Originally released in Japan for the PS2 in 2003, Shin Megami Tensei III is a turn-based RPG set in post-apocalyptical Tokyo starring the now famed and memed Demi-fiend who is on a journey to find out exactly what the hell happened at the start of the game.
SMT III has had several different versions and releases over the years but the brand new Shin Megami Tensei: III Nocturne HD Remaster for the PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC is the definitive release, so if you’re interested in checking out the game this should be the edition you’re looking out for.
The HD Remaster is based on the Maniax Chronicle Edition of the game which replaces Dante from Devil May Cry 2 (yes those memes started here) with Raidou Kuzunoha, the protagonist of the Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha games (the third and fourth Devil Summoner games on the PS2). However as I mentioned earlier, the HD Remaster is the definitive edition of the game so you get the option to choose between Dante and Raidou as the overpowered recurring demon you face during the game right when you start up a new save file.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster features many additions and QoL improvements that help make the game less rage inducing, the reason for which I’ll get into in a bit. The new additions include more voice dialogue, graphical improvements, the new ‘Merciful’ difficulty which helps make the game more newbie friendly amongst other minor changes. The game does have a few technical issues that I’m hoping get fixed in future patches, with the biggest one bothering me being minor stuttering and frame glitches (maybe something to do with the game’s V-Sync settings?). On the topic of technical issues if you’ve played Nocturne before the audio might require a bit getting used to as in some instances like the pre-battle scenes’ music come off as muffled, maybe one of the drawbacks of re-doing audio. The videos could also have been done better as they are still in their old 4:3 format, I’m also not a fan of Atlus’ way of uprezzing the videos as they just come off as blurry. Lastly when I heard about the HD Remaster last year I was really hoping they would improve the camera but unfortunately its untouched and expect to be annoyed again and again while playing the game as the camera constantly re-adjusts itself without reason.
I’ve played the original release several times over the years and must have at least over 300 hours in the game over my numerous save files, so for the HD Remaster I decided to play the game this time with the new ‘Merciful’ difficulty and I must say what a master stroke this was by Atlus. Shin Megami Tensei games, especially those before SMT IV, are some of the most hardcore RPGs you’ll play. Playing the games even on the standard difficulty is equivalent to hard mode on other games, and don’t get me started on the hard difficulties of SMT games. However the ‘Merciful’ difficulty really tones down the unforgiving parts of the game and helps casual players just enjoy the story or go for the numerous endings that players can go for. This addition honestly is essential in the modern gaming landscape as it won’t tone down the game for the hardcore fans who can choose the standard or harder difficulties, while the new and casual fan can go for the easier difficulty. The best way to explain my experience playing through the campaign on ‘Merciful’ difficulty was that it helps SMT feel more like Persona. Overall a very good addition which will only help SMT become more accessible to new fans.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster features one of the best stories across Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei franchise and follows a high school student in Tokyo who is transformed into half-demon-half-human hybrid called the Demi-Fiend after the world goes through the mysterious and sudden event called The Conception. Throughout the game its up to the Demi-fiend to adventure through post-apocalyptic Tokyo and uncover the mystery of what happened and what his role is in the new world. Its worth noting that Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster’s story doesn’t follow a straightforward way of storytelling and you’ll have to uncover every bit of the game if you want the whole truth behind what’s happening. The game is full of deceit, lies and different perspectives on events and I love how Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster feels like an actual Role Playing Game and not a glorified movie.
The best part of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster is honestly the demon collecting mechanic and the battles. Often compared with Pokemon, Shin Megami Tensei is anything but. Although the Compendium system isn’t as glorified as the one featured in Persona 5 for example, the Cathedral of Shadows is really fun to tinker around with.
With everything else out of the way I feel that the battle system is where the game truly shines. When exploring dungeons and the overworld there is an indicator at the bottom right of the screen that points out if there are demons around and how close you are to an encounter. The battles are random but using the indicator you can be relatively well prepared for battles, which is very essential the harder difficulty you choose. During battle the player’s party will consist of four characters, one being the Demi-fiend who is not replaceable – joined by three other demon companions. The battles are based on the “Press Turn” system which debuted in this very game and become a series staple. The system allows players to take advantage of weaknesses and employ different strategies to get the upper hand in battle. The “Press Turn” system is one of the most fun battle systems that I’ve played and one of the highlights of Nocturne.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster is dated, has technical issues and unforgiving however its also one of the most fun games I’ve played this year. There a certain type of charm to Shin Megami Tensei games and playing the HD Remaster was a refresher to me as well, for now I just can’t for Shin Megami Tensei V.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster Review (PS4)
Final Score - 9/109/10
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster is dated, has technical issues and unforgiving however its also one of the most fun games I've played this year.