Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance First Impressions

Shin Megami Tensei V is coming back with a vengeance. Literally.

Shin Megami Tensei V is coming back with a vengeance. Literally. Developer Atlus is revisiting their 2021 Nintendo Switch exclusive and made a definitive edition that contains quality of life changes, performance/visual improvements, and an all-new alternate storyline to be released on every modern gaming platform in 2024. We recently got to try a pre-launch build of Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance and here are our first impressions. 

One of the most intriguing aspects of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the introduction of a whole new story arc, Canon of Vengeance, alongside the original Canon of Creation. It’s an entirely standalone experience so you can choose to play either one first. This edition is basically 2 games in one.

The nature of our preview was that it let us play through various points in the story. We got to see what it’s like in the first few hours while also getting to experience a bit of the mid-game where our character and the demons in our party are leveled up and where the story diverges for the vengeance path. 

While we can’t definitively give an opinion on the strength of the new narrative just yet, we definitely enjoyed the writing in the conversations we would get into, especially when trying to recruit demons. This was always a fun aspect to the game and is something Vengeance has tweaked and refined a bit. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this system, this is a bit of a conversation “mini game” of sorts that you do when recruiting demons to your side. You can go from one demon asking if you think they’re cute to one asking if you can dance for them. Depending on if they like your answers or not, that’ll determine if you’ll be able to recruit them in your party. You’ll never really know what the right answer is. This 50/50 system makes every conversation a significant moment that we never got tired of. 

The newly refined battle system is engaging and strategic. The flashy animations are visually appealing, and the ability to exploit enemy weaknesses and score critical hits adds a satisfying layer of tactical depth. The new bosses introduced in the Canon of Vengeance campaign are a highlight, offering visually stunning and mechanically challenging encounters that stand out as memorable experiences. I also have to say that Vengeance also includes some cool new group attacks and all I can say is that they are quite the sight to see when they do happen! In terms of bosses, I really can’t say much but… the first new boss fight we did was a treat for the eyes and had really good fight mechanics behind it as well. 

On the flip side with combat, I will say though that I was quite bothered with enemy density at times. Sometimes, it feels like there are too many enemies, which can make the encounters feel more tedious than they are challenging. There are moments where battling a group of 3 enemies triggers 3 separate battles or more but, on the times when consecutive encounters would happen, it did feel a lot better in terms of flow. While it does add some layer of unpredictability to keep things fresh, it would also disrupt the flow of the gameplay and can become repetitive. 

As part of the demo, we got to try one of the new dungeons in the vengeance path which also had its ups and downs… literally. The maze-like design did offer an enjoyable challenge. Navigating through the dungeon became more about finding the next area rather than appreciating unique environments or landmarks. Finding your path through a dungeon that flips was definitely a nice touch, but I just wish it still had a bit more variety and creativity in dungeon design to enhance the overall experience.

But again, we only got to experience the game in very specific chunks. Shin Megami Tensei 5 is a massive game that takes hours to see through all that it has to offer. Vengeance is looking to provide the same amount of content and gameplay value, which is what excites us the most. 

A definite highlight comes in the highly unique demon designs. At every corner, you can either be horrified or mesmerized by some of the character models. You can tell that the designers let their imagination run wild and the product speaks for itself. This may have been an old title from the Nintendo Switch but it’s no slouch in terms of art direction. 

Additionally, the new outfit design introduced in Canon of Vengeance looks fantastic and provides a great visual distinction from the original game’s attire. The demo we played didn’t include any special features the new suit has but it has been confirmed by the developers that there will be in the retail release of the game. 

Despite some minor issues, Shin Megami Tensei 5: Vengeance‘s core strengths lie in combat and writing are more compelling than ever. And this is just coming from the small chunk that we got to experience. Who knows what the rest of the full game has to offer? Whether you’re a veteran of the original game or a newcomer to the series, Vengeance offers great value that is well worth diving into.