Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey First Impressions

We get our first look at Atlus's latest entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, which ventures into sci-fi territory.

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Recently released in Japan, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey on the Nintendo DS is another addition to the long-running SMT series. Taking on a more sci-fi approach, Strange Journey revolves around a soldier who is assigned to examine a massive void in the South Pole. Atlus stopped by our office to give us a quick look at the game and how it plays, but we'll be able to update you with more details regarding the story at a later date when we get to play the game for ourselves.

Better listen to him, Shabadoo.
Better listen to him, Shabadoo.

Using the Etrian Odyssey engine, Strange Journey is a first-person turn-based role-playing game in which your party members consist of demons that you collect. Our demo started us off a couple of hours into the game where we played as one of the crew members on the Red Sprite and were headed to the South Pole to investigate a strange void. Things went wrong as soon as we arrived, so we had to explore the area alone, except for our demon companions. Up to three demons can be summoned into your party, and they'll level up and grow stronger as long as you use them in battle.

Demons have their own particular alignment and by keeping their loyalties in mind, you can use them to your advantage. A feature known as demon coop allows you to give everyone in your party a bonus melee attack if you or your demons exploit the weakness of an enemy. Everyone in your party who shares the alignment of the one who attacked will automatically throw in an extra melee attack for more damage, so it's important to decide what kind of demons you want fighting alongside you. Your alignment changes depending on the decision you make within the game.

As the human in the party with no special powers but a nifty demonica suit, you must rely on guns and elemental attacks. There are apps that you'll come across--which are like key items--to help you find components for crafting or unlocking specific doors. Sub apps are special items that can increase the chances of getting an item after battle, but these apps take up space--sometimes more than one slot and you have 10 slots. Your demonica suit is what you'll use to access your mission logs, side quests, and tutorials. A forma search app is inherently in the suit, which can detect and track down stuff to trade later.

It wouldn't be the same without Jack Frost.
It wouldn't be the same without Jack Frost.

Demon fusion returns, and you'll be able to create all kinds of combinations; you'll even be able to throw an item into the mix to create a special demon. We didn't have time to go into all the details of this process, but we will once we receive a build of the game. The turn-based battles are self-explanatory if you're familiar with any kind of turn-based Japanese role-playing games. As you get to know the demons you encounter better, an analyze bar will fill up so that you can eventually determine their weakness and use it against them. If you're grinding away and don't particularly want to pay attention to an easy fight, you can hit the X button to have the battle play out for you. It won't make any special adjustments, though, so you have to be sure you'll win if you choose the option to have the battle play for you.

Our demo ended with a boss battle against a giant minotaur-like creature that had an extremely low opinion of humans and decided to tell us all about it. It took awhile to take it down because it had the ability to scare and confuse our demon party members. But it was nice that the target reticle changed to red if the enemy was near death because it allowed us to plan accordingly, which was a helpful feature.

Like all the SMT games before it, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has a lot more to it, and it can take several hours to really get a handle on it all. We only had 20 minutes with it, but once we get our build of the game, we'll be sure to post updated impressions. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is scheduled to be released in March 2010.

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