I have to admit something, this is quite possibly the weirdest previews I’ve ever had to write. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is undeniably one of the franchises most prolific entries to date. Upon its initial release on the PlayStation 2 back in February 2003, it garnered universal acclaim from critics and connoisseurs of the Japanese role-playing genre. Now why is this a weird preview? The game is closing in on its 20th Anniversary and has been a staple title for its entire series; a prominent entry that became the catalyst for fundamentally evolving future entries and spin-off titles like Persona 3. The series deviated from its roots, and demonstrated a newfound gameplay loop upon its departure from Shin Megami Tensei if… – the last of its corridor structured exploration – and experimented its next phase with Shin Megami Tensei: Nine – not actually the 9th entry, just a fancy sub-header.
As fans anxiously await the arrival of the series’ fifth chapter, we’re graced with an aesthetically appreciated revisiting of the series greatest. As unsurprised as I am, the attention its HD Remaster is receiving is amazing as it comes off the back end of Persona 5 (Royal)’s inarguable accolades. Revisiting this title on the PS5 (PS4 Version with Backwards Compatibility) is a delightful time-warp that consists of Nocturne’s many facets and features that remain unscathed. The lure of reviving this entry is for few reasons; it was the series most notable Japanese Role-Playing game on the world’s best selling home console, allow newcomers to comprehend Nocturne’s legacy within gaming, and of course to re-establish a base in Shin Megami Tensei’s immense popularity that has dwindled slightly, due to its spin-off stealing its crown.
Source: ATLUS JAPAN
Now a great deal of gamers reading this preview are possibly here for the juicy upgrades. I’ll get to that shortly but for the uninitiated, you’re probably wondering what the synopsis is to this mysterious escapade? Nocturne takes place in a modern post-cataclysmic Tokyo after an event labelled “The Conception”. The universe is eviscerated by a governing body that seeks to destroy its existence. “The Great Will” dictates events that has pushed Tokyo into a catatonic state of helplessness, as a spiritual sphere-like object slowly consumes the souls of those that had perished during the apocalyptic event. Our silent protagonist (canonically known as Naoki Kashima in other materials) arrives to Tokyo, in hopes of meeting with his friends Chiaki Hayasaka and Isamu Nitta to visit their high school teacher Yuko Takao, at the local hospital.
While exploring a dystopian metropolis, our protagonist is confronted by the news of multiple casualties between two cults in a nearby community reserve. Upon arriving to the clinic, they explore its desolate environment completely abandoned until our hero encounters a child who tries to kill him, but is saved by Takao in timely fashion, who takes the bewildered teen to the rooftops where he first hand witnesses the Conception. Takao divulges the secret of the Vortex World in which the entire landscape will change until its next creation is triggered. It’s an insanely confounding premise that I was engrossed in when I first played this game way back on its founding hardware. I was not prepared for its emotional impact Nocturne’s narrative possessed; it’s unequivocally one of gaming’s most meticulously penned creations.
For many that may be inquisitive enough to approach this title with an open mind, will find themselves encroached with a fascinating tale. Now, should you temper expectations heading into Nocturne HD Remaster? I’m unsure. It depends on which audience is prepared to play it; the experienced will find it to be an astounding revamp of their beloved JRPG of yesteryear, while an unfamiliar fan makes their first foray into Nocturne’s confronting tale may need to adjust their outlook with the possibility of embellishment forecasting an entirely different conjecture. Simply put, this is a mirrored experience to the original, with gameplay elements to match. There are subtle improvements made for accessibility, but it’s not a complete remake. But I will state that Nocturne HD Remaster looks stunning in 4K.
Lookin’ Sharp (Credit: DashGamer & ATLUS JAPAN)
The proviso of this reprisal is its approach in appealing an entirely new generation towards its art style. An emphatic statement is made in Nocturne through character design, and worldly elements that have an everlasting impact on players that look to re-immerse themselves in this disturbing environment. A foreboding premise that has aged well, yet pits itself against generations of established JRPG’s that have reshaped the industry. Regardless of its primordial placement within Shin Megami Tensei’s illustrious legacy, Nocturne’s remaster does itself a wondrous service that concisely coerces the gamer into an unorthodox ordeal within its depiction of hellacious happenings that habituate a climatised contrast considered normal. I mean, is it normal to experience a euphoric state of transition within our world that leads to an untimely demise from a demiurge that seeks to destroy all matter? No. It’s not normal at all.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster will without question divide the gaming community with its perpetuated delivery. The intent to re-introduce its unconventional exposition through toe-curling sequences that defy the sanctity of those that follow a creed, or the observance of certain religions are dubiously delightful. A devious display of delightfully demonic destruction that devours humanity and threatens its reality. I love an expeditious tale of triumph; the juxtapose of good that’s discreetly evil and vice-versa. The motif of reversible polarities makes for great contradictions in our universal climate that monotonously agrees with a political accord. The Shin Megami Tensei franchise looks to turn this narrative on its head and question the very fabric of these notions with an unearthly exhibition, and once again establish a repartee or retort between gamers and their undying adoration for this rousing re-emergence.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is a post-apocalyptic role-playing video game developed by Atlus for the PlayStation 2. It was published by Atlus in Japan and North America, and by Ghostlight in Europe. It is the third entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series, the central series in the Megami Tensei franchise.