What I'm Playing - No. 126
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
I only played 1 game this this week, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster. My coverage on it is spoiler-free!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster (PS4)
In 2004, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne released in North America for the PS2. It was the first game in the mainline SMT series to be localized, and was well received, though it is a bit infamous for its challenging difficulty. After 17 years, it’s been re-released on modern platforms (PC, PS4, and Swtich), featuring brand new voice acting for cutscenes (the original release had none), 1080p rendered graphics, and a handful of quality of life updates. It’s this HD Remaster version that I’m playing. As my first foray into Nocturne, it’s been a great experience so far!
So like the other main entries in the SMT series, Nocturne takes place in Tokyo. Set in the modern day, things start out ordinarily enough. You play as an ordinary high school student, but things quickly take a turn for the extraordinary when an event called the Conception is set in motion by a cult in Tokyo, and the world is destroyed and reshaped into the Vortex World.
Aside from the player character and a few other humans, humanity is dead, and only their souls remain in the Vortex World. Demons fill the world now, and the player soon joins their ranks after an encounter with a mysterious old woman and young boy, who transform him into the Demi-fiend using something called a Magatama.
That’s the intro of the game in a nutshell. After that, you’re set free to explore the Vortex World, and you begin running into battles with other demons through random encounters as you run around. That brings us to the battle system.
Nocturne is the first game in the series to utilize the Press Turn battle system, which subsequent games (including the Persona series) have featured some variant of. It’s very similar to the system in Shin Megami Tensei IV, where you gain extra turns by landing critical hits or hitting enemy weaknesses, but lose turns if your attack misses or the enemy absorbs or reflects that element. It’s just as fun here as it was in Shin Megami Tensei IV! My one gripe is that battle is initiated through random encounters instead of seeing enemies in the overworld, but there is a helpful indicator in the corner of the screen that indicates how likely you are to run into an enemy with each step, with blue meaning you are in a safe zone with no encounters, yellow when there is some chance of encounters, and red when there is a high chance of enemy encounters.
Like in SMT IV, you can recruit enemy demons to your team by talking to them. They demons usually make several demands, asking you to give them money or items, before either joining you outright, or asking you question. Depending on your answer, they may either join you, give you an item and leave, or become angry and attack you. I like the recruitment system, the demons say some unexpected things from time to time, like one demon I talked to who saw that I already had one of his kind in my party and said something like “Oh hey, I’m dating that guy’s sister. Be nice to him,” and left.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an SMT game without Demon Fusion, right? Right. While SMT IV had a nice Search feature that let you browse all the possible fusion results based on the demons in your party, as an earlier game in the series, Nocturne is more basic. You have to manually pick the two demons to fuse every time, which is fine for me, but could be annoying if you wanted to fuse every possible demon in order to complete the Demon Compendium. You’d probably want to use a guide or online fusion calculator of some sort in that case. One of the quality of life improvements in this release of Nocturne is that you can directly choose the skills the fused demon will inherit, whereas in the original release those were chosen randomly and if you didn’t like the result you’d have to back out and select the demons to fuse again until you got the skills you wanted. Being able to select the inherited skills is definitely a nice enhancement in the HD Remaster!
I’ve gotta say, it’s nice how quickly you get to the main gameplay in the SMT series. I love Persona, but it’s definitely a slower and more story-heavy series than SMT, especially the introductory sequences. Not that Nocturne doesn’t have a good story. The demon-filled Vortex World is a very interesting setting, and I’m looking forward to seeing the direction the story takes, and what sort of different story routes are available.
Anyway, before too long in Nocturne you get to the wonderful gameplay: dungeon crawling, battling and recruiting enemies, and levelling up. It’s classic RPG goodness! I died to one of the bosses earlier, Matador. I’d heard this boss usually resulted in a game over for newcomers, so I wasn’t surprised to lose to him on my first attempt. There’s even an achievement for getting a game over, it’s and expected rite of passage in Nocturne. After some additional preparation, the 2nd attempt went smoothly, and I defeated Matador without any issues. It was smooth sailing after that for a little while, with one of the next bosses, Thor, going down without any game overs. I can’t say the same about the following boss though! Raidou annihilated my team, and I haven’t gone back yet to try again. I’m sure with a few tweaks to my party and strategy, I’ll be able to take him down though!