Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
|Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey|
North American boxart
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (Japanese: 真・女神転生 STRANGE JOURNEY Hepburn: Shin Megami Tensei Sutorenji Jānī?) is a role-playing video game developed by Atlus and Lancarse for the Nintendo DS. It is a title within the Megami Tensei series of video games, and was released in Japan on October 8, 2009 and in North America on March 23, 2010.
Strange Journey features dungeon crawl, first-person environments for the player to explore. Demons, the enemies encountered by the player, can be negotiated with, a staple in the Megami Tensei series, to join the protagonist's party, aiding him in combat. Players take on the role of an unnamed soldier assigned to a UN-mandated research team deployed to the South Pole to investigate an abnormal area in the region dubbed as the "Schwarzwelt" (German for "black world"). There, the protagonist discovers that the Schwarzwelt is full of demons, which can be persuaded to join him in battle.
The game was first hinted in mid 2009 with the Atlus staff wishing to depict danger on a worldwide scale through this game to appeal to the audience. Critical reception to Strange Journey has been positive with praise given to the gameplay and plot although the delivery of the latter has been criticized.
Strange Journey is a role-playing video game with dungeon crawl elements. The player controls the unnamed protagonist through several dungeons from a first person perspective. Battles with demons typically occur as random encounters and are turn-based. During encounters, players can choose to attack using items or skills, defend, retreat, or talk to one of the demons on the opposing side. When talking to demons, players must answer a series of multiple choice questions, appealing to the demon's specific personality, in order to gain the option to request items, Macca (in-game money), or for the demon to join the protagonist. The player can build a party of demons in order to aid in battle, registering demons in the Demon Compendium, which allows any demon the player has already owned to be summoned again for a fee.
The enemies in Strange Journey are called demons, a term encompassing creatures from different real-world mythologies, including Rapa Nui, Welsh, Hindu, and Christian mythologies. Demons are either encountered during random encounters in dungeons or during boss battles related to a mission. When an undiscovered demon is first encountered through a random encounter, it will appear as an indistinguishable blue mist. After defeating a new demon for the first time, any later encounters will allow the player to see the demon's sprite, name, and, after several encounters, skills and elemental strengths and weaknesses. By defeating demons, the player's party earns experience points which allow the protagonist and demons to grow stronger, Macca to buy items and use heal points, items, and "forma", which are materials which can be used aboard the Red Sprite to create new items and weapons.
Players are allowed to build a battle party of any combination of three demons. Each demon has different skills and traits, and many can be persuaded to join the player during battle after a negotiation and paid tribute. Players can fuse two or three demons together to create different, often more powerful demons. Some demons can only be obtained through fusion. Every demon has a unique password of thirty-two characters which can generated from the Compendium and shared with friends, enabling them to summon demons which they have never encountered before. Demons can be created through fusion which have different skills or attributes from their normal 'base' type, and for these, a different password will be stored in the Compendium along with the original password, allowing players to store custom demons.
At the beginning of the 21st century, a sudden massive atomic collapse occurs in the South Pole and causes a space abnormality known as the "Schwarzwelt" (シュバルツバース, Shubarutsubāsu, Schwarz-verse), which poses an imminent threat for humankind and the Earth. An expanding black void surrounded by a destructive plasma barrier, the Schwarzwelt threatens to consume the planet. Concerned with this threat, the United Nations sends a group of researchers and military personnel from all over the world to investigate the area. Four teams are sent to Antarctica to investigate the phenomenon, led by Commander Gore. Inside, the investigators quickly find themselves trapped in the Schwarzwelt and that the interior has been infested with demons seeking to take control of the human world.
The player assumes an unnamed soldier from America (Japan in the Japanese version) who will be working with three other crew members of the Red Sprite. Commander Gore (ゴア隊長 Goa-taichō?), leads the crew, with Jimenez (ヒメネス Himenesu?), an experienced, reward-seeking American mercenary, and Zelenin (ゼレーニン Zerēnin?), a knowledgeable Russian scientist. For protection in the Schwartzwelt's harsh conditions, the crew don advanced computerized armor suits called "Demonicas". While trapped in the Schwarzwelt, the protagonist must travel through several different sectors, each representing a social critique on humanity, ranging from battlefields, shopping malls, and red-light districts. The sectors house powerful demons that drop rare items when defeated, which allows the investigative crew to travel further into the Schwarzwelt as they search for an exit back to Earth.
During gameplay, the player must make moral decisions for the silent protagonist, which will alter his alignment towards Neutral, Chaos, or Law. Each of the other three main characters is representative of one of these alignments, respectively. By choosing which alignment the protagonist ultimately takes, the player can receive three different endings, each one pitting the protagonist against one of his comrades. By siding with Jimenez, the protagonist must face the angelic incarnation of Zelenin, who wants to place the human world under the rule of Heaven in which Mankind will be free of suffering but will pay the price by losing their free will forever. If the protagonist sides with Zelenin, he must defeat the half-demon Jimenez, who wants to free humanity by releasing demons into the human world, freeing mankind to do whatever it pleases, but leaving Earth as a primal, barbaric planet where the strong take whatever they want. By choosing the Neutral path, the protagonist must continue the original mission of destroying the Schwarzwelt, fighting both Jimenez and Zelenin along the way, to keep the human world exactly as it was.
