What better way is there to prepare yourself for the upcoming release of Shin Megami Tensei V than by playing a remastered release of one of the earlier games in the series? Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster (we’ll just call it Shin Megami Tensei III from here on out) takes the eighteen-year-old cult RPG and gives it a fresh lick of paint, helping it feel more in line with modern releases.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite received the same sort of treatment that other remastered titles have as of late, with Atlus and SEGA’s effort feeling a little lacking given the high price. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still an enjoyable RPG to be played here and there are some obvious improvements, but it still looks and feels like it belongs in the early 2000s.
Shin Megami Tensei III is set in a Tokyo that has… well… gone to hell. Literally. The apocalypse occurs and demons are roaming the city, with the player taking on the role of a young man known as the Demi-fiend in order to bring them down and help shape the world’s future. I mean, you were a student simply heading to school to begin with, but things took a *sour* turn and you ended up being forced to eat a worm that made you this way… talk about an origin story, right?
“Shin Megami Tensei III is set in a Tokyo that has… well… gone to hell. Literally.”
Of course, there’s a lot more to the tale than that, with Shin Megami Tensei III taking plenty of peculiar turns across its fairly lengthy adventure. It works though and certainly feels unique, especially when compared to similar JRPGs that aren’t always quite so daring in their approach. Facing the new world and battling its fresh demon inhabitants never stops being interesting and it helps make Shin Megami Tensei III’s tale all the more engaging.
And hey, there are multiple endings in the game based upon your actions and choices during the story, so there is an element in place that allows you to shape the outcome of the world yourself. You will be swayed into some of these decisions by the other characters you encounter in the story, with each giving their own purpose and reason for the choice. Ultimately, it’s up to you, but it does add replayability to the game if you want to see all of the potential outcomes of the intriguing narrative.
What adds an interesting twist to the game’s JRPG formula is the fact that some of those aforementioned demons will join you on your adventure. Shin Megami Tensei III adopts an almost Pokémon-like approach within its gameplay, except rather than catching monsters with Pokéballs, you’ll be trying to convince demons to battle alongside you. Different demons will expect different things from the player to join their side, so just do what you can to get them to like you.
“Shin Megami Tensei III adopts an almost Pokémon-like approach within its gameplay, except rather than catching monsters with Pokéballs, you’ll be trying to convince demons to battle alongside you.”
Actually getting them to join you can be a pain since it’s not always clear what you need to do. I lost count of the amount of times I got swindled for cash, but hey, what would you expect from demons? A bit more clarity here would have been nice, though I guess it’s nowhere near as frustrating as the RNG taming mechanics from Ni No Kuni, so it’s hard to complain too much.
Once demons join your party, you’ll be able to take advantage of their unique skill sets. Each demon brings something different to the fray, so figuring out their move set or how you can use it to exploit an enemy’s weakness can be essential to your progress through the game. It’s fun to tinker around with, with experimentation the key to making the most from your party. Alternatively, you can also fuse two demons together in order to make a more powerful form, which isn’t only incredibly cool but gives you access to some of the tougher party members of the game.
Combat itself will feel familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG before, with the player’s party and the enemies taking it in turn to perform actions to attack each other. It’s simple and doesn’t try to re-invent the formula too much. However, Shin Megami Tensei III does introduce a neat system known as ‘Press Turn’ that gives party members an additional turn provided they manage to directly attack an opponent’s weakness. This essentially allows you to double your turn count, meaning exploiting enemies’ weaknesses won’t only cause them more damage, but also give players the chance to dish out some more hurt with an extra turn.
“Shin Megami Tensei III introduces a neat system known as ‘Press Turn’ that gives party members an additional turn provided they manage to directly attack an opponent’s weakness.”
It adds an extra element of strategy to battles where ensuring you’ve got a flexible party setup for any potential scenario is a must. I’ve always seen the strengths and weaknesses of enemies as something I try to exploit if I *can* in an RPG, but it almost feels compulsory in Shin Megami Tensei III – especially since the game itself can be pretty tough. And don’t forget, your party will have weaknesses too, with the ‘Press Turn’ system working both ways. It might sound daunting, but it ensures that combat remains strategic and exciting throughout, with it easily standing out as one of the game’s best features.
Want to know what isn’t so good? The dungeon design. Some older RPGs were guilty of having dungeons that lacked personality and simply felt a little maze-like in design, with Shin Megami Tensei III certainly proving to be a bit guilty of that. It’s not a short game either with it easily taking around fifty hours to beat, so you can expect plenty of moments in the game that just feel like a bit of a slog to get through. In fairness, the game did originally come out in 2003 so this sort of thing is to be expected, but it is a little disappointing when you see how far modern RPGs have come in this regard.
“Some older RPGs were guilty of having dungeons that lacked personality and simply felt a little maze-like in design, with Shin Megami Tensei III certainly proving to be a bit guilty of that.”
The game itself looks a little dated too. Whilst it has certainly seen some improvements thanks to the remastered visuals, it’s still VERY clear that this is an RPG that released on the PlayStation 2. It’s definitely not an ugly game by any means, but it’s certainly clunky – especially when you compare it to Atlus’ modern releases. Still, there’s something charming about the old-school vibe of the presentation and it’s not as if this is meant to be a remake or anything, so it can’t be held against the game too much.
It isn’t just a fresh lick of paint that has been added to Shin Megami Tensei III. The game now features a full English voiceover, whilst the script has seen some refinements here and there to add extra clarity. There are two guest characters included in the game’s DLC too, one of which is Dante from the Devil May Cry series – that’s always a plus in my eyes, even if it does feel a little bit unfair that he has to be purchased separately. There’s also a ‘Merciful Difficulty’ DLC available for free at launch, that allows you to play the game with a toned-down difficulty if the intensity of the standard battling gets a bit overwhelming for you.
“The game now features a full English voiceover, whilst the script has seen some refinements here and there to add extra clarity.”
Want to know one of my favourite new features? Being able to make a quick save even when you’re not near a save point. There have been plenty of times in older RPGs where I’ve been caught out because I couldn’t find a save point, so I’ll ALWAYS appreciate features like this.
I had a lot of fun playing through Shin Megami Tensei III again despite some of its age-related issues, but it did have one sticking point: the price. It costs £44.99 to purchase the game in its standard form, whilst the deluxe edition with all of the DLC costs £54.99. This feels like a LOT given that it’s just a remastered eighteen-year old game with a few new features, especially when other remastered releases have offered so much more or cost much less. I don’t generally like to bring up prices in reviews, but it’s something that’s worth mentioning here.
Shin Megami Tensei III’s intriguing narrative and strategic combat are just as good as I remember, though it does feel a bit dated in other facets of its design. The visuals feel a little janky throughout for example, whilst the dungeon design is bland when compared to modern RPGs. It’s a bit overpriced too, especially since there haven’t been too many new features or refinements added to justify the price tag.
Despite its flaws, there’s still a special RPG here that did, in many ways, feel ahead of its time. It might not be as gripping to play now as it was in 2003, but that doesn’t stop Shin Megami Tensei III from offering an entertaining RPG experience that just has some age-related missteps here and there.
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC
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