4.0 out of 5


  • Voice acting
  • Choices
  • Talking to demons
  • Variable difficulty
  • Title music during the intro


  • Hard-hitting enemies
  • FPS graphics from 1990s

Megami Tensei
File Size (Minimum)
1.67GB (13,669 blocks)
Release Date (NA)
May 15, 2018
Release Date (JP)
Oct 26, 2017

Filed Under

To celebrate 25 years of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise in Japan, Atlus released Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux for the Nintendo 3DS, and this enhanced port of the Nintendo DS sci-fi/horror RPG delivers a solid gameplay experience that’s accessible to both series veterans and newcomers alike.

It’s also the first game in the franchise, or any of its spin-offs, that I’ve ever played.

20XX: An Earth Oddity

In the 21st century, an unknown spatial anomaly later called the Schwarzwelt (German for “Black World”) appeared at the Antarctic South Pole, and while small at first, it has since grown exponentially, showing no signs of stopping. Most importantly, its outer barrier destroys everything that comes into contact with it, threatening the existence of not only the planet, but also mankind itself. Confronted by this fact, and hoping to prevent the public from panicking, the United Nations secretly forms an expedition team of the world’s best soldiers and scientists, and tasks them with entering the Schwarzwelt to investigate so a solution can be found.

You play as a male member of the expedition’s strike team whose job it is to go on missions and provide protection from any hostile forces. At the beginning, you give him a first and last name, and you’ll be referred one way or another throughout the game. Joining you are Lieutenant Zelenin, a scientist noted for her research on the Schwarzwelt; Jimenez, a hot-blooded and wise-cracking strike team member who just wants to survive another day; Arthur, an administrative artificial intelligence unit who assists the team; Commander Gore, the brave, confident, and decisive leader of the expedition; and a smattering of other crew members who may or may not survive the journey.

You’ll also encounter a mysterious woman named Alex with her own motives for being in the Schwarzwelt, as well as a few hundred demons, each type with its own distinct personality and speech mannerisms. From a pig that sounds like an old woman to a giant brute who’s a real bro, the demons are actually some of the more interesting characters.

Indeed, the collision of human and demon, as well as human and human in a terrifying situation, makes for some solid dialogue, and all the major story cutscenes in the game are fully voiced in Japanese. There is no English acting; it’s all subtitled. Depending on how you feel about English dubs, this is either a good or bad thing, but I’ve heard great voice work in other Atlus RPGs. Then again, considering how a character like Irving (the materials specialist) was translated in the text to talk with a thick Southern accent, it’s probably for the best that he’s heard only in Japanese. Besides, I’ve been watching subtitled anime for over twenty years, so I can tell that they’re using a solid cast. That’s important in a title such as this where conveying the right amount of emotion in a stressful situation is key to audience immersion. Of course, for those players who don’t want to hear the voices and/or want to get right back into the action, there are options to turn the volume down and to fast-forward through scenes. (Even I was tempted to do that during the rather lengthy 20-minute opening sequence.)

You Must Choose, but Choose Wisely

During these cutscenes and other instances throughout the game, you’ll be doing more than just passively watching the action unfold. Your character will regularly be given a choice as to how to respond to a situation or a question. From something as simple as deciding whether or not to shake someone’s hand, to harder ones like determining if a demon is thinking you’re a self-described hero, businessman, or stranger is a good thing; you’ll be answering hundreds of questions before the journey’s end.

Moreover, the choices you make have a real impact on both the story and the gameplay. To start with, your choices affect your alignment, which can either be lawful, neutral, or chaotic. From a story perspective, your alignment determines which of the three endings to the game you’ll see, which is standard for games with such a system. On the gameplay side, however, is where things become interesting. Just like you, demons can also have an alignment, and your compatibility either makes it easier or harder to interact with them.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux


Deal with the Devil

Why would you even care about interacting with demons? Simply put, you need them to survive. The protagonist aside, your battle party will consist entirely of demons, and to recruit them, you’ll first need to convince them you’re worth it.

