Sunday, June 3, 2018

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (3DS) Review

Following in the storied tradition of re-releases, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey now has a Redux. This release sees a new playable character, new endings, a new multi-level dungeon, some new story scenes, new monsters and some updated elements, such as UI changes.  Sounds nice, but admittedly it's a little lost on me.  I have not played the previous release, so I won't be as privy to these changes.  I do appreciate the added content.

Although part of the SMT series, Strange Journey is a spin-off, much like Nocturne. As such, it plays very similarly to the core games, but with a few differences. You still have demons in your party, and must recruit and fuse them to gain more. Like Nocturne, your main character is also a party member. While having a steady battle participant is good, it also means that having him incapacitated can mean game over.

I actually had that happen a few times. The random aspects of battle has that effect. Fights range from simple affairs too winning by the skin of your teeth. It really depends on how many enemies appear, and if they decide to spam certain techniques.  I can tolerate that, but it's far from ideal for my playstyle.  Later on there is an app that prevents game over from losing the main character in battle, which I understand is one of the new additions to Redux.  That's a good change!

Winning a fight gives experience, but it seems relative to the strength of the opponent.  This means grinding isn't that effective, which is an odd choice for a dungeon crawling-centric game.  Another big gripe I have with the game is the stat gain from leveling up.  It's random.  I'm very much against that idea.  Supposedly your random gains will favor whatever support you got from the opening personality quiz, but again, it's random.  While I'm mentioning it, I'm not really a fan of quizzes like that, either.  Just let me pick my focus instead of arbitrarily assigning me one based off vague answers to silly questions.  Or better yet, let me distribute my own stats!

In some cases, recruiting demons is easier than previous SMT game I've played.  Their speech and corresponding answers make more sense than they have (to me) in past games.  However, there are some cases where it is a lot harder.  Demons have alignments.  If they are a similar alignment to your main character, you may be able to recover from a wrong answer, or refuse more demon requests before negotiations break down.  On the flip side, opposing alignments won't even talk to you.  That seems a bit harsh.  Later in the game, there are some ways to get a tiny chance for them to join, but it's still far from ideal.  One step forward, one step back.

As mentioned before, you can fuse demons in your party to create new ones.  This feels very similar to previous SMT games.  You can pass on a skill or two, but the resulting demon has set skills and stats.  You can also pay money to re-summon any demon you have previously recruited. It's expensive, but occasionally worth it.  It's a good system for passing on skills, and filling out your demon book, but the fact that the resulting demon always starts at a set level with their own stats means it doesn't always help you move forward.  If you give up two level 10 demons, and they make a level 7, you are down in both power and numbers.  Choosing when and who to fuse is a skill, and not one I have mastered.

You can choose to pass on certain skills with demon sources, but after the first of each, you have to get lucky to get more.  I'm not a fan of that, nor of having the main character's skills based off his gun, with a few from apps.  Since they were updating features, it seems like there were a few that could have been made to skills and demon fusing to make it more player-friendly.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux was still kind of fun, despite the personal issues I have with the game.  If you really enjoyed the previous release, there is enough new content to bring people back for another helping.  If you were interested before, but didn't play it yet, this seems to be the definitive edition.  Might as well get this release instead.  People more familiar with the later Persona/SMT games should probably stick to those.

The Good:
New content and some good changes likely make this the superior release of the game.

The Bad:
Too much random stuff for my tastes.

The SaHD:
I feel like the plot and early story developments are straight from some low-budget SciFi, sorry, SyFy movie of the week.

(Review code for Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was received from the publisher)

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