RTTP: Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
Or: If you've only played Nocturne and not this one you're just a poser.




Eschewing the usual SMT setting of apocalyptic Japan, Strange Journey throws you into the Schwarzvelt, a demon infested alternate dimension that's slowly creeping its way across the planet, threatening to swallow it whole. What follows is an epic dungeon crawling adventure through the various realms of the Schwarzvelt, desperately crawling through as you try to escape back to Earth.

Strange Journey rocks so hard, and is a testament to when a well worn series decides to break free and try something bold and innovative. It's a game that milks every ounce of dread it can from its oppressive and dangerous environment, which is all the more impressive since its all crunched down into the teeny tiny DS screens. Walking down the twisted labyrinths in the Schwarzvelt is unabashedly retro to first person dungeon crawlers of the past like prior SMT games, modernized in a way without taking away the core fun of trekking your way through dense, twisting mazes filled with danger.

Combat in the game tosses out the famous Press Turn system from games like Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, and I'd say that's for the better. Press Turn motivated a combat style of dishing out as much damage as you could, something that was perfected in SMTIV: Apocalypse, but Strange Journey flips the whole ordeal on its head. Instead of dealing out massive loads of damage, Strange Journey is about survival. The name of the game is surviving enemy counters, and protecting yourself from their attacks. Enemies when first encountered appear as nameless formless blobs, and you have to fight them multiple times to uncover their resistances. I see a lot of complaints about this but I love it to bits. Strange Journey is a very harsh, unforgiving game, and making every battle you face a life or death circumstance where you don't know what's coming next, even if you're a seasoned SMT veteran, is the kind of tension you just don't get in RPGs.

I love Strange Journey and so should you. There's a 3DS remake of the game called Strange Journey Redux that works a lot like other expanded releases of Atlus titles like Nocturne and Devil Survivor, with new story elements and gameplay. I... am not a fan, but I would really rather everyone play Strange Journey than lose out on the best SMT game out there.
 

Vinchenz

Member
Oct 25, 2017
94
Canada
Fantastic game, I like it better than SMTIV (though I have not played Apocalypse). I am in agreement on the original being better than the 3DS remake! But if anyone wants a hardcore dungeon crawler, I cannot recommend any version of this enough.
 

BennyWhatever

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,650
US
I'm about 15 hours into this game. Been playing it for 3 years or so off and on. I really really like it; it's just so exhausting that I can only do it in small doses. I'll finish it some day.
 

Elodes

Looks to the Moon
Member
Nov 1, 2017
716
The Netherlands
It's seriously an incredible game, just ridiculously engaging and with suuuch stellar atmosphere. Got one of the greatest soundtracks I know, too. I love it a ton.
 

Sumio Mondo

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,775
Great game. Incredibly brutal in both story content and difficulty (probably the hardest Atlus RPG). Also it's Kaneko's final SMT and the last SMT that Shoji Meguro composed the music for. Both of them went out with a bang.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
fuck this game but also like it was amazing. I cant really put my finger on it
It's a brutal, unforgiving atmosphere and a thick layer of dread that envelops you as you march through the evil demonic grocery store. You never know what demon is coming next and what it'll hit you with, and there's no way to be 100% prepared for your next encounter.

It's a spectacular feeling.
 

MontlyCure

Member
Oct 27, 2017
501
FL
I came to this game after I had finished Persona 4 thinking it would be similar since they were both in the SMT universe.

I was wrong.

I've never had my ass kicked so hard by a video game. This is without a doubt probably the most difficult game I have ever finished. I had no clue what I was getting myself into and some of the final dungeons are absolutely brutal with the traps and teleporters. I'm pretty sure I took the most difficult alignment route as well (neutral) but I could be wrong. The final boss was a major pain in the ass.

I adored the game though. The soundtrack is so different from anything else with its weird ass chanting but it's so good. I've thought about trying the updated version but I honestly don't think I have it in me to go through it again.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
Adore this game so much! I hope Bugaboo knows how much I love him
Do you love Bugaboo enough to
fuse yourself with him?

Great game. Incredibly brutal in both story content and difficulty (probably the hardest Atlus RPG). Also it's Kaneko's final SMT and the last SMT that Shoji Meguro composed the music for. Both of them went out with a bang.
At least Kaneko went out with a bang.

Let him rest in the flower field.
 

Mondai

Member
Dec 8, 2018
1,659
Probably the hardest Shin Megami players I played , some of those route bosses are pure BS. Still a great game and the best DS SMT game.
 

