There’s something to be said about the Shin Megami Tensei series in the west. Truth be told, its popularity has spiked over the years, but that hasn’t always been the case. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne first launched on PlayStation 2 in 2003 to critical acclaim, but I’d guess that western RPG players just weren’t ready for the foundation that this entry of the series was setting for future installments.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne presents an exceptionally lonely and bleak narrative of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. From the early moments of the game, you feel this sense of dread in the halls of an abandoned hospital where you and your friends look for your teacher. Removing NPCs may have been needed for development reasons back then, but it provided this looming sense of dread throughout every new area.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remastered highlights this uneasiness by adding voiced audio to the characters, with the choice of Japanese or English audio options. It is incredibly the change that this adds to the tone and determination of these characters. They are genuinely afraid, and it shows in their voice, but they still push on to find a way to survive. I don’t think I felt this way when I first played, which made this version a welcomed return.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne really pushed the series forward by allowing players the chance to befriend demons, add them to your party, and even fuse them. It’s commonplace in the series now, but this is where it all began, and it holds up incredibly well. During battles, enemies might ask for an item and join your team. They can each be leveled up individually by summing them to your party, but if they die in battle, the only way to revive them is by going to a healing station.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remastered has some areas of design from the past that pop up as you navigate the dungeons. Every once in a while, you’ll run into rooms with different colored doors that each function differently. You’ll have a shop, healing station, save point, and fusion area. This has been streamlined in more recent titles, but just expect to see and use these doors whenever you come across them in-game.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remastered provides a relatively self-contained and straightforward plot the makes it a rather accessible RPG, even to those who haven’t played the series before. It’s challenging in areas of navigation as it requires you to have a sense of direction and willingness to speak with the ghostly NPCs who will usually direct you where to go. In this regard, the limited handholding is only necessary to make it feel like you have room to take on the game as you want.
As long as you have access to a dungeon, you can explore it, even if you are doing it out of order. Dungeons aren’t anything special, but I did appreciate the number of doors and secrets each of them contained. There’s a notifier that tells you when a battle will most likely occur. Still, the exploration and UI are all rather simplified in a way that allows you to mainly focus on the narrative and beefing up your party than the repeating halls of the dungeon.
What’s impressive about Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remastered is how it fits in so well with what I’m looking for in a JRPG at this time. Its story-driven dark plot and well-executed battle system have aged exceptionally with recent entries of the genre. It’s a powerful and engaging experience you can’t step away from.
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