I’ve just started playing Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey for the Nintendo DS. If you’re not familiar with the series, and you’ve got all freaking day, please read this. Congratulations! You just got your PhD.
Anyway, here’s the short version: Demon dimension invades our world and you’ve gotta stop them. The games are all over the place in style and genre, but mostly center around hardcore RPG concepts. Strange Journey is one of the mainline games as opposed to spinoffs like Persona, so it’s basically a standard JRPG with the SMT mainstays of demon collection and character alignment.
I’m still in the opening segment of the game, and I’ve just been introduced to the plot–a huge demonic portal has opened in Antarctica and is expanding outward, threatening to gobble up the entire planet. The world’s governments have come together to keep the situation (dubbed the Schwarzwelt) a secret and organize a response/countermeasure: me…and a bunch of other people. I’m on a team of scientists and soldiers who are going to basically just drive into the black hole and see what the hell’s in there.
We’re currently heading to the edge of the rift, meeting each other and being briefed on the mission. All well and good, but it seems very lonely and fatalistic–driving through the snowy wastes, on a secret mission no one can know about. We’ve got some sweet super-soldier type armaments and a workable plan, but there’s the oppressive feeling among the crew that we’re all going straight into the unknown and all of our preparations will probably mean dick once we cross the threshold.
So I’m being briefed on my combat suit, and I’m prompted to respond to some hypothetical combat scenarios so that my instruments can be tuned to me personally. It seemed pretty straightforward–stuff like:
You are the sole survivor on a battlefield. You are hidden, with no ammunition in your pistol. You detect a single enemy approaching. How will you deal with this enemy, equipped with only an empty gun? - Ditch the gun and use a knife. - Search for ammunition. - Stay hidden until he passes.
Easy to see how this could be applied to RPG stats or whatever the game was testing me for. Cool.
This progressed for a few more questions and I didn’t think much of it…until I got to the last one.
This is the final question. Question Six: You have been sent to the Schwarzwelt, where conditions are expected to be harsh. Yet you have advanced equipment, a strong ship, the latest tech, and dependable comrades. Will the Schwarzwelt investigation mission succeed? - Yes. - It's impossible. - I don't know.
I blanched. My thoughts turned to Catherine, the only other SMT game I’ve played recently, which was always asking you dubious questions to determine the outcome of your game. Suddenly, I was suspicious of the other questions. Is it actually calibrating my battle stats, or are my answers important for other, secret reasons?
I love it when games behave unexpectedly. I relish the feeling that I have no idea what they’re capable of. I felt this a lot in Catherine.
I savored the paranoia and self-doubt for a few moments and then picked the third, truthful option: “I don’t know.”
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