The turn of the decade was an odd time for handheld systems, before then most RPGs were short lived affairs –something that would normally clock in at a couple dozen hours max, instead of the possible 80 or longer that the big brother console games had been seeing forever. Things changed, though, when Dragon Quest IX came out on the DS. This was shortly followed by Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, a game that was impactful enough that it was followed by a numbered sequel to the core series—it is also considered to be part of that core series by the staff at Atlus that have worked on the game since the beginning.
Those who have not broached the series yet might not be aware of the mainstays, such as rich story and more mature themes throughout. In traditional RPG/JRPG games the player is out to save the world, but in the Shin Megami Tensei games the player normally takes a more personal role of the characters –while saving the world might be the end result, most of the actions are taken through personal interests like survival. Here, the player must also battle between demons and angels, and the blurry lines between them as neither side always acts as would be expected of a demon or angel.
The Redux part of the title refers to the fact that this is a re-release of the 2010 title of the same name. Now on the 3DS there are slight modifications to the game, although as someone who has played both games thoroughly it was difficult to spot the mechanical differences without them being directly pointed out. The one thing that does jump out, almost instantly, is that the difficulty level has been toned down pretty significantly. While the game is by no means easy, doubly so when going into a new area where a party wipe is a very real possibility, this change jumps out during certain boss battles. The first battle, in particular, took me some time to beat while playing the game the first time—this time I breezed through it on my first attempt.
Aside from balance changes, there are additions to the game as well. Everything from a new area to explore to new endings. The new area does come with new plot elements, and scattering of new demons, but isn’t really the greatest additional dungeon that has ever been tacked on to a game. The normal floors in the course of play feel complex and maze like, this feels like something Rube Goldberg designed. The extra demons, for the most part, are additions from games that have come out since the initial release, much like an update of a Pokémon game. All of the other additions are, for the most part, welcome and interesting.
Strange Journey was mildly ignored when it came out years ago, which is a shame as it is one of the better games to come out on any handheld in the last ten years. The last several Shin Megami Tensei games are titles that are possibly one of the best things to simply have in your system at all times while carrying it around to kill downtime whenever possible, and this is the title that started that trend. The additions are enough to make another playthrough interesting, and the game was long enough that most people probably didn’t get more than one ending the first time anyway. Anyone who loves JRPGs owes it to themselves to pick up this title.