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Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster review for PC, PS4, Switch


Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Switch
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Atlus
Medium: Digital/Cart/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Back when conventions were still a thing, it would not be an uncommon sight to witness cosplayers dressed up as members of the investigation team from Persona 4, but few would know that the series which has stole the hearts of so many in the West is actually a spinoff of a series which has been around since 1987. Megami Tensei is a series of games which mixes the contemporary and the occult. The series evolved to the Shin Megami Tensei branding during the 16bit era and first saw a western release in the 128bit era with Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne. Released as a director’s cut of the original, it is perhaps one of the earliest titles to feature a guest character from a different company in the form of Dante from Capcom’s Devil May Cry series. The title’s staying power was further shown when it was re-released as a PlayStation 2 Classic on the PlayStation Network. Now with the HD Remaster, players can enjoy the various flavors of this title on and off the PlayStation ecosystem.

You control a young man who is visiting his sick teacher at the hospital with some classmates during a tumultuous time. Several cults have been clashing publicly and the latest incident resulted in casualties on both sides. Upon arriving at the hospital you find it to be devoid of life, and after some searching you find your teacher who declares the world is about to end and the Conception occurs. You awaken as “The Demi-Fiend” in a destroyed world with new demonic powers. Now you set forth to get the lay of the land and perhaps shape the destiny of the world.

Nocturne’s battle system is distinct in the sense that it incentivizes smart play. The Press Turn system imbues players who land critical hits, exploits elemental weakness with extra actions during their turn in combat. It will also reduce you and your enemy’s actions if actions are dodged or blocked. So while you can muscle your way to victory (There’s even an auto mode if you want to completely shut your brain off!), proper setup can mean battles can be won without enemies taking a turn or an unfortunate party loadout will result with the utter annihilation of your crew.

While you start off in the Vortex World alone, you can recruit most enemies you encounter using the power of Negotiation. Players will liken this party building method to catching Pokémon and they would not be wrong. These recruited demons can learn new skills, evolve or fuse with other demons to create even stronger forms. This system would be where I found the bulk of my enjoyment with the title, oftentimes wandering the distorted zen garden-like overworld to fill entries in the Demon Compendium

The title is strangely linear for an RPG and offers not too many means of diversions which we are accustomed to. This really drives home that you are in a world where you need to focus on just surviving. The lack of this padding doesn’t mean the title is a short one as the dungeons you encounter in your quest can be lengthy and labyrinthian in nature.

The HD Remaster does a lot of tuning and updates that the originals did not have. A nearly full Japanese and English language audio track is present for those who wish for a more cinematic experience. Players can customize the abilities of demons that are recruited via the fusion process. The base version of this title will allow you to play the “original” version of the title as well as the “director’s cut” version which feature a guest character from another Shin Megami side series (this is a free DLC on the PC version, but part of the base game in the console editions.), and those who want a “director’s cut” which resembles what we originally got in the west can purchase the Maniax pack which features Dante from DMC. Even those who bemoan the difficulty of the original will be pleased to know a 3rd difficulty mode labeled “Merciful” will allow players to enjoy the game with less adversity. There are even additional dungeons which can be purchased that can be traversed to earn EXP items and salable goods.

Despite the work to modernize the title there are still some elements which feel like relics of a bygone era. You are only provided a compass on screen and I found myself flipping to the map in the menu to constantly re-orient myself. The lack of an ingame tutorial meant I would find out that you can hotswap demons mid-combat hours into my playthrough. These ultimately are a minor nitpick which doesn’t deter from the fun factor of the game.

There was a recent trend on social media asking users to share their first Amazon purchase and in being a slave to trends I had done some digging myself. To my shock the original western release of Nocturne was part of my initial purchase at the now ubiquitous retailer. Playing the HD Remaster filled me with regret in that I could’ve enjoyed this deep and engrossing title many years ago (The copy I bought from amazon is still sealed…). Yes, while it would’ve been nice that all the DLC was just baked into the base game, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to recruit demons on the go, or not have to worry about losing access to the title if a digital storefront shutters (I mean Steam will never close…will it?). Don’t make the 16 year mistake I did by letting this one pass you by.

SEGA provided us with a Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster PC code for review purposes.

Grade: A-