Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne HD Remaster brings back the classic 2003 PS2 with some sharpened graphics, retranslated scripts, voice acting, and some quality-of-life improvements. Ironically, the game is many fans’ first experience with Shin Megami Tensei as the first title in the series to make it out of Japan, and now it will probably play the same role again for Atlus fans who started with Persona 3, 4, and 5. as we stated in our preview, those expecting Nocturne to be a Persona-like experience might be turned off by the differences they find here.
Nocturne is a much more traditional RPG experience than players might expect, given its ties to the Persona series. There are no snippets of life or social sim aspects here. This title is bigger in plotwise scope but more focused in its gameplay. It’s also a darker game in aesthetics and storytelling, which contrasts with the bright colors, humor, and emphasis on style seen in the Persona series.
If you liked the original release of Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, then you will love this one. The “remaster” is very literal here, and aside from the inclusion of Chronicles content featuring Raidou Kuzunoha and a new voiceover, this will be just as you remember it. Since those who are already fans of the game will have an easy time deciding to buy it, this review is primarily aimed at newcomers unfamiliar with the franchise outside of the recent Persona games.
This is the end of the world as we know it
Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne begins with the end of the world, at least as we know it. A cult triggers an event called Conception, which turns Tokyo into a desolate land on the surface of a sphere. The cult wants to cause the world to be reborn through the power of the Great Wall.
In the process of Conception, the main character (the one you mentioned) turns into a half-demon who has demonic powers but has a human spirit. As a demi-demon, players can turn to demons for help (many of these will be familiar to Persona fans). These demons can join your party and fight alongside you and coalesce into new, more powerful forms.
The great mystery of the game is who will be able to prove their strength and rebuild the world. Each character has their own image of what the world should be like, but only people who prove their worth to the Great Will can do so. With his power to lead demons, the player character becomes a major player in conflict, and many compete for his loyalty.
Nocturne’s story kept me engaged until the very end, but it can get a little overwhelming at times. I found myself missing some of the humor and fun found in Persona. The atmosphere can be a little stifling at times, especially since most people you talk to are actually just the spirits of those who died in Conception. However, with that, the darker tones and art style matched and brought home the grave nature of the story.
How new is this Nocturne?
As I said above, Shin Megami Tensei 3: HD Remaster is just: a remaster. There are no significant changes to the graphics here. The background has been enhanced and sharpened but not completely remade, so there may be some blurring. All original music and sound effects are back too. The early PS2 releases had great sound design, so nothing really needed to change on that front.
The biggest addition to this game is the voice acting. The original game is text-based, but in addition to the re-translation, Nocturne’s remaster voices the main part of the game. I think the English cast does a great job, but there’s also Japanese audio for those who want to check it out.
Improving the quality of life is also very welcome. As an adult, not being able to save anywhere in the game is a pain in the ass (which annoys me to no end when trying to play retro RPGs). Luckily, Nocturne now has a deferred save function that lets you save in and out just about anywhere.
The game is notoriously harsh, so in addition to the original difficulty mode, players can choose the new Merciful difficulty to make things easier. I recommend playing on Normal because I don’t think this game is as difficult as its reputation suggests. However, if that’s not the case, or if you just want a story-focused game, Merciful makes this game really easy to beat.
Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster Review: Final Decision Keputusan
Many JRPGs have aged well, but Nocturne feels very fresh despite its age. There have been enough changes with the HD Remaster to give it a bit of modern comfort and polish without any major distortions.
The biggest gripe you might see about Nocturne HD is that it retails for $49.99, plus an additional $9.99 for the Mainax DLC that includes Dante from Devil May Cry. So, to get the full package, you will pay the same as a new AAA game. I hate being a penny pincher, but that’s a lot of money for what you get here. Those who are smart and patient can get some great games for $60, so for an 18-year-old JRPG with minimal upgrades it’s a tough sell.
To me, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster is worth a premium, if only because I hope it prompts Sega and Atlus to remaster more of their catalog (Panzer Dragoon Saga, please). However, players who thought they would find another Persona here would be disappointed. Nocturne is a great traditional JRPG, but potential buyers should know what they’re getting into before they pull the trigger.
GameRevolution reviews Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster on PC. Code provided by the publisher.