Before there was Persona, there was Shin Megami Tensei.
As a bit of a history lesson, Persona was conceived as a spin off from the Shin Megami Tensei series. The game’s saw an incredible fandom and most importantly established a trope: the Atlus high school setting. As the years went by though, Persona would end up becoming the more popular series, and become the defacto name that put Atlus on the map.
That’s just history though. For the most serious players in the modern era, Shin Megami Tensai continues to be a classic amongst hardcore JRPG fans due to its dark setting, awesome characters, and engaging narrative.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is one of the most popular in the series with an aesthetic and story that has, pound for pound, competed favorably with the best JRPGs available in recent years. Unfortunately, the game was only available on the PlayStation 2 for the past 18 (!) years, but Atlus has now released it for the PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 system; where both old and new fans of the series can finally relive the classic.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is one of legendary director Katsura Hashino’s earliest works. As aforementioned, the game is far darker than his work on Persona. The story revolves around a high school student who transforms into the demonic Demi-fiend after the world undergoes Conception. This sees him wake up to a post-apocalyptic Tokyo filled with demons. As he explores the newly named “Vortex World”, he meets up with old and new acquaintances and friends- with some seeking out to ally with a powerful entity from the Shadow Vortex and create their own Reason (a powerful inner philosophy of life that can be used to mold the new world). Like the games in the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series, this game has multiple endings which makes it have more replayability than most JRPGs.
The gameplay is evergreen. While it’s your standard turn based routine, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has that eccentric edge the series is known for where you ally yourself with demons that you can recruit, or fuse to become even stronger demons. Recruiting is fun by itself, where you can negotiate with them by answering their questions, influencing a few conversations by flattering, or even by bribing with Macca or items.
The game was one of the first in the Shin Megami Tensei series to use 3D graphics with a third person camera perspective, and surprisingly, the character and enemy models still hold up pretty well even in 2021 with only lip-sync being substandard compared to the Atlus JRPGs we have now. Environment design and details are sparse, but pull off their aesthetics well. The omission of a 60 FPS mode on all platforms is a huge bummer. Another issue with the remaster is that while most graphics are now on a higher resolution; we cannot say the same about the CG scenes (which aren’t given the same loving care as the rest of the remaster).
Unsurprisingly, the music holds up and is one of the best things about the game, as with others in the Shin Megami Tensei series. Composed by Shoji Meguro with additional work by Kenichi Tsuchiya and Toshiko Tasaki, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne’s music and sound design does not have the flourishing of recent games from Atlus, but remains catchy and memorable even after all these years.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne remains one of the all time classics in the PlayStation 2 era, and is worth playing by new and old fans of the JRPG genre. The only issue I have is that Atlus has excluded some very cool features into the Digital Deluxe Edition which is also available as DLC. While the basic package still gives you features like additional difficulty levels, suspend save states, voiced Japanese or English VO, and an alternate branch with series favorite Raidou Kuzunoha, it lacks the Maniax pack, where you can use Dante from the Devil May Cry series in place of Raidou. Even so though, I would say it is a must buy for any JRPG fan.
A review code was provided by SEGA Europe
Developer: Atlus / Publisher: SEGA|Atlus
Release date: 25/05/2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC
Version Reviewed: PS4