Strange Journey Redux:
The Shin Megami Tensei games have always been a bit niche, and more than a little weird. This dark, brooding and strangely styled series often presents a more mature take on a genre that is usually joyful and upbeat. Strange Journey, originally released on the DS system, was similarly moody and difficult, and now nearly ten years later it’s got a 3DS remake.
As one of the best Megaten games I’ve ever played, I was eager to go back and see if it holds up after all this time (it does).
Strange Journey relishes in bucking JRPG trends at every turn. Instead of peppy high schoolers taking on cataclysmic threats, this dark tale focused on a group of soldiers sent in to a black hole that’s opened in the North Pole called the Schwarzwelt. As a threat that could devour the Earth, your player character, along with several teams, are sent in to investigate and exterminate the threat.
What you find inside the rift – aside from a lot of death – is a strange parallel universe that mirrors a lot of the uglier elements of humanity. A lot of the plot in Strange Journey is pretty dark, and it doesn’t shy away from twisting the knife every now and then. Characters die, the world is populated by vicious demons you have to broker deals with and the chances of a happy ending always seem to be dwindling.
It’s a strong tale though, one that is more ambitious than a lot of genre contemporaries, and I was always eager to see where it would go next, even though some of the storytelling was a little too dense for me at times. As is the case with a lot of JRPGs, the plot tends to get lost in itself every now and then, getting convoluted for the sake of it. It’s a trope I wish Strange Journey had bucked along with the rest of them.
Much like other Shin Megami Tensei games, Strange Journey Redux sees you making your way through treacherous maps in a first person dungeon crawling set up. You’ll encounter mobs of enemies – the usual stable of Megaten demons that we’ve all battled and befriended a hundred times over – and take them to task.
If you’ve played Persona 5 you’ll know about the Demon Negotiation system. Whilst it’s new to the Persona spin off series, it’s been a staple of Megaten games for a lot longer. It’s in full force here, with a set up that asks you read and react to a Demon’s personality on the fly to get them to join your team. Screw up and say something they don’t like and they’ll refuse to join, but play your cards right and you might just have an otherworldly comrade to add to your ranks going forwards.
It’s a twist on the monster-capturing mechanics from games like Pokemon, and it’s as addictive here as anywhere else. Getting a squad of demons to do your dirty work is a fun premise that’s expanded on in interesting ways – including the excellent Demon Fusion system that allows you to mash your favourite monsters together in the hopes of getting something even more powerful. It proves to be the driving force behind the game as you continually upgrade your team and become a more formidable presence in a world that – at first – seemed utterly unconquerable.
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