The MegaTen (Shin Megami Tensei series) is known for being darker and much more punishing in terms of difficulty compared to the Persona series. An intense dungeon crawler where the only way to survive is to befriend demons and fuse them into even stronger beings with powerful skills. You find yourself exploring various dungeons filled with traps and pretty high encounter rates but Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (an enhanced port of 2010’s Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey) makes it a lot more friendly for newcomers with the ability to change the difficulty settings anytime while offering plenty of new content for returning players.
The end of the world is near, a mysterious phenomenon known as the Schwarzwelt has appeared in Antarctica and has slowly started expanding, devouring the Earth. The United Nations has decided to put together a team of soldiers, researchers and medical personnel to explore and hopefully put an end to the Schwarzwelt, but things don’t proceed smoothly. Players take on the role on an American Solider assigned to the Red Sprite, everything goes to hell as the four units sent inside are soon separated and scattered and if things aren’t bad enough already, the crew of the Red Sprite quickly find themselves attacked by demons and now must survive. The most important tool at their disposal is the Demonica suit which allows them to adapt to various environments and most importantly, allows them to search for materials, speak to demons and communicate with each other.
It’s your basic MegaTen story in every sense with a sci-fi twist to it, a welcome change of pace as most titles in the series are set in a post-apocalyptic world. While at times the game feels a bit lackluster in story, it does a good job of creating a cast of characters who have to mentally survive the horrors of everything that is happening. Jimenez is a mercenary who will do whatever it takes to survive after being rescued by the main character and gaining the power to summon demons in battle. He doesn’t trust everyone, but does what needs to be done. Zelenin on the other hand saw her team being tortured while also being used a test subject,s causing her to loathe demons and refuses to use them in battle. In charge of the surviving crew is Arthur, an AI who is programmed to take the best course of action, which leads to a few interesting moments where even the crew questions his orders. This is all enhanced by the addition of fully voiced lines all in Japanese, adding a nice realism to the game I much prefer than simple text alone.
Alignment (Law, Neutral and Chaos) plays an important role. Not only will it help determine which of three ending paths you will take based on your responses throughout, but also how your negotiations with demons will proceed. If your alignment matches the demon will be easier to talk to, while those with an opposite alignment will be more difficult to talk to, which may make it easier for them to attack if they don’t like your response or flat out refuse to talk, making acquiring them much more difficult.
The game is played entirely via first-person mode. Players are left to explore dungeons and they are able to keep trap of the dungeon layout automatically via the touch screen. Each dungeon offers their own tricks and mechanics to overcome with many needing certain applications in order to proceed or unlock that certain location. Some traps can cause status effects that affect your party like poison and sleep and others might drop or warp you to a lower level or a completely new area. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux has very simple and straightforward battle system. You are able to attack or communicate with opponents, switch between your various demons in your reserves, use items, or run. One of this game biggest features in battle is the alignment co-op attack, by attacking an enemies weakness, any teammate of the game alignment will follow up with an additional attack. Based on your team setup, this could mean the difference on how much damage you do and leads players to think more strategically. Strange Journey has one of the most unique ways of introducing demons. Rather than appearing in their demon form, they appear as data. Once you defeat them, the Demonica scans them and allows you to see them moving forward. By defeating more, getting them to join you, and using them in battle, you gather more information which allows you to see their strengths and weaknesses.
Across each dungeon are items that can be discovered known as Forma. Collecting it will let you create new tools including weapons, armor, items, and sub applications to help you progress. Sub apps are a huge help in the game as they offer different abilities, including the ability to gain more items and money from demons, the ability to lower or increase encounters, and help HP and MP to name a few. While the original DS game was limited to how many sub applications you could install, you can now equip as many as you want, including newly adds sub applications that allows your game to continue even if your main character falls in battle (something I’ve always hated), randomly drop the cost of your skills to zero for one turn, and a few more that will help your adventure.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is a game that requires a heavy investment of time to complete. Compared to the original DS version, Redux is a lot more forgiving thanks to the addition of difficulty selection (casual, standard and expert) which can be changed at any time, affecting the amount of damage you give and take. A very welcome addition is the ability to save anytime rather than only at save terminals. With the inclusion of all the new content including Alex, a mysterious character who tries to kill you off at the start of the game, you won’t be fully able to understand her role until you fully explore the new location. “Womb of Grief” is a pretty complex dungeon, but is worth checking out since it also rewards you with a new ending. It’s something welcome to explore for new players and a way to further enhance the experience a second time through if you’ve already beaten the game previously with the inclusion of new demons and extra content. Be warned though, exploring these dungeons can get rather frustrating, especially one particular dungeon that is filled with almost nothing but warp tiles which took me almost two hours to solve alone.