by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Back to basics
This reviewer is happy to detect a pattern here, with the third Atlus release on Steam within a year (Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Strikers), it appears that more people will get to experience this creative company’s works now that they are releasing games on Steam with the new release of Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD (Shortened to SMT III for convenience).
With this release, some new fans may be confused if they have only played Atlus games on Steam, in a similar way to how Strikers was a sequel to a game that didn’t come out on Steam, so some simple differences should be established. SMT is the series that Persona is a spinoff of, and doesn’t have the ‘slice of life’ elements that balances out the JRPG segments. Along with this the beings called Personas or "Shadows" in Persona are called demons within SMT III, and actually have distinct characterization and personalities rather than being symbolic of the soul (Personas) or generic monsters sprung from the sea of consciousness (Shadows). These demons can actually be convinced to join the player’s team and aid them on their journey through the ruined new world. It may seem a bit odd to those who have only played Persona games, but thankfully it’s a transition that isn’t hard to acquire a grasp of given some time.
Reasons to return
Players take the role of a highschool student who arrives in Shinjuku moments before the world is destroyed and recreated. Tokyo and the area surrounding it becoming an apocalyptic world of destruction where demons roam freely. Very few humans are left, not including the player who is reborn as a peculiar demon known only as the Demifiend, marked by bright blue glowing tattoos that turn yellow or red in the overworld to demonstrate how much HP remains. The player is responsible for what becomes of this new, ruined world by choosing a 'Reason' to back and support, each one founded by someone whose will aims to move the world in a new direction based on their philosophy.
SMT III originally released in 2003, meaning that there’s eighteen years of growth between Atlus’ first release and the remaster, so how does the game feel? The game does in fact feel like a polishing of an old game, the once jagged models are now smoothed and still look somewhat aged and low quality, while the audio is still compressed as if they used the original PS2 audio files. The biggest enhancement of SMT III is the voice acting though, since the original version didn’t have voices, and for some hardcore fans that addition itself is more than enough reason to pick up this remaster. This does lead to an amusing situation where a lot of the main characters in SMT III are given names by the player, and thus are never referred to by name in the voice acting, a quirk typically reserved for the protagonist of the Persona games. The remaster also includes a much easier ‘Merciful’ difficulty that needs to be downloaded separately as free DLC, for whatever reason, and includes Maniax mode, and as the internet is always happy to remind people, it features Dante from the Devil May Cry series.
Passing the baton on
One of the most noticeable combat mechanics in SMT III is the ‘half-turn’ system. Basically each side of a battle has as many turns as they do demons on their side, and turns can be passed or lost based on decisions made or when attacks miss, while critical hits and hits to opponent weaknesses can only cost ‘half a turn’ and thus extend the amount of times they are able to attack their opponents. Those who have played Persona will recognize the system that created the ‘One-More’ system when opponents are knocked down by critical hits or weaknesses, and with Persona 5 the system became further enhanced by Baton Pass, giving gamers a bit of history that influenced what may be some of their favorite current JRPGs.
All in all SMT III is a tricky game to review, particularly without comparing it to the Persona series that gamers may be more acquainted with, especially on Steam. The concepts and designs of demons are very clearly the same, but the combat and story play out in such different ways, not even including the lack of the social sim portion that Persona is known for. If you’re a fan of JRPGS or played SMT III on the PS2, then this reviewer recommends looking into the dark story of the Demifiend and what becomes of the world around him.
Invigorating story, entertaining combat