Remasters! Always more remasters…not to mention remakes! There’s a pretty good chance you’re not me, which means there’s a pretty good chance you don’t actually play every single game that comes out. You might have missed a few, which is why remasters exist: to give you a chance to play enhanced versions of those games you missed! Or, uh, to replay games you didn’t miss but really enjoyed. Case in point: Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, a 3DS rerelease of a classic DS RPG that adds in new content and various improvements to try and lure in new and old players alike.
The Earth’s in a bad way. It’s not global warming, nuclear war or anything so mundane this time – no, this time a giant black hole is erupting in Anarctica and soon it’s going to swallow the planet. The “Schwarzwelt,” as it’s called, appears to be an impenetrable force that destroys anything that enters…but shielded drones have discovered that there’s an entire world inside, one with bizarre similarities to our own. As a member of an expeditionary force tasked with entering the Scwarzwelt, your job is to explore this strange world and try to find a way to save the planet before it’s too late.
This is a Shin Megami Tensei game, so naturally you’re going to be doing this in typical dungeon-crawler style with a team of demons by your side. If you’ve played one of these games before you know what this is all about – hardcore turn-based combat that revolves around attacking enemies’ weak points and fighting as efficiently as possible. Attacking a weak point results in a powerful follow-up attack from allies of the same alignment as the attacker, and given that your main character’s alignment can shift, this means the ideal party for any given situation can vary significantly from player to player.
Between fights, you can collect new demon allies, combine them into stronger forms and upgrade your gear and their skills. Dungeon exploration itself has its own challenges, with each level becoming more devious with traps, hidden doors and so on strewn all over the place. It starts tough and largely remains tough throughout; expect to struggle if you want to get through this one.
New content in this edition includes a (very badass) new character and (awesome) dungeon, both of which are more than enough to sate returning players – the introduction of the former, which is integrated into the original plot, was shocking and helped draw me into this version’s new content. There are new demons to check out as well, filling out level and alignment gaps in the original game’s lineup, and a selection of difficulty levels – that might be valuable if you found this one just a tiny bit too difficult originally. This isn’t necessary worth a rebuy all on its own, but it’s a fantastic addition for new players.
Presentation-wise, I’m told that Strange Journey Redux doesn’t actually have any 3D elements, which, uh…doesn’t matter much to me as someone incapable of using that feature. Might bother you if you’re really into the 3D aspect of the 3DS, though, so buyer beware! Otherwise Redux offers the original game but moreso, souping up the graphical and audible presentations all around; there’s full Japanese voice acting now as well, which presumably can be attributed to the greater storage available on the 3DS.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is a great dungeon-crawler, though not necessarily one that merits a second playthrough. Instead, it’s easiest to recommend to players who’ve never been on this particular journey before. As with most remasters and remakes, Strange Journey Redux is at its best when you’re approaching it with a completely open mind – and there’s no better way to do that than playing it for the first time.