Continued Strange Journey thoughts

As I continue my Strange Journey into the Schwarzwelt, there will be spoilers. Although Strange Journey Redux, especially, telegraphs its story beats heavily, there will eventually be some things that you don’t find out from watching the intro movie on game boot-up or the opening dialogue on starting a new game.

I’ll start with a bit on what happens in the introduction section. The Schwarzwelt appeared mysteriously in Antarctica. Although the public isn’t aware, various governments banded together and ran some experiments. The few probes that made it through sent back some footage that was presumed to be fake, so these nations assembled a manned expedition. The probe footage is shown juxtaposed unsubtly with news reports that correspond to mankind’s activities that caused them (e.g. war reports are shown, then a picture of the Schwarzwelt that looks like a warzone from World War 1). After the crew argues a bit about who in the various news reports is responsible for the corresponding problems, we are introduced to a few main players on the expedition – Commander Gore, Zelenin and Jiminez.

Although we don’t find out much about Gore (at least for now), he is shown to be determined, compassionate and competent early on. The Russian scientist Zelenin is reserved but polite, and her discussion of the science behind the Schwarzwelt is about as brief and techno-babbly as you might expect. Jiminez is an American soldier who is as mercenary as they come. If you’re familiar with the standard “law/chaos” dichotomy in SMT, it’s pretty obvious where these two are going to land, especially Jiminez.

Since the SMT series has only otherwise had Japanese settings (to my knowledge – I haven’t played SMT2 or SMT If…), and mostly Japanese characters, it’s notable that this one not only has an international cast, but also at least starts in Antarctica. Although not much is done so far with the relatively diverse cast (they’re largely just mentioned by name and occasionally portrait, and few have much dialogue), it’s refreshing to see Atlus stepped a little outside of their comfort zone. Although on the other hand, it’s somewhat disappointing that their one “international” foray seems not to have sold particularly well outside Japan – the Redux version has a mildly annoying translation glitch and the usual English voice acting was not included (although the Japanese VA is fine, and probably caters plenty to their fanbase in any case).

It’s become pretty clear (as if it wasn’t before) that the sectors in Strange Journey represent mankind’s various excesses. The first sector, Antlia, starts out as an ice cavern. It’s an interesting choice to have an adventure in an alternate dimension start out with exactly what you would expect in Antarctica. I’m guessing the intention there was to 1 – make the swerve on the second floor more shocking and 2 – ease the player into the mechanics of the game with a thematically boring section.

To be continued…

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