Gamertell had the opportunity to take a quick look at how Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the latest portable entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series plays. It’s a dark, mature and futuristic tale with a collecting element that requires players to make honest decisions on how to act and react to people and team up with demons to survive.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey begins with an explanation that the Earth has become too populated. There are over seven billion people inhabiting it, and it’s having a detrimental effect on the planet. Because of this, a strange effect that’s being called the Schwarzwelt has appeared in Antarctica, directly over the South Pole. It started as a small disturbance that extended from the ground to the sky, and has grown to several kilometers in size.
After this disturbance grows large enough to destroy and absorb numerous bases from many nations that were around, the world’s governments have taken action by developing a crew of elite individuals called The Joint Project to send into the Schwarzwelt. The rest of the world is told that there’s an unsual arctic storm going on at the South Pole to cover up what’s really going on.
The goal of the group, which has been outfited with high tech Demountable Next Integrated Capability Armor suit, is to explore and prevent the expansion of the Schwarzwelt. The player is an American soldier who is a member of the strike force on board the Red Sprite, one of the four armored vehicles headed into the Schwarzwelt.
But things are quite complicated, as Zelenin, a scientist who’s also part of the mission, explains. Unmanned probes managed to make it in, intact, but were destroyed by unusual forces once inside. It seemed almost as though there were intelligent life inside there, destroying anything that finds its way through. No one knows what it looks like inside the disturbance, and the Schwarzwelt is constantly expanding.
There’s a strange wall surrounding the Schwarzwelt that interferes and destroys anything that goes through it, and the armored are supposed to fly over this wall to get into this unknown area. Unfortunately, when the Red Sprite and the other three armored vehicles move to break through into the Schwarzwelt, things don’t go exactly as planned. The four are attacked and separated by a mysterious force, and it turns out the Schwarzwelt is an even more mysterious place than anyone expected.
Thankfully, a Demon Summoning Program app is mysteriously sent and installed in all the Red Sprite’s crew’s Demonica suits. This program allows them to see the demons, fight them, converse with them, recruit them and even fuse with them. If you’ve played the previous Shin Megami Tensei DS game, Devil Survivor, it will all feel very familiar. Initially, players only have access to a very basic version od the demon summoning program, which allows them to converse and summon demons. Pixie, who’ll end up being your first demon, walks you through it when you step out into the Schwarzwelt for the first time. It’s also one of many programs you will acquire to enhance the Demonica suits.
As for dungeon crawling, think of it as inspired by the first person dungeon crawling in Atlus’ Etrian Odyssey and Class of Heroes. The touch screen shows the map, which will automatically fill itself in and mark important areas as you journey through them. So all you have to do is walk around and by, and everything will register. The dungeon crawling portion is 3D and first person, so you’ll see devices and chests on the map. When someone comes up that you can talk to though, they’ll appear as a 2D image.
Also, like Etrian Odyssey, there is a gauge on the top screen when dungeon crawling in SMT: Strange Journey that will alert you to enemies on the field near you. Blue means everything is safe, yellow means that demons are around and red means you’re going to be attacked very soon.
Once battle starts, it looks very similar to SMT: Devil Survivor. You can up to three summoned demons will face opponents that you see on the top screen. The bottom screen can be toggled to either show all the information on your opponents or all the information on your party members. As you fight demons more often, your identifying skills will level up, allowing you to see demons and know their weaknesses and strengths. The main character can use a sword or gun to attack, summon demons and use items. Demons are limited to attacking and skills.
Hitting a demon opponent’s weak point launches an interesting reaction called Demon Co-op. All of the other members of your party will issue follow-up attacks that don’t use up their own MP or turns. By exploiting this, taking down stronger enemies can become a lot less stressful and difficult.
Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey comes out March 23, 2010. Stop by Gamertell later this week for a full review of the game!