Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is an enhanced 3DS port of the 2010 DS original. Featuring a new character, an extra dungeon, new demons, and three additional endings, this is the definitive edition. The game adds new difficulty settings and quality of life features. The casual setting is what it sounds like with a massive gulf between casual and standard. The save anywhere further extends this iteration’s accessibility. Though, how does Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux stack up to other modern SMT games?
The main character is part of a special investigation unit. Several ships investigate Schwartzwelt, a demon-infested land, located in a dimensional rift. This rift, the cause of the current demon invasion, immobilizes every ship except the Red Sprite. Under Commander Gore and Arthur, the vehicle’s AI, the team is left stranded within the Schwartzwelt. Through Strange Journey Redux‘s 60+ hour adventure, the Red Sprite crew travels in search of an escape route while gathering information on the Schwartzwelt.
The game centers around a small cast of characters. The plot is nothing noteworthy. Though, it does contain some intriguing ideas. Knowing when to shut up is its greatest strength. Many JRPG’s fill their run-time with droning voices that add nothing to the conversation. Strange Journey‘s story respects more conventional narrative logic and pacing. Very few scenes drag on longer than they need to.
Strange Journey Redux‘s promotional material features Alex, a new character, though her half-assed inclusion is a major misstep. Each of her four or so appearances rarely exceed the two-minute mark. Her introduction feels more like an excuse to contextualize the new dungeon’s existence. You’ll awaken in the Womb of Grief after your first encounter with Alex. It can be visited at any time during the story, striking a proper balance of complexity without feeling like an annoying slog (Sector Eridanus, anyone?). However, Alex herself is criminally underused to the point that the promotional material feels deceitful.
Running on a modified version of the Etrian Odyssey engine, first-person exploration through increasingly labyrinthine dungeons is the name of the game. Antlia, the first sector, offers a decent stepping stone for later challenges. This first glacial environment is simple enough for both veterans and newcomers to acclimate to Strange Journey‘s core mechanics before navigation becomes an area of concern. Most dungeons are well-designed with interesting layouts and gimmicks. Sector Eridanus is the outlier as it wades into frustrating territory. The combination of holes, switches, and a required item hunt within Eridanus’ teleporter maze makes it a nightmare.
The Womb of Grief, however, might just be the game’s most interesting dungeon. While optional, progress through it is required to access Strange Journey Redux‘s new chaos, law, and neutral endings. Players looking to find all six fruit fragments required for the Womb of Grief’s completion will lose several hours of their life to it. It’s a wonderful “sick day” experience.
Demons and Alignments
As the franchise’s most distinctive feature, demon negotiation still exists, though minor revisions positively impact the experience. The act of negotiation hasn’t changed, but new underlying mechanics alter the player’s approach. Alignments, the series staple that determines a player’s ending, play a larger role than in other modern SMT games. Alignments are prescribed to demons as well as the player. A negotiation’s difficulty hinges upon compatibility. If the main character and demon share the exact same alignment, one flubbed response is brushed aside, allowing more wiggle room for the player. Initiating a conversation with a demon whose alignment falls on the opposite end of the spectrum is a delicate balancing act. One incorrect response is enough to spark fiery rage, allowing the opposition to act first in combat.
In addition to this balancing act, dark-aligned demons are averse to conversation as are all demons under a full moon. Every few steps progresses the moon cycle. Acting as a basic time of day system, it’s another mechanic that adds to Strange Journey Redux‘s mental acuity. Make no mistake. While Strange Journey Redux‘s additions make it more accessible, it is still primarily aimed at hardcore role-playing fans. If you don’t want to spend minutes deliberating upon things like party composition and demon fusion, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Co-op attacks further add to Strange Journey Redux‘s strategic pool. These replace the press turn system introduced in Nocturne. Whereas the press turn system offered an extra turn or chance to perform an “all-out attack” when elemental weaknesses were exploited, co-op attacks require more careful consideration. Party members perform co-op attacks when they share the attacker’s alignment. A co-op attack’s strength depends on how many members are aligned with the attacker. A level 1 co-op strike occurs when only one member is on the same wavelength while level 3 denotes the entire party’s participation.
This alteration doesn’t dramatically alter the flow of combat, but it is a more mentally taxing challenge for those that choose to engage with it. Demon fusion and forming parties has an extra layer because of this mechanic. Some may see it as a hassle, but it fixes the press turn system’s borderline broken nature. Fans don’t buy this kind of game to experience a carefree role-playing game. They’re in it because they relish in employing planned out strategies.
Strange Journey Redux is comfort food. Longstanding SMT fans will take solace in its familiarity. Its changes are minor enough to prevent it from feeling foreign, but significant enough to satiate the worn out folk. Its underwhelming status as an enhanced port may put off owners of the original, but it comes highly recommended to newcomers looking for a challenging turn-based role-playing game.
Disclaimer: Review code provided by publisher