Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey: Into The Schwarzwelt

By Spencer . March 22, 2010 . 6:55pm

strangejourney_screens_01 Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey wastes no time setting up the end of the world scenario. The Earth is in disarray from overpopulation and a growing void over the South Pole is the straw that broke the tyrant’s back. People panic. The United Nations sends in a highly trained team equipped with Demonica suits inside the hole. This is where you come in. You’re one of the Strike Team members sent out of the Red Sprite and into the demon filled world… on foot.


Fortunately, you get an adapter that allows you to summon demons really early. Without it, you and the rest of the Red Sprite squad may have met a grisly fate like the crew from other ships. Zelenin, a Russian scientist from the Elve, survived, but is still disgusted by the demon summoning program. Jimenez, a refugee from the Blue Jet, is gung-ho on summoning and desperately looking for a way to escape to Earth. His sarcastic comments add spice to Arthur’s dry dialogue. Arthur (cleverly named after a sci-fi author) is the “brains” of the operation and a cold computer with an artificial personality.


You… well, like most Shin Megami Tensei games, are a silent protagonist. Your choices determine what demons join you and ultimately how the game ends.


strangejourney_screens_08 Before that happens there are dungeons. Lots of dungeons. Long dungeons. First person dungeons with haunting chants for background music. If you didn’t get that, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is a dungeon crawler. The game shares more in common with Etrian Odyssey (minus map drawing), than the MegaTen spin-offs such as Persona and Devil Survivor. A handy auto-map records landmarks such as save points and traps on the bottom screen. Instead of castles and mountains, the dungeons in Strange Journey have a subtle touch of humanity’s vices with war torn towns, red light districts, and a shopping mall with a green hue from signs saying “BUY!”


But, you can’t “buy” items from demon stores. All purchasing and crafting is done on the Red Sprite. Sickbay is the game’s inn and the lab acts as an all purpose shop. If you want to make new armor or handy sub-apps that alter your Demonica’s abilities, you need macca (MegaTen money) and consumable forma. Demons drop forma, but you can also find forma crystals just by walking around. Your visor scans the environment, identifies hidden forma and UMA (read: tough monsters) within a few squares. The clever scanning system encourages players to explore unknown areas and backtrack to discover secrets. And secrets keep coming. Dungeons are static, but forma and UMA “respawn.” Optional EX fetch quests Missions given out by demons and locked doors are other reasons to revisit old dungeons. The amount of ground to cover and treasure to find is immense. For the most diehard dungeon crawlers, there is a list of records to earn. Ever walk backwards?


strangejourney_screens_16While trudging through floor after floor your character (i.e. you) is frequently asked to make moral choices. These put your on various paths and also, to an extent, affect the turn based battle system. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey expects you to exploit weaknesses. A useful chart on the second screen keeps track of what hurts say, Jack Frost. You probably know that answer already, but if you didn’t (spoiler alert!) it’s fire. Cast “Agi” to deal extra damage plus make all of the demons of the same alignment link up for a co-op attack. So, if you’re neutral Pyro Jack will jump in. If you’re law, Principality will help you. Demons follow the same rules. As an example, a chaos demon like Lilim will join a demon co-op attack if another chaos demon casts fire. If all of the demons (and you) are the same alignment it’s possible to trigger a triple co-op attack and hit all of the enemies. Just hit a group of Jack Frosts with “Maragi”. There is a good amount of pre-battle strategy here. Is it better to have a power demon with a conflicting alignment or a weakling who can contribute to a co-op attack?


Balancing all of these attributes plus negotiating with demons may sound complicated, but Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is quite welcoming. First, a color code lets you know when a not-so-random encounter is approaching. (That’s a hint to heal, if you stepped on damaging floors.) A password system lets players share demons too. If you’re stuck at a boss, you can ask a friend (presumably ahead of you) to send passwords for a batch of well equipped demons. You still can’t control demons ahead of your level, but you can jack up low level demons up with powerful spells. Demon Sources, given to you by demons as a level up gift if you use them enough, allow you to control which abilities fused demons inherit. Since randomness isn’t as much of a factor you can pass “–dyne” level spells to a pixie. Of course, MP (magic points) are still a limit, but you can squeak out one or two beyond your level powerful attacks. Think of this as a potential Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey super guide. Atlus said the will release passwords to unlock special demons online.


With over 300 something demons to find Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has a ton of helpers to find, that is when you’re not getting lost. Pacing through the intestinal-like dungeons will keep you busy for hours while you contemplate if mankind worthy of salvation.

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  • Guest

    Why a dungeon crawler…..

    • jj984jj

      Because… it’s a Shin Megami Tensei game?

      • TyeTheCzar

        You know, I’d love to see Atlus do remakes of the SFC Shin Megami Tensei games to port onto DS, and of course bring them to the U.S.
        We all know trying to bring SMT to Virtual Console is probably out of the question.

    • Zeik56

      True SMT games have pretty much always been dungeon crawlers. Granted, Strange Journey goes farther into dungeon crawler territory than in the past, but it’s still very much like old school SMT games.

    • Hraesvelgr

      Why wouldn’t it be a dungeon crawler? Even with the Persona 3/4 formula, you still do a lot of dungeon crawling. Aside from spinoffs like Devil Survivor, nearly all of the games are like this.

  • EvilAkito

    I own every US-released SMT game since Persona 2, yet the only one I’ve beaten is the first Digital Devil Saga. I love these games so much, but I can never find time to play them in their entirety. Sadly, I have a feeling that Strange Journey will be no exception. Either way, I can’t wait to try it out.

    • I feel your pain, which applies to every RPG I’ve played. But, I’m wondering if you’ve even begun Digital Devil Saga 2? I played it minutes after the first, and the overall feeling of the 2nd was just amazing. Shoji Meguro was partially responsible for making the evolution so addictive (DDS officially made me a fan). Anyway, can’t wait to hear his compositions for this game.

      • EvilAkito

        I played pretty far into the second one. Problem is, I took a break from the game about half-way through the airport dungeon and it’s been so difficult to get back into it at this point, especially since Persona 3 & 4, as well as Devil Summoner 2 are higher priorities for me. I’ve never been good at staying focused on one game long enough to finish it.

  • malek86

    Needless to say, this is going to be mine.

  • I got an email about an hour ago telling me that Amazon just shipped this package.

    Hell. Yeah.

  • Joanna

    March why must you make my wallet cry?

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