The Amazon Curve: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

By Laura . April 22, 2010 . 4:22pm

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While it’s all too easy to forget about these things amidst the unrelenting volley of Nintendo DS RPGs over the years, rumors of a Shin Megami Tensei for the DS first sprang sometime around 2006. At this point, it probably isn’t worth the effort to go digging around for reasons as to just why so many websites had the game listed under a vague “TBD” release date, but it wouldn’t surprise us if it was the result of mere guesswork and an out-of-context quote or two.

 

Then, three years and one close-but-no-cigar project — although, we’ll happily defend Devil Survivor to the death — later, Atlus announced Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, a game many considered a return to the series’ roots, based on its first-person dungeon-crawling aspect. Demon fusion, negotiation, multiple endings…Strange Journey relied purely on what one might call the essence of the original MegaTen games — a trait even SMT III: Nocturne couldn’t hold claim to — and was, for all intents and purposes, Shin Megami Tensei 4 based in the South Pole. By virtue of this, it was also the first ever distilled MegaTen experience to be announced for an overseas release.

 

Generally well-received by the Japanese games press, Strange Journey received a 36/40 from Famitsu magazine. Likewise, on Amazon.jp, the general consensus among consumers was impressively skewed toward a positive 4.3 stars.

 

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Reviews:

 

An enjoyment you get to fumble around with (5 stars)

 

Many small details were included in this game.
This is in terms of controls, but when you keep pressing the X button, you can fast forward through the unnecessary dialogue scenes.
When you press the start button, you can skip the movie scenes.
Although there is no way to look up demon fusions in reverse, checking the fusion has gotten much easier now that you can press the directional keys in the fusion screen and check the determined inherited skills.

 

When you press the B button and the directional keys, you can crabwalk and moonwalk. The map already appears on the bottom screen as a default, and it’s auto-mapping, if you find hidden doors that you can’t enter at the moment, they’re still recorded.

 

You can switch floors with the LR buttons and scroll using the touch pen, so you can check the entire area’s map while moving.
In battle you can also use the LR buttons to check the statuses of the enemies and your allies, and with the Y button you can check for any –kaja spells and status effects.

 

Also, using the DS to input names and demon passwords, it’s very convenient that you can use the touch pen to make it all quick and accurate. Taking all of this into consideration and using it as a base, you find yourself with a game with a sturdy balance.

 

For example, in the battles, if you charge in unprepared, the protagonist will easily die. Especially with the unknown enemies, the bosses, and the hidden enemies, they’re really strong and sometimes you’ll find yourself being one-sidedly swept.

 

Even so, if you make even just haphazard preparations, you can endure, just barely, and if you prepare thoroughly, you can continue on through safely. Also, there are many tricks in the dungeon and it’s easy to get lost, and it’s created so it’s very harsh for people who just want to get on with the story.

 

However, even if you get lost you can find treasures, hidden passages, quest requesters, and other such things. Also, terminals (save points & return-to-base points) and heal spots are spread evenly through, so you get the feeling that they want you to explore while taking into high priority retreat and rest.

 

But, unfortunately, there are also some negative points. You can’t mark the map on your own. Almost everything is displayed on the maps, but the positions of the messengers and such aren’t recorded, so it would be perfect if you could mark them yourself.

 

When you use demon fusion, you can add skills with Devil Sources (in this situation, you check the ox to find the right combination you want), you can easily get the various skills you want. Also, the Devil Source also often carries the demon’s special abilities (resistance to oo and whole-party skills), so it’s fun getting the Sources from the demons.
By doing this, you’ve lost the need in the past to go “You first need this, then this, and then this…”

 

This may be sad for some people, but for newcomers it makes it very easy to understand. Also, entering passwords to summon demons was a good idea, I think.

 

The graphics are old-fashioned, using pixel art, but the demons have detailed animations and it supports the game’s atmosphere as well. The music is always changing, but the heaviness and the unsettling aura match exceptionally well. It might e good to hear this music not with earphones or headphones, but with external speakers. I think you’ll be able to hear and enjoy a different intensity than if you use the in-console speakers.

