Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: A Strange, But Not Unwelcome Journey

By Laura . October 21, 2009 . 8:36pm

imageWhile I claim to be a Shin Megami Tensei series fan, I have to admit, the only SMT games I have played thus far were the Persona series, and from my understanding those are actually an offshoot. The demons (or Personas) in the core series may be the same, but the story style and the general atmosphere of the games are much different. So when I had heard that Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was created with the focus on the nostalgic fans of the old SMT original series in mind, I was skeptical about just how much I would enjoy this game.

 

Despite this thought, I found myself thoroughly enjoying Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. The first-person view in the top screen of the DS is odd at first, but you get used to it soon enough. There are several applications given to you that help you along the way, and you really need the help. At first, dungeons are straightforward, but then come unlocking doors, finding hidden doors, walking through pitch darkness where even the map on the bottom screen doesn’t show anything, teleportation, and falling through trap holes. Sometimes, just plain old twists and turns are used … in very, very copious amounts. Without the minimap on the bottom or any of the applications given to you for the Demonica Suit, you wouldn’t get anywhere.

 

Learning how to use these is a snap too. The tutorials in the game are very effective. I actually believe the key to its success is that it gives you a little at a time rather than all the information at once. As an added bonus, you can access the tutorials anytime you want with at most two button clicks in the field map.

 

image Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is probably the first game where I’ve actually looked forward to dungeon-crawling and revisiting old dungeons with new tools, but my favorite part of the game is still the demons. These guys are organized according to the main SMT series (because this game is part of the main series, unlike the recent Devil Survivor, also sold with the SMT moniker), with categories such as Genma, Dragon, Divine, Avian, Raptor, etc. The fusion pretty much works the same way as in the main series as well, as does recruiting. I ended up wandering in areas for a few extra hours just to get extra fusion fodder. With so many demons available, a good time is spent planning out my future team too.

 

Which brings me to battles. Battling runs very quickly, especially with the Auto button, should you choose to use it (makes grinding so much quicker). The Y button also allows you to view any stat changes that have happened during the battle. Stance and matching weaknesses are a very important part of battles. While not so essential in the random battles (which are actually determined by a certain number of distance traveled, so it’s not really random in a sense), a bad team can really make what could be a quick battle drawn out and slow. Needless to say, a good team is absolutely necessary for boss battles. These are difficult even if you’re overleveled with a team that matched up to the boss’s weaknesses exactly.

 

image Stance is determined by the responses you give to various questions posed to you by your crewmates and by demons. Although this doesn’t seem to affect the response much other than the reaction the others give you, I am only halfway through with the game. More importantly, stance allows you to chain attacks with demons when one of you hits the enemy’s weaknesses. The term weaknesses is kind of misleading – you only do a little more damage than you normally would. However, hitting the weaknesses causes all the other demons on your team that have the same stance to attack as well. This way you get multiple hits in one turn. On the other hand, the term resistance means exactly that; an attack that would normally do 70 damage may do only 10 against an enemy with natural protection to it. Taking full advantage of cooperative attacks and resistances requires some planning ahead and judicious use of Devil Sources.

 

Sources are handy little items that allow you to give certain skills to other demons during a fusion. This is especially handy, I find, when you find a fusion for a demon with the perfect resistances and it’s lacking just that one attack. These items are actually fairly easy to get too. The only problem is that, unless you recapture a demon and level it up again with its Analyzer info at maximum, you only have one of each.

 

With all this said, the game is a perfect balance in difficulty. While dying is never a possibility that is ruled out (I found myself dying in a random battle once because of bad luck), this problem is countered with the save points scattered throughout the map in well-placed positions. Fights almost always require a strategy on some level, even if you’re overlevelled for one of the many random battles, and sometimes running is the best option – not because you don’t want to fight (as is usually the case with me when I’m grinding), but because you know that if you do, you can’t win.

 

image The story for Strange Journey wasn’t something very original, but the game does transmit the atmosphere well. Shoji Meguro really took a break from his usual style of music and composed a soundtrack that practically embodies the words “ominous” and “demonic.” As you explore the dungeon, you find dead bodies of your crewmates occasionally, and sometimes you get to see them go off their rocker too. In a setting like that, I couldn’t help but feel anxious over time as well.

 

With that said, I need to get back to finding a way to beat this next boss…


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  • MrMee

    I have become a fan of Etrian Odyssey and The Dark Spire recently so I’m diggin’ this genre. It helps that I’m a fan of Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, Devil Summoner, and Persona in regards to this game. In short…PLEASE BRING THIS GAME STATESIDE ATLUS!!! Feel free to pass this message along.

    • ryne11

      I got curious about demons and bosses in this game, and managed to spoil the Final Boss for myself [face_palm]

      Edit. Didn’t mean to respond to you. Hit wrong button

      • Moriken

        Haha, me too -__-
        Fortunately that doesn’t spoil how exactly the story unfolds. This game is so addictive…must fill out…compendium…

        • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

          Same o_o; I actually found myself fusing higher level demons (45ish?) to get a level 28 demon I had missed. The sad thing was that the level 28 demon survived quite well in the later dungeons…

          Even so, I think I’m still only at 50% for fusion and 70% for viewing, and I’m two dungeons away from finishing (level 55).

  • Kuza21

    The last paragraph makes me think of Dead Space…. I’ve been considering getting a DS for a while now, this, Mario and Luigi and Pokémon Heart Gold just might make me buy it….

  • Dasuzero

    half an hour of music for a 40+ hour game ;_;

    • memoryofwater

      Yeah. Sigh. Underdeveloped soundtracks are almost a series staple now!

      Otherwise, this is looking good. It sounds like Atlus have learned a little from their PS2 era accessibility, so the game is set to lure back older fans without alienating anyone who took the Persona train to Tokyo Babylon. Seems like a good deal to me.

  • MadMirko

    That’s an excellent article / review / summary / playtest.

    Unfortunately it will make the wait for localization that much longer. :)

  • malek86

    Good review. Now I can’t wait for it to come stateside.

    A good dungeon crawler is always welcome. I wish I still had Shining in the Darkness for VC… lost it after tinkering too much with homebrew, sigh (lesson for you, kids – know what you are doing before you start messing with higher level stuff).

  • Soma

    Strange Journey is looking and sounding better all of the time!
    I certainly hope that the game will be localized for North America.

    It seems that most other games in the SMT series have done very well in NA so far, so I’m feeling very hopeful! =D

    • http://terracannon876.livejournal.com Laura

      Well, SJ did do exceptionally well in Japan (according to Famitsu), and while that’s not really an indicator on how good it’ll do here, it’s a nice sign =)

  • http://honorless.net honorless

    “As you explore the dungeon, you find dead bodies of your crewmates occasionally, and sometimes you get to see them go off their rocker too.”

    Hardcore awesome.

  • Ereek

    From what I’ve heard of the story and characters, I’ll have to quote NickyD:

    “That’s almost insultingly obvious.”

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