Shin_Megami_Tensei_III:_Nocturne

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne

is a role-playing game for the PlayStation 2. It is the third main game in the Megami Tensei series. Shin Megami Tensei III was released many years after Shin Megami Tensei II, and was the first Megaten game in the series to be released into the United States using the "Megaten" name.

The player takes control of a half-human half-demon silent protagonist whom the player names. The protagonist is often referred to as the "Demi-Fiend" (or "Hitoshura" in the original Japanese version) among fans to avoid confusion.

A director's cut version, , was also released in Japan. This version has additional features such as the Labyrinth of Amala (an optional multi-layered dungeon), a sixth ending, and Dante from the Devil May Cry series. This is the version that was translated and released in North America as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. This version was also released in Europe in June 2005, with the addition of French and German language options, renamed to Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call due to trademark issues.

Those in the US who preordered copies of the game also received a music CD containing 33 tracks from the game's OST.

Like other Atlus RPGs with small initial print runs, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne became a rare and highly sought after game. Despite a 2005 reprint, online auctions of new and used copies could fetch more than double the original MSRP. A larger, widely available 2008 reprint seems to have satisifed demand and stabilized resale prices.

Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidō Tai Abaddon Ō Plus, the limited edition of Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidō Tai Abaddon Ō, will contain a new version of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne titled featuring Raidou Kuzunoha from the Devil Summoner series. The game will be released on October 23, 2008 in Japan.

Game mechanics

Battle

The battle system functions like the traditional Megaten turn-based combat, but with one key exception: SMT III introduced a new element in the form of Press Turns. Each character participating in combat, friend and foe alike, is given one or more Press Turns(more usually denoting a boss) represented in the upper right-hand corner of the screen as icons. The rule behind this system is that any action, such as attacking, using skills, items, contacting demons and summoning commands, will normally cost one full turn. But if a combatant scores a critical hit, exploits their opponent's weakness, or passes on making an action, their turn will be considered half used, which is marked by a pulsating Press Turn icon. These half used turns allow a character to do anything that a regular turn can.

This double-rewarding, double-punishing battle system has received generally good criticism among RPG players due to the extreme difficulty of it and the necessity to fight "smart" rather than "tough". To date, Press Turn combat has since appeared in Digital Devil Saga and, albeit slightly altered, Persona 3.

Demon conversation

A key theme in SMT: Nocturne is that of demon conversation/negotiation. Since the Demi-Fiend can only (normally) have one press turn by himself, he must gain allies to fight alongside him and have a better chance of survival. Demon negotiation is a unique system in which the speaker (usually, but not always, the Demi-Fiend) tries to persuade an enemy demon to join their party. There are two restrictions on negotiation:

1. There must be at least one open space in the party stock.

2. There cannot be a demon of the same clan in the party (i.e. You cannot recruit a Power if you already have one in your party).

Requirements for recruiting demons vary by their race, gender, and affiliation. For example, some demons (such as Incubi or Succubi) can be bribed with money or items, while others (such as Angels or Archangels) may only ask a philosophical question ("Do you envy how plants live?"). Some can be seduced by a beautiful speaker, some can be flattered, and some will even join you without a moment's hesitation. However, some may refuse to join you, based on opposing ideals, higher levels, because they don't feel like it, or because they simply can't understand you.

Demon negotiation, however, is radically altered when Kagutsuchi is full, as it causes demons to be agitated and drunk with power. Demon conversation will fail against bosses, any demons inhabiting the Labyrinth of Amala, and any demons fought in the Amala Network (though they will sometimes join you of their own accord).

Magatama

The main character gains his skills through the use of Magatama. Magatama are living parasites that grants the host demonic powers which reflects as access to a variety of skills. There are a total of 25 Magatama in the game. Levelling up particular Magatama can also affect demonic conversations with particular demon types. Magatama works in the following way:

  1. When a hero levels up and is equipped with a Magatama, he will either learn a skill and the Magatama may go Wild.
  2. In order to learn a skill, the hero must have the prerequisite level or higher that is listed on the Magatama. (Example: In order to learn Rampage you must be level 10 or higher when you level up with its Magatama.)
  3. After leveling, the Magatama may go Wild. This will be a random effect such as healing or stat boosts. There are also bad effects such as getting negative status ailments.

The main character is only allowed up to 8 skills. If he has reached his limit and wishes to learn a new skill, he must replace one of his previous skills with the new one learned.

A unique facet of Magatama is the ability to alter the main character's "Title". The area where a demon's race (or family) is listed, the main character's is "Fiend" by default; however, through mastery of some Magatama, this title changes. For the main character, however, it isn't his race changing, but merely his title, as he is regarded as the story's Fiends (though he is half one) regardless of the title. All Magatama are affiliated with one of three types: Dark, Neutral, and Light. As the main character masters Magatama, the type he has mastered the most of is selected as his title. For the most part, the main character's title is cosmetic and does not affect gameplay. The only exception is during the Third Kalpa of the Labyrinth of Amala, where the main character's title determines which of three doors he may enter.

Characters

Main Character/The Demi-Fiend

The main and only player character playable. Like every other Shin Megami Tensei main character, he rarely speaks and his personality is shaped by the player's decisions.

The protagonist is an average high school student who becomes involved in the Conception when visiting his teacher, Yuko Takao. His journey in the Vortex World begins once he has been granted demonic power from a Magatama given by Lucifer. He is referred to as the by many, having the body of a demon and the heart of a human.

He has no default name, but in the radio play he is named .

Yuko Takao

A teacher at the high school that the main character attends.

She is popular with the students because she emphasizes logical thinking over rote memorization. She joins forces with Hikawa to bring about the Conception because she is tired of the world, which she sees as full of people meaninglessly wasting their potential, without the energy or drive to make a difference. As the Maiden of the Vortex World, she expected to be the cornerstone of a world of freedom, but finds herself betrayed by Hikawa and used as a mere tool in his quest for a world of stillness.

Her failing is a lack of self-esteem in her own power and ability to change the world. This causes her to be easily swayed by those who possess the confidence and conviction that she lacks, such as Hikawa. In her mind, she was only one small person unable to make a significant difference to a big world. In reality, she was well respected by her students and was already influencing their lives in a positive way: a good example of this is Chiaki's desire to ask Yuko for advice on what she should do after graduation.

She worships a 'goddess' named Aradia, a being who comes from a world that is not quite real and can only give hope to her followers, as she has no real power. She possesses Yuko from time to time in order to speak with the demi-fiend. During possessions, Yuko's face is replaced with an odd shape that looks like a neon purple Rorschach inkblot, and her body sways side to side, twitching sometimes.

Chiaki Hayasaka

A classmate of the main character.

Born and raised in an upper-class family, she has a habit of talking down to people. Like Isamu, she is also drawn to the Conception. Though she is confused and scared at first, she quickly adapts to the law of the Vortex World and follows the path of creation. Calling the previous world too cluttered and full of unnecessary things, she resolves to create a simple, primal world where the strong reign supreme and the weak are disposed of. Thus, she establishes the Reason of Yosuga.

Chiaki's descent begins when she is thrust from a world where she always gets her own way to one where she is powerless and weak at the hands of the demonic populace. Her key fault is pride, for if she had sought help from anyone at any point she may have realized her own weaknesses and grown as a person. Instead she struggles alone through the Vortex World, and grows to despise the lower class that she has been dumped into, vowing never to be placed into that same situation again. The result is the Reason of Yosuga; a world without a lower class for her to fall to. This would theoretically create a world where she was eternally safe.

However, in such a world, the weakest citizens no matter how strong would automatically be considered the "lower class". The only way for Chiaki to avoid this fate is to be the strongest of the strong, something that she believes she will be as the creator of the world. The irony is that her world of safety would be one of eternal paranoia and torment, as she defends her position from all threats- perceived and real- every single day for the rest of her life. However, one would have to admit she would have been able to do so, as she is one of the three most powerful bosses in the game.

It is interesting to note that in the entire game, Chiaki is the only thing that is ever explicitly referred to as "evil".

In the original Japanese version, her default name was "Chiaki Tachibana". This was changed in the English localization due to the limited number of characters allowed in each main character's name.

Isamu Nitta

A classmate of the main character.

