Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is the third installment in the Shin Megami Tensei series, released for the PlayStation 2. The setting features a post-apocalyptic, demon-infested world, which is on the brink of rebirth; called the Conception. It was the first true addition to the main series since the original Super Famicom release of Shin Megami Tensei II nearly a decade prior. Nocturne was highly anticipated and met with good sales upon its release.
Atlus Co, Ltd. eventually announced a second version of Nocturne, a "Director's Cut" entitled 真・女神転生III-NOCTURNE マニアクス?, aka: Maniax, which featured a number of new additions and adjustments. This version was used for the North American release, as well as the PAL version which was titled Shin Megami Tensei III: Lucifer's Call. The Maniax release featured Dante from the Capcom Devil May Cry series as an optional companion and story arc.
A later edition, called the "Chronicle Edition" was released with a limited "plus" version of Devil Summoner: Kuzunoha Raidou vs. King Abbadon in Japan. This release featured Raidou and his feline sidekick Gouto in the place of Dante.
In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the player takes on the role of a young boy who is caught up in the apocalypse while visiting his sick teacher, Yuko Takao, with his two classmates Chiaki Hayasaka and Isamu Nitta. The player must survive in the Vortex World with the new powers and capabilities given to him through Magatama obtained from Lucifer. With these powers, the player is given the opportunity to align themselves with a Reason that decides what the world will become.
The Demi-fiend - The protagonist that can be named by the player. After the Conception, fate bestows upon him the ability to change this new world. Shortly after starting the game he is transformed into a demon, yet maintains his human heart. The Demi-fiend is also an optional boss in ATLUS' title Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner.
Chiaki Hayasaka - A friend of the protagonist who is from a rich family. She has to have her way most of the time. She survives the apocalypse and wanders about the ruins of Tokyo looking for power. She eventually decides to bring the Reason of Yosuga to life, where only the strong survive and maintain power over those who are weak.
Isamu Nitta - Another of the protagonist's friends that survived the Conception, Isamu follows the Reason of Musubi, a philosophy focused on individuality.
Hikawa - Hikawa is the head of the Cybers Corporation, as well as the Cult of Gaea. He is the one mainly responsible for sending the world to its end, and he did it so that he could recreate it based on his ideals, which he calls Shijima. He can summon demons, and starts the Assembly of Nihilo where they work toward a world of silence.
Yuko Takao - Also known as the Maiden. Yuko is the protagonist's teacher as well as a member of Hikawa's Cult of Gaea. She participated in the Conception so that she could create a world of freedom, but comes to find that she is merely a tool for Hikawa. She struggles to find her Reason while being blindly guided by the 'goddess' Aradia.
Jyoji Hijiri - A reporter for a magazine that covers the occult. He appears to have survived the apocalypse and tries to stop Hikawa from completing his plans. Hijiri studies the terminals in each city hoping to learn more about them. He is a big help at the start in gathering info and guiding through the Amala Network, but soon his obsession over the Network gets him into complex situations.
Sakahagi - Sakahagi is a violent Manikin who skins his own kind to make clothing for himself. He has a dream to become king of the demons.
The Young boy and Old Woman - These two appear every so often around the Vortex World. They were responsible for giving the protagonist his demonic powers with the hope that the hero would keep the young boy 'entertained'.
The Old Man and Young Woman - These two sit in the deepest part of the Labyrinth of Amala, but can heard and spoken to via use of various peepholes. The woman knows many secrets about people and places, and encourages you to gather the Candelabra and reach the bottom of the labyrinth as the Old Man wishes.
Dante - He survives the apocalypse and is hired by a strange employer to hunt down the Demi-fiend, appearing only in Nocturne Maniax. He is also considered one of the Fiends, as he holds a Candelabrum. Dante is from the Devil May Cry series of games by Capcom for the PlayStation 2. He can also be seen in Capcom's Viewtiful Joe.
The battle system functions like the traditional RPG turn-based combat, but with one key exception: Nocturne introduces a new element in the form of Press Turns. Each character participating in combat, friend and foe alike, provides 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 but will always expire, even if a "half turn" option is again selected, however if actions resulting in only half a turn being used continue, any remaining full turns will be changed to half turns before any half-turn icons are consumed.
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 the Digital Devil Saga series, Shin Megami Tensei IV and IV: Apocalypse, Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2, and, albeit slightly altered, Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5.
A key theme in Nocturne is that of demon conversation and negotiation. Since the Demi-fiend can only (normally) have one press turn by himself, he must gain allies to fight alongside him in order to 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 species 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 without a moment's hesitation. However, some may refuse to join based on opposing ideals (Tyrants, Deities, Raptors, Megami, and Viles), higher levels, because they don't feel like it, or because they simply can't understand human speech (Foul, Haunt, and Wilder).
Demon negotiation, however, is radically altered when the "moon", Kagutsuchi, is full, as it causes demons to be agitated and drunk with power. Demon conversation will always fail against bosses, any demons inhabiting the Labyrinth of Amala, and any demons fought in the Amala Network (though they will sometimes join of their own accord).
