Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne COVER

Developer: Atlus
Platform: PlayStation 2
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Release Date: October 12th, 2014

Premise

The Conception, a powerful event that will allow for the rebirth of the world, has begun. However, in order to recreate the world, it must be destroyed. This destruction has devastated everything and unleashed a horde of demons upon the world. As one of the few survivors, you have been selected to become the Demi-Fiend, and help determine the fate of the new world. With several different factions forming, and differing beliefs on how the new world should be, your choice will determine the future of humanity. Who will you trust?

My review after the break!

Story

From my experience, games tend to take place in a post-apocalyptic future, or the story is attempting to stop the apocalypse from even happening. In this game, you get to witness the apocalypse happen right at the beginning, and I think that’s great.

What really tells this story is the atmosphere of the world itself. With so few humans remaining and demons littered everywhere, many of which have organized under a specific banner of belief, It really takes a bad situation and makes it even worse. Since you are ultimately the swaying vote in the world’s restoration, you will be convinced, swayed, and sometimes even threatened to side with a specific faction. This final choice also provides multiple ending options, adding some replayability.

Characters

While the main character himself is rather lifeless, those around him are what shape his journey. Of course, by shape I mean manipulate. Each major player uses their unique relationship with you to convince you to side with them. These people include your high school friends, your teacher, and a few others you meet up with along the way. Each person’s reaction to the Conception is well developed as well. Each reaction is different in its own way, creating some diversity to a bleak world.

Visuals

As I said earlier, the atmosphere of the story is what defines this game, and its visuals help paint an even better picture. The world is ruined, desolate, and bleak, Buildings are wrecked both inside and out, and the things you fight can be really creepy looking. While the Shin Megami Tensei games tend to use the same demons in their games, having them rendered for the PS2 really makes some of them creepy… except for Jack Frost, he’s always adorable.

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Audio

What the game lacks in voice acting, it more than makes up for in its soundtrack. Each tune is well suited to its situation, and really helps articulate the bleak atmosphere that is visually present within the game.

Gameplay – Exploration

While there is a world map to explore in the game, it’s not that much. You are represented as a small map icon, as are other people, demons, and objects. Entrances to locations are marked with a different color.

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Once you enter a location, you will walk around in a third-person perspective. You’ll be able to talk to people and/or demons, find treasure, and as always, encounter enemies. Since you are living the apocalypse, encounters are everywhere, from dungeons, to towns. There is no safe place. You are able to move the camera while exploring, which is incredibly helpful. You are also given a map of your surroundings to keep yourself oriented.

Gameplay – Combat

Combat uses a turn-based format known as the press turn system. When your turn begins, you are given one action for each of your team. These actions can include attacking, using a skill, using an item, defending, or trying to flee. If your attack deals critical damage, or targets a weakness, You are given an additional action during the turn. Consequently, if your attack is nullified by the enemy, you miss, or they reflect or absorb the damage, you will lose press turns, forcing your turn to end sooner. Once your action runs out, then the enemies get a turn using the same rules. If an ally is defeated before your turn begins again, you start your turn with one less press turn.

I really like this system. It really makes you think strategically on how to build your character, as well as which demons you should be using in each area. If enemies are weak to fire, you make sure to have demons in your party that can cast Agi spells.

To add to the challenge of the game, if your main character dies in battle, it’s an automatic game over, so be careful.

The other action that you can take is talking to your enemies. During this process, you will be given questions to answer, or requests for things such as money, health, and so on in order to make it happy. If he likes you enough, he will join your team.

Recruit

Gameplay – Character progression

There are two ways that your main character will get stronger throughout the game. The first way is through standard EXP levels. When he levels up, you will be given stat points to distribute as you see fit. The other method is using the Magatama. These items are found throughout the game and when equipped, will change your elemental resistances and weaknesses, and grant you new skills when you level. It’s important to note that once a skill is learned, it cannot be re-learned. You only get a finite number of skill slots, so make sure to build wisely.

Your demons can also level up and learn new skills, but the best way to improve them is by Fusion. By fusing two demons together, you can create a new, sometimes more powerful demon. The more levels they have gained, the more skills they can pass on to the new demon. You can buy back demons you have had previously as well, but it’s more expensive with higher level demons. The fusion result also cannot be a higher level than your main character, so you can’t be too overpowered at any given time.

I’ve always found the fusion system interesting in Shin Megami Tensei games. It adds variety to your demons, so you aren’t always using the same old team throughout the game. Granted, one specific demon stayed with me from mid game to the very end, but he was my best healer.

Gameplay – Optional Content/Side Quests

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne offers a variety of extra challenging side bosses, but the biggest optional stage in the game is the Labyrinth of Amala. This is a side dungeon that can be accessed throughout the game, and can only be cleared up to specific points. You must fight very specific and difficult side bosses in the main story to progress. If you clear the entire labyrinth area (believe me, you’ll be clearing it closer to the end of the game), you will gain access to a second, more powerful final boss, and you will have unlocked an ending that overwrites all other ending choices. Sadly, I have not cleared this personally, but I have seen it done, and it is insane what you have to go through to clear it. Still, you’re a real champ if you can pull it off.

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Final Thoughts

If you need a post-apocalyptic setting and are sick of zombie shooters, this may be what you’re looking for. Nocturne has a great story, challenging gameplay, and a very interesting aesthetic that keeps you coming back for more. Also, if you’re a Pokemon Fan, I do consider almost every Shin Megami Tensei Title “Pokemon for Adults”.

PlayStation 3 players can purchase the game from the PSN as a PS2 classic, so if you like what I’ve said about the game, I do recommend checking it out.

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Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

7 thoughts on “Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

  1. Great post! Although it was Persona 3 that introduced me to this series, Nocturne quickly became one of my favorite games of all time. The Press Turn can really screw you up, I’m sure you’ve been there!

    Curious, is this you favorite SMT game? If not, which one is?

    Since SMT predates Pokemon by good chunk, it may be more accurate to say Pokemon is kid version of SMT, although most will have no idea what that mean :(.

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

      1. How are you liking it?

        I was so excited by the original trailer (the one with FE character along side SMT protagonists) but the final product was nothing of that, so I was disappointed. But since I have tried it, I cannot say anything regarding it.

        Like

      2. It’s been interesting. It’s an SMT game at its core from story to mechanics, but it has just enough FE in it, including familiar characters to make it a noticeable blend. Too many side quests, but an overall well developed blend. It’s worth trying

        Liked by 1 person

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