The PS2 dungeon-crawling JRPG classic Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has finally been remastered and it's now available for modern consoles so grab your favourite magatama and let's do some demon hunting.
The Shin Megami Tensei series follows the theme of an unsuspecting hero witnessing the fall of mankind as the Apocalypse destroys civilization, leaving it up to them to battle the demons that have taken over and find their place in the new reality. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne follows this same plot only our protagonist has been transformed into a demon themselves. You have the power to use magatamas to learn new skills and further your survival but most of your ability to defeat demons relies on recruiting them. Needless to say, the Shin Megami Tensei series is like Pokémon on steroids.
The original release of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne was applauded for its interesting dungeon-crawling and challenging battle system that requires strategy to master. These are 2 key pieces of gameplay that are still present and likely what will keep you coming back for more. Traversing the dungeons is a challenge which is definitely a substantial source of fun although I was a little let down by the lack of detail in the scenery as well as the fact that you can't get a detailed view of the mini-map on the screen while you walk which made me constantly pause the action. It would have been great to see some effort put into the scenery itself because the basic and often empty rooms that you come across make it painfully obvious that this was originally a PS2 game from the days when scenic detail wasn't as commonplace. Having said that, the graphics are quite sharp overall; it's just the detail that's severely lacking.
Battling and recruiting demons is a lot of fun, especially if you're a fan of the series like I am and get excited when you come across your favourite recruitable demon. As time moves on, there are different phases of the moon that influence your ability to recruit different demons but it ultimately feels more random than anything. By initiating a command to talk to a demon while in the middle of battle, you'll start a conversation that can end in multiple ways such as recruiting them without hassle, having them rob you blind then leave, or even instigating them to attack you randomly. I often found that I had to switch up my equipped demons in order to exploit the right enemy weaknesses in a given area which is a great way to force the player to experiment with the vast library of demons. Of course, you can also combine demons to create new ones or sacrifice weaker ones to boost others' stats as is standard for the series.
Besides amassing a collection of demons, there's also the magatama system. As you find or create magatamas, you'll unlock different abilities; each with their own theme such as healing or elemental abilities. I enjoyed this system and found that it added a nice touch by giving me more control over how I could personalise the main character's abilities. However, I found it difficult to use these skills often because they would drain so much of my MP. The same can be said for the demons that I recruited. This usually results in brute-forcing to get through a battle and spamming attack as well as focusing the main character's skill abilities on attack power.
I've discussed the graphics so I must mention the audio quality. It's great that you have access to English and Japanese voice options and in general, I found both to be well done. However, the music sounds like you're listening to super-compressed audio files even though my home theatre is awesome. It's so bad that it can be distracting and I found myself even pressing mute sometimes.
Some additions to Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster include a suspend save ability that makes dungeon-crawling easier, trophies to challenge yourself with, and if you purchase the Digital Deluxe Edition, you can access the Maniax DLC which allows you to swap out Raidou Kuzunoha (one of the main characters that you meet) with Dante from the Devil May Cry games. You have to decide when creating your save file whether or not you want to swap them so it's a bit unfortunate that there's no storyline with both characters. However, it's understandable given that they were originally 2 separate games and it's nice that you have the option. In addition to the Maniax DLC, there's a harder difficulty level if you're crazy enough that Hard isn't enough of a challenge.
You'll definitely have fun with Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster if you're a fan of JRPGs and don't mind dark subject matter. The dungeon-crawling and battle system provide a solid level of challenge and the gameplay stays interesting throughout. However, the lack of visual detail and poor music quality will constantly remind you that you're merely playing a remaster of a PS2 game.
- + Magatama system makes customizing the protagonist's abilities interesting
- + Exploring labyrinthine dungeons is a lot of fun
- + Recruiting demons is as enjoyable as ever
- - MP management makes using the variety of available abilities a challenge
- - Graphics are bland and lack detail
- - Music tracks sound far too compressed