 

This has gotten to be a long review, but overall, this game is a high quality game, and I think you can enjoy playing it for a long time. I suggest this game to many people, such as those who like 3D dungeon RPGs, those who want to try out Shin Megami Tensei series, those who are tired of games where you just continue on defeating enemies randomly, and those who find it fun to fumble around with new gameplay systems.

 

Amazing degree of completeness (5 stars)

 

This is the first time I’ve played this series. It’s wonderfully complete. The in-game tutorials are perfect, and the way they lead into new things as well. This is a game where you won’t get lost even if you’re a new player.

 

You might have an image that this game is difficult, but it’s an RPG, so you can do anything if you train. I urge new players to buy this game as well. It’s also fun to haggle with the demons, and with the enemy characters standing before you, the depth of the world just grows.

 

Unlike usual for the DS, this is a game with a backbone (5 stars)

 

While it’s for a portable system, it’s aimed at ultra-heavy gamers.
Personally, I’ve been tired and tired of the tendency of recent games to be easy. It’s been a while, but I think this game can do it.

 

It’s hard. It’s grim. At any rate, it gets full points in my book.
There’s no sense that you can just leisurely press the A button to watch the pretty movies and touching ending.

 

The characters are in no way the moe-type, and you don’t watch dramatic movies. The game is filled with annoying things like warp dungeons, trap holes, damaging floors. You go, you return, and then you go again. The maps become more and more complicated. The enemies use spells that can kill you in one hit from the start. It’s filled with such absurd things. You can’t let your guard down.

 

If you’re the type who can grin after being instantly and completely massacred in AvaTune1, you’ll like this game. This isn’t a laidback game. it’s a game where you have to put your back into it.

 

1. Digital Devil Saga Avatar Tuner 2

 

A MegaTen that’s easy to play (5 stars)

 

This MegaTen SJ is really easy to play.

 

MegaTen has always has 3D dungeons, so a map that shows you where you are because you have no clue is a necessity.
Up until now, you’ve had to press a button to make it appear, and you have to make it disappear before you can go on, but this time even this need was eliminated. You can smoothly work your way through the map.

 

Hidden doors and such appear as well. It’s definitely a development that will make the Map-Completion Syndrome worse.

 

Also, if you want to return to the entrance at any time in the middle of the dungeon, you can use one of the terminals spread throughout the dungeon to send you back to the entrance.

 

And the Devil Co-Op system is good, too. If demons (allies) of the same Stance strike the enemy’s weakness, then the other demons (allies) will follow up. You can pile on the damage without using any MP, and if you use this, it’ll be pretty bad, lol.

 

(There’s also Your-Everyday-Average-Joe2, so I also used the word “ally.”)

 

2. Atlus never gave a default name to the protagonist of SJ, but on their screenshots they’ve used various names such as “Atlus Hero” or “Tadanohitonari,” which translates to Your-Everyday-Average-Joe. One name used is even “Kuzunoha Raidou.”

 

Also, with the demon conversations (which seem to be much less than before), you can’t do well if you don’t understand the personality and likes of the demon you’re dealing with, but you’ll be helped along if you’re one of the newer players who hasn’t come close to completing the Demonica Suit.

 

The demon fusions is no longer like in MegaTen 3 where you go, “I want to carry on the skills I like.” In place of that you have a skill group in the form of Devil Sources. The skills from Devil Sources are definitely passed on to newly created demons, and you are given it sometimes after the analyzer has finished with a demon and you level it up.

 

Thus, to get Devil Sources, you have to use your Devil Analyzer properly. With demons that you have finished analyzing, the summoning cost for summoning demons through the compendium also gets cheaper. Also, if you print out the password for a demon you like, you can tell it to someone and give the demon to him.

 

The easiness in playing this, the strategy-oriented gameplay, the pacing of the game… all of these, I have absolutely no problem with. In fact, they’re wonderful! Sometimes, I also played around with it (“Can you complete this mission?” and I replied with a choice that wouldn’t let me complete it).

