"The night is that time of demons. The title screen is a shadowed navy background filled with various creatures. Their eyes glow different colors as your hero stands faced towards them. He appears small and insignificant compared to the fiends loitering the area, but his back bares the glowing stripes that show his demi-fiend nature. After a pause with the cast of figures, the logo reveals itself from top to bottom in the matter of a moment. It reads ‘Nocturne’ in large red letters, and Shin..."
The night is that time of demons. The title screen is a shadowed navy background filled with various creatures. Their eyes glow different colors as your hero stands faced towards them. He appears small and insignificant compared to the fiends loitering the area, but his back bares the glowing stripes that show his demi-fiend nature. After a pause with the cast of figures, the logo reveals itself from top to bottom in the matter of a moment. It reads ‘Nocturne’ in large red letters, and Shin Megami Tensei in smaller white text. Push Any Button.
The game begins with an ordinary day for our hero, hanging around Tokyo and meeting up with his friends. The intro doesn't last long until Tokyo is transformed into a sort of neo-demon-Tokyo: a plane where spirits and demons are enflamed in war and different rulers are in search for a godly power to shape the world in their ideals. Our hero and a couple of his friends are caught in this event, and happen to be a few of the last surviving humans of Earth. The hero discovers the ideals of his various acquaintances and can decide what ideal he desires to help, or to find his own path. Yes, that means multiple endings. The plot is good enough that you’re usually wondering what each character is up to and the multiple endings allows for re-playability, along with a hard mode for die-hards.
The strongest part about Nocturne for me is its atmosphere. When I play Nocturne I feel like I'm being dragged into a mysterious and brooding underworld, that is the night. Perhaps the sense of danger and insecurity that one feels shrouded in darkness, where imagination has free reign; or that, within the night there is a kind of disturbed beauty like a warped moon on a bloody lake… this game is distinctly gothic and vicious, yet also melancholy in its theme. Besides waxing poetic, all of the environments make you feel small, in a good way. And the fact that the MP healing items are droplets or bottles of soma, gives off an interesting vibe to the culture of the game. Soma is an intoxicating drink used in ceremonies in Vedic and Persian cultures, and is primarily known as the drug in Aldous Huxley’s ‘A Brave New World’. Soma for crying out loud!
There are candelabras you need to collect through the course of the game. When near one of these candelabras, the hero senses danger, and if he chooses to proceed, he is sucked through the ground to a barren desert in which he meets with a vindictive Matador Reaper. He threatens and berates you, then describes with nasty fervor the actions he will take to lead about your death, your "fated reunion with death." When I first encountered this hellish figure I was taken aback by a difficult fight! His words were not false.
Nocturne's battle system is in the turn-based RPG style. The main twist is that you can gain and lose turns by taking advantage of each demon's affinities. For example, if you use Ice (Bufu) on an enemy who can repel Ice, you'll lose your whole parties turn (4 is max party). The same goes for status ailments or physical attacks all together. Critical hits and misses also affect turn amount. This turn gaining / losing mechanic fuels you to have a diverse party of demons with a variety of spells and affinities to get the upper hand. You have the ability to recruit demons from battle into your party by straight up engaging in conversation with them, or seducing them. A horny goblin with a spike jutting out from his crotch will express that the Lady in your party has a "hot ass!!" and will be glad to join up. When your demons level up they'll get new spells or abilities and sometimes they'll evolve. You can also fuse demons together to create different and more powerful ones. There are many different demons to find and fuse and they are all very full of themselves. The demon fusing function is mandatory in keeping your party buff enough to face each new dungeon and it’s quite fun / cool to do so. There is also customizability in the hero by means of ingesting Magatama, which are parasites that grant certain immunities and allow skills to be gained by leveling up with them ingested.
Nocturne is a pretty badass Japanese RPG. It’s unique feel, customizability of your party and overwhelming atmosphere makes it shine as one of the PS2’s top tier RPGs. The graphics and design of the demons and world is colorful and stylistic, and the game’s humor is refreshing amidst a bleak world you’re brought into. You have to try this one out.
Community review by Aquas (April 03, 2008)
Aquas is an STG fanatic, score-chaser and arcade lover. He hosts the Shooting Game Weekly on Youtube, a show that goes in depth on various shmups with passionate fans of the genre. Favorite video game: EarthBound.
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