He has a relaxed personality; however, he has a tendency to be cocky. He is also very fond of his teacher, Yuko Takao. Before the Conception, he is confident and independent, shown by him going off on his own to search the deserted hospital for his missing teacher. In the immediate aftermath of the Conception, however, he struggles to cope with the new world and instinctively seeks out Yuko and the main character for support and help.

He fails to find Yuko and loses all faith in other people, severing all ties to his friends and drawing upon himself for comfort and strength. He resolves to create a world where the Self is absolute, and no-one can interfere with anyone else, thus creating the Reason of Musubi.

Isamu does not seem to be aware of the inherent contradictions between his philosophy and actions. He proclaims that individuals should be inherently isolated, but constantly relies on other characters (the player in particular) for emotional support, help, and power in establishing his Reason. Isamu is ultimately spoiled; his desire for a world of Musubi is not because he believes in individuality, but simply because he wants a world where he can do whatever he wants without consequence.

Hikawa

Chief Technical Director of a large communications company called Cybers, and a high-ranking officer of the Gaea cult.

He is said to be the one responsible for the occurrence of the Conception. After the emergence of the Vortex World, he organizes the Assembly of Nihilo, which becomes one of the two strongest demonic forces. His dream is a world of silence, where the dangerous passion of man is neutralized, and everyone is at one with the world: this, he calls the Reason of Shijima.

Hikawa is a mysterious man because he deliberately stays underneath the radar. He was able to hold a powerful position in a prominent communications company without leaking a hint as to his true belief. After the Conception occurs, many believe it to have been the work of the ancient Assembly of Nihilo; no-one suspects that it was actually Hikawa.

He is a man devoted to the Reason of Shijima from the very beginning and acts accordingly. Every move he makes is calm and calculated as he swiftly moves his way towards realizing his vision of a new world. But also like Shijima, he is utterly emotionless in his actions, using Yuko as his pawn and destroying all resistance with no hesitation and minimal effort.

The only variable in his plan is the Demi-Fiend; he is the only character to which Hikawa shows any hint of emotion, expressing his disgust at the previous world and his hope for a future of silence.

Jyoji Hijiri

A writer for an occult magazine.

He meets the main character while collecting data for an article on the riot at Yoyogi Park. Even after the Conception, his sense of duty as a reporter pushes him to investigate further. He considers himself too weak to survive in the Vortex World, so he stays within the Terminal Room, studying the Terminals and their connection to the mysterious Amala Network.

Hijiri's main motivation is to discover the truth. Even after the Conception, this goal does not change. He does not pursue Hikawa out of a sense of moral righteousness, but simply because he wishes to learn the meaning behind the Vortex World. Soon, knowledge becomes everything to him, from him disregarding the worth of human life in the Vortex World to bribing the Demi-Fiend with the facts that he has discovered through the Amala Terminals. With knowledge comes power, and with power comes corruption.

Hijiri does not seem to realize that he could create a new world until he learns this information through the Amala Terminal. It is also notable that he never mentions the dream that the Demi-Fiend, Chiaki and Isamu all share upon entering the Vortex World.

Completing the optional Fourth Kalpa dungeon reveals that Hijiri actually died when the Conception occurred, having failed to reach the hospital in time. However, he continues to exist in the Vortex World as his punishment for committing the "ultimate sin". Hijiri's punishment is to be trapped in an endless cycle of suffering, death and rebirth, being forced to witness the creation and destruction of each world without having any chance to affect the outcome. Because of this, there is speculation that Hijiri is a reincarnation of Aleph, the main character of Shin Megami Tensei II, who committed the "ultimate sin" by defeating YHWH at the end of the game.

Dante

A demon hunter from Capcom's Devil May Cry series.

He is asked by someone to hunt down a number of demons, including the main character. Such being the case, he will encounter the main character several times in the game as a formidable enemy. In the Fifth Kalpa of the optional Labyrinth of Amala dungeon, the main character is given the chance to hire Dante into his main party.

Dante only appears in the "Maniax" version of the game. He still owns the double-sided coin he had in Devil May Cry 2.

On Dante's inclusion in the game, designer Kozy Okada said: "One of the staff members in Japan, who happened to be a big fan of the DMC series, came up with the idea of including Dante from Capcom's in an upcoming SMT game. At first I thought it was a crazy idea, but realized that Dante is a devil hunter and this might actually work out and presented the Nocturne game concept to Capcom."

