Author Topic: Hands-On With Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance  (Read 940 times)

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Offline Grimace the Minace

  • Matt Zawodniak
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Hands-On With Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance
« on: April 30, 2024, 08:30:00 AM »

Back with a vengeance.

When Shin Megami Tensei Vengeance was announced, I assumed it was going to be something along the lines of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Apocalypse—a follow-up to the original Shin Megami Tensei IV—was a brand new story that served as a companion to its predecessor rather than being a full replacement. This belief was bolstered by the fact that Vengeance allows the player to choose between the original game’s story (“The Canon of Creation”) and the new story (“The Canon of Vengeance”) at the beginning of a playthrough. Upon getting hands-on with the game, I discovered that Vengeance is not a wholly new story at all, and instead serves a role similar to re-releases in the Persona franchise such as Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal.

Our demo began in a scene I recognized from the original Shin Megami Tensei V: the introduction of the Bethel Japanese Branch after the opening act in the game’s Minato region. Aside from the presence of a brand new character—a student named Yoko Hiromine—this scene played out exactly the same as I remembered, and when listening carefully I could hear the subtle differences in the audio quality of dialogue indicating newly-recorded lines whenever someone was acknowledging Yoko. The story would continue into the story arc at the protagonist’s school featuring the demon Lahmu, and aside from Yoko occasionally chiming in to provide her thoughts on a story that was already written without her presence the story remained the same as the original game.

The one exception is a new scene that occurs right in the middle of this arc featuring a boss fight against another new character, Naamah. Naamah had no clear connection to the events occurring in the story and I didn’t have any context for her brief appearance, but based on existing promotional material I know she is a member of the game’s new group of antagonists called the Qadištu. After the fight with Naamah ended, the school arc continued with no further changes until it was time to switch to the next part of our demo.

The second part of the demo took place in a brand new area in the Shinjuku region. These events were all new and totally distinct from the original game’s story, but we weren’t given any real explanation for what was going on. It wasn’t clear when these events take place in the game story, but given the save file we started from featured a Level 40 party it was substantially later than the events we had seen so far. From here we were allowed to explore the new Shinjuku region, which was full of its own side-quests and optional objectives to find. It appeared to be a full-sized area on par with those in the original SMTV, but in the limited time we had to play I couldn’t come anywhere close to exploring it all.

Not much has changed in what players can expect from Vengeance’s gameplay. Obviously there are some quality of life improvements on par with those found in the Persona re-releases; the player can now freely save anywhere and menus have been retooled to be smoother to navigate. Atlus has promised some substantial additions such as more recruitable demons and chances to see new optional scenes with allies, but these were tough to really get a feel for in the limited time we had for the demo. Outside of the new story the most significant change to Vengeance is its release on more powerful hardware, which meant our demo was running on the PlayStation 5. The game was running substantially better than I remembered it at full 4K with a rock-solid 60fps, though the Atlus representative running our demo sheepishly clarified that those graphical improvements would not apply to the Switch version.

Shin Megami Tensei Vengeance promises more SMTV, and that appears to be exactly what it is. At its core this is the same game that was released three years ago, and the addition of new story scenarios has an obvious appeal for fans of that original game. Unfortunately it’s also the latest in what appears to be a new tradition for Atlus: to re-release a flagship title a couple after a couple of years with substantial story additions that make the original version of the game obsolete. If you’ve been holding out on playing SMTV until now then that patience has clearly been rewarded as Vengeance features everything the original game has and more, bringing everything to all-new platforms at the same time. However, for anyone that’s had their fill of SMTV, you’re probably better off waiting to see just how substantial that “and more” is before getting too excited about this one.