Confession time: I don’t play many video games anymore. As a working professional who then comes home to write on the Internet, there’s just not a ton of time I want to dedicate to starring at an additional screen. But no time like the present to try and get back into the swing of things.
Second confession: I don’t really know much about this franchise. I played Persona 3 but I never finished, and I know some cursory things about the series but I’m no expert. I think this helps to give me fresh eyes about this game, but it also means I can’t compare it to the franchise, nor even to the original game this is a re-packaging and updating of.
Game Name: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Publisher(s): Atlus, Lancarse
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Imagine a world where suddenly there are demons, angels, and a whole host of crazy. What would you do? Go investigate, of course! You play a young soldier who is sent to the South Pole in order to look into a strange phenomenon called the Schwartzwelt. However, it soon becomes (mostly) apparent that something has gone wrong with space and time and you are now in the middle of it and you have to fight to save the world.
I will admit, dungeon crawlers are not my style, which is why I avoid even the most respected entries in the genre like The Legend of Zelda. But that’s not to say Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is without its charms. Its creative designs capture the imagination, the gameplay is easily graspable and enjoyable, and the story manages to keep you invested, though also guessing. Still, it’s a slog at times, and if you get stuck within the labyrinth of dungeons, it can be incredibly frustrating.
In terms of gameplay, it’s pretty similar to a Persona game, with a turn-based combat system and fighting loads of diverse demons. In terms of the navigation, I did find myself getting dizzy going through the labyrinth over and over again, especially because you’re staring at a small screen for such long stretches of time. There isn’t a 3D mode, so it’s not even something you can even turn off.
You collect demons to fight for you, giving it a little bit of a “catch ’em all” feel, but in the best way. You have to entice them to join you, but then you can smash them together into cool fusions for even better demons to fight for you. There is an upgrade system for armor and items as well, which is of course par for the course and is actually pretty accessible.
The central mechanic is the labyrinth, which you have to traverse as you try to get out of the demon-infested hell you are trapped in. You move left and right to go from room to room, and like I said, it’s easy to get lost and very dizzy. I know that this is partially due to the limitations of the system, but it also feels kind of cheap. I wish some more attention had been paid to navigation since that’s what you have to do 80% of the time.
There is a new dungeon in this version called The Womb of Grief, which is just the sickest name. It’s a multi-level additional dungeon that gets you some new endings and new demons. It’s pretty worth it for the boss demons you can add to your arsenal. I’m not usually big on doing extra content, but I can admit that this was definitely a fun and worthy addition to your run.
I do find it strange that this is the game is Japanese dub only. I don’t mind reading subtitles – I honestly prefer it, given that I have minor hearing problems and you can catch all the weird bits of dialogue this way. However, for an English-language release, you’d assume they’d put the effort into getting some sort of dub cast. That’s not to say the Japanese cast isn’t great – the performance is very engaging and generally lovely to listen to.
The cutscene animations are good quality, which I’m guessing is where the re-mastering money went. It all played very smoothly on the system, and overall dark look really played into the dark atmosphere of the game. Generally speaking, the in-game scenes are the same text box and still picture that is still popular for handheld games. Nothing wrong with that, but given that there that audio in Japanese and the text in English, it can get a little confusing when you’ve been playing for several hours on end.
In terms of design, I do have some gripes with the overall look. Like I said, the labyrinth is hideous and rolling through it gave me headaches. Some of the design choices are unintentionally funny. The helmets the soldiers wear make me think of Lego figurines, and some of the monster designs are a little lazy (I mean, static monster? Really?). Still, the actual quality of the art cannot be denied, and it is mostly a pretty game to look at when you can stand to look at it.
There are difficulty modes and I started out on Casual mode, due to the aforementioned lapse in my gaming career, but I ended up switching to Normal cause it was a little too easy. Shin Megami Tensei games are notoriously tough but I found that Normal was very manageable. Still, you could probably blast through the game on Casual and still get a great experience out of it.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is a most enjoyable adventure that uses a complex story, cool designs, and creepy atmosphere to keep you from chucking you 3DS across the room every time you get lost. I’m not sure this is something I would pick up on my own, but I feel like it has an expanded my gaming palette.
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Fun dungeon crawler but too much emphasis on the "crawl"
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux does tend to drag a bit, but the story, characters, and gameplay are strong enough to keep you invested as you run around in circles. The omission of any English voiceovers is also troubling. However, if you’re a dungeon crawler fan or a fan of the franchise, this is going to be your bread and butter.