And that's why I don't like cricket.

Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey

By S.A. Renegade on May 6, 2010 in Reviews

Final verdict: B
Final playtime: 110 hours

Bitch. …yeah, that’s right, I just started a review with the word bitch for absolutely no reason. So Strange Journey. Apparently, this game was originally going to be SMT IV, but then they decided not to call it that at the last minute. Why? Maybe because it wasn’t good enough? Maybe Atlus isn’t so far gone and they can still tell when something they made isn’t worthy of that IV in the title?

Hwell. Obviously making something as good as Nocturne is impossible. I mean let’s face it people, that shit was a fluke. The planets were clearly aligned when that thing was made. Souls were sold. First-borns were sacrificed. All that good shit. Point is, it probably ain’t gonna happen again. However. That doesn’t mean that they can’t make something that is close to as good. And in fact they already did that. It’s called Digital Devil Saga. But of course, that was back before they realized they could make more money by giving people increasingly bullshit dumbed down versions of what was a perfect battle system, among other things. Because people are fucking idiots.

In line with Atlus’s recent bullshit, Strange Journey is, of course, a handheld game. Now, I don’t have anything against handhelds, other than the fact that they suck horse balls but let’s be serious here people. A handheld game will never be as good as if it had been made for a console. And I don’t mean just graphics (although that’s true). Sound quality will be worse (significantly so if said handheld is the DS), controls will be worse (I’ve already bitched about the PSP’s shitty analog nub and questionable d-pad, but it ain’t like the DS’s tinyass d-pad and buttons are much better), and just the game in general will be plain worse. Concessions must be made to space, and to the power of the system (in the case of the DS, extreme lack of power). And this may just be me, but fuck me, playing on a tiny screen for long periods of time sure does a number on the eyes and neck.

But this ain’t about handhelds. This is supposed to be a review. So what’s the deal with Strange Journey? Well, the deal is that it’s a nice game, pretty cool, I mean, it uses a lot of SMT mechanics so it’s gonna be hard for it not to be good, but at the same time, it has a shitload of flaws that bring it down.

Let’s start with the small stuff. For one thing, the music is waaaay below the standards of SMT. And I don’t mean because of the DS’s shit sound quality. Just listen to the music in this game, then listen to the intros of, say, P3, P4, DDS, Devil Summoner, Nocturne. Huuuuge difference. So what happened here? Well. I guess they can’t all be winners. Especially with something as difficult as music. It’s not like with games where you can just use mechanics that worked before and it keeps working just as well. I mean what if you just can’t get any inspiration at all? What do you do then? Snort coke until you do? It’s not easy! So I’m not gonna be too harsh on it. See, I’m not a total asshole!

Moving on, this game goes back to classic SMT style in that it’s first person. That’s another flaw right there. Everybody knows third person is just plain better. Iz a fact. But hey, this can just be chalked up to the limitations of the DS. It’s just damn hard to make a third person game that isn’t top-down isometric view on this piece of shit. I feel ya. But then why make the game for the DS in the first place instead of the PS2 or hell, the PSP? Oh that’s right. One of them is a system pronounced dead and the other has sold only half as many units.

Something that’s pretty weird is that they don’t let you choose which stats to raise upon level up anymore. Sup with that shit? Now they make you take a bullshit quiz at the start that decides which stats will grow more. And while I’m all for bullshit personality tests, I mean those things are just plain fun for some reason, maybe don’t use it to substitute another thing that was fun too, which is full control over your stat growth?

Like I said before, SJ uses a lot of SMT mechanics and it’s hard to fuck that up. Demon fusion and negotiation is always fun. Something I like is how very few demons are random in what they want you to say during a negotiation. For most demons, if you’ve figured out the right answer to their question, usually it will always be the right answer if they ask you the same question again. The dungeons are very well designed, which is great to see. Nothing like the bullshit dungeons we get fed these days in the Persona games, no. This is a throwback to the good old days when dungeons used to be cool. There’s plenty of stuff to find in them, items, upgrades, dialogue, sidequests, and most importantly they’re not randomly generated so there’s a lot of incentive to explore.

Something I also like is how the dungeons are somewhat metroid style in that there’s a lot of places you can’t go to because you don’t have the required item, and you can return later when you do get it to find out what was in those places. I think we can all agree that’s always cool. Another thing I like is that the sidequests actually give you good rewards. And I don’t mean just good weapons or armor or items. They even give you highly important stuff like items necessary to explore further.

But let’s start getting into the important shit. As has been the trend, and thus it should come as no surprise, Atlus continues to make bullshit, inferior, pussy battle systems. Strange Journey comprises their latest attempt at undermining previous advancements by giving us, get this, a battle system where hitting an enemy’s weakness doesn’t give you extra turns. Fucking bitchniggers. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they took away the press turn system from us and keep giving us pussy dumbed down versions of it, now they go even further by pulling this shit.

