When it comes to a remaster of a game, sometimes being available with quality-of-life adjustments is enough. People weren’t aware of a thing when it launched and realized later it was worth it, but now can’t go back. That’s especially heartbreaking when a series explodes in popularity. Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne is in that position. People might not have known about it when it launched, since we didn’t get the first two games! It didn’t get the attention it deserved! SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster arrives to change history. It’s multiplatform. It’s launching when Persona and SMT fervor is at an all-time high. It’s also way less intimidating. It’s a perfect storm.
As is common with Shin Megami Tensei games, SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster is all about facing deities who feel they know what’s best for humanity and the world alongside demon buddies as everything is about to end. Though in this case, well, everything does end. But then it also begins again! The avatar and two of his classmates head to a hospital to meet with their teacher the day after a major incident with a cult resulted in so many deaths.
Except the hospital is abandoned, the player runs into a cult leader, and suddenly a world-altering event transforms everything. The player is now the Demi-Fiend, a half-human and half-demon hybrid. You head out across a transformed Tokyo to its new denizens and survivors. As you meet with different factions, you eventually gain the power and knowledge to shape the future.
For those who know SMT, the general formula remains unchanged. This is a turn-based RPG with multiple dungeons to explore and potential paths to take. In battles, you and up to three of the allies you’ve recruited face foes. The Press-Turn system determines how often each side can act, with exploiting weaknesses and “passing” allowing you to earn extra turns or choose who acts. Demon recruitment is again a critical key to building a strong array of allies. As is fusion, which lets you combine (and sacrifice) party members to make them stronger.
As for the Demi-Fiend, you influence his own build and future. You choose which Magatama are acquired and equipped. These influence your stats, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Though as you level up, you also can choose how to invest stat points to alter his build. Also, as you meet people from different factions, you’ll be able to choose how he responds and who he might side with to influence the ending.
In general, the keyword for SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster is accessibility. It’s easier to play it, since it’s multiplatform worldwide. It’s easier to play the version you want, since you choose whether you want Dante from the Devil May Cry series or Devil Summoner’s Raidou Kuzunoha XIV as a potential ally. It’s also downright easier to play, since there’s a new Merciful difficulty level. You can even pop into options and quickly change to make things easier or harder on yourself.
Granted, not all things are as easy to change as the difficulty. Due to the nature of Dante and Raidou’s inclusions, that’s an either-or situation. You also have to pay extra for the Devil May Cry star himself. There’s actually quite a bit of DLC, should someone be into extras. Fittingly, they too are designed to be accommodating. The Mercy and Expectation Map Pack are designed to reduce the grind by offering means to get experience or money. There are song packs with music from past SMT games.
But for me, the best part of SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster is the additional accessibility that comes from playing it on the Nintendo Switch. This is a game that makes you put in a lot of effort to make sure your demonic allies are ready for any situation. (Something that can take time, since fusions’ movesets aren’t as customizable as they are in more recent SMT games and spin-offs.) Like I knew Matador was coming and made sure to do my grinding before facing that duel again. Having it on the very portable Switch made that a lot easier. So did a quick resume option, which meant I wasn’t always searching for a terminal. (Not that finding a save point was ever an issue here.)
Though as good as it is, there are times where this remaster might not do what people have come to expect from such releases. Take the FMV segments. While the rest of the game ditches the 4:3 aspect ratio for 16:9, allowing you to see more, these videos don’t. They also don’t get the same sort of HD cleanup as the newly retextured models, improved lighting, and other adjustments found in the rest of the game. They look better, sure, but it’s jarring compared to the rest of the game. Also, given the relatively sparse look of the “new” world design decisions from the 2003 release, some of the improved textures might not offer the shocking overhaul you’d expect. But also, this was mitigated a bit during my Switch run since, well, I was playing in Handheld Mode 80 percent of the time.
This is a case of Atlus counting on people missing SMT III Nocturne the first time around. It doesn’t do a terrible job of making it accessible and slightly modernizing things. SMT III Nocturne just doesn’t go to the same lengths as, say, SaGa Frontier Remastered. And that’s okay! It doesn’t have to! When one of the original selling points of a game was “featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series” back in the day, being capable and readily available might be enough. After all, it is still telling a haunting story, making you think both in and out of battle. SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster does what Atlus JRPGs do best, and that’s captivate an audience.
SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster will be available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC on May 25, 2021. It is available on the Switch and PS4 in Japan.