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Shin Megami Tensei: Deep Strange Journey dev FAQ – setting, characters, difficulty, series’ future, much more

Posted on April 12, 2018 by (@NE_Brian) in 3DS, General Nintendo, News

This week, Atlus published a massive developer Q&A for Shin Megami Tensei: Deep Strange Journey. Director Eiji Ishida, world setting investigator / level designer Tatsuya Watanabe, and Alex’s character designer / new demon designer Masayuki Doi fielded all sorts of questions from fans.

The developers spoke about the game itself, including setting, characters, and difficulty. Other topics like the series’ future and more were touched on as well.

You can read the full Q&A below.

About Strange Journey Redux:

Q: Strange Journey’s setting stands out among fantasy JRPGs and even other SMT games. Why go for a military setting in the Antarctic?

Eiji Ishida: I decided to make Antarctica the stage for this game to pay respects to the vaunted tradition in science-fiction disaster films where the majority of the “unprecedented danger” starts in Antarctica.

I am partly joking about this, but one of the reasons was that I didn’t want the cause of the Schwarzwelt appearing to be tied to any specific country or people, so I decided to have it show up in Antarctica. I wanted the location to symbolize a place where the negative karma of all humanity would gather, and I wanted to start the story from a place that didn’t belong to anyone.

As far as the military setting, everyone does have armaments, but strictly speaking those investigating the Schwarzwelt aren’t armed forces. The task force that the protagonist belongs to and the commander of the ship are all soldiers, but within the investigation team there are countless specialists in scientific and technological fields from all over the world.

I think that having people from across the globe work together as one against an unprecedented danger is a setting that really raises morale.

Q: What made you have a game where the main characters are adults in their 30s instead of the usual “teenagers save the world” trope that SMT goes for?

Eiji Ishida: I didn’t consider this too much while we were thinking about the setting.

When talking to Kazuma Kaneko, the creator of the original version, we naturally ended with those types of characters as we talked about the main points of the story and the setting. This storyline surrounding the investigation team descending into internal conflict amid a desperate struggle for survival was written as a representation of the whole of humanity, and it was decided upon at the very early stages of the discussion. I believe we determined that to write this from the viewpoint of a younger boy or girl would lose some of the reality.

But then again, there are masterpieces out there like the film “Lord of the Flies,” so I think that a young boy or girl being the main character for this topic could have been just as entertaining.

Q: What difficulties did you face when adding new story concepts to this latest version?

Eiji Ishida: We’ve added a story that leads to three new endings in this game. It’s extremely difficult to try and explain this without spoilers, but this new story branches off from the original game’s story. Because of this, it was extremely hard trying to keep everything consistent.

Since the story already has multiple plotlines tangled together like a bowl of spaghetti, my brain was constantly overheating from the detail overload. However, we were able to work in surprising turns of events that can only be done in sci-fi works, so I am very satisfied with the end product of this added story.

Q: When developing this title, how did you decide on what new content to include? How much new content were you able to put in before your team decided any additional content should be saved for a new game? Or rather, was there any content that you felt didn’t fit the theme of Strange Journey, so you cut it?

Eiji Ishida: There are two main points regarding the addition of new content: First is to add even more enjoyment and challenge for those users that have played and cleared the previous game. This includes the additional story and dungeon, and of course additional demons. Second is to add all sorts of ease of play for the users that are considering buying the game. This also involves adding graphics that make the game’s world look even more attractive.

We also added things like multiple difficulty settings and character busts and voices to increase the level of expression within the event scenes. The event scenes evolved into a more dramatic look, and we believe we increased the emotional attachment to the story greatly. Furthermore, we created cutscenes that should convey the world of SJR even more clearly. It is like a preview to a movie, and there should be no problem drawing people in to the game’s world, so please give it a look!

There really weren’t any specific ideas that were cut because they didn’t match the theme, but early in the development for the remake we were thinking of adding new rules to the demon fusion. However, the addition of these rules would have mischievously made the game more complex, so we did not add them. If we get the chance, we would like to implement those ideas in another game.

Q: What inspired the new character, Alex?

Eiji Ishida: Alex’s creation was due to us wanting to add a character that would symbolize the new scenario. She persistently pursues you, the protagonist, to try and kill you, but the reason why she chases after you will come to light in the added scenario. I’ll refrain from saying anything further so that I don’t take away the fun of playing this game. Still, when the reason for her actions is learned, the player will be forced to make a heavy and difficult choice.

Q: Strange Journey was a great installment with an original story with an excellent sci-fi setting. Will you guys ever make a future title with the same sort of atmosphere? Maybe a story that takes place in space?

