of Yoko and the Qadištu.

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I then got to jump forward to a later point in the game and was dropped into an entirely new area called Shinjuku Gyoen. This was a much less linear affair when compared to what I got to experience in the prior save, with Shinjuku Gyoen echoing a lot of the open-world design of the base game with some new ideas thrown in for good measure. Grind rails can be used to zip around the map, side quests are more frequent, and demons of monolithic size roam the overworld begging to be challenged.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

Shinjuku Gyoen is also noticeably different from a visual perspective. Moving away from the hazy yellows and reds of Da’at for cooler blues and purples that leave the whole environment feeling less apocalyptic overall. It’s a beautiful area, and strikingly distinct in comparison to what you kind find in the base game. It also seems to belong to the angels, who attack the protagonist on-sight despite their affiliation with Bethel. It’s clear that the events of the alternate story are what leads the gang here, which is a pretty huge change given we’re still less than 10 hours in.

This is also the point where I got to sink my teeth into more of the gameplay. Combat and exploration are largely unchanged, instead focusing on a few new small additions that improve on the overall experience. The ability to put accompanying characters like Yoko and Tao into your party, for example, add a new level of flexibility and choice when it comes to team building, and the aforementioned grind rails provide a seamless and accessible way to get to some of the more hard to reach areas once you’ve already visited them. It’s all stuff that adds onto SMT V’s already fantastic gameplay loop.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

There’s also a bunch of new moves, demons to recruit, Magatsuhi skills that are specific to demon alignments, and so much more. Another thing that jumped out to me in battle was the music. Shin Megami Tensei V already had some of the best beats in the series, but the remixes and new tracks that Vengeance brings to the table are sublime and immediately enrapturing.

Another feature that I really liked the idea of is the Demon Haunts. These are areas accessible via Leyline Founts where your demons hang out. You can chat with them to boost their stats and get a general feel for what they think of current happenings. Aogami can also be spoken to, where he provides a deeper insight into the state of the world and what your goal is. It’s quite a novel idea, and adds a lot to the personalities of your demons and the protagonist’s relationship with Aogami.

SMT V Vengeance Preview

There are so many other little details I noticed that I haven’t talked about here. New sidequests (some of which are in Tokyo), Lilith’s omnipresence throughout the narrative, a new Virtual Trainer which lets you challenge past foes, and more. If there’s one thing that’s clear to me after my time with Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance, it’s that this is shaping up to be ATLUS’s biggest definitive edition yet.

While it’s impossible to say how it will unfold in its entirety, it’s clear that ATLUS listened to the problems that fans had with Shin Megami Tensei V and are making an active effort to fix them. I was already looking forward to diving back into Da’at, but I’m even more excited after spending some time with Vengeance and everything it brings to the table.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is launching on all platforms on June 14th, 2024. You can find our pre-order guide here.