Verder

Member
Oct 28, 2017
75
It's a brutal, unforgiving atmosphere and a thick layer of dread that envelops you as you march through the evil demonic grocery store. You never know what demon is coming next and what it'll hit you with, and there's no way to be 100% prepared for your next encounter.

It's a spectacular feeling.
basically this!

Im really hoping SMT V is a mixture of IV (apocalypse) and Strange Journey. I need some dark Switch rpgs
 

the_wart

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,337
I've had this in my backlog since it originally came out but only gave it a real go a few months ago. I agree that the game benefits quite a bit from dropping Press Turn, which I find makes combat pretty one dimensional in that there is an obvious "correct" approach to each encounter. Here, it's up to you to figure out a good approach based on whatever demons and abilities you have available, and that may or may not come down to exploiting weaknesses.

I also don't really think the game is that hard, outside one or two bosses that were WTF moments. Standard Souls rules apply: take it slow, don't get greedy. I've heard the end boss is ludicrous though.

Dunno when I'll get around to finishing the game. I got to the 6th stratum and kind of stalled out, probably because the infamous 5th stratum was such a doozy. Some of the trolliest dungeon design I've seen in a modern game, that. Though I do kind of appreciate that even though you have the automap, the game still strongly encourages you to bust out the graph paper once in a while.

Right now my feeling is that the game is just too long. Every stratum has felt like it was stretched just a bit thin, and it's like, can we just move things along now instead of hitting yet another setback that sends me running back and forth. It contributes to the oppressive and desperate atmosphere, but, well, I don't really want to feel that oppressed.
 

RochHoch

Member
May 22, 2018
3,862
Why do people hate the 3DS remake again?

Is it just because of the new endings? Because you can just ignore the added content.

Granted I never got around to starting the 5th stratum in that game, but I really enjoyed it.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
Why do people hate the 3DS remake again?

Is it just because of the new endings? Because you can just ignore the added content.

Granted I never got around to starting the 5th stratum in that game, but I really enjoyed it.
Look at this way.

George Lucas added a whole bunch of new stuff to the Star Wars films, often to their detriment. Do you think they can be saved from that criticism because "you can just close your eyes during the CG parts?"

Add to that the aesthetic changes, the lowered difficulty, the lack of English VA, and the betrayal of the original text's themes in favour of schlocky anime power fantasies, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
 

RochHoch

Member
May 22, 2018
3,862
Look at this way.

George Lucas added a whole bunch of new stuff to the Star Wars films, often to their detriment. Do you think they can be saved from that criticism because "you can just close your eyes during the CG parts?"

Add to that the aesthetic changes, the lowered difficulty, the lack of English VA, and the betrayal of the original text's themes in favour of schlocky anime power fantasies, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
I wouldn't say that the Star Wars comparison is entirely apt here because, as far as I know, if you ignore the new stuff, you get practically the exact same experience as the original. You're only "closing your eyes" to stuff that you have the option to almost completely ignore in the first place, it's not like a movie that gets screwed over by glaringly bad changes all throughout it.

The lowered difficulty is a bit of an issue, I agree, but the game absolutely isn't a cakewalk even then, and the lack of English VA makes sense considering that this is a niche 3DS game that came out well after the launch of the Switch, we're lucky that Atlus localized it at all. As for the aesthetic changes, it's purely a matter of taste. As someone who's not very familiar with the older stuff, I think the character designs look pretty good.

You're right, the remake definitely shouldn't be exempt from criticism, but I don't think that any of its flaws are big enough to prevent it from being a perfectly suitable way of experiencing Strange Journey as long as you don't bother with the new endings. Its not optimal to be sure, but still good.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
I wouldn't say that the Star Wars comparison is entirely apt here because, as far as I know, if you ignore the new stuff, you get practically the exact same experience as the original. You're only "closing your eyes" to stuff that you have the option to almost completely ignore in the first place, it's not like a movie that gets screwed over by glaringly bad changes all throughout it.

The lowered difficulty is a bit of an issue, I agree, but the game absolutely isn't a cakewalk even then, and the lack of English VA makes sense considering that this is a niche 3DS game that came out well after the launch of the Switch, we're lucky that Atlus localized it at all. As for the aesthetic changes, it's purely a matter of taste. As someone who's not very familiar with the older stuff, I think the character designs look pretty good.

