Shin Megami Tensai: Strange Journey Redux is a 3DS remastered version of the original DS game, and is a return to the original dungeon crawler design used in the earlier titles. The story is the same but it also adds in new story elements and a new character as well to expand upon the original. You don’t necessarily have to play the previous games before as it is accessible to newcomers like many of the entries. This game is more sci fi oriented than previous entries in the series.
You play as a soldier on an expedition with a group of other soldiers and scientists on a mission to investigate a mysterious blackhole in the south pole. This is known as the Schwarzwelt, a spatial distortion that threatens to engulf the entire world with demons. The soldiers and scientists are motivated by the lure of conquering the unknown and the hunted by their fears.The greedy soldiers use this as an opportunity to get paid a lot of money, while the scientists see this as an opportunity to advance technology into a whole new level, combining the paranormal with current technology.
Just like in many of the other Shin Megami Tensai games, the themes of the stories are extremely dark and not meant for the faint of heart. Unlike Persona, this is not about social simulation and demons in the mainline Shin Megami series.
Your morality is extremely important in decision making, demons you ally with and also how the story unfolds. You can name your protagonist whatever you like as there is no default name. It is very heavily inspired by horror and post apocalyptic movies Dammnation Alley and The Thing. The very vehicle that you use to transport from demon realm to another comes from Dammnation Alley.
The voice acting is in Japanese but it seems really pointless as most of the dialogue is in text box. The story is very interesting from start to finish. As you progress, you’ll learn more about the cause of the blackhole in the south pole and how its connected to earth. This game has a new customizable feature called the Demonica which allows you to safely explore the demon worlds. It can also be upgraded. Another new feature is the password system. It allows you to enter a 32 digit code to access certain kinds demons and also be able to trade with other players as well through the wi fi.
The graphics and art style are really good and enhanced from the original. Demon designs has been upgraded too. The backgrounds are much more detailed and stands out while you are exploring.
New skills and demons have now been added in the remastered version. There is a large amount of demons to use in the game. Periodically, demons will also have the chance to change skills and it is up to you permit them. The game uses a self-completing map and it is grid based.
The realms you visit are large and unique with many dangers and more become available to explore, as you progress in the game. Some realms have conveyor belts moving you from one direction or another. Some doors are locked and can only be opened once you have a certain item. You can revisit a realm anytime you like. Some floors are also filled with poison or other hazard effects and it requires certain apps to prevent any damage to you and your party. You can find certain materials in dungeons to give to the science department as tools to help upgrade the Demonica, and to explore dungeons and progress through the game.
The dialogue selection in the story plays out the same depending on what route you take. You can either side with humans or demons in the or you can be on your own one man army. The musical score is one of the best features in the game. It feels haunting and more orchestral in comparison to the synthesizer sound of Apocalypse IV. It fits the theme of mystery and exploration into a strange world where you know nothing about anything and everything is not like it appears to be.
The combat like in many of the games, uses a turn base system. You can select a variety of commands for you or your party members. Status ailments can be inflicted to either you or your party members. You can escape anytime you like in most situations. The combat adds in a difficulty selection feature to make it friendlier to newcomers while still having a difficult mode for the veteran players. You can equip various weapons, armor and accessories with each having its own advantages and disadvantages. You can equip as much perks as you want without any limitations. March to death means as long as your party members are still active, you can still defeat enemies even when you are down.
New Commander skills are exploits which allow you to access more powerful skills than you normally have but they have a cooldown limit to how many times they can be used. As you level up, your stats will increase randomly from agility to defense. You can find treasure and new items to use while exploring.
The user interface has been updated to be more straightforward and less micromanaging than the previous game. There are side quests where you explore the dungeons. Completing them will give you tips on the environment you are in in order to access certain areas or how to beat certain enemies. You can swap out your demons at any time in combat just like in many of the Shin Megami games. After each fight, you are given xp and sometimes items that enemies drop.
You are able to fuse demons to create more powerful demons. You can negotiate with demons for money, items or to be your allies. Demons will often ask you various questions based on moral values. This will make them either friendlier or more hostile towards you and your party. Some demons are blood thirsty but others can be more friendly to talk to you. The moon plays a factor in exploring the world and it affects how demons and angels interact with you. Every demon has its own strengths and weaknesses. Demons will periodically give you items to help you on your journey.
One of the bosses had an extremely cheap move where it recovered every few hits and it takes way too much damage. Some enemies are damage sponges as well. There is also no clear direction where to go if you are not careful. Now you can restore health for free instead of paying macca. There are spots where you can restore health and mp separately but its tedious as you have to go to one spot or another instead of combining them together.
There is a lot of replay value in the game. You can see through multiple different endings depending on the moral route you take. The dungeon exploring gets very tedious after a while with extreme amounts of back tracking and no clear direction where to go. Random portals appear out of nowhere teleporting you to places that you don’t want to be and this results in even more backtracking.
Random encounters happen every few seconds when you are busy exploring. The sections where you can’t see anything was also really annoying and you had to guess where you had to go and with the portals, this just makes it even more frustrating.
The characters were pretty flat and forgettable save for Mastema. He keeps his motivations multi-layered and he has supposedly benevolent goals being claimed that he was sent by “YVYH” or god to help the team stop the demons. He does so by healing others and giving another team member a guardian to protect her.
The voice acting was minimal and seemed out of place. It was flat also was monotone sounding.
Overall, Strange Journey was a fun experience from start to finish. Despites some pet peeves, I enjoyed the game.
It gets 4 stars out of 5.
Even with me finishing the Atlus/SEGA JRPG library, there is going to be more Atlus reviews such as the edgy and stylish Devil Survivor series and also the mystery styled Soul Hackers.
If you enjoy the Shin Megami Tensai series and challenging JRPGS, then this game will be for you. Like any Shin Megami Tensai I review, I would never recommend it if you are a deeply religious person or have any form of superstitious beliefs.