JRPG Review

Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster – Review

Atlus publishes some amazing games. The one that most people these days will know is the Persona series. But would it surprise you to know that the whole Persona series is a spin-off? Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster is a modern release of one of those mainline titles. With the huge success of Persona 5 Royal, it’s no surprise that there’s enough interest to take a chance on this old PlayStation 2 game.

A New World

The world must first die, for it to be born again. Shin Megami Tensei III starts with that death. Luckily you and your friends are called by your teacher to the one place in the world to avoid it. But you certainly don’t escape without consequences.

An unusual being has taken an interest in you and turns you into a demon. Having being separated from your friends, you are alone in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with demons. Hearing rumors about humans leads you into a quest to find them and to find out just what happened.

Along the way, you find mysterious figures pushing you towards something and organizations with their own objectives. One of these being the Assembly of Nihilo who wish to gain power to recreate the world in their own image.

Shin Megami Tensei III - New World

The events seem quite slow-paced at first. It didn’t grab my attention initially, with our protagonist feeling like he was not particularly motivated. Adding to this is that he’s a silent protagonist without teammates that talk about the situation or their feelings.

It does start to get a lot more interesting, but this didn’t happen until about ten hours into my playthrough. The mystery starts to unravel and more elements come into play. Some of the little mentions like demons wanting a power called Magatsuhi start to become more relevant. Events that push the plot along become more common too, whereas early game has more background ones, such as mentions of a slave race or ones connected to the gameplay. I certainly enjoyed it, but I can imagine that slow-start causing a lot of people to drop the game before then. It’s worth noting too that due to an embargo, reviews aren’t allowed to talk about events beyond a certain point – and that’s about where it starts to get good.

It’s worth noting that your choices play into how the story ends. There are multiple endings here and you might not realize just what you’re doing until later.

Shin Megami Tensei III - Sphere


I mentioned specifically that there are no teammates that you can talk to. You do build a team though. Whether through being helpful, making threats, or some good old-fashioned bribery, you can recruit the demons you come across in battle.

This is the key mechanic of Shin Megami Tensei III. Demons have different ways that you can recruit them and some aren’t particularly evident. One example – there’s a sphere in the sky that provides power to the inhabitants of this world. It has phases, much like our own moon. A certain demon can only understand your recruitment efforts during one of those phases – a sixteenth of the time.

Usually recruiting demons is reasonably straightforward, if still down to chance. Talk to the demon, it might ask you for money, items, health, or something else. It may still run off even if you do everything perfectly though. Sometimes it asks you a question with two answers – I answered the same question to the same demon in different ways and I was wrong both times. I can only assume the right answer is random.

I actually found this fun, but I do suggest a player knows what they’re getting themselves in for. Experimenting, discovering all the quirks, and trying to catch ‘em all is a lot of the fun here. But some may find it just as frustrating since you can do things perfectly and fail or just have no hints on what to do to succeed. It’s not an easy experience.

Fusing demons is an interesting feature too. Combine two (or more) demons to create a new one. I couldn’t create a shark with lasers on its head, but I did create one that breathes fire and heals the team. Again there’s a lot of experimentation here.
Shin Megami Tensei III - Battle

Wandering Into Battle

You spend most of your time doing two things. The first is wandering around lengthy dungeons, collecting items and making your way towards objectives. The second is trying not to get killed.

Battles are incredibly frequent in Shin Megami Tensei III. It usually isn’t this bad, but there have been points where I’ll run into a random encounter, win, take two steps and then run into another. Considering that this game has a ton of backtracking and that almost everywhere including your standard cities that you go shopping in have demons waiting to fight you, you really do spend a lot of the time in battle. Luckily auto-battle is a feature. It only lets you use the standard physical attack on whichever enemy is first, but it certainly speeds things up.

I should mention again that this is not an easy game. While there are three difficulty modes, I died in normal multiple times and came close even more often. Most of the time, this is just because healing items are a rarity and places to heal are very limited. There are difficulty spikes though. Matador is well known for being one – it took me over three hours of grinding and creating a specific team and equipment set up to pass. Even beyond that though, I came across bosses that could take me out over a single round if I was unlucky. If the protagonist is killed it’s game over. That was usually the cause of it – just poor luck that he got targeted repeatedly.

You need tactics to survive. Using elements, buffs and debuffs is a requirement, not optional like in many games. That’s one of the most interesting things about playing Shin Megami Tensei III.

Shin Megami Tensei III - Battle

Remastered Graphics

The title ‘Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster’ does hint that it has better graphics than the original – a good thing too since the original came out almost twenty years ago. I can’t really say I was blown away by these improvements though.

The 3D models have been redone, but while they sometimes seem very clean, they sometimes feel like they need anti-aliasing. Jagged lines seem to appear depending on the distance and lighting. Backgrounds have also been redone, but some textures look flat and undetailed.

I can only comment on how it looks on Nintendo Switch, but I noticed the framerate dropping significantly at times, even in docked mode. It was usually fine, but it was very noticeable when it happened. There’s also a rather poor-looking motion blur effect that often happens when walking around.

Occasionally there are movie scenes. The quality of these is very poor. I’d not be surprised if they were just the originals cut to the right aspect ratio and stretched.

Shin Megami Tensei III - Pillar

Positive Porting

While I can’t say I’m too impressed by the graphical improvements, there are some nice other features. Shin Megami Tensei III features both English and Japanese voice acting. It’s only partial, but quite a lot of scenes do have the audio. The quality is quite high too and the voice actors seem suited to the characters. By default this is in English without any mention of the Japanese option which I did feel was a bit of an issue.

The easier difficulty is new to this version. Considering how difficult even the normal difficulty is, this is certainly a positive. I’ll always welcome giving people the option to enjoy a game they may not have otherwise. It’s worth noting that this is downloadable as free DLC and that it wasn’t available to test at the time of this review.

Another new feature is the suspend save feature. It essentially created a one-use save file. With how far apart save points are, this was a good compromise to allow for shorter play sessions while keeping the challenging consequences of dying. While useful for any platform, I could see it being particularly useful for those who are playing portably.



Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster is quite a difficult game to rate. It’s incredibly frustrating in many ways. As the other side to that, the deep combat systems encourage experimentation and discovery. The lore is very interesting, but the story starts in a very slow manner. It’s not really impressive as a remaster graphically, but the additional voice acting is brilliant.

If nothing else, I suggest you don’t purely go off the rating here and read carefully through the review. This won’t be for everyone. Things that I felt were good, I could easily see being hated by some. Fans of Persona should keep in mind that many of the systems are similar, but it is still a very different game.


Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch. PC (Steam)
Purchase: Humble (PC/Steam)

If you would like to see more JRPGs, you may be interested in our review of Neptunia Virtual Stars.

Many thanks go to Atlus for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

If you’d like to see more articles from us, please remember to follow us on Twitter🐦 and consider turning notifications on. Or type in your E-mail address and click the button for free email updates. You can also come chat with us on Discord.

Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage

Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!