I initially entered the Shin Megami Tensei franchise through one of its spin-offs: the Persona series. I eventually came across a particular handheld title that peaked my interest due to its as-you-go mapping similar to the Etrian Odyssey series: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey.
Since that game was somewhat near the end of the Nintendo DS’s lifespan, Atlus has seen fit to “remake” the game in the form of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux. How does this “remaking” of the game fare, and is there any benefit for veterans of the original to come back again for a second helping?
SMT: Strange Journey Redux takes place in the not-so-distant future where a strange phenomenon called the Schwarzwelt has appeared over the South Pole. Unbeknownst to the general populace at large, this disturbance is slowly increasing in size and mass, and will eventually envelop the entire Earth if left unchecked. Thus, teams of soldiers, explorers and scientists making up the best-of-the-best in the world are brought together to infiltrate the Schwarzwelt using new tech, which includes suits known by the name Demonica and special ships which are fitted with abilities to get inside.
Of course, things don’t go as planned and only one out of the four ships lands as intended, with the other three damaged and strewn about to other areas. They find out that there’s more than meets the eye in the Schwarzwelt, and you as the player in the one surviving ship, attempt along with your crewmates to rescue your fellow teammates in the other ships and escape. The catch is, there’s demons inside the Schwarzwelt that can help but also hinder you.
For those who have never played a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game before, the closest comparison at a very basic level would be Nintendo’s long-running Pokémon series. There’s hundreds of different demons in the game, ranging from holy, elemental and devilish types to name just a few. The difference is that after so many level-ups they’re meant to be used to fuse new, more stronger demons. Or in the case of certain demons, you’ll want to use them immediately for fusion as they may be useless in their current form, but one of their skills is much more useful for the eventual demon you’ll create via fusion.
The locals you and your demons encounter are quite vivid and varied, reflecting upon the evils and sinful nature of mankind. For instance, in the initial sector you land in, you’ll eventually go from ice-covered caverns to a section that is enveloped in what appear to be the flames of war. Another focuses on the polluting of the earth, while another focuses on the greedy avarice of mankind. This is combined with the narrative touching upon these motifs in a reflective manner. Playing into the Shin Megami Tensei series’ themes of law and chaos, it provides enough but not too much backdrop for the player to guide their lawful or chaotic inclinations unto the player character in-game. It’s just as well-done in the Redux port as it was in the original.
Besides the new Womb of Grief area exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS port, there’s a number of quality-of-life refinements present. More difficulty levels are available — three to be exact, including an easier difficulty for those who found the original version’s to be too hard. 20 save slots are available thanks to the 3DS’s SD card support, and improved visuals are also refined.
The major new addition surrounds the Womb of Grief area mentioned earlier, which adds three additional new endings. This dungeon introduces Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest who tasks you to gather six pieces of fruit hidden in the dungeon. You also face off against the new character Alex multiple times during your journey in this area.
The main issue I had with Alex, and the new area as a whole, is that it feels like it was bolted onto the main game instead of properly woven in. You have a select few number of times Alex pops up in the main game, and that’s about it outside of her being in the new area. The developers used her as a level-gate of sorts, as she can and will decimate your party until you are at a high enough level. But these encounters don’t give any EXP upon winning, so each fight feels like a hollow win and essentially a time-waster to pad out the area’s length.
While all of the floors except for the final in the Womb of Grief feel like rehashes of previous areas, the final floor is difficult, but interesting as it uses all of the main storyline’s floor tricks while adding a few new ones to surprise the player. The final boss in particular was a welcome surprise and made slogging through the less-interesting floors worth it to a degree. And for you masochistic players out there, this boss meets that “SMT Hard” goal.
While the new area is a bit of a let-down till the end, the quality-of-life enhancements make for a game that newcomer SMT players can more easily get into. That said, the new content may not be enough for those who just recently picked up the original Nintendo DS version or had their fill back during the original release and wanted something more.Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux was reviewed using a 3DS Digital Code provided by Atlus. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|The quality-of-life enhancements make this an easier time for SMT newbies.|
|New easier difficulty is great for newcomers.|
|The final floor and boss in the Womb of Grief makes it worth it for those who stuck through the area.|
|The floors besides the final floor in the Womb of Grief feel like rehashes of floors in the main game.|
|The fights against Alex feel hollow due to the lack of EXP and feel more like level-gating then anything else.|