Game : Strange Journey Redux is perfect for Persona fans
The collection that spawned Persona returns with a remaster of 1 its finest entries, that’s by no means been launched within the UK earlier than.
Long earlier than any of the Persona had been launched in Europe the primary Shin Megami Tensei Game we performed was 2005 PlayStation 2 title Lucifer’s Call (aka Nocturne). We have been significantly impressed by the Game’s setting and storyline, which eschewed the same old Tolkien-esque fantasy of most Japanese role-players in favour of a post-apocalyptic world and an unusually advanced story coping with faith and dualism. We instantly grew to become fans of the collection however subsequently realized that there was all the time a really lengthy wait between mainline sequels, which is why we imported Strange Journey on DS approach again in 2010.
The majority of Shin Megami Tensei are spin-offs and whereas most retain comparable settings and themes they’re largely unconnected. This additionally goes for spin-off collection Persona, which has now turn into much more fashionable than its mother or father franchise (gross sales for Persona 5 recently hit 2.2 million worldwide). Lucifer’s Call was essentially Shin Megami Tensei III but Strange Journey was originally promoted as the fourth mainline entry.
However, disappointing sales meant there was no European release and instead publisher Atlus released an actual Shin Megami Tensei IV some years later – a game we always found disappointing even with the improved Apocalypse update. But Strange Journey is the real deal, and even though the graphics appear horribly primitive today (they weren’t great even at the time) the daring plot, bizarre art design, and deep battle system are still hugely compelling.
Based purely on its name alone (it means Reincarnation Of The True Goddess) the Shin Megami Tensei has always been a hard sell to Western audiences. But if you have played and enjoyed Persona you may be surprised at how much the two games share in common, especially the complex but very accessible battle system. Like many Japanese role-players there’s no direct connection between Strange Journey and previous titles, with the plot having a very basic set-up that involves a mysterious portal in Antarctica that threatens to envelop the world.
The UN sends in a team of soldiers and scientists to investigate the phenomenon and they discover a demon world filled with supernatural creatures of varying belligerence and cultural extraction. Demons in the Shin Megami Tensei world are much more complex beings than a simple personification of evil and one of the recurring themes of the series is how their motives and morality is often little different from the human characters.
Demons are encountered randomly as you explore the game world and fought in turn-based battles much like any other traditional Japanese role-player. But instead of instantly starting a fight most demons can be talked to beforehand and often bribed or flattered into becoming your ally. As a result, their collection and training takes on a Pokémon style obsession as you level them up and use the fusion system to combine different demons into all-new, or at least more powerful, forms.
Strange Journey shares the same game engine as dungeon crawler Etrian Odyssey, which also happens to be a favourite of ours, and as such it returns the series to its first person roots, as you tour the regions of the ‘Schwarzwelt’ using a tile-based movement system similar to old Western role-players like Dungeon Master and Eye Of The Beholder. There’s no pretending this doesn’t look extremely old-fashioned, especially as all the characters are just 2D sprites, but the character design is as bizarre and fascinating as ever and the storytelling and gameplay is more than strong enough to compensate.
The game introduces other elements gradually, as you being to search for invisible ‘forma’ that work as raw ingredients for new weapons and items. This includes extra search features for your suit, which opens up more of the world in an almost Metroidvania style fashion.
In terms of this being a remaster of the original DS game the graphical improvements are mild, and there’s no 3D effect, but there is a surprising amount of extra content, including lots of quality of life improvements such as the ability to save anywhere, three difficulty levels, and Japanese voice-acting. But the biggest addition is a new multi-floor dungeon called the Womb of Grief, which features a major new character and multiple new endings.
To be honest though the new dungeon isn’t terribly interesting and feels very much like the shoe-horned in extra that it is. It’s entirely optional though and if nothing else a useful way to grind up some levels.
Strange Journey Redux is, as the best Shin Megami Tensei games tend to be, a clever mix of old and new, predictable and revelatory. It deals with some surprisingly dark subject matter, with an admirable disregard for Western cultural mores, and it’s only the flippant dialogue and simplistic characterisation that lessens the impact.
On a technical level it’s almost laughably outdated but if you can accept that this is one of the best entries in the franchise and a great way to get into the parent series if you’ve already enjoyed Persona. As the name suggests it is very strange but given how scared most video games – especially role-players – are of breaking from convention that can only be a good thing.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
In Short: One of the best Shin Megami Tensei games returns, mixing standard Japanese role-playing with the series’ typically provocative story elements and Persona style gameplay.
Pros: Excellent mix of traditional role-playing, Pokémon style collection, and almost survival horror-esque exploration. Intriguing storyline and a lot of minor improvements over the DS version.
Cons: Some genre hangovers and unnecessary repetition. Very low-tech graphics and the new dungeon isn’t particularly interesting.
Publisher: Deep Silver/Atlus
Developer: Atlus and Lancarse
Release Date: 18th May 2018
Age Rating: 12