For a long time, I swore to myself I would get into Shin Megami Tensei. When I started my summer after 10th grade, I compiled a list of games I would play over the summer that included 8 or so RPGs! Suffice to say, I wasn’t that bright of a child to think I could beat that many 50+ hour games in a couple months. As such, time went on and I mostly forgot about playing all of them. I played some of Nocturne, and that was it. I was fairly interested when Atlus announced Shin Megami Tensei: Deep Strange Journey, and now it’s coming to North America as Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux.
Originally released for the DS, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey comes to the 3DS later this month. Far from being a full-on remake, Atlus instead bills it as an enhanced port of the original. After 10 or so hours, I saw a small slice of what the game has to offer.
You begin the game as a nameless soldier, hand-picked to be part of a strike team. A convoy of four highly advanced vehicles is heading for a mysterious area in the Antarctic in order to determine both what it is, and how to stop its spread. While the world governments have all but covered up this growing darkness, it continues to expand, threatening to swallow the Earth if left unchecked.
Once you name yourself, you get some exposition about what’s happening before you attempt to enter the giant hole/portal. The game calls this place the Schwarzwelt, and it is not the friendliest environment. Almost immediately upon entering the Schwarzwelt, all four vehicles go haywire and crash land in the mysterious world.
It’s a quick premise that’s eager to get you right into the thick of things. It takes about 30-45 minutes from booting up Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux to really begin playing the game, which is actually pretty short for an RPG! Immediately, you realize you’re not alone in the Schwarzwelt, as strange creatures called demons break into the ship and start attacking people. You fend them off and save everyone, and it becomes priority number one to get the shields and operations back online.
This is when you get a chance to experience the meat of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux: dungeon crawling. The Schwarzwelt is a vast place and you’ll be there for a while, so get comfy! Actually, don’t get comfy, or you might die. In addition to being vast, the Schwarzwelt is perilous. Demons want to slaughter you around every corner, so be vigilant.
The game takes place in first-person using a grid-based map system that displays on the bottom screen. As you walk through the caves and halls of the area, you’ll enter into random encounters with demons. As you’d expect, you can beat the snot out of them. However, early on in the game, you’re introduced to perhaps the most important gameplay aspect of nearly any SMT game: demon negotiations.
Instead of just punching out anyone that gets in your way, you’re encouraged to talk stuff out with demons as well. If you can convince them, they may give you an item, money, or even join your team! This manifests in a variety of questions, which may raise or lower the mood of the conversation depending on how you answer. Some demons may challenge you to a simple coin toss, others may ask about the human world. Some don’t even speak proper English, and you can try to communicate with them with random grunts and cries.
Once you have your team, you can continue onward. You’ll quickly notice that each demon has different strengths and weaknesses as well as an alignment. You too have these alignments, strengths, and weaknesses. As you buy different armor, your weaknesses and strengths change. Your alignment starts Neutral and can go to Law or Chaos, or remain Neutral depending on choices you make during the story.
In addition to pointing you in the direction of the ending, these alignments are important for the turn-based battle system, too. When you hit someone’s weakness in battle, any of your demons that have the same alignment as you will follow up with an attack of their own. This can be extremely useful and even necessary in some fights, so keep an eye on that as you play!
Speaking of keeping an eye out, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux looks pretty good. Atlus completely redid the graphics in the dungeons in order to take advantage of the 3DS’s better hardware. Despite this, I noticed that the game doesn’t use the 3D function at all, which disappointed me a bit. It may be superfluous now, but I wish the game had the option. I can see the depth of the environment and sprites looking great. In addition, the dungeons themselves do feel a little… cubic in structure, due simply to the nature of the type of dungeon crawler it is. Of the three areas I’ve seen for this preview, each is distinct and interesting in its own way, from the icy caves of Sector A to the flowery and lush Womb of Grief.
Original players of Strange Journey may not recognize that dungeon, and that’s because it’s newly-added in Strange Journey Redux. During your travels, you run into a mysterious woman who seems to have it out for you, and events after that lead you to this dungeon. You can explore it at any time beyond this point. You’ll find many secrets within! It’s tough going at first in there, as I died many times my first time through the area. However, once I got a handle on negotiations and weaknesses, things started to even out a bit. Be prepared for your first minor wall if you plan on going through the game!
However, if things are getting too tough, fret not: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux includes a difficulty selector. You can change this difficulty at any time during the game. This wasn’t present in the original, so it’s a nice addition! Also, Atlus has stated that the game will also have a fourth difficulty option, Impossible, once you beat the game.
Overall, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is shaping up to be another fine entry in the revered franchise. Don’t expect a completely remade game or it will disappoint you. However, it comes with a new coat of paint, some new demons, a new dungeon and three new endings. It’s not a transformative remake, but instead an enhanced version of the game. If you’re a newcomer to the game who likes these types of RPGs or if you liked Strange Journey and feel like playing it again, make sure to keep this on your Demonica’s radar.
Our Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux preview was conducted on Nintendo 3DS with a copy provided by Atlus. It is releasing on May 15th in North America and May 18th in Europe.More About This Game