I’ve been a long-time fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series ever since I picked up Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor and Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne out of a bargain bin when I was a little Emily Jr. The complex themes, the DnD-style morality structure, the mythological focus, the phallic chariot monsters… all of them had me coming back to the series again and again with each entry. Now, I’m back in the heat of SMT with the latest restyled entry: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux.
Thanks to our friends over at Atlus, I’ve had the chance to mess around with the game for a couple of hours and see what kinds of changes have been made to the updated Nintendo 3DS port.
Originally, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was something of a black sheep to the series on release–not bad, just different. It featured a distinctly sci-fi setting featuring soldiers and adults as opposed to the typical SMT protagonist, who was usually an unwitting/unwilling participant, a high school student, or some mixture of the two. The game follows a special UN taskforce sent to investigate a mysterious black hole-like object that appeared in Antarctica. The distorition, dubbed the “Schwarzwelt,” threatens to swallow Earth whole, and it falls to the soldiers of this task force, aided by state-of-the-art battlesuits called Demonicas, to figure out just what is happening inside the Schwarzwelt and how to stop it.
Right out of the gates, not too much has changed from Strange Journey‘s original counterpart; the graphics are definitely touched up and I’m partial to the new character portraits, though I know some people prefer the older ones. Additionally, the look and style of the HUD and dialog boxes seems to be a bit tighter, and the dungeons are greatly improved from a visual perspective. One thing of particular note, however, would be the addition of voice acting to most major characters and scenes.
From what I can tell so far, the voice acting is exclusive in Japanese, so while it may not be the English dub some were hoping for, it does help to add some flair and drama to the cutscenes. I myself was hoping for some English voice acting considering the crew of the Red Sprite is multicultural, featuring Americans, Russians, Japanese, and other nationalities that could present some neat opportunities for accents. But hey, c’est la vie.
I’ve seen a little bit of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux‘s new character, Alex, who appears to be tied to the new endings promised in this version of the game. While I haven’t seen enough of her to tell you much about what she’s after or even who she is, she pops into the story with a really cool outfit and mask and slaps your shit six ways to Sunday with barely so much as an introduction. I don’t think she likes me very much, but that’s okay. All relationships start out rocky.
Demeter also shows up with a redesign, and she is absolutely adorable. Kawaii AF, one might say. She’s also got a really neat way of talking, calling us a little seed that needs to grow up for harvest. Instead of “Oh My God!” she exclaims “Oh My Harvest!” which is super cute. She also introduces us to one of the new dungeons: The Womb of Grief.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Hey Emily, The Womb of Grief sounds like a Berserk chapter or a death metal album.”
I would say that you would be right. So far, though, The Womb of Grief has been more in the way of jungle and less in the way of Fetus of God like I hoped, but I haven’t had too much time to explore the different levels so we’ll see where that goes.
As for other changes, the game promises new obtainable demons for its 350-strong roster, and I’ve seen a couple of additions here and there, though I imagine I won’t get to see the really cool big-gun demons until much later in the game.
The general mechanics of the game have remained mostly the same, including combat and demon negotiation. Dungeons so far have been standard fare like the original, although you still explore them from a first-person perspective which I still find disorienting and awkward.
The first-person perspective in dungeon-crawling was always one of my least favorite aspects of the game, but on the bright side, the graphics of the dungeons have definitely been improved. Still, the draw distance is short considering what the 3DS is capable of, which can result in some awkward popping-in of objects and textures when they come into view. I find the dungeon-crawling in Strange Journey in general to be just repetitive and a bit tedious compared to its other mainline counterparts, but I’m enjoying myself so far.
There will also be three additional endings following SMT‘s traditional Light-Dark, Law-Chaos alignment system. From what I recall, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey had a Law Ending, Neutral Ending and Chaos Ending based on the player’s choices and interactions with characters who represent those ideals. If I had to hazard a guess, I would imagine that the new endings will be related to or extensions of the original ones.
Overall, the presentation of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is a definite improvement over the original. My less-than-favorite parts still remain like the awkward first-person dungeon crawling and the occasional graphical hiccup; overall, though, I would say the improvements are welcome, and I look forward to seeing what else the game has to offer.
It’s an oddly exciting feeling to go back to an SMT game after having not played one since Shin Megami Tensei IV, so despite some hiccups here and there, I’ve been really enjoying my excursion through this new strange journey.