Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Do we control technology or does it control us? In the world of Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, that question is more important than you realize. The game has numerous troubling means of highlighting the tension between technology and nature.
The protagonist explores an odd Antarctic anomaly known as the Schwarzwelt via the use of the Demonica, a special military-issued suit that allows him to survive alien atmospheres and contain and summon demons. Though his occult allies can use magic, the main character is stuck with man-made weaponry -- swords and guns of different varieties. Quests are doled out from a cold, unfeeling computer on board your crashed ship whose primary concern is completing the mission no matter the cost.
On the other hand, players also have plenty of control. Once you’ve talked a demon into joining your cause, you have full reign over its abilities. The demon co-op system, which rewards you with bonus attacks to inflict even more damage on enemies, also makes Strange Journey’s brand of hardcore RPG combat significantly more approachable than previous Shin Megami Tensei entries. As long as you approach the battles strategically, you’ll be able to dispatch enemies faster than they can kill you off and in a much easier way than the norm for this series.
Since your primary mission is to explore the Schwarzwelt, walking around and investigating each environment takes up a lot of time. Luckily, this isn’t just a straightforward dungeon crawl. Even at 40 hours in, the game continues introducing new concepts with each floor of each sector, from booby-trapped tiles that make you fall asleep to conveyor belt mazes that briefly take away control over the direction in which you’re moving.
Mods to your suit allow you to unlock progressively more difficult-to-open door types and uncover hidden doors, items, and monsters. These incentives to return to previously-explored areas couple with the creepy, often desolate setting to create an almost Metroid-esque feeling of being alone in a large, secret-filled world.
Uncovering all the Schwarzwelt’s secrets will keep you glued to your DS for hours of intense RPG action. It will be worth all those hours to experience Strange Journey’s masterful blend of an intricate, unique storyline with the addictive demon-hunting gameplay for which the Shin Megami Tensei series is known. As for whether or not humans control technology or vice versa, I’ll leave it to you to discover the game’s well-developed insights. All I can say is that if Atlus is in charge of the software, then technology has already won.