Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster - Launch Trailer | PS4
Who it Caters to
Shin Megami Tensei is a fantastic franchise, and anyone who knows about JRPG titles will tell you that. However, this saga has always had problems trying to gain popularity in the West, living to this day in the shadow of the Persona subseries. For many, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (released in North America in 2004, for the PlayStation 2) is the best SMT game. That's why we recommend this remake to anyone who really enjoys a challenging JRPG with a dark plot, especially if you are new to Shin Megami Tensei.
What to Expect
Well, we just gave you a hint but coming to Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne you should expect a dark, complex plot and very difficult battles. Luckily for you, there's a Merciful difficulty mode now, but we'll talk about that in the Gameplay section—the point stands still, though: this is not a colorful game with happy-go-lucky characters and busty waifus; SMT III: Nocturne will make you suffer, and it will also make you think... and laugh.
If you ever played a Persona game, then expect very similar gameplay mechanics, although thanks to Nocturne's tone, this is probably the SMT game that is furthest from what you'd find in a Persona game.
From the title alone, you'll notice this is an HD remake, so you can expect improved graphics. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is a 17-year-old game, so it definitely needed a facelift if it wanted to compete against more recent JRPG titles. Sadly, these new textures and models are not enough to make us forget that we are playing a PS2 game...
Don't get us wrong, this game looks way better than its original version, and thanks to its fabulous plot, you'll soon forget about everything but the story, but there are some other things you just can't ignore. Although we're talking of an HD remaster, the cutscenes are shown in 4:3 aspect ratio, and let's not talk about how dull and empty some stages are. All in all, they did a great job and Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster truly is an improved version of 2004's SMT III: Nocturne, but it feels more like a PS2.5 game than a PS4 title.
One of the best things about this remaster is that it comes with EN voiceover options, so most dialogues are fully voiced, which really helps with immersion and world-building. On the other hand, we must admit that some interactions feel too artificial, something that's pretty common for old Japanese role-playing games. All that being said, what stands out the most from the sound aspect of this game is its wonderful soundtrack, courtesy of Shoji Meguro, Kenichi Tsuchiya and Toshiko Tasaki. As we always say, there's nothing like the original Japanese voices with English subtitles, but at least now we can be the ones deciding how to play the game.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne starts with the end of the world. Lately, some weird events have been taking place in Tokyo, and our protagonist and his friends end up in a creepy hospital that's not only the headquarters of a group of cultists but also the only safe place in the world. Somehow, these end of the world fanatics unleashed what's known as The Conception, an apocalyptic event that will destroy the world so it can reborn as a better place. Once everything has been terminated, the protagonist finds himself being the center of a series of strange events, now transformed into a demi-fiend. With his newly acquired demonic powers and the help of a mysterious occultic aficionado, the protagonist might be able to save his friends, learn more about the cultists and their true intentions, and hopefully make everything go back to normal. Oh, but wandering the demon-infested streets of post-Conception Tokyo won't be easy for such a weak demi-fiend!
Our character is not a regular demon, though. He may be weak, but he can use different entities known as Magatama to transform and gain elemental powers. Swapping them at the right moment could be the difference between beating a boss or not, as they not only give you new skills but also affect your stats.
The protagonist, whose name you can change, is basically a maze-runner. The whole game is about getting out of labyrinth-like facilities and fighting powerful—and not-so-powerful—demons in the process, so it can get annoying if you're not paying close attention to the dialogue as you won't know how to solve a puzzle or even where to go next. Still, that's not the hardest thing about Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. This is an unforgiving turn-based adventure, so it can get almost impossible to beat some enemies without the right party members and a clever strategy. Just like in the Persona games, recruiting new monsters and fusing them to obtain stronger allies is the key to success, and one of the most entertaining parts of this dark adventure. Shin Megami Tensei games are monster-collectors of sorts, and we bet you'll enjoy experimenting and discovering new cool-looking demons with helpful abilities. To recruit new beasts to your cause, however, you'll need more than the right skill...
To convince an enemy to side with you, you need special skills that will allow you to bargain with them. Some demons will ask for money, some others will go for specific items, and if you're lucky, some of them will be happy to be on your side for free. Unfortunately, things are more complicated than that. There are demons you can't recruit, and the strongest ones will simply laugh at your futile attempts. The funniest part about the whole process is when demons ask for more and more money because they need to make up their minds—and the saddest part is by far when they just leave, giving you an item but no exp points at all.
The original Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne was a punishing experience, the HD remake comes with a new, easier difficulty level called Merciful. This new mode is perfect for those who just want to enjoy the plot without frustration, allowing you to hit harder, receive negligible damage, and evade most of the enemies' attacks... and that's if they even attack you since random encounters are a rare occurrence on Merciful. The good thing about it is that you can change the difficulty level at any time, so you can always go back to Normal if you feel Merciful is too easy. What we don't recommend is jumping into Hard if you don't know what you're doing; only expert players and those who already finished the game should go for it... unless you really like Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne's death screen, that is.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remake is a must-buy for all JRPG fans, even more so if you're a fan of the original Nocturne or other games in the SMT saga. It's a flawed game, there's no doubt about it, and there's only so much you can do to improve a PS2 game without remaking it from scratch, but it does a fine job at breathing new life into an obscure game that deserves way more attention from us in the West.
It would have been nice to have Dante as a playable character for free, given that for those in North America, that's how things were back in the PS2 days. At least with the paid DLC, we can now play as SMT: Devil Summoner's Raidou Kuzunoha as well, so there's that.
Bargaining with demons and then fusing them is probably the most fun part of the game.
This remaster includes an easier difficulty mode for those who just want to enjoy the story.
DMC's Dante is a paid character.
Despite the graphical upgrades, some things still looks like they did in the original PS2 version—the cutscenes are still presenterd using 4:3 aspect ratio, for example—and some of you may not like that when playing on a PS4 or beefy PC.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Again, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remake is not even close to being a perfect game, but it serves as an unbeatable opportunity to try a classic JRPG title that most people missed back in 2004 (it's not a PlayStation exclusive anymore!). If we're lucky, it will help bring more people to play Shin Megami Tensei games other than Persona and its sequels, so we can hope for a rebirth of the SMT series getting the praise it has always deserved.
If you feel like saving the world in a twisted version of Tokyo overrun by demons, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remake is already available on PC (Steam), PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...