The World Remade (Again)
HIGH Compelling setting and world.
LOW Constant random battles.
WTF The DLC isn’t included for a game this old?!?
After almost twenty years, 2003’s Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (SMT Nocturne) makes its way back to modern consoles with a remaster that updates several aspects up to modern standards, but falls short in key ways that would otherwise have solidified its place as a must-play for the current generation.
Nocturne‘s world has been destroyed, and play begins as it’s in the process of being remade. While this is occurring, the only ones left to witness it are hordes of demons and a few human survivors seeking to shape the still-forming world according to their own desires and morality. This is where Nocturne truly shines. While the narrative isn’t as in-depth as some other SMT titles (see: Persona) it tells a far darker and grittier tale which forces the player to confront different themes relating to the human condition.
Combat is a standard JRPG-style affair, with fights happening randomly before proceeding in turn-based combat with each side getting a certain number of actions. Fights have the goal of unbalancing the enemy team by taking advantage of their weaknesses. However, missing with an attack can cost the player double the number of actions, while smart moves will earn the player more. It’s an intricate system that might make those unfamiliar with this structure feel totally lost, but those who’ve played any of the recent Persona titles will grasp it without too much difficulty.
These battles led me to one of my biggest frustrations about Nocturne — not the difficulty, but the frequency of random battles. Cropping up as often as every five steps, these near-constant encounters slowed the pace of play considerably. Even in areas that were supposedly “safe” or “peaceful”, most had battles that were frequent to the point that I couldn’t even walk from one item shop to the next without fighting at least one battle. This new remaster does add the ability to turn the battles off, but I did need the XP to fight the very difficult bosses. While I found this frequency to be a negative feature, I believe that some players might enjoy a combat-heavy grind such as this.
As I have had experience in playing a little of the original SMT Nocturne back when it was released, as well as several others in the SMT and Persona titles, I knew (to a certain extent) what to expect jumping back into it apart from the prevalent fights. The adventure is famously punishing, and throws the player in the deep end right off the bat. Even for an experienced JRPG and SMT veteran like myself, I found this to be somewhat frustrating when it came to things like how it handled core systems such as talking and negotiating with demons — things as key as this shouldn’t be hidden in menus, yet they are.
In terms of what’s specifically new to this remaster, there are some notable improvements that stand out. First, the graphics have had a slight update, and while it definitely looks like a PS2 game, the visuals are cohesive overall and definitely won’t be much of an issue if someone is playing on a lower spec system like the Switch. Another feature is the recast and re-recorded voice acting, which now sounds consistently well-done and professional across the board.
As far as the rest goes, the player can now suspend their game or change the difficulty at any time. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much as it was in the original release except for one confusing choice — the original Nocturne DLC is not included in with the core game. Instead, players are asked to buy it separately, and for a game this old, such a move is inexcusable. Considering that for nearly the same price it’s possible to get a remaster such as the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition containing all of the available DLC and three complete games, this seems like a misstep.
In contrast to the lighter, peppier Persona titles that Atlus has been putting out lately, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster is a more hardcore experience delivering a tactical, in-depth RPG with a unique setting and a presentation that’s been brushed off around the edges for modern players.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Atlus and published by Atlus. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of a student transformed into a half-demon in Tokyo. From a third-person perspective, players explore Tokyo, interact with demons, and engage in turn-based battles with enemy creatures. Players use melee attacks, magic spells, and demons’ abilities to kill enemies. Battles are sometimes frenetic, accompanied by screen-shaking effects, bursts of lights, and impact sounds. Some sequences depict additional acts of violence and blood: a bloodied man snapping a character’s neck; characters lying in corridors, stained with streaks of blood; a character wearing the skinned faces of his victims. The game contains some sexual material: topless female demons; a demonic creature with a phallic-shaped head and torso; demons with suggestive traits referenced in text (e.g., “Succubus”; “They visit women in their sleep and have sexual intercourse with them”; “Like their mother, they have sex with men at night”; “The victims won’t wake up during sex…”). The word “f**k” is heard in the game.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. There is no issue playing without sound. All dialogue has subtitles and no sound effects are used without a text or graphical representation. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. This game does not offer a controller map diagram, but movement is on the left stick. Camera is the right stick. Interacting with things and menus is A and B is back on menus. D-pad is also used to navigate menus. X is the map and Y is the status menu.