You're right, the remake definitely shouldn't be exempt from criticism, but I don't think that any of its flaws are big enough to prevent it from being a perfectly suitable way of experiencing Strange Journey as long as you don't bother with the new endings. Its not optimal to be sure, but still good.
Apart from the intrusion of OC New Girl in the base game even if you go out of your way to ignore the additional content, the new stuff is there entirely to supercede the original endings to the point of
revealing all the original endings as bad ends for the story that need to be rectified, and Lucifer showing up to fistbump you for taking the new endings.
If we're going out of our way to ignore dozens of hours leading to a slew of terrible new endings then why is it even there? I know it can be ignored but I'm saying I shouldn't have to.

I'd rather people play the remake than not play Strange Journey at all, but it's a poor substitute for the game's original vision.
 

Discoalucard

Member
Oct 28, 2017
95
NJ
In the DS version, the battles were insanely dull to watch, as three-frame animated sprites huffed in place while opponents traded numbers. The 3DS version sped it up and included the battle animations from IV/Apocalypse and for that, it's already massively superior to the original.

New story content is bad though, yeah.
 

cj_iwakura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,731
Coral Springs, FL
If it had the production values and fleshed out characterization of Nocturne, it would be perfect. As it is, it's just Very Good.

And agreed: it is easily THE hardest SMT game. It never, ever loses its teeth. Good luck breaking it, you can't.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
If it had the production values and fleshed out characterization of Nocturne, it would be perfect. As it is, it's just Very Good.

And agreed: it is easily THE hardest SMT game. It never, ever loses its teeth. Good luck breaking it, you can't.
Eeehhh, see I think the cramped dungeons and low res presentation of the game really helps sell the crushing oppression of the Schwarzvelt. SJR gave the worlds a more lively and fleshed out look thanks to stronger hardware and consequently I feel they look a little less threatening and dangerous.

Plus I feel the characterization is right there as much as it was in Nocturne. Jiminez and Zelenin start out as perfectly normal people and gradually succumb to the fanatical extremism of the Law and Chaos war. And when Gore comes back and you take the Neutral path as he tells you not to forget your determination? Don't even tell me that's not the coolest thing.
 

cj_iwakura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,731
Coral Springs, FL
Eeehhh, see I think the cramped dungeons and low res presentation of the game really helps sell the crushing oppression of the Schwarzvelt. SJR gave the worlds a more lively and fleshed out look thanks to stronger hardware and consequently I feel they look a little less threatening and dangerous.

Plus I feel the characterization is right there as much as it was in Nocturne. Jiminez and Zelenin start out as perfectly normal people and gradually succumb to the fanatical extremism of the Law and Chaos war. And when Gore comes back and you take the Neutral path as he tells you not to forget your determination? Don't even tell me that's not the coolest thing.
The ideas are cool, but they just feel hamstrung by the budget.

You have nothing as stylized as THIS in presentation in SJ, and it hurts.



Imagine if they were able to do things like that with any of SJ's cast.
 

GKSilKamina

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,410
Festering Swamp, USA
One of the best damn games you can play on the DS. I got lucky and found a copy at Best Buy years ago for $9. Easily one of the best gaming purchases I've made.

I still haven't beaten it thanks to getting my ass stomped so hard by a boss I needed to take a break.

...for a few years.

I'll beat it someday.
 
OP
OP
Weiss

Weiss

Member
Oct 25, 2017
17,045
The ideas are cool, but they just feel hamstrung by the budget.

You have nothing as stylized as THIS in presentation in SJ, and it hurts.



Imagine if they were able to do things like that with any of SJ's cast.
Strange Journey is unabashedly retro in its presentation harkening back to SMTI, II, and the Devil Summoner games. I don't think the game's closed off and oppressive aesthetic would come off the right way if it looked like Nocturne.
 

cj_iwakura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,731
Coral Springs, FL
Strange Journey is unabashedly retro in its presentation harkening back to SMTI, II, and the Devil Summoner games. I don't think the game's closed off and oppressive aesthetic would come off the right way if it looked like Nocturne.
I agree, and I get what it's going for, I just lament for what could have been. Imagine, say, Eridanus looking like the Amala Temple area does.
 

Ladioss

Member
Oct 29, 2017
832
IV is very good, and much closer to Nocturne, but it never quite hits SJ's highs(aside from the god-tier OST).
I have read horror stories about SMT IV's dungeons, stories I don't dare speaking about for fear of tainting my soul. But it's the first time I've seen it compared favorably to Nocturne. You almost piqued my interest.

