The PlayStation 2 was a sensational era for the JRPG genre. We could talk about it endlessly, and this review of Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster it reminded us why Kazuma Kaneko’s artistic style is the basis of the success of such a fascinating brand as Shin Megami Tensei, a franchise that truly gave its all on PlayStation 2. On the second Sony flagship, Atlus published a huge number of chapters, opening a new and more refined artistic parenthesis: the trailblazer was this Nocturne, set in a solitary, anomalous, almost delirious world, in which the apocalypse has bent humanity to a pile of souls. This was followed by what many consider to be the perfect and symbiotic maturation, the Digital Devil Saga couple, true symbols of times gone by of a franchise so capable of blending myth, religion, philosophy and a spectacular dreamlike setting. Broadening the view, it was a tremendously prolific era, in which Shin Megami Tensei even fought in a melee of exponents of other JRPGs so strong that they did not emerge victorious. Without forgetting a certain Persona 3 and Persona 4, coming out some time later and the Devil Summoner. Do you realize how many top-quality Shin Megami Tensei have been released on PlayStation 2 in six years? A home console market scenario practically opposite to the desert in which the splendid Person 5some time ago, managed to win hands down and represent the quintessence of a genre that has returned to its niche, not of sales, but of major releases.
Having put the title into context, we will try to evaluate Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne HD Remaster especially for how it deserves: a good way to present Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne in an improved guise, an exceptional, unique work, groundbreaking if we want and capable of opening up a whole new genre. This time we have a solitary protagonist, flanked by many demons to fight for him. We are therefore distant from the Persona combat system, to which perhaps many readers are accustomed, while the tradition of numbered chapters is respected, albeit in the third person. Nocturne, just like the 4th, supports the protagonist with all the classic demons that you will have come to know and appreciate, thanks to a combat system based on weaknesses that makes the battles fast, dry, immediate, without downtime.
If we want, this system would then have been refined and perfected in the Digital Devil Saga, but already here everything flows smoothly and is still very enjoyable almost 20 years later. He recruits himself, talks to demons, merges via Cathedral. The air of Nocturne is neither heavy nor claustrophobic: Tokyo is an enigmatic city, where the souls of humans turn to the protagonist with a mix of emotions: anger, fear, amazement, mockery, reverence mix in immediate but not banal dialogues. What can be felt is the almost total absence of the social dimension that many newcomers may have experienced in Persona, a characteristic that Atlus would have followed and refined subsequently: the solitude of a protagonist who has become a demon, in a narrative scheme between supporting characters of others times, artistically and psychologically very much the offspring of a PlayStation 2 era where Japan made its own twisted mentality a source of pride, a small fetish to show to the West.
Nocturne HD is a good remaster of an excellent game, perhaps a little too basic for the price at which it is sold. It is always complex, especially for a JRPG enthusiast who has missed out on a titan like Nocturne, to mediate between price, updates and added value. THE loading times – especially between fights – they are fast and we can confirm that technically it doesn’t make a bad impression on PlayStation 4, the work on textures and aliasing works, while the framerate is predictably solid and without uncertainties. Nocturne is a product that does not make the environments its strong point, as they are more scenic than anything else: a minimalism resulting from the team’s first experience on PlayStation 2 skilfully transformed into a design feature, capable of conveying an empty and surreal. The models of the demons as well as the characters remain convincing, thanks also to the work of colours, saturation and texture, made eternal by a unique and immediately identifiable design, on which the team has certainly carried out an updating work. Playing it on a modern TV in native 16:9 is certainly a step forward, while the interface and sound have not aged one iota. Composer Shoji Meguro is at a very high level, and traveling between menus, abilities and “rosters” of demons is quick and easy to master.
The response to the pad seemed identical to us but perhaps we would have spent a few more minutes of development on the camera, which unfortunately remains quite old and definitely could be improved. There is therefore a huge number of good reasons to return to Nocturne’s Tokyo, but at the head of this more or less subjective list there is always the obvious: if you have never played it, this opportunity is tempting. The fact is that, after all these years and at €50, we expect perhaps less essential work and more substantial novelties (or extras), given that we are talking about a JRPG, a genre capable of withstanding the advance of progress very well. This is a historical moment in which the brand has good momentum and could open up, taking advantage of the appeal of Persona on the one hand, and on the other the arrival – hopefully – in the next few months of Shin Megami Tensei 5. In any case, this remaster adds a new difficulty level (Clemente) and brings with it a new story with Raidou Kuzunoha from the Devil Summoner saga, as well as Dante, who however – despite being included in Lucifer’s Call on PlayStation 2 – is included here only in the Deluxe. We add, for completeness, the possibility of manually selecting skills during fusion and the possibility of creating suspension points. For those who are wondering, you can purchase the DLC separately: both the Pietà and Expectations map pack, and Dante, and the possibility of changing some tracks with those of other numbered Shin Megami Tensei, but if this were your desire, at at that point it makes sense to spend less with the Deluxe.