 

As for the story, it’s heavy and dark, very much like MegaTen. It’s not only easy to play, though. Mudo (instant kill magic) has the same power as ever. Frankly, it’s scary.

 

As such, I encourage MegaTen fans and people new to MegaTen both to try this game. I also want people to immerse themselves, forgetting all about time, in the fun that is MegaTen SJ.

 

5 years since “Megami Tensei” (4 stars)

 

Currently I am in the first week. My protagonist is at level 62 and I have played only 40 hours. I don’t have time to stop playing right now.

 

This is the first 3D dungeon-crawler since Soul Hackers. As such, it keeps players used to playing with quarter-views and third person perspectives at a distance, but the map on the bottom screen of the DS records where you’ve already traveled before, so you won’t be getting lost.

 

The battles, an integral part of the RPG, are consecutively tense. It’s common to get a game over from being hit by a powerful attack from an unidentified demon or from Mudo. However, by hitting the enemies’ weaknesses appropriately and performing follow-up attacks and sweeping the enemies, you can enjoy the game balance with a, “It’s hard, but it’s not irrationally so.”

 

The music is from Shoji Meguro-san of Shin 3, P3 and 4. This game doesn’t have the pop-type music of recent games, nor the rock-type that Shin Megami Tensei has traditionally used in the past. Instead, the BGM is orchestral with a solemn male chorus, directed with the same eeriness and austerity that the world in this game possesses. I suggest you to play this game with earphones or headphones.

 

With the advent of the Devil Source, passing on skills has gotten much easier, and now it’s interesting that you can add whatever skills you want to the demons.

 

However, I’ll raise a few points I didn’t like:

 

· You can’t dash in the 3D dungeon.
· There’s no way to divide up your ability changes when the protagonist levels up.
· The number of skills a demon can have has decreased from 8 to 6.
· There’s no way to set the difficulty.
· Being manhandled by the EX Missions.
· Some of the demon animations are weird.
· The previously religious feel of the game has decreased.

 

Even bearing in mind these negative points, the game was interesting.
Just from being a Megami Tensei game, there is quite a bit of volume in the game. Those considering buying the game should go to the official site and investigate for yourself whether the game suits you or not. This is a game primarily focused on hardcore gamers.

 

The story carries on the essence of Shin Megami Tensei (4 stars)

 

I’ve played all the games ever since the start of the Megami Tensei series with the Nakajima/Yumiko pair, including the Summoner and Persona games. I haven’t cleared the game yet, but I’ve grasped the essence of it, so I’m writing this review.

 

With regards to the story, it’s heavy in a good way, and I felt that it’s almost the dark heaviness that you feel in Shin 1 or Shin 2. I think people will have their own opinions on the content of the game, but I feel that rather than being aimed at the general populace, it was aimed to satisfy traditional gamers. It was extremely interesting.

 

The game system felt like it was much more complicated than how the games in the series traditionally were. The simple systems and their feeling of restriction is very much Megami Tensei-like, so veteran players may feel uncomfortable. What I felt most uncomfortable about was that the questions asked in the Yggdrasil series when the player is about to make a choice determines how it goes. I would have liked them to take more care with such detailed parts and make them more like how they used to be.

 

Lastly, this may be criticism from a maniac, but I really think the contents of the game were interesting, so I also suggest this game to those who have gotten tired of RPGs, which have become stereotypical in the recent years.

 

I remember now (4 stars)

 

Protagonist gets done in by instant death magic

Even though your demons are in great health, you get a game over

I can still fight! This is unreasonable!!

 

I remember when I used to scream that. That was what MegaTen was. The game style is like the PS2 Shin Megami Tensei 3, so I can’t really suggest it to light gamers. It’s basically aimed at those who liked the past MegaTen games … but the players in the past (me included) have had various parts where we’re not satisfied with the system (laughs)

 

But isn’t that a good enough passing mark?
At the very least, I enjoyed it greatly.

