SMT Nocturne: First Impressions

Today is a good day! Not only is it a three-day weekend, SMT Nocturne Remastered released today! Ever since I’ve played Persona 5 I’ve been looking into other Atlus titles. Once I discovered that the Persona series is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei games, I wanted to play the original SMT games. Despite looking for years I’ve never come across a PS2 copy of SMT III Nocturne. Naturally, when the remaster was announced I was excited. This is the game that many JRPG fans have high opinions on. It is supposedly one of the hardest JRPGs ever made. I don’t know if playing the remake instead of the original is enough to graduate from casual Persona fan to hardcore SMT veteran. I’ll let the rabid fans on Reddit and YouTube figure that out. 

I didn’t know much about the game going into it. All I knew was that you watch the apocalypse happen and then you wander about trying to figure out what’s going on. I would mark this as a spoiler, but I don’t think it qualifies since the apocalypse happens so soon once the game starts.

The other thing I knew going into it is that the game isn’t joking with the “Hard” difficulty. I’m not messing with that until I see what “Normal” is like. I did download the free Merciful setting just in case. However, I’m not a wimp. I won’t use that until absolutely necessary to save my sanity. 

So far I’m about two hours into Nocturne. I’ve completed the first dungeon and have explored some of the beginning areas so far. The combat hasn’t been truly difficult yet. To be fair, I have played other Persona and other mainline SMT games. Because of this, I’m already familiar with the press turn system, skill terminology, and how to abuse enemy weaknesses. There are many random encounters so it becomes a challenge of managing your party’s HP and MP. The menu system while functional is dated. I’m almost embarrassed at how long it took me to figure out how to talk to demons. (Only in SMT does that sentence make sense without sounding like a cultist.)  Still, while at times the random encounters do feel tedious, the combat itself is pretty fun. The auto mode speeds up fights with easy low-level demons. 

The best thing about this game is the overall tone and atmosphere. Unlike many games, the protagonist (insert name here) isn’t treated like he is special or a chosen one. He’s just sort of… there. Stuck in the middle of the most bizarre and horrible circumstances immaginable trying to survive. As the game starts he is going about his everyday life when he and his friends are caught up in events that they knew nothing about. With this setup, the player naturally feels as lost as the main character. Because I too, did not know what was going on or why things were happening. 

Characters you encounter while exploring are very interesting. Along with the remaining humans, you can talk to the souls of deceased humans and demons that are loitering about. The usefulness of their information varies, but they all have different personalities that make interacting with them entertaining. This also lends itself to the subtle story telling. These characters are now a part of this new world with no explanation. It immediately drives the point home that humanity was almost entirely wiped out with only a handful of survivors left. Now this world belongs to these demons. 

The cinematic of the end of the world was honestly unnerving. There wasn’t much sound or dramatic music. Only a few characters knew what was going to happen or had a suspicion that something was going to happen. The rest of the world had no idea and life was going on as normal. Everything ended without ceremony. This added to the surrealness of the cutscene of the apocalypse. It creates a strange mixture of both cosmic horror and the supernatural. Along with a somberness of the destruction of the old world. However, there is a sense of hope and determination of surviving against the odds and the possibility to create a new version of the world.  

As of right now, I’m really loving Nocturne. I can see why it’s so well loved in its niche. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the game has in store for me. 

*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to Atlus and was posted on Siliconera

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