Still, Strange Journey is such a great piece of fanservice for the old, 90s SMT crowd !
 

jonjonaug

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,627
I don't think the difficulty changes in the 3DS port are a bad thing. Being able to use as many apps as you want is fine, seeing as in the original you would basically just have the demon talk apps on all the time except during boss fights anyway, so now you can actually get use out of the upgrades you're getting You're likely to gain a few extra levels as you go through the game if you do the bonus content, but this doesn't make the rest of the game that much easier. You don't have to grind for a few hours just to beat the final boss without cheesing it now, which is nice.

Being able to save anywhere does take some tension out of things though. The game paces its save locations very well.
 

Everywhere

Member
Jun 12, 2019
130
One of the best games I have ever played.

And I'd recommend the original over remaster. Remaster is a lot easier and there's too much extra content in the way of the main story.

Atlus' games always longer than they should be.
 

cj_iwakura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,731
Coral Springs, FL
I have read horror stories about SMT IV's dungeons, stories I don't dare speaking about for fear of tainting my soul. But it's the first time I've seen it compared favorably to Nocturne. You almost piqued my interest.

Still, Strange Journey is such a great piece of fanservice for the old, 90s SMT crowd !
It literally uses the same combat system and has open 3D dungeons for the first time since Nocturne. They're just smaller scale, but Nocturne was clearly their inspiration.
 

the_wart

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,337
If it had the production values and fleshed out characterization of Nocturne, it would be perfect. As it is, it's just Very Good.

And agreed: it is easily THE hardest SMT game. It never, ever loses its teeth. Good luck breaking it, you can't.
I haven't finished SJ and it's been a looooong time since Nocturne, but I don't think I agree about characterization. In SJ you're seeing the full development from normalish person to avatar of an ideology, while in Nocturne, based on what I remember, you have a short conversation with a character once every 10 hours or so where they exposition dump their philosophy onto you. The characters in SJ are much more... charactery.

I did appreciate that Nocturne's ideologies diverged from what is by now a pretty tired order vs chaos binary, though. Of course Nocturne being my first SMT I wasn't really in a position to appreciate that at the time.

I have read horror stories about SMT IV's dungeons, stories I don't dare speaking about for fear of tainting my soul.
Horror stories like, they're hard, or horror stories like, they stink? If you mean the former, there's nothing in them that comes close to SJ. If you mean the latter, well, they're not great but I don't they've done permanent damage to anyone's immortal soul. Much of the game takes place in fairly open areas as opposed to conventional dungeons where there's a beginning and an end.
 
Last edited:

cj_iwakura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,731
Coral Springs, FL
I haven't finished SJ and it's been a looooong time since Nocturne, but I don't think I agree about characterization. In SJ you're seeing the full development from normalish person to avatar of an ideology, while in Nocturne, based on what I remember, you have a short conversation with a character once every 10 hours or so where they exposition dump their philosophy onto you. The characters in SJ are much more... charactery.
While that's true, you get tangible 3D scenes with the Reason characters. You see Chiaki and Isamu move around, interact, emote, physically change over the course of the game. SJ is basically(literally) just talking heads.
 

Mr. Capo

Member
Oct 26, 2017
377
I have read horror stories about SMT IV's dungeons, stories I don't dare speaking about for fear of tainting my soul. But it's the first time I've seen it compared favorably to Nocturne. You almost piqued my interest.
SMT IV's (and Apocalypse's) dungeon design is really poor, a far cry from titles like Digital Devil Saga and Nocturne.
 

the_wart

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,337
While that's true, you get tangible 3D scenes with the Reason characters. You see Chiaki and Isamu move around, interact, emote, physically change over the course of the game. SJ is basically(literally) just talking heads.
Sure. I don't know if I'd call that characterization though.

But also, this is a very offensive thing to say on an internet forum. You're insulting everyone in this thread, including yourself! Well, except for Ladioss.

That was a joke. Because we're all talking heads.
 

Sadist

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
2,236
Holland
This game is amazing.

The first SMT I ever played (Well I played Devil Survivor first) and what an introduction to the series. I did not think it was that hard, but I was cautious from the get go and thats why I escaped to safezones pretty quickly if I felt the demon would get the upperhand.

Mapping your surroundings and a bit of grinding worked wonders. Plus, fusing the right demons works wonders. I beat the final boss without getting a lot of damage because I got the right demons for the job and learned his attack pattern.
 

Pascal

The Fallen
Oct 28, 2017
4,218
I loooove the music in SJ. It really suits this game's oppressive atmosphere and it has such a unique and striking sound.