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As far as remasters go, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster is an interesting one. Although only a few hours in, the game feels both new and dated. The visuals and gameplay feel slick enough to be from a brand-new title at times, but also jarring and stiff at others. Publisher Atlus is clearly mindful of this because it feels like an intentional choice. After all, the original 2003 PlayStation 2 title is held in high regard by many, so wholesale changes aren't the best course of action here. That being said, there is one big thing they've added that some fans may not be happy about.
In Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster, there's a 'Merciful' difficulty mode. Fans will know this game was infamously difficult back in the day, with many players never clicking with it because of its demanding skill level. Lucky then that Atlus have taken the choice to add in a new feature and make the experience more accessible. You can even alter the difficulty from the in-game menu, letting you adjust as you please. This isn't the only helpful addition that's been added.
When you die in Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster, you get a cutscene and then you're hauled back to the title screen. There's no autosave, and you can only record your progress at set locations, so death can be a punishing setback. With these savepoints being few and far between, Atlus have added the ability to create a suspend point, letting you quit the game whenever you like. However, once you load up the suspend point, it's deleted, so any death will take you right back to your last actual save. In other words, despite this handy new feature, death remains an unwelcome outcome.
"Just what is Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster about anyway?" I hear you ask. Well, it starts off with you naming your character, a Tokyo high school boy who discovers he has the heart of a demon. How do you learn this? You're told by your teacher as you stand on the precipice of the apocalypse. Tokyo is then thrown into chaos and you are left to fight your way through a world inhabited by other demons, as you try to track down your friends Isamu and Chiaki, who were with you before everything changed. As you can see, it's a complicated situation.
Fans of Persona 5 Royal (read our review here) will feel at home with the core gameplay. It's a turn-based system where you command your party members to use a mixture of physical and magical attacks. Hit the opponent's weakness and you can get another hit in before your turn ends, so pay attention to what moves trigger this in your enemies. This is particularly important if you're playing on Normal mode or higher, as enemies can be brutally strong.
Your party is made up of your main character, and any other demons you're able to convince to join your side. In Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster, you're able to negotiate with foes and talk them into joining your team. Each type of demon has different moves so it's up to you to decide who you want to battle together with. You can also change your own attacks by equipping different Magatamas (essentially spirits).
Again, these gameplay mechanics are not new to anyone familiar with the Persona games, but that's because Persona is an offshoot of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. If you knew that already, congratulations! If you didn't, now you do, so... congratulations!
As for the setting, it's an unusual, haunting world. There are blood-spattered hallways, creepy chambers, and an overworld that clearly reflects the cataclysmic event that just took place. And yet, there's an odd charm to much of it. The almost luminous glow of hospital hallways and the vibrant sunlight over open areas create bizarrely beautiful environments that are simultaneously welcoming and foreboding, especially as random battles can occur at basically any time.
There's still plenty more to see in Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster, so be sure to check back here for our review in due course. Until then, just know that this game was a classic for a reason, and the new features added to make the game more accessible are the perfect reasons for anyone to dive in. Plus Dante from the Devil May Cry series is a DLC character, so what else do you need?
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster was played on PlayStation 4 with code provided by Atlus. The game releases for PS4, Steam and Nintendo Switch from 21 May 2021.
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