The Shin Megami Tensei series has made its return back to a multiplatform franchise even if it comes as a remastered release of Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne. The original game was known for its hardcore difficulty level and offering Dante as a guest character, who was prominently featured in the marketing of the game. The game itself is incredibly dark and violent, presenting humanity on the brink of extinction.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD follows a set of events that practically lead to the end of the world as we know it. The main protagonist is thrust into this post-apocalyptic world after he is forcibly transformed into a Demi-Fiend by injecting him with a demon parasite. All of this happens in the opening hour of the game thus laying the groundwork for the rest of the story. In this desolate world that is depressing to the core, the only people who manage to survive are the ones who have the power to deal with the demonic creatures that roam it. For the player, they get the power to barter with these demons and convince them with a deal so that they can join their team.
There is a race to rule this new post-apocalyptic landscape dominated by several key characters. Your choice matters in the story and can determine the fate of the world. As a Demi-Fiend, you can side with one of the faction leaders in this world, or continue to seek powerful Fiends to gain power from their Menorahs. The player can become the ultimate demon if they keep working on their quest to become stronger. Just don’t expect to see a well-laid story here because the focus of the Shin Megami Tensei series has always been on its gameplay, unlike its spin-off Persona series.
While it is a turn-based RPG, don’t expect to win battles just by button mashing through them. In every battle, you need to keep your mind open and focus on the weakness of the enemy. The core of the battle is Press Turn, where the number of turns relies on the number of demons that the Demi-Fiend has in its possession. Every action doesn’t lead to a complete turn being used, e.g you can switch characters in mid-battle and use just half of your allocated turn. Even if you have powerful attacks to use, it won’t help you in some of the boss battles. Figuring out the weakness of your enemy and using buffs to power through their strength is the key to winning the game.
The system to recruit demons is equal parts interesting and equal parts frustrating. You can talk with the enemies/demons that you encounter and convince them to help you in this journey, but it is not always an easy task. You have to end up giving them items, money, while some of them even present a questionnaire where your answers determine if they will join your party. Figuring out this is fun but also time-consuming. I guess this depends on if you prefer to look at guides or try your luck.
Picking up a strong team is not enough, you still need proper balance to deal damage to enemies using their weakness against them. This also grants you an extra turn to use in battle, while the opposite is also true, in case you use an attack that the enemy can easily resist. Your demons need power so that you can beat some of the difficult bosses. You can gain some power with the Fusion system. Fusing different demons can lead to an outcome where more powerful demons are born out of it. The remaster adds the ability to select skills that can carry over during the Fusion which helps make sure you don’t end up with something useless.
If we consider the age of the game and how far back it launched, the visual upgrade is actually quite decent. It is not a picture-perfect version of the game, at least on the Nintendo Switch and PS4, but there is a lot of effort spent in remaking the original models in the new Unity engine. The game world is mostly barren by design but the character models hold up well after all these years. I did notice that there is a lack of aliasing on the PS4. The performance issues that plagued the original Japanese release are gone. They have removed the lag when browsing through the in-game menus.
For the newcomers, there is a free DLC to add an easy difficulty, or Merciless as it is known in the game. Aside from the default Normal difficulty and an additional Hard difficulty that is only suitable for the most hardcore fans, Merciless is perfect for those who can’t fully grasp the combat system. If you start the game on Merciless, the combat is so easy that you can simply put the game on auto-battle and breeze through it without a wrinkle on the head. Of course, it is not recommended if you do want to spend time learning the ins and outs of the battle system. I don’t recommend starting on Hard as the Normal is basically perfect whether you are a newcomer or a returning fan.
If you have played the Persona series and want to check out Shin Megami Tensei, this remaster is the perfect opportunity for you to give it a spin before the next mainline game comes out. It is not a perfect game by any means, and it is held back by some of its dated design, but the combat and gameplay still offer a unique experience for a JRPG.