Demons, Angels, and humans oh my! Shin Megami Tensei returns once again to Nintendo’s immortal handheld platform the 3DS! This time we get a remastered version of the Nintendo DS title Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey that was originally released in the United States way back in March of 2010.
A strange storm causing oddities is currently swirling around the South Pole. Images that have been captured by the drone sent into the anomaly have sent back impossible environments. Then mysteriously, each and every drone were somehow destroyed.
You are a member of the Red Sprite’s Investigation Team, tasked with infiltrating the anomaly at the South Pole, the Schwarzwelt. Things go very wrong very fast, with each of the ships encountering resistance causing them to crash, leaving each crew on their own. If your original mission of investigating the South Pole wasn’t hard enough, now you will have to find the remaining crews, find a way to escape, and not die a horribly gruesome death at the hands of demons. Suit up in your Demonica, your AI-controlled battle suit and life-support system, and get to it!
Composed of numerous sectors which will serve as the game’s dungeons, your mission will take you throughout the various strange landscapes of the Schwarzwelt forcing you to engage with stronger and stranger demons as you progress. Each sector has its own unique theme that pervades every facet of the environment that helps create a sense of excitement and discovery the first time you step into a new sector. These themes varying wildly from a cave of ice to gaudy shopping malls with ads plastered as far as you can see. The farther you dive into the Schwarzwelt you will make shocking discoveries and more questions will be raised, your choices may even impact the future of the human race. If you find the serious nature of the story a bit too much for you occasionally, take some time to enjoy the game’s EX Missions. These side missions help to lighten the mood and will reward you with some great items and sub-apps. A personal favorite of mine was when I had to fight the god of clean toilets because the crew of the Red Sprite wasn’t keeping up on latrine duty. Nothing like taking a break from saving the world to fight a turd in the shape of a foot.
The cast of characters you will meet on your way, human and demons alike, each adds to the overall experience and compliment each other well. Do you find yourself siding more with the hot-blooded Jimenez and his desire to escape as soon as possible? Or do you put mission above all else and understand how important your research and investigation is to mankind like Zelenin? The growth and development much of the cast goes through are one of the stronger points of the title. REDUX’s new addition of the mysterious Alex I especially enjoyed.
While the base story hasn’t changed, there are still new additions that will have returning players discovering new and exciting story elements, revolving around the new subplot and featuring the mysterious Alex character and the new giant dungeon, The Womb of Grief. Complete this and you will gain access to three new endings to the main game!
From a visual standpoint, REDUX being a remaster of an almost 10-year-old game isn’t much of a looker when compared to more recent games for the 3DS, however, the refinements and added artwork that are present are well done. Textures and environments have been cleaned up and are much sharper this time, with this being most noticeable during the scenes and areas outside of the dungeons. The increased resolution makes the still image backgrounds stand out far more. NPCs that you can interact with remain as still images in traditional SMT fare, but as a new feature in REDUX, each of the characters now have well-done anime portraits that will pop up when you speak with them.
Dungeons and combat both retain the same first-person perspective that the original title had, but with cleaned up visuals. They won’t be receiving any awards for mind-blowing visuals or pushing the 3DS to the limits, but that is perfectly fine. The visuals still do a great job of conveying the feeling of isolation and unease as you explore the other-worldly locations during your investigation. The magic and attack effects you will see in combat will still be able to impart the same gruesome vibe that they intend for them too.
On the audio side of things, I hope you like Japanese voice acting because that is the only option here! Atlus this time around has decided to opt out of adding an English dub option for the release of REDUX, deciding to have only the Japanese dub. The acting is solid, but after the great work Atlus has done on its other handheld titles, most recent titles such as Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology and the Shin Megami Tensei 4 games, it was a shame that English voices were left out of this title. On the plus side, each of the dungeons background tracks will fill your you ears with a creepy sense of foreboding as you trudge deeper and deeper into the strange world of the Schwarzwelt.
Demon negotiation and training is still first and foremost the most important aspect in your 40 plus hours through REDUX. The drive to constantly make sure that your party is packed with the best of currently available demons becomes an addictive and rewarding experience. The urge to fuse and create the perfect demon will turn you into a modern-day Frankenstein. Using specific demons and skill fodder as your mesh them with others for that premium blend, your desk littered with notes and spreadsheets. A particularly neat feature is that you are able to recruit and summon the same demons your friends are using via the password system in the Demon Compendium. These passwords can also be taken advantage of by summoning overly powerful or weak creatures to lessen or increase your challenge.
Here are just some of the changes present in this version:
– A large increase in the number of save slots available to you
– In-dungeon save available!
– 30 new demons
– New difficult options
– “March of Death” sub-app which allows the game to continue even if the main character gets knocked out during combat.
– Commander Skills, and special skills that the main character can use, have been added to the Demonica sub-app list.
– The number of sub-apps that can be equipped at any given time has been removed.
– Healing in the sickbay is now free!
– The speed of battle animations can be increased or skipped altogether.
– When you fuse a demon using a source, you can now select which skills are passed along.
– A demon you control will give you its source as soon as its analysis level hits 3, or as the first time it gains a level once it is in your party ( if level 3 was reached when the demon was
not in your party)
– Three new endings if you complete the Womb of Grief new dungeon.
Once you have created your ideal party, it is time to take on all foes that come your way. The Shin Megami Tensei games have always been ones that require you to pay special attention to the weaknesses and strengths of the enemies you are facing. While other RPGs may reward you with slight attack boosts when striking an enemies weakness, in REDUX your damage output can easily double, and cause team co-op attacks to deal even more damage.
On the reverse side, attacking a monster who is strong against a given element will net a meager, usually single digits, amount of damage or worse, get reflected right back at you. Once a demon’s weakness has been discovered, you will be able to easily keep track of them by the onscreen menu. From that point forward, if an attack is of that specific type or element, you will get a nice bright green exclamation mark when highlighting the monster to attack.
There are many parts of Strange Journey that have withstood the test of time and have been improved with this remaster. There are some shortcomings and reminders that this is a remaster of an almost decade-old title, however. The main issue with this title was the inability to customize the main character. The big draw of these games is with the intricate demon fusion and customization system. Omitting the option to allocate stat points on level up (this feature is present in a number of other SMT titles both prior to and after the original game) is a bit of a drag. The only “customizing” you do to your character is being assigned one of five types of “classes” at the very start of the game after answering a few questions. Don’t expect to teach your character any spells or abilities either, as any status or elemental damage your main character can do is the direct result of what gun he has equipped or by using expendable items.
Perhaps it is because my first main entry to the more mainline Shin Megami Tensei games was the suburb Shin Megami Tensei IV on 3DS, but in REDUX the main character just feels like a tagalong, as opposed to a powerful badass that leads demons into battle.
If this game sounds like something you would like to sink your fangs into, don’t go into it blind! Check out our Professor RPG’s Basic’s Primer for this game to get all sorts of tips and helpful information for your adventure in the South Pole!
When all is said and done and the world’s fate has been decided, I thoroughly enjoyed finally getting a chance to play through Strange Journey with REDUX. The story was dark and full of plenty of twists and turns that kept me playing long into the wee hours of the morning many times. If you are looking for a good challenging RPG, a fan of monster taming and raising games, or enjoy giant penises riding around in an equally massive chariot, this game is for you! Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey REDUX belongs on any RPG fans Nintendo 3DS shelf.
Review code was provided by Atlus U.S.A. , played and captured on an original model Nintendo 3DS console.