 

I’ll raise several points I was unsatisfied with:

 

· It’s annoying that the search effects happen every time.
· It gets really slow when you have to return countless times to previous dungeons because of EX Missions or of upgrades to your Gate Search.
· It’s gotten a lot more convenient now that you can fuse demons anywhere, but the sacredness(?) of fusion was lost.
· When your protagonist levels up, you can’t assign your stats anymore, so the anticipation of leveling up has gone down.

…is about it.

 

Even taking into account the parts I was unsatisfied with, I thought it was a great game, and I suggest this game to people who like MegaTen and those who like hardcore games.

 

This is the first time I played Megami Tensei, so… (3 stars)

 

I got the feeling of, “Oh, so this is Megami Tensei.”

 

It was interesting, but since I’m new to Megami Tensei, I might have been naïve about the whole thing?! Halfway through playing it, I got tired of it and stopped.

 

Maybe it wasn’t my type of game. But I feel that those who like this type of game would have a party over it. I understand it, but it’s not what I feel.

 

It’s too different compared to the other MegaTen games (2 stars)

 

I would like it first to be known that I’m writing this essentially for those who have played many MegaTen games. On the other hand, I would like those who haven’t played the Megami Tensei series at all to think “This is what Megami Tensei is.” This is because the system and balance of this game is much too different from the games that came before it in the series.

 

Many reviews write, “You can die instantly, but overall it’s not too hard,” but truthfully, it’s, “There are too few choices.”
They say you can choose the demon allies on your team, but overall it’s best to think of it as, “The player doesn’t really have any choice.”
First is your equipment. What you have first equipped is normal [no weaknesses or resistances], but after that, about 90% of your armor has some sort of affinity so that it’s strong against something and weak against something else.

 

If your armor isn’t the newest => you’ll die from a physical attack. If your armor is new => if you’re hit by your elemental weakness, you die.

 

You have a choice between these two. In previous games in the series, your equipment has several parts to it. If your gauntlet has low defense but provides immunity to instant deaths, so you’ll equip it, but you can’t even do something like that in this game.

 

Up until now, MegaTen games have the choice for whether you want to be safer or take a risk by preparing a normal equipment along with one that clearly has resistances and weaknesses. However, this isn’t the case with this game. There isn’t much normal equipment in the first place.

 

Therefore, it’s not really told to you, but if you’re one of those people who prefer to play it safe, you’re not going to get much other than a world of hardships. Up until now in the MegaTen, the protagonist would be immune to Mudo and be neutral to everything else, and you also tried to gather demons who were, to the best of your abilities, strong against everything. But you can’t do that anymore.

 

Aside from equipments, because the abilities that the protagonist gains from leveling are set rather than what you choose them to be, there are many times where “Things don’t get easier even if you level up.”
If you’re someone who’s played MegaTen before, you’re sure to get annoyed when you suddenly get an increase in Magic when you level up.

 

Also, there is no heroine, so the tradition of “Your heroine’s lower-class magic is much stronger than your most powerful offensive magic,” is also gone. You can’t feel the “Kabam!” refreshing feeling when your magic-specialized heroine hits with a huge, powerful non-elemental magic.

 

Otherwise, including attack and defense equipment, the recovery and other such items are almost all, “You need the ingredients to make them.” This is something that has never happened before either. You can’t even let your guard down when you heal poison, and then there are many, many repeating difficult battles, and once you finally think that you can buy new weapons and armor, you just get tired when you realize, “There aren’t enough ingredients.” It’s a different feeling from if you’re just lacking a little money, which you can gain by fighting until you have enough.

 

The enemies aren’t simply made a little stronger; the player is forcefully made to have weaknesses, and if he doesn’t have the correct options in the first place, “The player won’t be able to get a profitable battle at all.” It’s not like good players can get the advantage by striking at the enemy’s weak points. The balance of the battle is designed such that “Striking at the enemy’s weak point is the most basic prerequisite.”
When you think you can safely advance and go, “Before I go on, I’ll first stay and focus on leveling up,” you have no way around grinding a lot past the average level of the enemies in the level.

