Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance Is a Richly Deserved Second Chance

Shin Megami Tensei V released in 2021 to a largely favorable reception, and boasting a strong 84 aggregate score on Metacritic. Despite this, a lack of post-launch staying power and a single primary flaw in its comparatively lacking narrative led to the game feeling a bit forgotten in the pantheon of Atlus RPGs. Personally, the game is one of my favorites in Atlus’s RPG library, and I could not be more excited to dive back in with the release of Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance this June.

Shin Megami Tensei V has three incredibly strong elements. The first is its atmosphere. The desolate landscapes of Da’at mesh incredibly with the game’s alien-sounding soundtrack, lending it an incredible “fear of the unknown” atmosphere that permeates the entire experience. The opening section is a great example of this, as the idea of survival in an unknown environment is brought home by not just the monsters and the desolate wastelands, but also the soundtrack and the harsh lighting.

Shin Megami Tensei V has a striking art style that highlights its bleak nature.

The second element is the combat design and balance. Shin Megami Tensei V is an incredibly well-balanced experience. This is due in part to the series’ iconic Press Turn system, allowing the player to take full advantage of type weaknesses and stack turns in order to dominate their opponents, but also due to Atlus’s incredible work on encounter design. The player is given all of the tools necessary for every single encounter, and the most difficult encounters are optional, allowing the player to return at a later time with more powerful demons and abilities at their disposal.

Shin Megami Tensei V’s third strongest element is the level design. While a couple of traditional dungeons make appearances in the game, the bulk of the gameplay is found in four large, open areas. Though linear in nature, the light platforming and exploration elements make for a fun experience traversing the overworld, something most Atlus RPGs tend to forgo.

The game isn’t without its flaws, however. From a performance standpoint, Shin Megami Tensei V is quite lacking, with constant frame drops and a low resolution holding back an otherwise excellent looking game. However, Shin Megami Tensei V struggles with a much bigger flaw, one that has consequences for one’s view on the entire game: the narrative of Shin Megami Tensei V is severely underbaked.

Most characters exist to spout exposition, even if initially they are presented with more beneath the surface.

The world of Shin Megami Tensei V is extremely interesting, and a lot of the themes explored such as zealotry, monotheism versus polytheism, and much more are fertile ground for a compelling narrative. However, Shin Megami Tensei V is content to rely on exposition dumping instead of exploring its characters thoroughly, leaving many elements of the narrative with much to be desired. Even characters the game does explore, like Dazai, have what feels like a rushed conclusion, not to say anything about a character like Atsuta who is introduced and promptly fades into the background in favor of other characters who also reach a rushed conclusion.

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is an excellent opportunity to right some of these wrongs and make the game into one of Atlus’s most beloved RPGs. From a sheer practicality standpoint, the fact that the game is releasing on more than one platform means those who had to skip out on the initial release will now have access to its enhanced version, complete with technical improvements for those on more powerful hardware.

The Nahobino achieves a new form in the Canon of Vengeance, a brand new campaign being introduced in Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance.

Furthermore, Vengeance seems to be aiming squarely at the criticism the narrative received with its new alternate campaign, the “Canon of Vengeance”It remains to be seen if this new campaign will actually address these issues or if it will simply fall into the same trap, but the addition of a new campaign to an already solid offering is definitely compelling, especially for those returning to the game.

Shin Megami Tensei V, though well received, feels like a forgotten child in Atlus’s catalog of incredible RPGs. Which is a shame, because there’s quite a lot to like from a gameplay and art direction standpoint, and even though the narrative isn’t quite up to par, it still deals with some unique themes and ideas that most games don’t explore. Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is the game’s second chance at establishing a legacy, and though it remains to be seen if it will actually achieve its goals, it’s exciting to see the game get that well-deserved opportunity.

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2 Responses

  1. gourley4p gourley4p says:

    I sincerely hope they will not launch future titles exclusively on Switch. I own one but did not purchase precisely because of the performance issues experienced by many reviewers.

    • Krull Krull says:

      Those performance issues are massively overemphasised, and don’t remotely affect the gameplay. When did gamers become so precious?

      But I think, given that the Switch is seven years old, we’re not likely to see Atlus develop another SMT launch there.

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