Petty Reviews: SMT Nocturne

Never in my life have I simultaneously loved and hated a game so much. I’ve spent over 70 hours on Nocturne. I am SO CLOSE to the end of the game! I will beat Nocturne. I will write my full review. I can do this! I will beat Nocturne! 

Within this week or the next, I will dedicate the time to finish my playthrough. So why make a Petty Review? Two reasons. The first is I have way too many feelings right now. The second is while I may get to the end of Nocturne, the game has already beaten me. 

*Spoiler warning: I will be talking about one particular boss fight. No story spoilers*    

In Nocturne there are bosses called Fiends. You encounter them in various parts of the world as you continue the story. There a few that you automatically encounter. They are part of the story and unavoidable. However, after you defeat them the rest of the Fiend fights are optional. They only occur if you continue to progress in the optional dungeon the Labyrinth of Amala. 

For the second to last Fiend battle, you fight The Trumpeter. He has the magical ability of “Holy Melody”. Which is the most overpowered recovery spell I’ve ever seen in any video game. It’s the equivalent of that bratty kid who makes an “everything proof” shield when playing pretend. This ability allows The Trumpeter to regain all of his HP and MP in one move. ONE MOVE! Not even one full turn! After 3 or 4 rounds of combat, he will use it. There’s no escaping it. No matter how many prayers you send to RNGesus, it will happen. He will undo all your progress in one move and put you back at the start point, worse for wear. 

Up until that point the game rewarded strategies that favored endurance. As long as I could withstand attacks while doing some damage meant that you win. It didn’t matter how many turns it took. As long as I stayed alive I could win. 

Not this time. No. Staying alive wasn’t enough anymore. I had to change up the entirety of my core strategy for this fight. I knew what I had to do. I had to level up and optimize my team for damage output. 

So I did. I changed out my demon team and tried again. And failed again. My numbers weren’t big enough to win. It was at this point that I gave up. Instead of trying to “git gud” and use careful strategy, I abused Nocturne’s systems. I used one of the DLC dungeons added in to the PS4 version of Nocturne to level up fast. Within 10 minutes I went from level 66 to level 75. 

Normally, this wouldn’t feel like cheating. After all, what could be a more gamer move than cheesing the system to your advantage? However the dungeon I used wasn’t part of the original PS2 Nocturne. Doing this felt like admitting that the original game was too hard for me and I never would have beaten it without the assistance. It was demoralizing. The pride of being able to say “I’ve beaten SMT Nocturne, one of the hardest JRPGs ever.” was diminished in that moment. 

At higher levels I did more damage and was able to fuse high level demons. The third and last attempt at The Trumpeter lead to victory! It was a bittersweet victory. Since that moment I no longer cared about playing the game the “right way”. Now I look up the stats of bosses before facing them in order to pick out the best strategy ahead of time. I no longer care enough to try to face a boss blind, fail, adjust strategy, and retry. SMT Nocturne broke my patience. As much as I love this game, I just want to get to the end and be done with it. 

*This post is dedicated to all the people who put SMT Nocturne guides and walkthroughs on the Internet. I love all of you. I hope you get to eat all the pizzas, pet all the dogs, and experience every happiness this world has to offer. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you. I never would have gotten this far without you.*

*Image does not belong to me. It’s a screenshot from SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster.

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