 

Inevitably, you can’t “choose” to equip the best equipment and demons, so you’re forced to make compromises. And then, because of the weaknesses that were forced upon you and the sudden death magic, you’ll inevitably die instantly.

 

Others have also written that the magic aren’t of the rock genre, but those who have played the MegaTen games would know that the music is extremely important when playing the game, so this was also a sad thing.

 

What I say next probably wouldn’t make sense for those who don’t know of the previous games, but I suggest this game for people who liked the FC [Famicom] or the SFC [Super Famicom] version of if. On the other hand, the gaming system will be very hard for someone who liked Soul Hackers (released on the Sega Saturn and ported to the PS) the most out of all the games in the series.

 

It didn’t make a great impression on me (1 star)

 

I’ve played most of the Shin Megami Tensei series, but if I had to say something about this game, it would be that it’s closest to the contents of Shin Megami Tensei: If.

 

There’s no content in the game that sets it apart. The most you can say about it is that you can summon demons using passwords.

 

The story is short, and the extras that used to appear after you finished the game were cut as well.

 

The characters talked too much like in computer games. It was a shock for me.



  • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

    Haven’t played anything else since I got it!!!

  • Extra_Life

    It’s certainly my favourite DS game since The World Ends With You, I love the game, in fact, I’m playing right now!

  • kylehyde

    I hate the place where I live, titles like this rarely are brought and I have to import them like devil survivor (wich is really awesome). Buy the game online is not a problem for me, the problem is the local mail service wich is not very trustable.

  • http://twitter.com/nameoftheyear Elliot T.

    Yeah, I’m practically playing Strange Journey to the exclusion of all else.

    Some of the reviews are right in that getting hit with an instant-kill spell can be annoying and unfair, especially with your demons at full health. And though there are a lot of ways to fix that without dampening that difficulty level, I do think cheap kills are true to form, both in the game’s dungeon crawler roots and in its dramatic setting (your teammates are getting offed left and right after all – no Recarm for them means no Recarm for you either!) Just my 2 cents.

  • http://ofurotaimu.dreamwidth.org shirokiryuu

    Wow, I’m still unsure whether or not to get it. It sounds like a great game, but it sounds a little too intense for me. Hmm.. I’ll think about it. I’ve still got a backlog of games to play..

    • http://denpanosekai.blogspot.com denpanosekai

      very intense

    • Ereek

      The game falls prey to the standard SMT trait of “hard everywhere in the beginning, a breeze in the middle, and some hard bosses near the end.” Once you clear the first two or three areas it gets a good deal easier.

      If you’ve played any dungeon crawler before it’s not that bad. Dark Spire or any Wizardry game is a good deal harder.

      • http://ofurotaimu.dreamwidth.org shirokiryuu

        Hmm.. Well I’ve played Persona 1 and Etrian Odyssey 1. How does it compare to those? I enjoyed Persona 1, but I never got around finishing Etrian Odessey.

        • Ereek

          Well, I found Persona 1 to be quite easy, so this is definitely harder. I don’t really like EO so I can’t really compare. Have you played Nocturne? Overall it’s harder than the Normal mode of Nocturne but easier than the Hard Mode.

          • http://ofurotaimu.dreamwidth.org shirokiryuu

            No, I haven’t…I didn’t have a PS2 until recently…=/

            But thanks for the info. I probably won’t buy this game right now, since I probably would want to dedicate more time to it (maybe I’ll get it over the summer).

  • DDanny

    Instant death spells are hardly the issue.
    MC’s got a natural immunity to expel, and you have armors that resist/null darkness.
    Besides, there’s a Sacrifice item that works the same as the Homunculus from P3/4.

  • DDanny

    Instant death spells are hardly the issue.
    MC’s got a natural immunity to expel, and you have armors that resist/null darkness.
    Besides, there’s a Sacrifice item that works the same as the Homunculus from P3/4.

  • Kris

    I’ve meant to pick this up, but sadly I have about a million other games on my plate right now.

  • http://twitter.com/rwbonesy Bonesy

    the internet needs to stop reminding me that I am waiting for the local game store to get this game in so I can go get it

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