Bargain Gaming – Nocturne

Posted on Nov 03 2011

One of my favorite parts of the Megaten series is the way that it manages to incorporate the same basic elements into all of the different games while still maintaining a sense of uniqueness between them. It allows for relatively easy access to the entire series library, at least from a mechanical perspective, if you’ve already played any of the other games. This is a great hook for fans of the series and newcomers alike, as it provides the player with a sense of familiarity even if everything else about the setting has changed. This is even more true of the third game of my list, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, as it is easily one of the harder (hardest, in my opinion) games in the series. However this harsh difficulty curve may leave newcomers feeling a bit distraught, what with the harsh introduction of the press turn system that the enemies exploit endlessly and instant death moves all around you. But it is the perfect foil to previous fans of the franchise or fans of hardcore RPGs in general, as,perhaps in part because of this difficulty, it is widely considered as one of the best games in the series. So let’s break it down like always to find out which elements make it into such a truly excellent RPG.

Starting with the story, Nocturne takes the demon filled world in an entirely different direction than Digital Devil Saga, where instead of something being wrong with the world from the beginning things actually start off fairly normal. You are a normal high school kid in a normal city going to visit one of your teachers with your friends at the hospital. The only hint that something is wrong is the eerie silence that seems to fill the world as you explore, the only hint that things are about to get a bit nuts. Sure enough, the world suddenly collapses in onto itself, creating a new inverse world with bits of the city you started in scattering the surface. Turned into a half-human half-demon hybrid called the demi-fiend in order to survive, you are thrust into a journey to find your friends, figure out what has happened, and set things right. But as you travel you quickly realize that the world can be shaped in any manner of the dominant party’s desire, whether that be to set things right or change things for the “better”. It is up to you to decide who you will side with and overcome all of your opponents so that you can shape the world as you want. Just don’t mess up…

And this is where the atmosphere I mentioned in my top five list comes into play, as the world feels fundamentally broken to the point of actually disconcerting the player. The different factions give the player the sense that the new world could go almost any way, and as the main character you quickly realize that it will be up to you to decide who’s ideology will reign supreme. Yet you never feel indestructible, as the different factions are full of powerful demons and people who all have their own ideas on how to deal with this strange new world and, more importantly, you. Add in a dark and foreboding atmosphere full of demons at every turn (and yes, normal enemies are actually a threat in this game), and you have a world that can grab a player’s attention rather easily. I actually ended up taking several breaks during my play through, as certain segments managed to get under my skin somewhat. Then again I was going for Lucifer’s ending, so that might have added a bit of an extra challenge to my play through.

As always the game play is the familiar press turn system of RPG combat that can be found in many other Megaten titles, though this one seems somewhat harsher than others. This is because the enemies have a bad habit of exploiting any weaknesses they can without mercy, with some of the harder bosses milking these weaknesses in order to wipe out your entire party in one turn. Add in a surprising amount of enemies that know instant death moves and you can see why this game is considered one of the hardest in the franchise, as it is one of the least forgiving RPGs I’ve ever played. Heck, several of the bosses will probably require multiple play throughs, as without proper preparation or strategy many of the bosses will walk all over your party. But this difficulty only serves to add to the game in my opinion, as it builds upon the sense of ruin and despair that the world represents without making the game totally unplayable.

The game’s aesthetic elements only build upon this sense of malaise, as the characters all sport a darker tone than is usually present in the Megaten games. Even the protagonist has been transformed into a demonic entity that is forced to team up with other demons for survival. In fact the only other playable human character is Dante, from the Devil May Cry series, who acts as both a boss and a hidden unlockable character and his floor in the option dungeon was possibly the hardest part of the entire game for me! But I’m getting off track. Needless to say the game has an excellent audio set to add an additional sense of background tension, with a mixture of upbeat and chilling tracks adding yet another layer to the game’s, say it with me now, atmosphere. Add in some fun character interactions (even though they’re technically the same, all of your human compatriots have changed. It’s difficult to adequately describe) and some incredibly designed bosses and you have a game that oozes with style.

As such I highly recommend this game to all Megaten and hardcore RPG fans out there! It’s an incredible game that was actually recommended to me by Tyto, which is good because otherwise I might never have found this awesome title. It is a bit of a rare find nowadays, but you should be able to find it online for under $50 without too much difficulty. If you’ve played any of the other Megaten games and enjoyed them or are a fan games with an apocalyptic setting then I urge you to at least look into getting it. My copy of this game is the crown jewel of my personal Megaten collection and RPG collection in general, and I sincerely hope that you will make it a part of your collection as well.

In any case that brings us to a close on the third review on the list! I hope you all enjoyed and will leave a comment letting me know your own thoughts on this game. Until tomorrow’s review, this is Bargain Gamer, logging off!

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