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Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is one of the biggest RPGs I've played in years

Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is one of the biggest RPGs I've played in years

It's a long and bonkers journey

I’m going to preface this article with an excuse. I was kindly given a code for Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance to review and I got busy playing. Then, suddenly, I found myself having to pack up my entire apartment in order to move into a new place in under a week. It was quite a whirlwind and because of that, I’ve not had as much time as I would like to review the game properly. I’ve played a good chunk of it, just not as much as I’d ideally like to deliver a sound verdict.

There’s a reason why so many believe that the Shin Megami Tensei series is the darker, more brooding cousin of the Persona games. Essentially, they’re very similar games at their base. We have several teenage protagonists who are whisked away into a world of mystery, myth and surreal ideas and they use monsters to battle or represent themselves in some way.

Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance
Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance

In SMT, while your hero character is a part of the battle, they fight alongside demons, many of which will be familiar if you’ve played Persona. But SMT is, for lack of a better word, more preposterous. To give you an idea of this, after the opening cinematic in which I grabbed the girl’s hand - a change made for the Vengeance update that triggers a new story - I spent only an hour or so wandering around Tokyo before being transported into a Netherrealm where literally demons and fighting a war against angels.

It took no longer than an hour before everything was thrown at the wall in the most bizarre of situations that would put any outlandish anime to shame. Suddenly, my protagonist, who I named Shinji because I’m a basic Evangelion fan, was merged with a preternatural being and morphed from a mopey teenager into a mopey godlike being. All of a sudden I became a tool in a war which, that morning on the way to school, he had no idea was even happening. Oh, and I should mention, this war is taking place in a post-apocalyptic world in which demons are running about everywhere and very few humans exist.

If you’re coming to SMT after playing Persona, then get ready for some big differences. First off, while the kids of Persona spend a lot of time chatting, visiting cafes and learning at school, much of SMT is about fighting and grinding. In fact, the opening ten hours of the game had me learning the basics of battling and the ins and outs of the world around me and how to interact with it.

Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance
Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance

For example, you’re given a team of demons who will fight by your side, but in order to beat the upcoming obstacles you’ll have to learn just how to wield them. Each come with strengths and weaknesses and, in a weird Pokemon-style, you’ll be collecting many of these little beasties to form a team of fighters.

A note on recruiting demons for your team: it’s done in such a civil way, just by having a chat. Sure, they extort you for some cash or an item, but you generally get into a fight and rather than attack scroll down to talk. There’s generally some fun dialogue and you can easily drop a clanger during the chat and it reverts to a fight, but it’s a fun mechanic for recruiting demons.

There are quite a few demons, but in another twist, you can fuse these demons into new forms, carrying over abilities, spells, and attacks. You can also use essences to infuse them with movesets from other creatures. It’s a very deep mechanic that enables you to truly personalise your team, so if you love your starting Pixie and want to keep her around, you can continue to level her up, boosting her stats with each level, and supplement her with extra moves that she might not have.

This all happens in a pocket dimension that’s accessible via a blue pillar of light that acts as a superstore of things to do; you can save your game, visit an actual shop, and fuse your demons, plus other options unlock as you progress. These light columns are scattered throughout an overworld of apocalyptic proportions - broken buildings, sand everywhere, demons running amok. You’re slowly making your way through the world furthering the story - which is bonkers with a capital ‘B’ - and doing lots of scrapping.

Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance
Shin Megami Tensei 5 Vengeance

And it’s fantastic. All of it. The silly, over the top story with demons that range from cute pixies to monstrous zombies; the overly sexual bosses who are too damn pretty to be bad; then there’s the seemingly endless options for fusing monsters, creating a weird cast that look like a bunch of cosplayers wearing the greatest hits from cursed anime.

Once my life calms down I fully intend on finishing up my playthrough and then starting again to experience the other half of the story, the one from the original release. I will note, I’m playing on Nintendo Switch which means I’m missing out on the graphical overhaul that the game promises for other systems and at times it looks a bit muddy, a little overly pixelated, but it’s only when the screen is filled with battle animations.

So, while this isn’t a review, I have to say you should play Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance because I’ve been dipping in and out between packing up boxes at home and I’m always looking forward to what’s coming next. Because you never really know, one session is just me grinding out fights to level up my party, but another session is me visiting the haunt at the save points to chat to my demons and give them gifts. I love my silly little demon team, my brooding hero, and the delightfully odd plot and while this might not convert Persona fans, it’s a must for lovers of RPGs.

Featured Image Credit: SEGA

Topics: Persona, Sega