Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster

Video Game Review

We are at the fascinating point of time where we are between console gamers. We are seeing developers push the last ounces of power out of the previous generation and get acquainted with what the newest generation has to offer over the next few years. Therefore, it was a little surreal to diving into an HD Remaster of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Initially released for the PlayStation 2 in the mid-2000s, Nocturne was released just before the Persona craze, which pushed the wider Megami Tensei franchise into different directions. 

Nocturne features many mechanics of the old school Megami Tensei games that may or may not fare as well to some players and many concepts reminiscent of the PS2 era of RPG, which may at times feel sluggish and lower quality in the graphical department. But, there is also much to appreciate – from a complex storyline where your decisions align your character with different factions, reasons and endings; a much more mature take on the demon summoning genre than other games in the expansive Megami Tensei franchise, and a long experience which can be enjoyed multiple times should you so wish.

The storyline can move slowly at points but is filled with rich lore and puts the burden on your shoulders around how the story ends. You play the game as a self-named protagonist, a young male high school student residing in Tokyo who, along with his friends Chiaki and Isami, head to a mysterious hospital in Shinjuku to visit their teacher. Upon arrival, the hospital is deserted, and upon finding their teacher, the cogs begin for the world to enter a period of rebirth dubbed the ‘Conception’. Given demonic powers from mysterious figures, he leaves the hospital to explore the Vortex – a Tokyo ruled over by demons. 

As a more neutral individual, with no inherent alliance to one party or another, he quickly becomes a powerful force who can summon demons and, through the power of parasitic beings known as Magatama, can also fare well on the battlefield themselves. But as the story continues and more events compound upon one another – he is lured across different paths and reasons – each representing a particular friend or alignment. It makes you feel that your decisions matter and can lead to certain characters surviving, friends dying, or a very different fate for the world.

My main argument against Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne’s storyline is that it is very slow to progress and requires you to keep on top of different running narratives lest you wind up confused. The game’s overall pacing is rather slow, as was the trend with games of that era, but for those that don’t mind it, I found the game tests our own moral compasses. What could seem like shades of good and evil are more different shades of grey.

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A nice inclusion is that, technically, both characters from the ‘Lucifer’s Call’ and ‘Chronicle’ editions of the game are included. By default, you will have Raidou from Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army weaved into the narrative. But, if you are willing to purchase some DLC, you can choose to have Dante from Devil May Cry take his place. Unfortunately, you have to choose one or the other and not enjoy both in the same playthrough.

Should you have played any of the Persona games before, you should feel pretty much at home in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne – with much of the game’s terminology staying consistent between titles. Battles occur between the player, up to three summonable demons, and an opposing party that is not limited to such limits. Your goal is simple, use the unique abilities of each character/demon to take down the foes ahead of you, ensuring that your HP (and, to a lesser extent, MP) doesn’t fall below zero. 

It is a typical RPG affair for the time, albeit more on the difficult side, with the significant differences being a) The ability to talk with certain demons to recruit them to your side and b) the ability to give up a turn to summon or unsummon a demonic party member. Except for either Raidou or Dante should you make the right decisions, there are no other humans who join your party, meaning that demons you recruit, level up and evolve make up the majority of your firepower.

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While it is not as significant an element to the game narrative-wise, demon fusion is a crucial aspect of gameplay. Although you can theoretically use a demon for as long as you want, with some granted the ability to mutate into another form, getting access to some stronger demons often comes through the Cathedral of Shadows. Reminiscent of the Velvet Room, players can fuse two or more demons to create a third, theoretically more powerful creature – with the ability to inherit stats from their predecessors.

In this remastered version of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, there is no amendment to the battle system or any other gameplay mechanics, and the only significant additions content-wise are the extra dungeons “Where the Demi-Fiend was Born’ and ‘Center of the Conception’ provided you buy them. Some other nice-to-have changes include a free Merciful difficulty setting as DLC (Allowing you to enjoy the game at a more leisurely pace) which can be changed at any time, and a quick suspend/resume feature that is very much welcome. 

Outside the addition of trophies, there is little on offer gameplay-wise to convince someone who has 100% completed the original to replay it on the PS4. But with the game being nearly impossible to find pre-owned, this is by far the best way to purchase and play Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.

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Being only a Remaster than a Remake, the best way to define Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne’s production quality is that it is average-PS2 era quality, just with resolutions that make the design work clearer and more fitting modern-day televisions. It is nothing revolutionary and by no means close to the likes of Persona 5, or even Persona 4 for that matter. Still, there is a certain charm to what is on offer, giving players a true feeling that they are exploring a modern world that is devoid of life, and in many aspects, personality.

Unfortunately, the music quality has not improved from the original, being low-quality versions of what is surprisingly a great soundtrack overall. This is even more noticeable in contrast to the game’s newly introduced Japanese and English voice acting, which is up to the standards we would expect from any mainline game from ATLUS. With a voice cast including Christian La Monte (Demi-Fiend), Robbie Daymond (Isamu Nitta), Laura Post (Yuko Takao) and Connor Fogarty (Hikawa). The characters Raidou, Gouto and Dante (depending on which version of the game you play) are also voiced, bringing in Billy Kametz and Ray Chase to voice the Devil Summoners pair and Ruben Langdon (the actual DMC voice actor) to voice Dante. The latter was a very welcome inclusion!

I never expected Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne to be released off the PlayStation 2, not because it wasn’t deserving of one, but because it had a more niche appeal to other ATLUS franchises such as the aforementioned Persona franchise. But I hope this is a trend that continues, and we see franchises including Digital Devil SagaDevil Summoner and maybe even the first two Shin Megami Tensei games receive new life in Japan and internationally over the coming years. It is about time that the full Shin Megami Tensei franchise enters a new renaissance period.

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As for the game itself, while a remake would certainly have been warranted in my opinion, this is still a very competent remaster. A little slow-paced and with a slight niche appeal to more recent Shin Megami Tensei instalments – it rewards players with a decision-driven narrative, some great voice acting and simple yet challenging RPG mechanics. All in all, a perfect remaster of a sleeper hit of its era.


Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne HD Remaster will officially be released on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch starting 25 May 2021 outside of Japan.

A pre-release PlayStation 4 review copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne HD Remaster was kindly provided by the Australian publisher/distributor for the game.

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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