|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 24, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
December 11, 2009 - The Shin Megami Tensei franchise has enjoyed a serious boost in popularity in recent years. With titles Like Devil Summoner, Devil Survivor, and the Persona series releasing titles in the last year, the SMT franchise certainly has been expanding. However, with all these new spin-off and offshoot franchises releasing new iterations, it seems the core SMT series has been all but forgotten. In fact, the last entry in the series was Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, which was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005. A lot has changed for the franchise since then, but the newest entry in the franchise seems to be getting back to basics.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is the next entry in the core SMT series, and it will have all of the typical conventions you might expect from an SMT title. The game revolves around a mysterious disturbance in the South Pole, where it seems that a dark void has opened up. Demons are beginning to populate this area, and as you and your team probe the area further, a government conspiracy comes to light, and dire consequences seem imminent.
The plot of the game is going to be very dark in theme, which is on par with most other SMT titles. Another area of the game that is going to fall squarely in-line with other games in the franchise is the gameplay. SMT: Strange Journey is going to feature demon-based gameplay where players can fuse and form alliances with demons and eventually add them to their party.
Each battle party can only have one human (the main character) and three demons, so party-forming strategy will be an integral part of the gameplay. In addition to adding demons based on skills and power level, Strange Journey will add a new element to the demon summoning strategy: alignment. Demon alignment can range from lawful to chaotic, and demons who have the same alignment on a team can join forces to perform bonus melee attacks after an elemental attack has been performed on an enemy that is weak to that specific element. This part of the battle system is known as the "demon co-op" system, and will likely be a very large element of the strategic elements of the game.
In addition to the new demon co-op system, players will also have greater control over the demon fusion system as well as demon negotiating. The demon fusion aspect will be very robust and will include item bonuses in addition to traditional fusion. The negotiation aspect has also been beefed up in this title, and there is no set "formula" for how a demon will react to a specific negotiation tactic, so you'll have to use new tactics every time you try to talk to a demon.
Another aspect that has been improved for Strange Journey is the weapon and armor upgrade system. Your human character will have plenty of customizable abilities, beginning with their weapons. The main character can wield both a sword and a gun, each with its own uses in battle. The sword is used for melee attacks, and although it is not upgradeable, it can be swapped out for different tactical models with stronger attack and bonus skills.
The gun, however, can be fully customized and is the base of the special attack system. All special attacks will be performed with the gun, and you will be able to equip these skills to the gun as you progress through the game. Your armor suit is also fully customizable, and can be improved with main apps (which permanently affect performance) and sub-apps (which can be switched out). The customization system in this title seems to be quite robust, and it will definitely give strategy-minded players something to be excited about.
The game experience itself is also supposed to be quite lengthy, with Atlus reps telling us that the main story mode will take players at least 20 hours to complete. However, there are many side quests and extra bonus content that players can participate in that will extend the experience to 40 or more hours. And like previous SMT games, once the game has been beaten on normal mode, a game plus mode will be unlocked.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey looks like a welcome return to form for the SMT series at large. Though it has been five years since we have had a proper SMT game, Strange Journey looks like it won't miss a beat. With old elements like demon negotiating and demon fusion being combined with new elements, Strange Journey looks like it will be a great entry in the series that fans of both the core series and the recent spin-offs can enjoy.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor