|Blood, Intense Violence, Language,
| The Good
Wonderful artistic style and ambiance
Soundtrack is great
In-battle negotiations provides a nice addition
Tons of customization
| The Bad
Brutal challenge will turn off most
Minimalist story and combat options
The world comes to an end and you have no clichéd way to
stop it. Even though you may come to terms with that concept,
the story behind Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne will
continue to twist and turn before your eyes. Set in modern
day Tokyo, players are faced with the end of the world and
it's demonic rebirth. The only humans left alive are a few
who were within a downtown hospital at the time of the end.
Before long, the main character is transformed and given demonic
powers and let loose into the world that may resemble his
own, but is noticeably different in many ways.
While the Shin Megami Tensei series has been hugely
popular in Japan, it really has never seen much interest (and
with due reason) in North America. Because of this, some RPGers
may find the storytelling and gameplay approach a bit different.
In fact, they both feel noticeably "old school" as both are
stripped down to the bone and adorned with enough depth to
make them interesting and enjoyable. Those spoiled by other
Japanese role playing games may fine that lack of cutscenes
every few minutes disturbing, but if you let yourself get
into the game, you'll find a unique experience.
The core of SMT:N is a Japanese RPG at heart, with
the player talking to NPCs, walking around various locations
to reach other areas or perform certain actions, all the while
getting into random battles. In battle, things play out much
like every other turn based affair, but with some noticeable
differences that good gamers will be sure to take note of.
You can have up to four people in your party, which means
that your side can initially attack four times each turn,
using physical attacks or magic of one kind or another. Where
things differ is that if you exploit an enemy's weakness,
you gain another turn (up to four). On the flip side, though,
if you strike them where they're strongest, it'll cost you
dearly. This variation allows for some strategy in what attacks
to perform and even when to skip an ally's turn in battle.
During battle, you'll have the option to talk with your enemies.
How you conversation goes will effect whether they will join
you, leave the battle or even give you items. You may think
that having your enemies joining you doesn't sound too enticing,
but the further into the game you get, the more you will need
the help of even the ugliest demon. And, you can always sacrifice
your demons to make other demons. In this process, the skills
and spells the new demon earns is randomly taken from the
pool of the two demons you will be giving up. While this may
seem a brutal choice to perform, you'll unfortunately have
to do this to get far in the game.
For the main character, learning powers and earning skills
is all about the Megatama you equip. You can only equip one
at a time and it affects the property of your skills and attacks,
but when you hit certain levels, you learn new abilities.
The drawback? You can only have eight at any time, so you'll
have to dump other skills to add new ones. This brutal choice
forces players to have good demon allies around to cover any
holes in ability that the main character won't be able to
When viewing the graphics, one has realize that the graphics
are not all about pushing out high polygon counts or excessive
use of effects. Instead, SMT:N features an artistic
style and ambiance that proves to be second to none. This
artistic style is carried over well with the almost barren
cell-shaded style of the graphics, which help deliver a dark,
post-apocalyptic world. Before too long, you'll be consumed
in the game world as the graphics do a wonderful job with
the game's ambiance, despite being overly impressive on a
technical scale. There are some issues with stiff character
animations and the monsters designs range from amazingly unique
to just plain oddball. When it comes down to it though, the
character and monster design is a refreshing change from the
Audiowise, SMT:N is a dark, desperate performance.
For those spoiled by the likes of Final
Fantasy X and Xenosaga, the
complete lack of voiceovers may seem like a step back, but
I honestly found it refreshing as I didn't have some misguided
voice over ruining a mood well established by a soundtrack
that's ominous and intimidating. The soundtrack runs a fair
range between hauntingly reserved techno/industrial to hard
rocking themes which, along with the ambient sound effects,
flesh out a very morbid game world.
A review of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne can't go
by without mentioning the difficulty level that the game presents.
SMT:N is brutally challenging. So much so that the
casual gamer will not get far before giving up. Even those
who are dedicated to a challenge may be disheartened as an
unfortunate bit of luck finds their party decimated at the
hands of even the lowliest random encounters. And then there's
the boss fights, where only through planning and analyzing
what the bosses are weak and strong to will get you through.
I will have to say that as entrancing as the gameworld and
artistic style that SMT:N presents the player is, the
game itself is sure to turn some people off by its nature
alone. Strip the combat down to it's core and you'll find
the same "Select Attack or Magic X 1000" found in
every game in the genre. The problem is that there isn't much
stripping down to do to get to that realization. Also, the
game does not lead people around by the nose, which will cause
some people to wander about until they stumble upon their
next goal. If there was even a game where you needed a walkthrough
or strategy guide, this is it.
I really loved Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne for it's
ability to draw my into its gameworld both with it's style
and audio portions. The gameplay is pure "old school"
and makes no apologies for it. Without a doubt, this is a
"Love It or Hate It" game. If you can weather a
challenge, then be sure to invest in this title.