Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne HD Remaster brings the 2003 PS2 classic back again with some sharpened graphics, re-translated script, voice acting, and some quality of life upgrades. Ironically, this game was many fans’ first experience with Shin Megami Tensei as the first title in that series to make it out of Japan, and now it’ll likely serve the same role again for Atlus fans who started with Persona 3, 4, and 5. However, as we stated in our preview, those expecting Nocturne to be a similar experience to Persona might be turned off by the differences they find here.
Nocturne is a much more traditional RPG experience than players may be expecting, given its ties to the Persona series. There’s no slice of life or social sim aspects here. This title is larger in scope plotwise but more focused in its gameplay. It’s also a darker game in aesthetic and story, which contrasts with the bright colors, humor, and emphasis on style seen in the Persona series.
If you liked the original release of Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne, then you’ll like this one. “Remaster” is very literal here, and aside from the inclusion of the Chronicles content featuring Raidou Kuzunoha and the new voiceovers, this will be just like you remembered it. Since those who are already a fan of the game will have an easy time deciding to purchase it, this review will primarily aim towards newcomers unfamiliar with the franchise outside of the recent Persona games.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne begins with the end of the world, at least as we know it. A cult triggers an event called Conception, which transforms Tokyo into a desolate land on the surface of a sphere. The cult wants to cause the world to be reborn through the power of the Great Wall.
In the process of Conception, the main character (which you name) is transformed into a demi-fiend who has the power of a demon but the soul of a human. As a demi-fiend, the player can call upon the assistance of demons (many of these will be familiar to Persona fans). These demons can join your party and fight alongside you and be fused into new, more powerful forms.
The big mystery of the game is who is going to be able to prove their might and rebuild the world. Each character has their own image of what the world should be like, but only the one who proves their worth to the Great Will can do so. With his power to lead demons, the player character becomes a big player in the conflict, and many vie for his allegiance.
Nocturne’s story kept me engaged right up to the end, but it could be a bit heavy at times. I found myself missing some of the humor and lightheartedness found in Persona. The atmosphere can be a bit oppressive at times, especially since most people you talk to are actually just the spirits of those who died in the Conception. However, with that’s on the line, the darker tone and art style are appropriate and drive home the story’s grave nature.
How new is this Nocturne?
As I said above, Shin Megami Tensei 3: HD Remaster is just that: a remaster. There are no significant changes to the graphics here. The backgrounds have been upscaled and sharpened but not completely recreated, so expect some blurriness. All the original music and sound effects return as well. The initial PS2 release had great sound design, so nothing really needed to be changed on that front anyway.
The biggest addition to the game is voice acting. The original game was text-based, but in addition to a re-translation, the Nocturne’s remaster voices the major parts of the game. I thought the English cast did a great job, but there’s also Japanese audio for those who want to check that out.
The QoL improvements were also very welcome. As an adult, not being able to save anywhere in a game is a big turn-off (which bothers me to no end when trying to play retro RPGs). Fortunately, Nocturne now has a suspend save function that lets you save and quit almost anywhere.
This game has a reputation for being hard, so in addition to the original difficulty modes, players can choose a new Merciful difficulty to make things easier. I recommend playing on Normal because I don’t think this game is as challenging as its reputation suggests. However, if that’s not the case for you, or if you just want a story-focused playthrough, Merciful makes the game extremely easy to beat.
Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster review: The final verdict
Many JRPGs have aged well, but Nocturne feels incredibly fresh despite its age. There are just enough changes with the HD Remaster to give it a bit of modern convenience and polish without any significant deviations.
The biggest complaint you’ll likely see about Nocturne HD is that it retails for $49.99, plus an additional $9.99 for the Mainax DLC that includes Dante from Devil May Cry. So, to get the complete package, you’ll be paying the same as a new AAA game. I hate to be a penny pincher, but that’s a lot of money for what you get here. Those that are savvy and patient can get a few great games for $60, so that much for an 18-year-old JRPG with minimal upgrades is a hard sell.
For me, Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster is worth the premium, if only because I hope it encourages Sega and Atlus to remaster more of their catalogs (Panzer Dragoon Saga, please). However, players who think they’re going to find another Persona here will be disappointed. Nocturne is one of the great traditional JRPGs, but potential buyers should know what they’re getting into before they pull the trigger.
GameRevolution reviewed Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster on PC. Code provided by the publisher.