Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne – PS2 – Review

Thanks
to Disgaea’s stateside success, it seems that we’ll be seeing a lot more
regarding Atlus’s bizarre (though often surprisingly enjoyable) additions to the
cliché ridden RPG genre. In fact, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (Try saying that
ten times fast) takes the role playing genre to a whole new level.  SMT:
Nocturne is hardly your typical ‘sword and sorcery’ RPG. In fact, the majority
of the game takes place in the ruins of an already devastated and demon
overridden Tokyo.

 

The
story begins within a dream, as a visiting spirit warns you of what is to come
of the world. You are told that for a world to be born it must first come to an
end.  Don’t waste your time trying to prevent it, within the game’s first
forty-five minutes disaster strikes. Friends, family, and the rest of
civilization as you knew it no longer exists.  Choose wisely, because many of
the decisions you make throughout the remainder of the game will build and
amount to several possible endings.

 


 

Perhaps
the most interesting aspect of the game is the characters ability to gain
(negotiate with) potential allies.  Though Dante may have the abilities
necessary to survive on his own, you most certainly do not. SMT: Nocturne has
implemented an interesting ally collection scheme similar to what is found in
Azure Dreams and the all-too-popular Pokemon games. Only through careful
negotiations (a.k.a. talking, threatening and yes, sometimes even flirting) will
you gain the allies necessary to venture through this new and chaotic world.

 

 

As if
potentially collecting each and every one of the game’s monsters was not enough,
both fusion and evolution have been implemented to create an even more entwined
system of ally customization. Fortunately, the player is warned when their
monster is nearing evolution and may be unable to participate in subsequent
fusions. When attempting to fuse monsters, abilities are taken from both sides
and combined into one new and often more powerful monster. Though beware, a
handful of monsters will reject specific counterparts. For instance, monsters of
opposite alignments such as dark and light can not be fused.

 

Though
SMT: Nocturne’s main character may be a little on the skinny side, the cell
shading techniques used to portray him do well in setting the games mood. Aside
from the characters, the games graphics are surprisingly simple. In regards to
the games music, a heavy and almost metallic rock composes most of the games
soundtrack with an occasional soft song blended in to accommodate the desired
mood.

 

 


Unfortunately, the games third-person controls are sketchy at best. The right
analog stick causes the player to peer in the corresponding direction, while the
R and L buttons work the camera rotation.  Due to the camera’s stiff controls
and awkward angles, expect to spend much of your time peering at your character
from obscure angles.  As for the player’s interaction with the world, character
movement is reminiscent of a mouse on the computer screen. Using the analog
stick, the character (represented by a small dot) is moved around a static
picture representing an area with yet other dots in lieu of places to visit and
people to talk to.
 



Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 8.4
SMT: Nocturne
offers gameplay similar to most other RPG’s. The games real draw is its
character customization and ally development via fusing and negotiating with
enemies.

Graphics: 8.5 
The game is
comprised of several different standards of graphics. To begin, the games
characters are mostly cell shaded. Though it feels slightly out of place at the
beginning of the game, you become accustomed to them rather quickly as they
begin to set the game’s mood. The stages consist mainly of simple rooms and
corridors.  As for the game’s world map, a static image is displayed and
character movement is based upon the movement of a small arrow representing your
character.

Sound: 8.0
The majority of
the games music is most accurately described as heavy metal. Aside from the
games music, ambient sounds decorate the many stages assisting in setting the
mood.


Difficulty: Hard
If you’ve never
been good at RPGs, this game probably isn’t for you. With difficult battles and
no definite direction, RPG related intuition and careful observation will be
your greatest assets.

Concept: 9.3 
SMT: Nocturne’s
concept is most certainly its selling point. This is not a game in which you
will be attempting to save the world. Most similar to Azure Dreams, you will
have the ability to bribe your enemies into working for you. How you choose your
party and which monsters you equip often will fully determine the difficulty of
your battles.


Overall: 8.6 
In all, SMT:
Nocturne is an excellent RPG that should not be overlooked. It brings much
innovation to a genre known for its’ clichés, and allows for some addicting game
play and character customization.  Whether the game turns out to be a sleeping
hit similar to Disgaea or not, I predict to see sequels released stateside and
buzz regarding the games never released SNES predecessors.