The main character gains his skills through the use of Magatama. Magatama are living parasites that grant the host demonic powers which reflect as access to a variety of skills. There are a total of 25 Magatama in the game. Leveling particular Magatama can also affect demonic conversations with particular demon types. Magatama work in the following way:
- When a hero levels up and is equipped with a Magatama, he may learn a skill and the Magatama may go Wild.
- In order to learn a skill, the hero must have the prerequisite level or higher than the top skill on that Magatama requires. (Example: In order to learn Rampage you must be level 10 or higher when you level up with its Magatama.) The level requirement isn't listed by numbers and can only be seen on each Magatama's glow and movement.
- 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.
In the original Japanese release, Hard mode can only be played in a New Game Plus cycle after beating the game once. It's automatically chosen as the new difficulty and cannot be changed.
In the Maniax/US/EUR and Chronicle versions however, both Normal and Hard difficulties are available from the beginning. It can be changed at each New Game or New Game Plus cycle.
"An average level of difficulty."
The normal difficulty of the game. The Maniax/US/EUR and Chronicle versions for this mode has been adjusted by lowering the ambush/back attack chances, instant death rates, etc.
"A level of difficulty suitable for those seeking the thrill of death."
The hard difficulty level. It is the default difficulty for the second cycle and onwards in the original Japanese version, but freely selectable in Maniax/US/EUR and Chronicle versions for each New Game or New Game Plus cycle.
Hard Mode Differences/Changes:
- Enemies deal 2x damage.
- Enemies target the party's weaknesses more often.
- Escaping from battle is nearly impossible, even with the Fast Retreat skill.
- Ambush/Back Attack rates are much higher.
- Floor traps and Poison deal 3x damage.
- Junk Shops sell items at 3x price.
There is no extra reward or clear mark for beating the game on Hard Mode, so it is mostly for the extra challenge and bragging rights.
Changes from predecessorsEdit
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is the product of a long period of development between Shin Megami Tensei games. Many other games like Megami Ibunroku Persona, Majin Tensei, and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner seem to have influenced Nocturne.
- No first-person viewpoint by default. Shin Megami Tensei and Shin Megami Tensei II both used fixed first-person viewpoints in dungeons. In Nocturne 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.
- Fewer humans. The games released in between SMT II and Nocturne all had more of an emphasis on human action rather than that of demons.
- 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 Turn Press 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.
- 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 Reasons or with other factions, or none at all.
- 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.
- Cel-shaded graphics. The graphics in Nocturne are fully 3D and cel-shaded.
The differences between the original version and the later versions are as follows:
- A new opening movie.
- The addition of the Labyrinth of Amala and, hence, the addition of the Fiends.
- A new "true demon" ending.
- A bonus for keeping your first demon party member (Pixie).
- Devil May Cry 2's Dante: you fight him, and you can have him in your party if certain conditions are met.
- The option of allowing several previously infusible bosses to join your party.
- The option to fight and later enlist the help of Beelzebub and Metatron.
- Pierce was added as a new skill.
- General game balance adjustments (lowered ambush attacks, lower instant death rates, etc.)
- Selectable difficulty level from the on-set (Normal or Hard)
- Elimination of the Debug Mode.
- Maniax Chronicle
- Raidou Kuzunoha the XIV, along with Gouto-Doji, replaces Dante as the Demi-fiend's potential ally.
There were also many name changes during the localization process:
|Chiaki Tachibana||Chiaki Hayasaka|
|Amara Deep Zone||Labyrinth of Amala|
|Jakyo Manor||Cathedral of Shadows|
|Akuma Zensho(o)||Demonic Compendium|
|Jaaku Frost||Black Frost|
|Mother Harlot||The Harlot|
- Demon Races
RPGamer 2004 Reader Results
- Best of PS2 - Third Place
- Graphics - Honorable Mention
- Storyline - Honorable Mention
- Best Overall - Honorable Mention
RPGfan 2004 Editor Picks
- Rob Bogdanowicz - Third Place
- Tim Duong - Second Place
- John McCarroll - Third Place
- RPG of the Year - Winner
- The game had a different subtitle as a placeholder before making the final game: Shin Megami Tensei III: Vortex, seen above in the gallery, as a reference to the Vortex World.
- Unlike its predecessors, Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne seems to borrow heavily from Zoroastrianism to symbolically represent the philosophical works of Friedrich Nietzsche.
- The game was designed with "Chaos" as its theme, to contrast with the previous game's theme of "Law". 
- This is the first, and so far the only, game in the entire franchise to be officialy translated into French and German.
- Inside the game disc there is a magnitude of unused content, one that is interesting to note is an audio file containing the main theme of Star Wars, possibly to test the audio of the game.
- The European version includes a glitch that soft-locks the game at certain points. Most notably, the game freezes right after beating the final bosses second form, making endings such as the True Demon Ending impossible to obtain. This bug is also present in the PSN version.
- Official Japanese website for Nocturne
- Official Japanese website for NOCTURNE Maniax
- Official North American site for Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne