I remember back in 2003 when Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne hit the PlayStation 2 and I took a chance on checking it out. While I did enjoy it’s turn-based combat and twisted story, I’ll admit it lost me with the ‘wondering around aimlessly to find out what to do next’ kind of gameplay. Eighteen years later, Atlus decided to give this classic a remaster with Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster. Fans of the original will enjoy their time here, but will be wondering why some things were fixed and others weren’t.
The story kicks off with a cataclysmic event known as the Conception that basically turns the world into a post-apocalyptic nightmare with Tokyo becoming the “Vortex World” where almost everyone there has died and demons run amok among the rubble that’s left behind. Thanks to you being a high schooler that becomes infected with a demonic parasite, you’re now half-human and half-demon, the perfect candidate to fight off these demons and usher in a new world to replace this broken one.
What that world will be is solely up to you, as scour the land gathering demon powers and the monsters themselves to fight with you (with A LOT of them being instantly recognizable to Persona fans), while also searching for ideas on what your new new world should consist of. You’ll come across plenty of people in your travels that will share their thoughts on this. From your friends to others making their way through this apocalypse to change the world in their own way, you’ll have all sorts of ideas thrown at you, though sometimes they can be a bit convoluted and cryptic.
Anyone who has played any of the the Shin Megami Tensei titles will know that’s part of this series’ charm, having all sorts of vague ideas tossed around and weird dialogue options for you to choose from. It reminded me a lot of some of Hayao Miyazaki’s works such as Princess Mononoke where there isn’t any clear “good” or “bad” people, just those doing what they think is right for themselves and those they care about. Though there are just some really twisted folks you’ll come across.
I’m a sucker for tales like this and it doesn’t disappoint in this adventure. This is made even better thanks to a fully voiced experience that can be played with an English dub or the original Japanese audio. Sadly my dreaded nemesis from the 2003 original is still here, which is making your way through the often confusing, labyrinthine land filled with similar looking paths and dead ends that’s sure to drive you crazy more often than not.
Thankfully the turn-based combat is still good after all this time and is a joy to play. That is until enemies start to pop up every five seconds and quickly become more and more difficult the further you progress. Thankfully the demon fusion and skills have been tweaked in this remaster to allow you to select which abilities you want to equip versus the original where it was randomized.
There’s also a new “Merciful” difficulty to help out when you’re having a hard time, and there’s even a new save state feature that allows to save your spot anywhere in the game that’s deleted once you resume playing, which is sure to come in handy should real life issues come up in the middle of your gameplay. I also enjoyed some of the added surprises from the original release still being intact for this one, such as Dante from Devil May Cry appearing from time to time in your quest.
For all of the cool things this release gets right, such as the increased resolution on all the characters, user interface, environments, in-game cutscenes, etc., there’s a few things they left out that are baffling. First off, the game is locked to 30fps which is just ridiculous in this day and age. Here’s hoping they’ll patch in 60fps or higher soon (especially for the PC version). Also any pre-rendered cutscenes and images are shown in their original 4:3 fullscreen ratio which would’ve been nice to have in 16:9 widescreen.
To add insult to injury, the soundtrack still uses the compressed audio from the original PS2 release that has that slight muffled sound that can be irksome to audiophiles.
These sad issues aside, fans of the original will still have a good time with the Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster. Those new to the series will be left dazed and confused on what they’re playing, but chances are they’ll come to enjoy the bizarre demon fighting fun to make this a nocturne to remember.