The first information on a new title in the series appeared in the form of a teaser site created on July 16, 2009 for the Japanese Atlus website, depicting Earth with a large hole in the bottom. Using the image's source code, it was deciphered the game's title was Strange Journey and confirmed it to be a Megami Tensei title. A week later, Atlus officially announced the game for the Nintendo DS, clearing up the rumor among fans of another Persona game. Scans from Famitsu revealed four new characters as well as two demons, Bugaboo and Mansemat.
Kazuma Kaneko, the game's producer and creative designer explained that he had set the game in Antarctica instead of Japan to appeal to audiences outside of the game's native country. Eiji Ishida, the game's chief designer commented that "In order to depict danger on a worldwide scale, we needed to select an appropriate setting...So we chose Antartica." Also, the team decided not to designate a number in the title to minimize confusion outside Japan. Strange Journey uses the same dungeon crawl game engine as the Etrian Odyssey series, also developed by Atlus and Lancarse. The success of Etrian Odyssey in the console convinced the staff to make the game in the Nintendo DS due to its amount of fans.
In early November, Atlus USA announced a North American release, sometime in the spring of 2010. Atlus USA revealed in December 2009 that it would be bundling a soundtrack with each launch copy of Strange Journey. The soundtrack features songs from the game written by composer Shōji Meguro, known for his extensive work on other titles in the series. In January 2010, Atlus then revealed that an exclusive mini-poster would also be bundled with the game in the US. The poster was to be exclusive to GameStop customers only, both in-store and online. Aram Jabbari, Manager of Public Relations and Sales at Atlus, commented that "Some of the best bonus items are the kind you can listen to, hence the soundtrack CD we're including with launch copies of the game. Still, sometimes you want a bonus item that you can feel..." Since the game's release, March 23, Atlus USA has given out exclusive demon passwords to fans to unlock otherwise inaccessible demons during gameplay.
Bonus soundtrack CD defect
Due to a manufacturing error, the Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Bonus Soundtrack CD packed with the game did not play properly. In an interview with Tim Pivnicny, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Atlus, apologized to fans on March 26, 2010 and thanked them for their support of Atlus games. "We are moving quickly with our manufacturing partner to replace defective soundtrack discs, launching a fulfillment site into which customers can input their information and receive a new soundtrack CD in 2–4 weeks", he explained. Atlus USA quickly fixed the problem by letting customers send their contact information to receive a new CD free of charge.
Strange Journey received positive to fair reviews from critics, earning a generably favorable score of 83 out of 100 on Metacritic. The game's plot have earned mixed reviews, but critics agree that Strange Journey's gameplay is above average. Strange Journey was named IGN's Nintendo DS Game of the Month in April 2010. Strange Journey sold 97,000 units in its first week, coming in third on the Japanese sales charts, behind only Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver and Wii Fit Plus. The game received very positive reviews from Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, which awarded the game 36 of 40 (10/9/9/8), the highest score the magazine had ever given to a Shin Megami Tensei title (tied with the original version of Shin Megami Tensei and Persona 4 Arena).
Charles Onyett of IGN called the game's plot "interesting" and "well-developed", concluding that there is a "surprising amount of personality in the game". Andrew Fitch, in his review on 1UP.com, commented that the game's story is the "same kooky MegaTen narrative fans have come to expect", but that fans will miss the voice acting of the Persona games. A reviewer on the The A.V. Club complained that "Much of the plot is delivered in huge text-dumps that can be a slog to get through." Lark Anderson of GameSpot agreed, calling the plot "excessively preachy", also making note that the dungeon design was too repetitive to be interesting.
Nintendo Power has given immense praise to the game, citing it as the game that proves that "a dungeon crawl doesn't have to be dull...in fact, there's very little it has to be at all." The editors also noted that, unlike Etrian Odyssey, the game featured in-game automapping, a positive. Anderson found that the variety of demons was the most favorable feature of the game. Andrew Fitch of 1UP called the gameplay a combination of "classically engrossing MegaTen and Etrian Odyssey", noting that the "same sense of exploration's still there, but there's also a meatier plot pulling you along". The critics in Famitsu praised the game's consistent balancing present throughout the game as well as commenting that while the player is having fun exploring, there is always a constant tension around. They also praised the demon combination system by saying that it was "the greatest asset the game has -- they give you better results the more you use them" as they allowed the battles to remain fresh and new. Famitsu also noted that "The tutorial is helpful, and the mission goals are clear enough that you're never really lost."
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