Shin Megami Tensei III Remaster Reviewed

<thrive_headline click tho-post-2268 tho-test-38>Shin Megami Tensei III Remaster Reviewed</thrive_headline>

Shin Megami Tensei III Remaster Reviewed

Posted by Chanel Ferguson

16 Jun, 2021


After releasing in North America in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, Atlus reintroduces post-apocalyptic demon hunting in Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne for the current generation. Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster offers voice acting, slightly updated visuals, quality of life changes, and downloadable content packs for players on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Hailed as one of the strongest entries in the Shin Megami Tensei JRPG series, Nocturne is beloved by fans for its bleak atmosphere, religious and philosophical themes, character and demon design by game artist Kazuma Kaneko, and a unique soundtrack. The HD Remaster keeps everything the fans know and love, while fixing up a few annoyances and inconveniences with certain gameplay elements. 

New players will find a lot to learn in the Vortex World, whether they go after the traditional difficulty or opt for the new Merciless mode through the free DLC. Veterans may or may not be satisfied with the quality of life changes, but Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster remains true to its roots—as much as it possibly can after its initial release nearly two decades ago. 


Aside from one notable change, gameplay in the HD Remaster is nearly identical to the original. You play as a voiceless protagonist—a normal student in a normal world, at first. You and your classmates go looking for your teacher, only for the world to suddenly and drastically change in a matter of moments. This post-apocalyptic landscape in the Vortex World is filled with harsh challenges and dangerous demons. Among the challenges are with the turn-based battles, where you must recruit enemy demons as your allies in place of traditional party members. Recruiting the best demons isn’t everything, though. You have to tailor your group to your opponents—for boss battles, especially—aiming to strike against enemy elemental weaknesses whenever possible. Hitting those weaknesses grants you an extra turn, letting you punish enemies as hard as they can punish you. Preparation is more than half the battle in Shin Megami Tensei. Going into a boss fight with the wrong demons could lead to disaster and a quick game over. But once you pull off a winning strategy, especially on higher difficulties, those wins feel that much more satisfying.

You don’t always have to persuade demons to join you in battle. Fusing new demons from existing ones is a great way to make your party stronger. In the original Nocturne, you had to keep fusing demons together in order to make them learn the skills you wanted. If you were really determined, you might have had to keep doing the same thing over and over. Luckily, the HD Remaster fixes this with a simple quality of life update. You may now choose which skills your new demons will inherit, just like in the modern Shin Megami Tensei titles. This saves a ton of time, giving you more control over how your demons evolve over the course of your playthrough.

Outside of battle, traversing the Vortex World does feel lonely, though in a good way. Not many “people” populate the world, instead filled with demons and wayward souls. Making that lonely trek through the environment pushes you to take in your surroundings: the endless dark corridors, the elaborate, mythical puzzles within dungeons, and the constant sense of bleakness and dread everywhere. You keep pressing onward to find a solution to the world’s end, battling your antagonists who disagree with you either philosophically, or simply because they want to test your strength. The power of the individual stands strong in Nocturne, and this remaster very much keeps that feeling in-tact. The optional Merciless difficulty does lower the game’s challenge significantly, taking away from that classic sense of dread and helplessness. This difficulty is part of a free DLC pack, and is of course optional. The same goes for the other paid DLC that adds methods for quicker leveling and money gain. But anyone who does opt for these downloadable content packs will miss out on the classic Nocturne challenge, losing out on some of the game’s identity in the process.


Less of a standard narrative, Nocturne primarily tells its story through the environment, the gameplay, and your decisions as the player. The plot itself is simple. The world has suddenly ended, and you’re stuck in the midst of the desolation, battling with demons in a constant survival of the fittest competition. The main characters are not so much traditional characters, acting more as symbols for the philosophical views they represent. The story comes from the choices you make with your allies and enemies. They often test your views and perspective, asking you to act with your principles. If you believe the strong should rule the weak, then the narrative will conclude with a world that represents your views. If you believe in solipsism, or in a world where everyone is satisfied and feels no pain, or a more neutral view where life continues on as it used to—your Reason will prevail. The world and the environment change according to which Reason you ultimately decide on, but you have to fight for it.

These Reasons are the quintessential alignments from the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, where your choices shape how the world turns out. Nocturne has one of the best iterations of these alignments, truly reflecting the ideals and philosophies of the path you choose for yourself. 

Graphics and Visuals

While the HD Remaster does have older graphics, they have aged somewhat well. Kazuma Kaneko’s art style is very much in-tact, despite the PlayStation 2-era feel to the visuals. The improved resolution does help make up for things. Even with the original graphics nearing two decades old, the characters and demons are as captivating as ever. The unique designs stand tall above their obvious age, even if the environments themselves are rather bland and empty, just as they were in the original game. The pervasive atmosphere everywhere helps to offset the rather simplistic dungeon and open world design. 

Music and Sound

The soundtrack in the HD Remaster is exactly the same as the PlayStation 2 version—in every sense of the words. The mash-up of rock and electronic sounds gives Nocturne’s soundtrack a sense of power, mystery, and an ethereal otherworldly feeling all at once. However, the original game came with compressed music files, making the tracks sound distorted and low-quality at times. For some reason, the remaster also has this same problem. While it’s nice that the music itself is true to the original, it is true to a fault in this way. Subsequently, the voice acting is a good way to breach the gap between the older and newer generations of Nocturne players.


Overall, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster does what Atlus set out to do: reintroduce Nocturne to older players, and introduce the beloved game to newer players in the franchise. The timing couldn’t have been better, what with Shin Megami Tensei V slated for a November 2021 release on the Nintendo Switch. The HD Remaster keeps just enough of what makes the original so wonderful—flaws and all—while adding a few improvements for the modern age. While the skill selection during demon fusing is game-changing, the game’s remaining flaws might not justify a re-purchase for older fans. The paid downloadable content is also questionable, given that Dante from the Devil May Cry series comes with the original PlayStation 2 game for Western players. The other DLC helps lower the barrier of entry for new players, though it essentially makes the HD Remaster pay-to-win. 

This title walks a fine balance between staying true to its hardcore roots, and opening the door to newer players who are on the fence about Shin Megami Tensei’s notorious difficulty. Whether you feel Atlus didn’t change enough, or if they changed too much, Nocturne finally has a time to shine in the current generation—just as it deserves.


About Author

Chanel Ferguson

Chanel Ferguson is a novelist who loves gaming. She grew up with role-playing games such as Final Fantasy and Shin Megami Tensei. While pursuing an undergraduate degree in philosophy, she spent her free time writing fiction novels, crafting unique worlds and characters inspired by video games.

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