'Shin Megami Tensei III' Remastered Is Perfect to Explore Humble Beginnings of the 'Persona' Series

Played on Nintendo Switch

When it comes to Atlus games, I'm a total newbie.

The Japanese video game company has been making games for almost 25 years, but it wasn't until 2015's Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE for the Nintendo Wii U that I had my first experience with its brand of gaming, and it was an experience to remember.

Not only is Tokyo Mirage Sessions one of my favorite Wii U games ever—and is even better after its re-release for the Switch, which came a few years later—but it opened my gaming sensibilities to more games just like it. I'm finally playing Persona 5 and loving it so far, but the developer's Megami Tensei series is what really put the company on the map, and I've finally been able to jump in with the remastered version of the third installment.

Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne Remastered is a re-release of the 2004 PS2 title. It was the first of the series to make its way to the west, and introduced a whole generation to the type of JRPG that Persona would become famous for.

I knew of the series, but aside from the game's notorious difficulty level, I was going into this game blind—and I'm glad I did.

Editor's note: This preview only covers up to a certain point of the story, roughly around four hours into the game.

shin megami tensei 3 nocturne remaster hd
"Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster" is releasing May 25. Atlus

The story of Nocturne Remastered revolves around the destruction of Tokyo by a demonic event called the Conception, and it's up to you to find out what's going on. Of course, your character isn't just any normal guy—you're imbued with demonic powers that let you fight other demonic and mythical creatures.

Atlus polished up the game in Nocturne Remastered with the 3D models and background completely remastered for HD play. Looking back at some of the gameplay of the original PS2 game on YouTube, there is a noticeable difference between the two, and fans of the initial release might want to try it out for themselves.

As you make your way through the early parts of the story, you learn how to fight creatures and even how to recruit them to your party. Now, I'm a huge fan of monster-collecting games like Pokémon, so having the ability to recruit various demons to your side and use their varying abilities piqued my interest.

You recruit pixies, fire demons, demons who look like an old person with long hair and others to your side. Each demon has their own weaknesses and strengths, something you learn only in battle by trial and error.

Players will even have the opportunity to fuse these demons to create new members of their team. There's plenty of team compositions that can be had, and I'm looking forward to trying out different members moving forward.

If you're familiar with Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions' battle system, Nocturne Remastered is just about the same. You attack using various elements in turn-based battles. If an enemy is weak to a certain element, it'll deal extra damage and you'll gain an extra turn of attacks. The more you battle, the easier these fights become. I just wish battles would tell you when something is weak to a certain attack on the screen when selecting a target, like how Tokyo Mirage Sessions does. You'll really need to pay attention and have a good memory when going into battle.

Speaking of paying attention, talking to every spirit and person is crucial to your exploration in Nocturne Remastered. NPCs will tell you where to go next, or even give tips on how to recruit and battle demons. The game rewards those who are patient and explore.

Other improvements include the implementation of a Merciful difficulty level, for those who want a more casual experience—something that can be changed any time during your playthrough.

I played the first few hours of Nocturne Remastered on the normal difficulty and haven't hit any snags in terms of the game being too hard. So far, the game's difficulty hasn't met its reputation, but it's not easy to the point of not being fun, so there hasn't been a reason to switch to Merciful. If you want a challenge, however, you can always switch to the hard mode.

The best part of this remaster is the suspend-save feature. Players need to find terminals scattered on the various maps to save their progress, but the remastered version gives the option to suspend their play wherever they are. I can't believe those who played the game back in the day had to trek back to wherever the terminal was to save their progress, so this is a great upgrade.

Unfortunately, suspending your save takes you back to the main menu, but it's a great option for those ready to turn off their console wherever they are in the game.

Even on the Nintendo Switch, Nocturne Remastered looks good and plays well whether it's docked or in handheld mode. In fact, I love that I can just explore dungeons and fight demons in handheld mode, while the TV is playing in the background or when I travel—whenever I get to do that again.

As someone who is new to the franchise, Nocturne Remastered is perfect for those looking to experience a seminal game in JRPG history. Those who played the original will want to pick this up to relive their childhoods while enjoying the quality of life improvements like suspend points and varying levels of difficulty.

Shin Megami Tensei 3 Nocturne Remastered is scheduled to release May 25 for PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.