After you enter combat, but before the fighting actually begins, you almost always have the option to talk to any and all demons on screen. This is when each side’s alignment first comes into play. If both you and the demon are of similar alignment, or if they simply don’t care, the demon will begin to ask you a couple multiple-choice questions. If you answer in a way favorable to their disposition, they’ll like you, and if they like you enough, you’ll be given the option to begin negotiations. During the negotiation phase, you can then ask the demon to join you, give you an item, give you money, or do nothing. Once you state your intentions, the demon will ask something of you, and it will be either some of your life (hit points), your energy points (used for special skills), your money, an item, or nothing. Moreover, they will sometimes ask for one of them multiple times. Once again, depending on each side’s alignment, their requests can be just one or two things, or there can be many, many rounds before they’re satisfied. Finally, once the negotiations are over and the pound of flesh is delivered, you’ll get what’s coming to you, and the battle will automatically end.

Of course, there are several points where this process can and will fail, beginning with whether or not you can talk to the creature in the first place. When you encounter a new enemy for the first time, they will register as an Unknown, and that’s taken quite literally. On the combat screen, they’ll show up as an amorphous, pixelated blob and their speech will consist of nonsensical alphanumeric characters. You can certainly try to guess at what they’re saying, but most attempts will fail. Fortunately, once you defeat it, you’ll be able to identify it and speak to it normally.

The second point of failure is if each side’s alignment is too different. If so, the demon will be more than happy to let you know they’re not interested, then be ready to attack you once you’re done talking to everyone. This also happens if you’re not able to answer their questions in a way that they like, which can be quite difficult. As noted earlier, the various types of demons have different personalities, ranging from childish and sarcastic to noble and cunning, and it can sometimes be quite difficult to accurately read it and then answer correctly. Plus, even if you fail (or reload the game), try talking to them again, and manage to get the same question asked, the correct answer won’t always be the same.

The third place where things can go wrong is in the negotiation phase. If you deny a request once or twice, the demon will be understanding, especially if they want an item you don’t have. Refuse them too many times, however, and they’ll get tired of you, preferring to just fight instead.

Still, even if you do everything right, the negotiation can still fall apart. The demon will appraise your strength once all is said and done, and if you’re strong enough in their eyes, everything will work out. If not, they’ll leave you out in the cold. Harsh. On the other hand, if you initiate a discussion and you’re considerably stronger than they are, they’ll sometimes ask to join your party, no questions asked. Whether or not you believe them is up to you.

Demon-chu, I Choose You!

Another way to acquire demons is to use what the characters refer to as the Demon Summoning Program. With it, you take two or more demons you’ve already enlisted and then fuse them together to create a new one of your choosing. This comes in handy for getting demons who wouldn’t otherwise talk to you.

That said, the summoned creature may not always result in one that’s stronger than those out in the field, but there are ways to stack things in your favor. The first way is to use strong demons during the initial summoning phase. The better stats and abilities they have, the more powerful the new creature will be. Plus, since you can often use different combinations to create the same demon, it pays to experiment a little. You can even use this method to create boss monsters that will fight for you, which is just plain awesome. However, before you get too excited, your character will first need to be a certain level before he can summon some of the more powerful ones.

The second way to get an advantage when summoning is to use a Demon Source, which allows you to fully customize the skill set that the new demon will have based on a pool of its “parent’s” skills. Sources are given to you by the different types of demons in your party after certain conditions are met. The first condition is that the particular demon needs to be fully analyzed. Recall that when you first encounter an enemy, they’re described as an Unknown, and are then identified after being beaten for the first time. After that, there are two more levels of identification for a maximum of three, which provide more detailed information about the demon’s skills, strengths, and weaknesses the more you fight them. You can speed up the process by successfully recruiting a demon, at which point they’ll automatically be analyzed up to level two.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

