Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

by Winterfate

This article will review Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, a game frequently called Pokemon for adults. Aspects such as story and gameplay will be touched upon.

In this article, I will be reviewing the Atlus RPG, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey released for the Nintendo DS. This game is not for the faint of heart, in many respects. If you're religious, the game's references may be a bit too much to handle. If you're used to easier RPGs, the sheer difficulty this game offers can be rage-inducing. The M for Mature is not for show; cursing and adult references abound. Finally, just beating the game takes a long time (at least 50-60 hours).

Anyways, if you're of an appropriate age for the game (and can look past the other things I mentioned), this can be an incredibly awesome experience. Read on as I dissect Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey!


As with most great roleplaying games, the story is probably why you'd want to play it in the first place. While some people bashed this game's story as horribly cliché and stupid, I thought it was pretty good (although I can agree with the cliché part, at least to an extent).

You start out your adventure as a member of an expedition that is preparing to set off into a giant black void that is slowly spreading outwards from Antarctica. Specifically, you are a member of the United States Marine Corps that is part of the expedition's strike team. In other words, you're who they call when things need to be killed/blown up/otherwise disabled. After entering the void, the expedition quickly realizes that there is an entire parallel world located there, inhabited by demons. After nearly dying in a demon attack, a strange program is uploaded into your combat suit which allows you to see and recruit the demons you battle to aid you.

Like all other Shin Megami Tensei games, this one emphasizes the importance our choices have in determining our destinies, in the form of an alignment system, which will be elaborated on later on in this review. Also, it touches upon another Shin Megami Tensei constant: The power of belief can shape existence.


Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is a first person dungeon crawler roleplaying game, with huge dungeons. If you grew up in the 80's and 90's, you've probably played a few of these before. For those of you in the crowd that haven't, the basic premise is simple: You have a dungeon and that dungeon has a boss. You have to kill the boss after completing the quests necessary to unlock the boss room. Your combat suit has multiple functions that are unlocked during a playthrough which can help you explore the dungeons, such as the ability to unlock gates and the ability to see hidden gates.

However, where Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey separates itself from the crowd is a key feature that the series is known for: Demon Summoning. I prefer to call it Pokémon for adults.

Near the start of the game, you will get a simple tutorial from a low-level demon on how the system works, and then she'll join you for free.

Your First Demon
Your First Demon
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

Basically, you can initiate a conversation with certain demons and, if you answer the two preliminary questions correctly, can then have a chance to solicit something from the demon. You can ask for Macca (the game's currency), items, or for the demon's aid. However, in the latter case, the demon will want some things in exchange (no one works for free I suppose).

The alignment system I mentioned in the previous section comes into play here. You start the game as Neutral and can align yourself with Law (favoring a world where peace is enforced by angelic mandate and the will of God) or Chaos (favoring a return to the primal, primitive origins of the planet and where freedom exists at the cost of peace). Of course, you could always remain Neutral for the whole game, although that is the hardest path to follow (as a human, you must conquer both angels and demons to ensure humanity's survival).

What all of the above means in game terms is two things:

  • Demons that are of your alignment are easier to recruit. They tend to ask for less things when you're negotiating with them and they have a higher chance of complying with your recruitment request.
  • Conversely, demons of the opposing alignment are harder to recruit. Unlike the earliest iterations of the SMT franchise, it is possible to recruit opposing alignment demons.
  • Demons that are of your alignment can assist you in a Co-Op attack.

Much like a fair amount of the SMT games, Strange Journey's turn-based battle system has a gimmick. In this case, the gimmick is the Demon Co-Op system. Whenever the main character or a demon ally connects on an opposing demon's weakness (such as using a fire spell on an ice demon), everyone else in the party with the same alignment as the skill user gets an attack in for free. Granted, it's not as cool as the Press Turn system introduced in Nocturne, but it gets the job done in tough boss fights. Learn to use it and love it!

Bosses in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey require a lot more strategy than your average RPG. Overleveling will only get you so far. There will come a point in the game where you'll have to start abusing stat reducing moves, Co-Op attacks and elemental weaknesses just to stay afloat. However, in my humble opinion, that's when the game shines. It feels good to beat a boss after finally figuring out the winning strategy. It's a charm that has slowly died out in most RPGs of recent years.


This is the part of the game that falters a bit, in my opinion. While the game does have some awesome music, it's much too limited. You'll probably get bored of listening to the normal battle theme over and over again. Most bosses also share the same theme as well, which is a minus in my book.

The sounds are pretty simplistic as well, but considering how Strange Journey is meant to be a homage to the first games of the franchise, which were released way back around the time I was born, this may have been an intentional design decision.


Well, that's about it from me for now. If what you have you read so far has piqued your interest, go ahead and get a copy of this iteration of the Shin Megami Tensei series, as you may be a member of the world's population that can enjoy the special kind of RPG that only Atlus can bring you: A brutal, relentless, demanding experience that will make you cry, laugh, cheer, groan and curse and leave you wanting more!

Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)


Updated: 07/28/2012, Winterfate
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cmoneyspinner on 10/30/2013

You say the music falters a bit? According to my daughter, music is the reason like Final Fantasy has so many fans. So I think game designers should think in terms of movies. Movies should always have good background music and so should games. I'm not really a gamer. Got no clue what you're talking about. But it's a good article. (FYI. Found your link through Reddit.)

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