Atlus, written in 2020 by Kaoru
The Megami Tensei franchise is one of the longest running and complicated ones you could try to get into. It all started in 1987, a couple months before the first Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star hit shelves, and has since grown into dozens upon dozens of releases across all kinds of platforms. There is even one on the Xbox, despite only three Japanese people having owned the console. Yet this only entails few main games with Shin Megami Tensei V going to release in 2021. Most of them instead are spinoffs like Persona or Digital Devil Saga or Devil Summoner.
Not that the Western world hat to worry about this convoluted mess for the longest time. Until 2004/2005 only very few of the games made it to North America and none of them reached Europe. This changed with Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, or rather its expanded Maniax Re-release. Being released in North America and Europe (with the new subtitle Lucifer’s Call) the game quickly became a cult classic and lead the way for almost all of the games since to be brought over. With an HD Remaster scheduled for early 2021, everyone who missed it back then or wants to rekindle their love for the game will soon be able to do so.
Nocturne takes place in modern day Tokyo. For about 30 minutes. Then the world ends and the protagonist, now half-demonic, finds himself inside the vortex world. A capsule of an in-between world, an egg from which a new world will be born. Meanwhile demons, angels, and everything in between fight over what the new world should be like, with certain spearheading figures and their “reasons” being at the helm of different belief systems.
Most of the storyline of the game is rather subdued. The main point of Nocturne is to travel this broken world, to butt heads with the different organizations and figures and their reasons. To ultimately find one’s own way and reach one of over a dozen endings depending on whom one agrees and disagrees with during the travel. It’s all lore and atmosphere and only few lengthy cutscenes. The journey is the goal here.
Even though the game released originally in 2003, the audiovisual side still holds up pretty well. Which is good since a remaster won’t change much outside of making the picture sharper. Yet the cel-shading designs and the in certain areas amazing architecture has aged rather well. Dungeons feature glowing geometric shapes in stark contrasting colours. Temples are illuminated in blood-red lights. Upside-down pyramids rotate in the sky. There are a lot of pleasing visuals to be had in Nocturne between the ruined post-apocalyptic buildings of former Tokyo.
All of this is staged with Shoji Meguros great OST that produces a rocking battle theme that seems to be almost barking at the player to more foreboding themes in other places. It is not yet known if any of the soundtrack will be changed or re-arranged in the HD version. What we do know is that the most important scenes will now feature voice acting.
The big thing with the gameplay is of course that the main character is the only (half-)human in the team. The other party members are made out of demons you negotiated during battle to join your cause. Constantly persuading better demons to your side or fusing already acquired ones into more powerful beings is the key to success in the game.
Especially considering the press turn battle system. If you or your enemy does an attack that hits a weakness, their side gets an extra action. However, if an attack misses or is nullified, they lose an action. This makes it very important to constantly shuffle the team around to hit enemy weaknesses and disable their more powerful output. Nocturne is even one of those rare JRPGs where status buffs and debuffs are super important instead of a waste of a turn. How novel.
The game does have a reputation for being on the hard side. Even on normal difficulty there are a couple rather annoying roadblocks like the legendary Matador fight early in the game. Here the HD-Remaster will be getting a new easy mode to pick, so this should not become a problem anymore.
Another change, at least for the West, is that Nocturne HD will be based on the Chronicles re-release. For the most part that JP-only release is identical with the one we know, but it replaces the guest appearance of Devil May Crys Dante with Raidou Kuzunoha of Atlus’ own Devil Summoner series.
To be honest, it is rather easy to predict the quality of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD. After all, we are not talking about a newly produced game here. It already exists and will simply be slightly dusted off for a new generation. With the original being one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2, a console that was not lacking in quantity or quality of said genre, all signs point to Nocturne HD to have the potential to become one of the Switch’s and PS4’s bests too. Atlus would need to try deliberately hard to mess this up.
The remaster will hit Japan in October 2020 with a Western release for Spring 2021 already announced.