Once the analysis is maxed out, the next time the demon levels up, they’ll give you one Source. Do be aware, though, that you can only hold a maximum of one Source per demon type at a time and that the demon will continue to randomly give you more Sources as they continue to grow. Therefore, to prevent one from essentially being thrown away, see if you can use them before the level up occurs. In addition to possibly gaining a Source when demons level up, demon skills can also randomly change. You will be prompted on whether or not to switch one out for another, but they’re not always beneficial. Definitely make sure to select “Check again” if you’re not sure what’s changing. Early on, before I understood how everything worked, I accidentally switched a vital healing spell for a useless Fear one and had a rough time until I deleted the Faerie entirely and recruited a new one.

Just don’t go too crazy summoning everybody at once. You can only have a set number of demons with you at any one time, and you cannot create a demon that you already have in your active stock. Fortunately, that stock limit increases as you progress through the game, and you can switch demons in and out of your active party as needed. In addition, you can also use the Demon Compendium to register your demons after you acquire them. Just remember to save their registry information on a regular basis because their stats are constantly changing. Otherwise, if you use them for summoning and don’t have them up to date, you’ll either have to go out and recruit it again, or you’ll have to use an older, weaker version. That said, it does cost money to summon a monster based on their information in the Compendium, so the stronger the monster, the more it costs.

War is Hell

However you manage to recruit demons, their presence will give you a fighting chance in the Schwarzwelt. Combat is turn-based, and along with your character (who’s always in the party), you can bring along a small portion of the over three hundred types of demons in the game. Each one has their own different skills, strengths, and weaknesses, which you will need to take full advantage of if you want to survive. Seriously, the standard mode in this game is pretty tough at first compared to the average RPG. Enemies hit hard as soon as you step out of your ship, and your allies will get killed regularly. In fact, I got a Game Over after being in the field for only ten minutes. Moreover, you can’t necessarily grind your way to victory early on since stats boosts are simply too small to make a difference.

Therefore, to actually survive, you will need to learn how to use the game’s systems well. Start recruiting demons immediately so that you can fill out your stock and then use the Demon Summoning Program as soon as it becomes available. The Womb of Grief, a new dungeon added to the game, is a great place to build up your team a bit once it’s unlocked. Also, make sure your many demons have a diverse skill set so that they can both exploit enemy weaknesses and heal your party.

In what the game calls Demon Co-Op, if you have multiple party members with the same alignment and one of them hits an enemy’s weak point, all characters of that alignment will automatically add a free physical attack on top of the original one for greater damage. Thankfully, each member’s alignment is color-coded for your convenience — teal is lawful, white is neutral, and red is chaotic — so all you need to do is look at their name. This is especially invaluable during boss battles and other hard fights, but first, you’ll need to use your different attacks to discover those weaknesses. Of course, if/when you die, it’ll just make round two a little easier.

If you encounter a demon that’s the same type as one you already have, talking to it will result in the enemy leaving without a fight and the battle ending. If you’re lucky, they might even give you money or an item as well. It’s a great way to avoid combat when you’re trying to go somewhere in a hurry.

There are also Heal Spots and Terminals decently spread out across maps. The former restores your life and energy for money, while the latter allows you to warp back to your ship (one way only, though) or to save to a permanent save file. If you find yourself deep in a dungeon (or are just paranoid), you can also use the Field Save option, which was added to this enhanced version of the game. It allows you to save your progress anywhere, but your previous file always gets overwritten each time you use it.

If all else fails, another new feature the Redux version has is the difficulty selector. If a boss or particular section is too hard, reduce the difficulty to Casual and you’ll have a much easier time. Similarly, if you’re flying through the game, crank it up to Expert and try not to die too often. As a newcomer to the franchise, I was tempted to dial it down early on after my party members kept taking a beating, but after I started to learn the game’s various systems better, “Standard” has been fine.