Sigh. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: FUCK YOU. Now when you hit an enemy’s weakness, all that happens is you get some extra damage in if you have other party members that are the same alignment. Which is definitely useful, but just not as cool as getting extra turns. But it’s not just this. The entire thing is dumbed the fuck down to appeal to niggers. And before someone calls me a racist, let me just say that I don’t mean nigger in a disrespectful way. I mean it as a general term for ignorant motherfucker.

But seriously, the entire battle system is worse in general, for example, it uses the old style where you choose the commands for your entire party before anything happens rather than each action happening right after you choose it. This is a dumb and outdated system. So you could choose to heal one of your dudes by using a healing skill with one of your demons right, but then the enemy decides to have his turn before said demon. Or maybe the enemy is always taking his turn before your healing demon, so you end up in a situation where you have to anticipate that you will be damaged and heal while your HP is full because you’re expecting that by the time your demon gets its turn your HP will be low. Or what if you want to use a skill that reflects attacks? Guess what happens if the demon that uses that skill has his turn AFTER the enemy? It does nothing at all. That’s right, it doesn’t even cross over to the next turn. Fucking retarded.

And aside from not getting extra turns when you hit a weakness, you of course also don’t lose turns when you miss, don’t lose turns when you use a wrong attack, etc. And what happens if an enemy hits you with your weakness? Nothing. Told you this shit was for pussies. Hell, in fact, I swear it’s almost like the game is programmed to be lenient a lot of the time. For example, say you get into a battle with 4 enemies right. The first one hits you with a powerful skill that crits and leaves you almost dead. 95% of the time the rest of the enemies will attack the party member that isn’t at critical HP even though they could’ve killed you. Or for example, say you get back attacked by 4 enemies that all have deathbound or something like that. If they all used Deathbound, they could kill you. But 95% of the time if you get back attacked by enemies like these, they will instead use their regular attack or something else shitty even though they could have killed you. In Hard Nocturne you get back attacked by enemies with access to Deathbound? Game over. You are dead. Put down the controller. You don’t even get a turn. That’s how it should be. None of this candyass shit with enemies pulling their punches ’cause they’re afraid to kill you. Sometimes a game’s gotta lay down the gauntlet and just say “alright, eat a dick pal” to keep you on your toes and let you know it ain’t fucking around. At least sometimes some bosses were sort of tough, so even though Strange Journey should’ve been harder and way less friendly, I guess it could be worse so I’m not gonna complain too much about this…

…because there’s other shit to complain about. Like how they made the demon fusion system worse by making the skills that your demons inherit set instead of random. That means if there’s a skill you want to pass down? Chances are pretty good that you won’t be able to, because you can only pass down what the game decides and that’s final. Doesn’t matter how many times you try, it will always be the same skills. You can sort of get around this by using items called demon sources that give certain skills, but it’s just not as good as the old system and once you use a source, it’s gone and it’s very difficult to get it back. So point is, again, why change something that worked well for something that works less well?

But that’s not all. Demons just plain DO NOT learn new skills anymore. They have their set of skills and that’s all they’ll ever have. The way it used to be was that they would have some skills they’d learn as they leveled up but now? Nothing. And it’s not just the demons. The main character doesn’t fucking ever learn anything. In fact the only way that he can use anything close to skills is to equip guns that fire elemental shots.

Finally, something that’s cool about this game is how the story and dialogue changes based on your alignment, which is based on decisions you make throughout the game, but even this isn’t done all that well because eventually I got stuck on the chaos path based on a bunch of earlier decisions that didn’t even necessarily have much to do with the issue. The big decider seems to have been a decision I had to make between killing some punkass humans who had betrayed me (chaos) or killing some demons who hadn’t done anything to me (law, neutral). So what the fuck. Nocturne did this better. It lays out the philosophies for you and lets you choose whether you agree with them or not. Even Devil Survivor did it better (actually Devil Survivor did a pretty good job). But what Strange Journey does is basically keep you in the dark, without you really knowing what’s going on, while you make decisions that affect your alignment, and once it finally reveals everything to you and explains what each side is going for, it’s already too late to do anything because you’re already locked into a path based on earlier decisions that were only tangentially related to the main issue. So what happens is that suddenly I have people being all like “Hey! I’m glad you agree with us demons! Let’s kick some ass!” And I’m like wait what? When did I say that? I was never even given the option to say whether or not I agreed when their plan was explained to me! Or you have someone like “You have given your soul to the demons, now I must use all my power to stop you!” And I’m like wait what? When did I do that? What is everyone talking about? Why am I fighting you?! So yeah fuck it. Kinda takes you out of the game when that shit happens.

Strange Journey is still a pretty fun game. Hell, you plan on getting one DS game these days and chances are pretty good it should be this one. Just…don’t expect it to be on the level of the great SMTs. We’re past that golden age. You know what this is right? This is the age of less than stellar SMTs on bullshit handhelds. ‘s right, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Hell, I wouldn’t even be surprised if P5 was a handheld game. I would be pissed. But not surprised.

Final Verdict: B

Final Playtime: 110 hours

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