Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

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Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is a  remastering of the 2009 DS classic Strange Journey, which sees new features such as story, enemies, and dungeons to explore. But the biggest question, did this Redux actually do a solid job at delivering or does it fall short in doing so? Find out with our review.


Pros:
+Dungeons are well designed, allowing for repetition to not be a problem
+Moral system changes how players will approach every scenario
+Combat is new, refreshing, and offers plenty of replayability with the moral system
+Absolutely breathtaking musical compositions within the game

Cons:
-Lacks an English dub for those looking to enjoy an English voice over
-3D gameplay isn’t possible, which takes away from the overall immersion


Even if you aren’t a fan of RPG titles, there’s no doubt that ATLUS’ long-running Shin Megami Tensei franchise should be more than familiar to you, especially for Nintendo 3DS owners. We’ve seen a plethora of games releasing under the name, but more-so, we’ve become well versed in the worlds of Persona and the Devil Summoner franchise. All of these are darkly stylish, anime-art filled, engrossing adventures are some of the best on the market.

But there’s more to these demon-collecting JRPGs than meets the eye. They’re well known, they are ones that have garnished a rather healthy following with each new release, but with the rise of the Nintendo Switch, it almost seemed that a new era of the SMT franchise would be upon us. However, ATLUS doesn’t want you to think they are quite done with the 3DS just yet thanks to the release of Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux, a remake of the 2009 DS classic under the exact same name, nix the Redux portion of its title.

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Along the amazing stories we’ve experienced up to date, Strange Journey does something a bit different. Long gone are the days of us spending time acting like tourists through the streets of Tokyo or small villages in Japan. Now, we’re going somewhere much different than normal. We’re headed to the icy snowscapes of Antartica where an anomaly only known as the Schwarzwelt has appeared, causing a blight upon the land and world around it.

This anomaly isn’t just something that can have fans give a small laugh at it in its direction. The Schwarzwelt is dangerous and the entities inside of it are just as dangerous. As part of their initiative to protect the world, an international crew has been sent down to investigate, which is where your character comes into play. You’ll take on the role of a young cadet that’s been freshly assigned to the team. Your job is simple, investigate any potential dangers, protect your crew, and stop any potential threats from bringing an end to humanity.

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Except things aren’t as simple as you would think. Once in the Schwarzwelt, you find that there isn’t just a blight that is slowly growing. Instead, you find it to be a multidimensional warzone for angels, demons, and those unfortunate few souls (humans) who managed to get caught in the middle of the raging war. Once settled in and comfortable with what is going on, the Schwarzwelt will be your dungeon to explore in your classic dungeon-crawling JRPG fashion. But don’t expect your typical Persona 5 playstyle. Rather, expect something more along the lines of Persona or Etrian Odyssey.

Much like other games in the main SMT franchise, Strange Journey takes on the familiar tone of enticing demon’s and angels to join you, something resembling that if both Digimon and Pokémon for those who have yet to try the SMT series. As you explore your way through the dungeon, rather the Schwarzwelt, you’ll come across a plethora of battles that will ensue, which will see to it that both your character and your demon allies level, you’ll learn the weaknesses of both your allies and their foes as you play, but also the games moral alignment system that come into play.

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One of the most surprising parts is the fact it doesn’t take on classic gameplay we’ve seen in the franchise before  – well, we have, but not quite like this – is the fact missions are expedition-based. You’ll be sent into random dungeon areas where you’ll explore their intricately designed layers that offer new experiences through each and every single one of them, leaving none of them to feel like they’ve been copy and paste segments that have borrowed from one another. Picking an area to explore comes as simple as choosing which sector of the Schwarzwelt you want to explore and then continuing on in order to explore and map it out.

The cycle is simple as it sounds. Jump into a dungeon (sector), map it out, take out any threats that are in it, explore it to its fullest, retreat if need be, refill your supplies, and move right back out. While it sounds repetitious, your exploration of every dungeon is quite different from one another, this is where the main gameplay loop opens up and becomes a well designed SMT experience. You’ll be able to craft new items, armor, weapons, and even upgrade your high-tech ‘Demonica Suit’ with new apps and enhancements to make it more effective while in the Schwarzwelt.

The apps open up new locations, gameplay elements, and even adjusts the very elements of the dungeons you will explore including their difficulty and the drop rates of items. The importance of this is extreme and knowing how to better approach every situation can lead to a high chance of success as the difficulty begins to ramp itself up over time. Some of your controls may seem difficult to get a handle on at first. You’ll have to adjust to controlling your human character’s physical attacks with both melee and gun, an elemental magic system (you should be rather familiar with this by now), and a very in-depth focus on the games debuffs and status ailments and the effects they will have.