In exchange for Dante's presence in Nocturne, Kazuma Kaneko the artist responsible for the character designs in the Shin Megami Tensei series was brought into the Devil May Cry 3 project to design both Dante and Vergil's devil trigger form.

Mysterious Old Man

A mysterious individual in a wheelchair who appears before the main character throughout the story.

His purpose and true identity are unknown for the majority of the game. By completing the optional Fifth Kalpa dungeon in the Maniax version, his identity is revealed to be Lucifer.

The Young Nurse

A mysterious individual in a black mourner's garb who acts as the attendant and mouthpiece of the Mysterious Old Man.

Her true identity is never revealed, but she bears a physical resemblance to Yuko Takao even though the top half of her face is hidden behind her veil. She also hints that she was close to the main character before the Conception, though this could be a lie designed to entice the main character over to her master's cause.

Mysterious Young Boy

A mysterious young boy who appears before the main character throughout the story.

He is the one who bestows the power of a demon upon the main character, and observes him throughout the events of the Vortex World as a means of entertainment. By completing the optional Fifth Kalpa dungeon in the Maniax version, his identity is revealed to be Lucifer. His form is also similar to that of Louis Cypher, a human pseudonym used by Lucifer in previous Shin Megami Tensei games.

The Old Nurse

A mysterious individual in a black mourner's garb who acts as the attendant and mouthpiece of the Mysterious Young Boy.

Her true identity is never revealed, but it is possible that she is a demon under employment from Lucifer.

Settings

While the entire game takes place in Tokyo, you cannot roam freely throughout the entire city. You can only go to certain areas:

The Reasons (Kotowari)

The Vortex World is merely a fetal stage of the world, created by the Conception in preparation for its eventual rebirth. For a person to create the new world, they must possess a powerful inner philosophy that encompasses a set of natural laws that the new world would be based upon: this is called a Reason (Kotowari in the original Japanese version).

The laws of the Vortex World dictate that it is forbidden for a demon to create a Reason; thus, most demons in the game follow one of the three Reasons created by key characters throughout the course of the game.

Shijima

"All at one with the world."
Shijima is a Reason based on stillness and oneness, influenced by Buddhism and the concept of Nirvana. It is a world of perfect harmony, where there is no 'self' whatsoever, and no passion to cause dissent, conflict and destruction. Individuality is eradicated, and replaced with a collective inner peace where everyone is equal to a god, all working together as cogs in the giant, stable machine that is the Universe. This Reason is most closely associated with the Law alignment of previous Shin Megami Tensei games. The Reason Shijima closely follows the philosophical beliefs of Friedrich Nietzsche and nihilism

Ironically, it is fallen angels and beings who are feared who sides with this reason, like Eligor, Surt, and Mot.

Musubi

"I am the center of the world."
Musubi is a Reason based on solitude and isolation, where the Self is absolute. Every single person would live in his or her own independent world, completely sealed from any other living being. Using one's mind, a person could shape their world at will into their own personal paradise, living free from the unwelcome interference of others. This Reason is most closely associated with the Neutral alignment of previous Shin Megami Tensei games. The Reason Musubi closely resembles Rene Descartes' philosophy of the solitary self which is based in individualism and solitude.

Yosuga

"The world only needs beautiful things."
Yosuga is a Reason based on elitism and survival of the fittest, where only the chosen elite would possess the right to live. The useless and weak elements of society would be purged from the world, leaving only the powerful and strong. Power is acknowledged as being the only thing of true worth, and only the strongest of the strongest would have the right to rule. This Reason is most closely associated with the Chaos alignment of previous Shin Megami Tensei games. The Reason Yosuga closely resembles Darwinism and can be seen as a type of social Darwinism.

Interestingly, the angelic castes, traditionally associated with Law, side with Chiaki against Shijima. Whether this is an effect of Yahweh's absence or an indication of a systemic arrogance kindred to Chiaki's is unexplained.

As a demon, the main character is forbidden to create his own Reason. However, he can choose to defy the laws of the Vortex World and follow no Reason, which leads to either the "Neutral" which restores the world to the way it was before the game or "Demon" endings. By completing the optional Labyrinth of Amala dungeon in the "Maniax" version of the game, a sixth ending- "True Demon"- can be gained instead where Lucifer succeeds in shaping the main character in his image to help mount an attack on heaven.

