It’s not every day that I get to write a preview for a game I first played a decade and a half ago, but here we are. Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster (yeah, that name needed to get longer) is coming out in the West in about a month. I got to spend some quality time with the PC version which, unlike the PlayStation 4 and Switch games, wasn’t released in Japan back in October. It’s been a real trip down memory lane, and there are a couple of surprises in store. But, no, you can’t save anywhere.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster (you bet I’m using the whole title each time) begins with you naming your character. And your teacher, plus two friends. It’s a normal day like any other, save for the fact that your teacher invited you and two of your classmates to a hospital for an undisclosed reason. After meeting up with your friends at said hospital, you find the place completely empty. Upon searching the basement, you meet an individual who says a lot of weird things and threatens to murder you. Then your teacher shows up and makes him back off before inviting you up to the roof.
If you’re mostly familiar with the Persona games and haven’t played a mainline game in the series before, it’s worth mentioning that it’s both weird and hopelessly bleak. Your teacher is actually a member of a doomsday cult that destroys the world. Only the people in the hospital survive. Oh, and a creepy little boy turns you into a demon. No biggie. This is the same Nocturne that we know and tolerate, so there aren’t any story surprises. But the art direction has held up surprisingly well. The game is still surreal and feels horribly alien.
Where am I going?
After the literal entire world is destroyed, you’re then able to traverse the hospital. And it’s now roamed by demons. Great. After meeting a Pixie, she offers to join you and lets you know that you can ask any other demon to do the same. Battles are all random, and their rate of occurrence is indicated on the bottom left of the screen. And they’re common. You can literally get out of a battle and then find yourself back in another one seconds later. There’s a new easier difficulty, though. It drops the encounter rate and halves the damage you take while buffing your damage.
Regardless, on normal or higher, Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster will eventually demolish you — although that doesn’t kick in for this preview. The earliest part of the game is rather lenient and the chance of death is low. Even the first boss battle goes easy on you. The Pixie that joined you earlier even has the boss’ weakness. Combat and demon negotiation are as satisfying as ever. The level design, however, which was poor in the mid ’00s, is quite dreadful now.
One of the most talked about new features in Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster is the suspend save option. This is exactly what it sounds like and doesn’t function as a quicksave. To be clear, I really wish there was a quicksave. It’s not uncommon to lose an hour or so of progress after getting stomped by a random battle while you’re wandering bland corridors. The game is also locked at 30 fps on PC, as that’s apparently what its logic is coded too. Maybe someone will mod it. Regardless, this is the same game it ever was, but now you don’t have to bother finding your PS2 to play it. Or get brutally murdered by bosses while trying to play it, if you can bring yourself to turn the difficulty down.