Retro Horror

The high difficulty is just one aspect that harkens back to gaming’s earlier days. When you’re out exploring in the field, the game is visually reminiscent of classic titles like Doom and Quake from the early 1990s since the game is presented from a first-person perspective and the graphics aren’t exactly high-end. Environments are simplistic, there’s minimal animation going on, and textures are decent enough but there’s nothing that will blow you away.

Moreover, when it comes to moving around, you’re literally moving from one box to another like on a board game. While you can see doors, heal spots, and terminals as you get closer to them, you can’t see others until you move to the box they occupy. Then, they’ll just suddenly appear in their pixelated glory and be there no matter which direction you face, which is a little weird. Enemies don’t appear on the main screen either. Instead, there’s an indicator in the upper-right corner of the top screen that shows you how close you are to the next fight, starting out at light blue and steadily changing to yellow, orange, and finally red as you move. Once you reach that last color, you will get attacked within the next two or three steps, so prepare accordingly. At least you have a helpful map on the 3DS’s bottom screen that automatically fills in as you move and includes data such as where doors, stairs, terminals, certain items, and mission-giving characters are located. You can also move the map around via the touchscreen and re-center it as needed, but aside from that, touch functions are essentially nonexistent.

Like the graphics, the music itself does its job and fits the sci-fi/horror setting. I do hope you like deep-voiced men chanting, though, because you’re going to hear that a lot. Sure, it’s unsettling at the start of the game, but when you hear it in almost every level, it loses its punch like a band that only knows how to play one type of song. That said, there is one standout moment where the soundtrack gave me shivers. As the ships in the introductory sequence are quietly racing across the frozen tundra toward the Schwarzwelt, the game’s title appears accompanied by high-pitched vocals all uttering a single, eerie note. It sounded like something ripped straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing and it was beautiful. I only hope more moments like that happen later on.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

The Only Safe Place

When you’re not exploring the field, you’ll be in your ship, the Red Sprite, which is divided into four areas: Command Room, Sickbay, Lab, and Deck. In these areas, you can get new missions, save your game, heal your wounds, talk to other crew members, upgrade the protagonist’s equipment, and leave for the field. Unlike being outside, the ship is entirely menu-based, but that’s not a bad thing since navigation is simple and quick.

Missions come in two flavors: the story-centric Main ones and the optional “EX” ones. Most of them will come from the people on the ship, but some will start after you find and talk to folks in the field. They range from the standard go-here-and-do/kill-that types to slightly more quirky ones like besting crewmates in logic games. Admittedly, some rewards early on feel kind of paltry for the work involved, but something is better than nothing.

Most of the time on the ship will be spent in the Lab since this is where you go to buy items and equipment for your protagonist. As you win battles, explore the field, and progress through the story, you’ll obtain items known as Forma. By themselves, they’re useless, but when you give them to Lab Chief, he’ll automatically give you access to new and stronger stuff. However, consumable items like Medicine require Forma to create each time, so be sure to collect as much as you can find.

On the other hand, special Forma obtained by completing Main missions gives you access to special skills called Sub Apps that you only need to purchase once. From increasing the chances that you’ll obtain items, to giving you new abilities to use in battle, these skills are greatly beneficial, so you should buy the ones most useful to you as soon as you can afford them. I highly recommend starting out with the one that prevents an instant Game Over when the protagonist gets killed in battle. In addition, Atlus also offers new Sub Apps and other equipment through both free and paid DLC, which can give you that extra edge.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Summarize

With Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, Atlus proves yet again that RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS are very much alive and well. Even if the graphics are a little dated, the game mechanics are solid, and as a newcomer to the franchise, I’m pleased that this was my first experience. So go ahead and enter the Schwarzwelt… if you dare.

A Nintendo 3DS review code was provided by Atlus USA for this review.

The Mission Starts Now in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

About Chris Jackson - Editor & Writer

A lifelong Nintendo fan and lover of anime who hopes to publish a book one day

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