Just like any JRPG on the market, Strange Journey sees that players undergo combat in turn-based scenarios where players will also take control of three demonic creatures that fight alongside their human protagonist. While combat does sound straightforward, it’s not, and strategic planning is extremely important. Even the games dialogue choices come into importance due to the game’s moral system. Each character, as you may have already gathered, has a moral compass, one that comes with three spectrums; Law, Neutral, and Chaos.

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Your alignment also affects your story progression, what endings you will see, and even your performance in both battle and the recruitment of demonic allies. These alignments even determine what allies will be most ideological for your team, but also what ones will help out with additional special attacks called ‘Demon Co-op Attacks’, which takes place after you hit an enemy with their weakness. These should seem rather familiar with the Persona 5 system that allows you to cause an enemy to pass their turn based on the status effect that has been afflicted on them.

These follow up attacks are more-so similar to the Shin Megami Tensei IV press-turn system that allowed you to attack and continually hit an opponent’s weak point continually so that you may exploit it at your discretion. You can even build your team up based on your preferred moral standing and make it so that you can spread out as much damage as possible, constantly hitting an enemy for their weakness, and then moving on.

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This system can be exploited to the point that you clear the game reasonably quick, but the game does have ways to stop you from doing this, which comes in the form of bosses, some of which do not feature weaknesses that will allow you to exploit the Demon Co-op attacks. Between the alignment system, which you have to always keep in check, the unique level designs, and the ever-changing difficulty of combat, it’s easy to see your party get wiped out, and even repeat a boss a few times over in order to give that try-again vibe to the game. This is where Strange Journey Redux cascades itself with the feeling of tension, awe, and frustration, and makes it stand out as one of the best dungeon crawlers on the Nintendo 3DS.

Even basic battles carry on with this vibe. Boss battles are all about keeping things mysterious by not revealing a monster you’ve never met until the battle begins. This means you won’t be slapping the notorious Jack Frost or an Orias with an Agi attack right from the start. This means you’ll have to wait, see what new creatures you encounter, and then learning what weakness that they have. This is a cheeky way of keeping things fresh and keeping players on their toes.

But those wondering if all of this is new to the game, the truth is, no. The Redux didn’t change any of the game’s core mechanics. Rather, it added in a lot of narrative content, a new key character, storyline, an amazingly well-crafted dungeon, quite a few new demons, and several new endings for players to enjoy. The amount of content that has been added is good enough to justify the cost of the game. It’s a lot of content and it doesn’t just feel tacked on at the expense of being bonus content for the game.

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Even with the added content, Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey Redux doesn’t feel like a half-baked game. Rather, it feels as if the experience is entirely new, reimagined, and brought into the modern era at no cost of the original memories fans may have of the game. Even with the addition of difficulty levels, fans can enjoy the game how they please. For the review, ‘Normal’ was opted for as it is already plenty hard, and offers a wide array of challenges even for hardcore fans of the series.

Hard itself is indeed one for those masochists who want to die, die, and die some more in order to feel as if they’ve accomplished something very few have and probably will.  This is a welcome change for a Redux title and gives it a few nice changes as a quality-of-life feature. Toss in the fact you can save anywhere you please and it seems ATLUS has heard the feedback fans had from older titles and has offered them a chance to enjoy the game without trekking back through an entire dungeon after dying a multitude of times.

On another note, graphics did see a minor upgrade. You can tell as character portraits are crisp, clean, and more detailed than before. The portraits even see added facial expressions during dialogue scenes. Even during combat, you will get to enjoy new battle backgrounds that have come to life alongside a newly updated HUD that feels as if it’s part of your character’s suit itself. However, this doesn’t mean all traces of its DS predecessor are gone. There’s still some low-res textures that pop up from time to time while exploring a dungeon.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux – Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Atlus, Lancarse
Publisher: ATLUS
Release Date: Now Available
Cost: $39.99

Sadly, for those of you hoping for an immersive 3D experience will find yourselves slightly disappointed as ATLUS has opted for a non-3D experience in order for fans to get the most from this game. The game even sees added voice acting, which is a first for Strange Journey, but only in one language – Japanese. It doesn’t seem there are any plans for an English track, but even then, don’t feel disappointed. The Japanese voice talent is outstanding and quite enjoyable on its own.

So toss on your headphones, sit down with your 3DS, and prepare to enjoy one of the best remasters to date that sees itself as a Nintendo 3DS exclusive. Just remember, turn the volume almost all the way up, the soundtrack by Shoji Meguro, is beautiful, unsettling, and one of the best the series has.

 


Our review is based on a retail version that was provided to us by the game’s publisher. For information about our ethics policy please click here.


Final Score: 9 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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