More on SMT: Strange Journey Redux
June 11, 2018

Iíve watched some YouTube videos on this Redux game. Some YouTubers are not pronouncing the word as I would (Re-ducks), but as if it were French or something (Re-do). Well, I guess the game is a redo of sorts. Goodness.

Itís a weird world.

When last I wrote, I had finished up the first dungeon, and beat the first boss. I think I was at level 10. Now Iím at level 18 or so. Iíve explored a good bit of the second dungeon, the first floor of a completely unexpected dungeon, and gone back to the first dungeon to finish up a side quest or two.

I like the gameplay. The lower screen has a map of each location, set up on a grid. The playerís perspective on the top screen, though, is proceeding (in first person) through a 3D maze of sorts. It plays, more than anything, like an Etrian Odyssey game, though the system auto-fills the map as you go, instead of the player having to construct it by hand. Also like an EO game, there is a color-coded proximity gauge at the top of the screen. So, you have some notice that theyíre coming...but still in the end they pop up as random encounters. (Later in the game, there are ďinvisibleĒ demons that are made visible by your ever-improving equipment; these demons DO show up on the map, and are I guess thereby optional...though of course you need the experience they provide, if not the opportunity to recruit them). Somehow, it feels like you get more steps than you do in the average RPG before something jumps up to threaten your well-being. For those of us who like to explore, that is welcome.

For those who havenít yet played this far into the game, hereís something that might be considered to be a bit spoiler-ey. Itís three paragraphs long:

[There is a new enemy in this game by the name of Alex. Not too long after you begin the second dungeon, Alex comes along, heralded by warnings about a very strong demon. And, she IS a strong demon. In what I assume is a scripted fight, she decimates your party in a turn or two. The player, though, isnít taken to a game-over screen (which by this point the player may well have seen before. At least, this player has). Rather, the player is taken to a new dungeon in the game called the Womb of Grief. A rather expansive dungeon. Iíve only seen its first level.

Itís a long road, the Womb of Grief. The player at this point doesnít have immediate access to the ship, or to any of those handy healing kiosks that one found on occasion in the first dungeon. Though you can save anywhere in this game...a rather surprising notion to me, but a welcome one...the length of the Womb of Grief definitely puts you on edge as sometimes-automated paths move you ever-further from the entrance. You hope that the healing supplies youíve laid up will be sufficient. Or that you have an extra healer in your party, whose MP you can use between fights, in lieu of using your party memberís MP. Or that your extant healer levels up quickly enough to replenish her MP as it is needed. There is a definite roguelike feel to the dungeon...are you gonna make it home alive, or die somewhere within and have to start over, hopefully with a better-stocked items pouch?

Anyway, the Womb is of a completely different character than other dungeons, and is a nice addition. So far, at least, it feels like an organic part of the game, and not something tacked on just so that Atlus can say that they added some value to the remake.]

Okay. end spoilers.

I have a full contingent of demons at this point. Right now, I have the standard three in my party, and a dozen also along for the ride. Later, weíre promised we can have more. Are they good demons? I dunno. I guess theyíre like Pokemon, in a way: they all have their uses, but some are clearly more powerful than others. Every time I get a full 12, I try to fuse a couple, so that there is an extra slot for anything else I might recruit. Which one learns the hard way, sadly, when you go to all the work of recruiting a demon only to have no room in your party. Forehead slap!

Itís helpful to use each of these demons, for a short time anyway, in your party; given some amount of experience, they will gift you with at item called a Demon Source. These Sources contain skills that they have mastered, and can be included in a new fusion to add to that new demonís skill set. Itís another bit of customization that really helps you craft the party you want, with the skill set you want.

The game, early on, decided that my alignment was neutral (based on a sort of personality test it gives you in the beginning). So Iím trying to create mostly neutral demons with my fusions. One learns early on that itís helpful to have demons of similar alignments, as any battle move that hits a creatureís weakness is joined by anyone else in the party with the same alignment as the attacker. Naturally, I have demons of any and all alignments from time to time, and have never had a party purely based on a single alignment. That possibility might open up as more demons become available, though I guess I doubt Iíll go that route...there are always tempting demons from other alignments, and I wouldnít have made it this far in the game without including them. At the same time, Iíve won battles that I literally would not have won without using the same-alignment strategy, as some demons heal faster than you can damage them. There are a LOT of strategic elements in this game, and they truly make a difference if you learn them and use them.

The gameís screens have a lot of information on them; Iíve only started picking up on some of it by playing. Demon alignments are coded in by color in the demonís name: red or white or blue, for chaotic or neutral or lawful. (This sounds like D&D stuff, but somehow SMT doesnít seem to be purely based on that system). Iíve only recently learned that, while recruiting demons, oneís stock is displayed as they request a certain item; before I knew that, I thought I had to memorize what I possessed, and sometimes offered to give something that I didnít have in my inventory. That hasnít had huge consequences yet, but I imagine it might in the future.

I was confused at first by the demon compendium. The game urges your register your demons. But...it seemed like they were already registered? The game does tell you very concisely what needs to be done, but I missed the point for a good long while. The game automatically registers each demon as it comes into your party, yes, but there it sits, registered as it was when it first arrived. So anything you do to improve your demon by raising its levels and stats is lost as soon as you, say, fuse it to create another demon. Better to register it again (using the Rewrite function) before you fuse it, thereby keeping a record of all the loving care youíve given it. In the early game, I had an Oni that I used for quite a long while. Eventually, I fused him off...I donít remember at what level...but still only had the level 8 Oni registered, from when I first recruited him. Sad to think of the loss. Iíve actually summoned that level 8 guy and leveled him again to 14; still, I lost the skill points I gave him via very rare stat-raising items. Itís sad to be so stupid, sometimes. Just as stupid as my demons sometimes tell me that I am. Poor pitiful humans, they think, and of course theyíre correct.

My most recent save says that Iíve been playing this game for almost 19 hours. I do not know how much further I have to go, but I imagine that Iím still at the very beginning of a very long game. And, Iím still hugely excited by the thing. For my weird little personality, at least, this is easily the best of the many SMT games Iíve sampled. I hope others of yíall might be enjoying it as well. One of the last truly great RPGs, quite possibly, for my favorite of all consoles, the Nintendo 3DS. A last hurrah.

(Very likely, there's more to come in this blog series about SMT: Strange Journey Redeux (that's the way you'd spell that Frenchified "redo" word, I'm guessing. Let's do a Latinate Redux instead. Reducks Reducks. Let's say it together: "Reducks." Not a 750 pound rabbit, but a 750 mallard! Goodness.)

So, stay tuned.

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honestgamer honestgamer - June 11, 2018 (10:32 PM)
The SMT games I have played (not counting Persona) are mostly on the PS2, with the exception of SMT IV on the 3DS. Which I loved. Nocturne was my introduction to the franchise, and I still think that's about the best possible way to get one's feet wet. I'm glad Atlus was able to finally make the series stick in North America, and I hope the SMT game in development for Switch winds up being awesome.
dirtsheep dirtsheep - June 12, 2018 (03:54 PM)
I envy you that PS2 experience. I had the machine, but didn't really know how to use it...I was an XBOX guy, and found plenty of good RPGs for the system, but of course missed out on all of these JRPG experiences. Truthfully, I wouldn't have known how to play them anyway. I'm 54 years old now; got a late start, and am a slow learner anyway. But I'm getting there. It would be cool if Sony did more of those PS2 games for the PS4.

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