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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is darker, harder, and smoother

Three party members stand side by side in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance.

Just when you think a game like Shin Megami Tensei V can’t get any darker, a new version comes for blood.

On June 21, the Nintendo Switch RPG is making a comeback with the souped-up Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance. The updated version brings the former Nintendo console exclusive to PlayStation and Xbox. Vengeance doesn’t just beef up the original’s visuals and performance, though – it’s bringing a whole new story path dubbed Canon of Vengeance. Fans of the original can dig into an entirely fresh narrative about angels and demons, filled with new characters and locations.

It isn’t a small morsel of new content either. Earlier this month, I played two hours of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance’s new content. The story-driven demo teased an incredibly grim story about retribution that’s sure to spark some raw moral debates. Of course, that’s paired with some hard as nails RPG challenges that have already wiped the floor with me.

Out for blood

My demo was broken up into two hourlong chunks. The first was a more story-focused section (I’d only fight one battle at the end) that gave me an introduction to Canon of Vengeance’s tone and major players. The big addition here is a new character: Yoko Hiromine. When I meet her, I learn that my party found her in the wastelands of the demon-infested Tokyo. She was a student of St. Marina’s Girls High School, where some considered her to be a “saint” since she had the power to exorcize demons. She’s long since dropped out, but she signs up at Jouin High School to stay closer to the protagonist as they look to help Bethel Japan rid the city of monsters.

At first, I can’t get a read on who Yoko is. She seems like a perfectly polite, if chilly, student. It’s one sequence near the end of my first demo that clues me in to her dark side. One day during school, Tao Isonokami asks me to meet her on the dormitory roof. There, she tells me that one of her friends is being bullied. When she asks for advice, I tell her that the best thing she can do is be there for her friend and offer support. It’s a sweet moment … until Yoko butts in.

She has a much more extreme answer: Kill the bullies. It’s a shocking moment that freezes me in my seat as Yoko goes on a dark rant about how victims of abuse want to take revenge. Naturally, Tao and the nameless protagonist are both a little freaked out. That little sequence sets the stage for Canon of Vengeance’s pitch black story, which seems to deal with cycles of violence and punishment.

The protagonist runs through an open world in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengance.

I’d get another taste of that in the second hour of my demo. That half was more focused on familiar combat and exploration, as I ran around an open area filled with enemies and items to pick up. None of that is too different from the gameplay of the base game, but I get a few more story tidbits that intrigue me. Here, I learn that I’m hunting down the Qadištu, a cabal of demonic (or perhaps angelic) women. I learn that the group has been turning people into salt both in the Netherworld and the real world. It’s a biblical act, calling back to a story in which a woman is turned into a pillar of salt as punishment for looking back at the city of Sodom.

You can probably sense a theme here. Canon of Vengeance is all about people getting what’s coming to them — or at least what others think should come to them.

Aside from the new story content, Vengeance brings some tough battles. My first fight against a Qadištu warrior would go south quickly as it tore my party apart. I’d similarly get ripped to shreds by a wandering Mara, an enormous green phallic monster riding a chariot, in the second section. If you thought that creature was intimidating before, wait until you see it chase you down while towering stories above your party.

Jack Frost pulls off an ice attack in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance.

Performance boost

As a cherry on top, Vengeance comes with a serious performance boost on PlayStation and Xbox. I demoed a PlayStation 5 build of the game, which looked cleaner than ever and ran at a smooth 60 frames per second (the Switch version is still 30, though). If you never got around to playing the original when it first came out, patience has turned out to be a virtue. It feels more like a current-generation game now than something squeezed down to fit Nintendo’s limited tech.

At this point, I’m sure players already know whether or not they’re going to dip into Vengeance. It’s a no-brainer for Shin Megami Tensei V fans looking to dive into more story content. If you’ve yet to play it, though, Vengeance is shaping up to be a solid definitive edition that loads an already lengthy RPG up with even more content. Just be prepared for the grim journey it’s about to take you on. It’s pitch black down there.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance launches on June 14 for PlayStati0n 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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