Eiji Ishida: If able, I would like to make a sequel to this game, but I currently don’t know if that can be made a reality. There is dialogue in the game suggesting the angel Mastema may have originated from somewhere beyond this Earth, so it wouldn’t be so strange if the stage was set in space as well!

Q: What was the coolest scrapped idea you guys had for SJR?

Eiji Ishida: Talking about scrapped ideas is a bittersweet thing that evokes a feeling of defeat, but it also doesn’t feel fair to only talk answer questions that are appropriate for promoting the game, so I’m going to be resolute here and come clean…

In this game we were planning on adding an additional element from the second run of the game, an in-game app called “New Megami Tensei”. It began as a joke that was implemented in the original version, and nothing would happen if you launched the app, but this time instead of a joke we were thinking of actually having the in-game app (a mini game) launch within the game.

The plan was when you launched this app it would start up a combat simulator, and the idea was that you would be able to continuously play a roguelike procedurally generated dungeon, but the actual costs were too great, and it couldn’t be implemented. I do regret that we weren’t able to implement it, but if I had forcefully had this implemented then we wouldn’t have been able to invest as much time into increasing the quality of the vital main story of the game, so I do think it was the right decision in the end. (And it was thanks to our prudent staff that I was finally convinced to give up on implementing it.)

Q: What were you looking forward to most when revisiting Strange Journey for this remake?

Eiji Ishida: For the original version, hearing the various comments through social media was a source of encouragement. (Of course, the opposite was true too, but that can’t be helped). I do look forward to hearing such direct impressions for this time as well.

Coming from the development side, I looked forward to how well the more expressive event scenes turned out.

Q: How did you guys come up with the idea for Strange Journey?

Eiji Ishida: To borrow the words from the original version’s creator Kaneko, “Wouldn’t it be good to have a Megami Tensei that you could fill the space of the small gaps of time you had, like Tetris or Minesweeper does?” That was the start of the idea. Which means that at the start of development we tried to make something where you could keep enjoying dungeon exploration and demon fusing with not much story. You might find it surprising, but this is true. We were thinking of creating something with a different idea as a spin-off title.

We ended up creating a story-rich game that was the opposite of the initial idea, but the concepts and spirit that were presented initially have been woven firmly into the game, and I believe it is a game that you can easily play with a short amount of time on hand. And this concept has not only been passed down to this remake version but strengthened even further.

Also, regarding the story portion, it goes without saying that it has taken influence from science-fiction disaster horror movies such as “The Thing”. When developing the original version, the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” (the pilot version) was airing in Japan, so this was often a topic of conversation, and I believe there were considerable influences from this work as well. Both works do depict survival within the harshest environment.

 Regarding the Difficulty for Newcomers:

Q: Shin Megami Tensei games are challenging. What do you recommend for those of us transitioning from the Persona series?

Eiji Ishida: For the remake, we have added several difficulty settings. The difficulty you play on will have no impact on the ending, so feel free to choose the level that is most comfortable for you.

I will also add that it is possible to change the difficulty at any time while you’re playing the game (except for the hardest difficulty, in which case you can’t). If you feel like the game is too hard, try changing to a lower difficulty, and it should become more manageable.

DLCs, both free and paid, that provide players with additional support will be available at launch as well, so please check them out.

We’ve also made it so that you can now save and suspend your game from within dungeons. Even if you die in battle, you won’t have to start over from a save station like in the original game. Now you will have the option to restart near the last place you saved within the dungeon. As long as you save somewhat frequently, you won’t feel like you’re losing a significant amount of progress… I hope!

Q: I’m a huge fan of the Persona series. One of the big reasons for that is how interacting with certain characters can affect gameplay. Is there a similar system in this game?

Eiji Ishida: I would like to say yes, but unfortunately, there isn’t a system centered around deepening your relationships with other characters.

Strange Journey is a story about a clash of ideologies, so there is some level of trust that is formed between you and your allies, and you get that feeling of being part of a team, but it’s not quite the same as what you get in Persona.

That said, the story isn’t all killing and nothing else; we mixed some lighthearted humor in as well. Your fellow soldiers can sometimes give requests that are different from the usual serious side quests you get as you play through the story. These often come with a light comedic touch, and can range anywhere from confronting a demon that has taken over the bathroom, to assisting a man who has fallen in love with a demon.

Q: Will it be fun for newcomers to the Shin Megami Tensei series? This will possibly be my first one.

Eiji Ishida: Thank you for taking interest in this game. This one is more like a spin-off from the Shin Megami Tensei’s numbered series and requires no prior knowledge to play. This game is rather challenging even within the Shin Megami Tensei series, but in this remake, we’ve added an option that allows you to adjust the game’s difficulty to your liking. We hope that you enjoy it!

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