If you?re looking for a good RPG with some innovative elements and mature game-play, then look no further than Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. Nocturne will deliver an excellent experience that stays true to the classic Japanese console RPGs that many of us grew up on. At its heart, Nocturne is a turn-based RPG set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. The game takes all the classic RPG elements, improves on them and even adds some interesting and unique twists. Not that all of these elements work extremely well, but they definitely don?t detract from the game and it?s always nice to see some innovation. The entire game just has a very cool look and feel and there are definitely some mature elements that come up and is a nice change of pace from most console RPGs. While the game does have its rough edges, the game is still a blast to play and it?s always nice to get a good RPG on the market that isn?t mainly hack and slash.
The game doesn?t waste any time with lots of background info and easing you into the story. You will take the role of a boy with some friends going to visit your teacher in the hospital. After the intro scene and exploring the hospital for about thirty minutes, you get to see the world end. Any doubts you had about an interesting story fly out the window as you watch the entire human race get obliterated. You awaken from this apocalypse, known as the Conception, to see an old woman with a small girl standing above you. The girl whispers something to the old woman and they proceed to present you with a gift--a worm-like creature, Magatama, that provides you with your demon powers which will keep you alive in this strange new world. With some new powers and no clue about the whereabouts of your friends, you are thrown headfirst into a world filled with demons and spirits. It definitely doesn?t end there, as you make your way you will continue to learn more about the new Tokyo and your place in the recreation of the world.
Making your way in the world is based on the same elements as other console RPGs such as the Final Fantasy series. You make your way from area to area in a third person perspective with anyone in your party magically hidden inside you. The controls are functional but don?t feel as smooth as they should and you will probably find it difficult to run a straight line. However, the somewhat twitchy controls don?t really take much away from the game. Exploring this strange world can be quite fun. You will encounter various demons that will mouth off to you and spirits that become terrified that you might eat them. An interesting addition is the affect of the Kagutsuchi, essentially the sun. As you travel about, the time of day changes and the Kagutsuchi will become brighter or darker. This has various effects both in battle and in the world. As the Kagutsuchi get brighter, demons get progressively more hostile, resulting in faster and more stubborn enemies in battle as well as a few effects in the world. Another interesting element is the fusion process. The game has a fairly deep process by which you can combine demons into more powerful ones. It can be a very useful feature, and is ideal for removing the weaker members of your party. The success of the fusion process can even be determined by how bright the Kagutsuchi is at the time. While the time and fusion processes definitely add to the game, the bulk of the time will be spent exploring, talking to various characters, and in battle.
As you move about, Nocturne relies on the often used and sometimes frustrating random battle system. Running through a seemingly empty corridor, you will randomly, and very quickly, be taken to a new screen with you and your party ready to take part in some classic turn based battles. This is where the real game is. You are given some basic attack and magic spells that are fairly straight forward, but the interesting part is the addition of a negotiate ability. Once you begin you turn, you will have the option to select ?Talk? in which you can try to convince this would be enemy to join your team. Sometimes they will simply agree, but most of the time they will ask you for money or items as a sort of bribe, but don?t get the mistaken impression that just because you paid them that they will join you. Depending on how bright the Kagutsuchi is and how powerful you are will determine how easily, if at all, the demons will join your party. This makes for a very innovative method of recruiting team members and can also get you out of a bind because successfully recruiting a demon ends the battle no matter how many other demons are still waiting to kill you. As you recruit new demons, you will also notice they have some of these recruiting abilities as well, such as ?Nag? or my favorite ?Seduce?. The negotiation feature works really well and really adds some depth to the battle system.
The graphics make for a very cool looking game, but can be a little less than detailed. The first you will notice is the rather dark cell shaded look that Nocturne has, which gives it a very anime-like feel. All the environments and such fit very well into the futuristic feel of the game, but lack some detail. Running through some of the areas, walls and other items seem very lackluster and boring. They are far from ugly but could have used some of the detail the character models got. The demons and such are what really make Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne stand out with a unique look. Following your transformation to demon, you will notice you look like something out of Tron except for the huge horn on the back of your neck. You will also notice there is a fairly large variety of interesting demons, from bondage-clad angels to fairies to something that resembles a yeti. The various spirits you encounter are probably the best looking characters in the game. They all have a blue glow with a negative-like image of people inside, making for a very cool and sometimes spooky effect. With the exception of the spirits you will also notice the somewhat blocky appearance of some of the demons including yourself. While the design itself looks really cool for most demons, it seems like they didn?t finish filling in all the details. However, the graphics still look good and definitely don?t detract much from the game.
Similar to the graphics, the sound in Nocturne ranges from excellent to just mediocre. While running around the world and exploring, the music isn?t anything special. It does set the mood fairly well for wherever you might be, but you won?t find yourself humming it later. The sound effects are much better though. Just about every little thing you do, from hitting next in the dialogue window to getting ready to cast a spell, has its own unique sound that just plain fits. The in battle music is probably the best sound aspect of the game. It really sets the mood for some fast paced battles, and varies quite a bit. This really helps make the random battle setup much less aggravating as it has been in previous games. Sadly, the game lacks any voice acting at all, so be prepared to do a lot of reading. While you may not enjoy the reading, at least you don?t have to worry about bad voice acting that could ruin what is otherwise a very enjoyable game.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a very enjoyable RPG. It definitely takes a mature tone with the story, random dialogue, and character design. This along with some of its unique elements, like negotiating, create an interesting RPG that is definitely at least worth a serious look. Killing off mankind in under an hour of game-play is a great hook and the game really only gets better the further you get. The unique demons and cool spirits make for a cool looking game, even if the overall graphics don?t compare to some of the more recent games. Where it does compare, and sometimes exceed, is with its fun game-play and epic story. So if you?re feeling a little RPG starved or just tired of all the hack and slash RPGs that seem to be dominating the store shelves, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is definitely a game to check out.