Saturday, October 14, 2000

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne | 8.5

Nocturne is one of the most interesting (both plot and gameplay-wise) RPGs I have ever played. Having borrowed a successful monster collecting formula from Pokemon, and a plot line out of a horror movie, this game definitely monopolized my attention over some other recent RPGs.

Nocturne introduces the players into a strange post-apocalypse world where the hero becomes a demon after the rest of the world is destroyed. There are no princesses to save here, nor are you some do-gooder so typical of other RPGs. Basically you are trying to survive in a world full of demons, and you get to choose your own destiny. Most of the choices are pretty dark though.

Gameplay-wise Nocturne is a lot like Pokemon, but taken to the next level. The hero starts off alone and must recruit other demons as allies. The hero's party can either talk/bribe/kidnap demons to join, or to use a system called "fusion" which allows the player to fuse two or three demons together so to create a brand new demon. There are around 180 demons total in this game, seperated into multiple classes and levels. There are also around 100 (very rough guess) different attacks/skills here shared by these demons. When you fuse demons, you can randomly combine different skills of the parent demons. Of course, the gimmick here is that you can only keep up to 8 demons, and for each demon you can keep only 8 different attacks/spells.

Understanding of different attacks and spells make up bulk of the strategy here. Attacks are divided into phyical, fire/ice/lighting/wind elemental, curse/mind, and light/dark magical types. In addition you have stat buffing/debuffing spells. Since most of the enemies you fight against will have certain weaknesses, finding a weakness will not only allow the player to do more damage, but it will also allows the player to attack an extra turn. This mechanism means that even if the player's demons are leveled up high, the player can still easily lose to low level demons if the demon lineups are wrong. Having said this, it's very difficult to beat this game without dying many times, since you wouldn't know what to expect from most demons/bosses the first time.

Graphic-wise this game is Cell-shaded (reminds me of the game Breath of Fire V dragon quarters), and very stylish in terms of character designs. The overhead world is a bit blend though. Unlikely Final Fantasy you wont see 2 mintue summons or outlandish spells when you fight enemies and the attacks are mostly unspectular. Nothing too good or bad in this department.

The music for this game is very good if you can stand heavy metal/industrial. I actually like most of the pieces alot. The sound is fairly crisp. When you destroy some enemies they will moan, while others just simply disappear. Nothing too impressive here either.

My biggest complaint about this game is the naming convention used in this game. The monsters' names are mostly confusing and there are no numbers IDs assigned to each monster. This makes fusing a bit confusing/difficult for beginners. It's not too bad though if you get used to it.

Last but not the least, this game is definitely not for kids. The demons in this game do not only swear and use the F-word on a regular basis, this game also has many occult references which will certainly offend most religious fanatics. The Demons include Christian Biblical figures, far east deities, and various mythological creatures. This game's story line features alot of philosophical mumbo jumbo which will be difficult to understand to some, and possibly to be considered satanic to those who do understand.

This game will take a while to finish. Probably 50-60 hours the first time through, and alot more if you are planning to collect all of the demons in the game. Overall I recommend this to any RPG fan who are not too religious or easily offended.

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