Changes from predecessors

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is the product of a long period of development between Shin Megaten games. Many other games like Persona, Majin Tensei, and Devil Summoner seem to have influenced Nocturne.

  1. No first-person viewpoint by default. Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II both used fixed first-person viewpoints in dungeons. In Shin Megami Tensei III the first-person viewpoint is only usable after completing the game once, and can be turned on or off as the player desires; however, battles are always in third-person.
  2. Fewer humans. The games released in between SMTII and Nocturne all had more of an emphasis on human action rather than that of demons.
  3. A new battle system. Classic MegaTen games had a simple turn-based system where characters attacked in one round based on their speed rating. Nocturne has a different turn-based system in place called the 'Press Turn' system. In this system, the player is assigned Press Turns equal to the size of his party (although a special event allows the player to gain an extra press turn) and can re-use some of them by scoring Critical Hits or exploiting elemental weaknesses. In contrast, if the attack is nullified or reflected, the player loses some or all of his press turns based on the severity of the defense. This also applies to the opposing side.
  4. A new alignment system. The previous Shin Megami Tensei games had two factions of Law and Chaos in opposition with the player choosing to ally one side of the conflict. The player could also follow the path of Neutrality.
    In Nocturne, the new alignment system allows the player to side with one of three Kotowari (Reasons) or with other factions, or none at all.
  5. New setting. Shin Megami Tensei games have always centered on the power of gods waging war across Earth, with nuclear holocausts and religious oppression of demons. Nocturne does this differently by introducing the concept of a Vortex World, a world in a state of chaotic limbo that hasn't had its natural laws selected yet.
  6. Cel-shaded graphics. The graphics in Nocturne are fully 3D and cel-shaded.

Cultural differences

Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne was rated "All Ages" by the CERO, rated M by the ESRB, and rated 12+ by PEGI and the USK. This is due to societal and cultural differences. Some American gamers consider the ESRB to be harsher than its foreign counterparts. However, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is the only game that was rated "All Ages" by the CERO and rated M by the ESRB.

Music

The soundtrack was composed by Shoji Meguro, Kenichi Tsuchiya and Toshiko Tasaki. Some tracks are reprises from earlier Shin Megami Tensei titles composed by Tsukasa Masuko. It was released as a 2-disc Original Soundtrack on March 5, 2003 in Japan by SME Visual Works Inc. However, the OST is incomplete missing virtually all dungeon music and battle music variations.

The tracks for Shinjuku Hospital After Conception and Amala Temple are available as bonuses (as well as 3 wallpapers) by inserting either disc 1 or 2 of the OST into a computer and visiting http://www.sonymusic.co.jp/Animation/gamemusic/SHIN3/check.html

Meguro, Tsuchiya and Tasaki returned to compose new music for the Maniax version. A soundtrack containing the new music was released February 4, 2004 by SME Visual Works Inc.

US Preorders of the game contained a CD containing all tracks from the Maniax soundtrack plus a selection of tracks from the 2 disc OST.

Awards & Recognition

  • G4TV "X-Play"'s Best Role Playing Game of 2004

According to GameRankings.com, as of 8th February 2007, the average review score of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is 84%.

"The role-playing genre has its share of sword-wielding heroes and huge epic adventures set against the dark reaches of space, but it doesn't have nearly enough modern-day demon catastrophes. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a refreshing, challenging change of pace in a genre that all too often treads the same well-worn, well-loved territory."
-- Gamespot, 8.5/10

"Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne isn't just good because it's different. It's good because it offers some refreshing gameplay, lots of variety, and a sublime world in which to conquer or destroy. It may even represent the evolution of the role-playing game genre, which has needed a shot in the arm for years now. But, historical significance or no, this is a game you need to play."
-- Yahoo! Games, 4.5/5

"Role-playing fans in the hunt for cutting edge AI, a unique combat engine, or next-generation graphics definitely shouldn't look in Nocturne's direction. But if getting involved in a terrific storyline with nearly limitless character customization and some truly adult themes sounds like your cup of tea, then you can't do much better than this."
-- IGN.com, 8.6/10

See also

External links

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