Shin Megami Tensei is a series that hasn't seen much light in North America. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is actually the first in the main series to see release in North America at all. Atlus has seen fit to give gamers the director's cut version of the game which was titled Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne Maniax in Japan. Dante from Devil May Cry 2 was chosen for the director's cut of the game because he is a demon hunter and it made sense (to Atlus) to have him in a game that included many demons. Players meet Dante quite a few times throughout the journey. Whether Dante joins their party or not is up to the player to decide.
The world's population has been annihilated by a catastrophe known as the Conception. Now, the world must rely on a young man who must fight his way through demonic forces to save the world or possibly be the harbinger of it's destruction. The world awaits its rebirth, but will it ever be as it used to?
Nocturne's battle system utilizes what Atlus refers to as a Press Turn battle system. At the top of the screen are the "turn" icons which show whose turn it is as well as how many turns remain. When all the icons have been exhausted, it is the other party's turn to attack. The player can choose to pass a turn to the next party member, which only uses half an icon. This could allow one member to perform two actions. Attacking an enemy's weakness will also only use half an icon and continually doing this will allow each party member two attacks each. Attacking an enemy's strength, however, will cost the party an extra turn icon.
During battle, the player is given six options. The first option is "Fight," which allows the player to attack the enemies without using MP or HP. The second option is "Skills," which allows the player to use special abilities received either from leveling up or through the use of Magatama (parasites used for customization). Most of these Skills cost MP to use; however, some Skills drain HP. The third option is "Auto Battle," which is exactly what it sounds like. This allows the player to set the controller down and do something else during battle. The fourth option is "Talk," which allows the player to talk to enemy demons to try and persuade them to join the player's team. The fifth option is "Summon/Return," which allows the player to change which party members are active. The sixth and final option is "Items," which is exactly what it is in all RPGs. This option allows the player to use items during battle (healing, damaging, etc.).
Demon Negotiation is a good way for players to create a demon army to be reckoned with. The only party members that players will "meet" on their journey are the everyday demons that they encounter in battle. That's when the "Talk" command comes into play.
Keep in mind that there are many different things that will determine how well a demon can be coerced to join the player's team. Alignment is a large factor in Demon Negotiation in that every demon, including the main character, is either light, neutral, or dark depending on the Magatama ingested. A demon with a dark alignment and a main character of light alignment aren't going to get along very well, and vice versa. Neutral characters and demons have the possibility of going either way.
Another factor is the gender of the demons from both sides. A male demon coercing a female demon is fairly easy, as is a female coercing a female. Males coercing males to join are a little harder to come by and these are decided by the other factors. Each demon has a personality; these "Personality Types" are another factor in determining how demons will react to each other.
The phase of the Kagutsuchi, the moon in the demon world, is also a factor. During a full Kagutsuchi, demons tend to be rather agitated. Only on special occasions will the player be able to convince a demon to join them during a full Kagutsuchi; these occasions could include using a certain skill, having a high level character, or having a perfect alignment. Some demon races speak different languages and you must use a special skill to bridge the language barrier. Other demon types can only be aquired using Demon Fusion (which will be touched upon in an upcoming paragraph).
A playe'rs level always plays a large role in an RPG but it also plays a part in Demon Negotiation. Trying to bring demons that are of a higher level than the player is very hard to do; likewise, the higher level the player is, the better the chance of negotiating with a lower level demon. If there is already a demon of the same type in the party or the party is full (twelve members) then the demon will not join, and more often than not will tell the player off.
One other factor when negotiating with demons is status ailments. If the player or demon is prevented from talking, it bars negotiations. Negotiation skills are given to demons to allow them choices to try and bring a demon over to their side. These skills can be transferred, though many are gender specific and won't work as well if used by the opposite gender. There are also special negotiations where two demons may know each other, especially through mythological connections. Odin and Loki, for instance, are linked as brothers in Norse legends. Other times, these special negotiations may come from demons asking the player something or demanding an item. Depending on the player's response, the demon might become enraged, join forces, or give an item in return.
Demon Fusion is another way to get closer to creating a demon dynasty. This allows the player to take the strongest demons with the best skills and fuse them together, creating a higher level demon with a greater number of skills. Continuing this throughout the journey will allow players to create a large, strong demon army. Fusions take place at the Cathedral of Shadows, which the player can find in every major city and in some dungeons. The Kagutsuchi affects the outcome of fusion to the point where some demons can only be fused during certain phases. The player can keep an eye on the current phase in the upper left corner of the screen.
There are some rules to fusion, of course, to prevent the player from creating a super race of demons and making the game too easy. The main rule is that no Demon Fusion can create a demon of a higher level than the main character. So if he is at level 22, then the highest level demon capable of being fused is level 22. Some demons can't be fused until the player has defeated them in battle, such as boss demons. Certain demons can't be fused together, such as a light-aligned demon and a dark-aligned demon.
After entering any Cathedral of Shadows, choose the Fuse command to begin the fusion ritual. This takes the player to a menu that shows race, name, and current level of each demon on the left side of the screen. On the right side are numbers corresponding to each demon. Each has a symbol underneath that explains which are compatible with fusion and which are not. Players start the game only having the ability to have eight demons in their party but eventually are able to increase that number to twelve. To begin fusion, players need to choose the two demons they would like to fuse, which takes them to a status screen for the new demon. This screen shows the appearance, stats, skills, resistances and weaknesses of the new demon. The player then has the choice of keeping that new demon or backing out and choosing a new fusion.
One thing that the player should keep in mind is that every fused demon keeps random skills from the two pre-fused demons it emerged from. Before choosing to accept a fusion, players should make sure that the skills they are getting in this new demon are what they would care for. The skills that are listed in green on the status screen are the skills that will carry over. If the player doesn't care for these then they should back out of the fusion and try again, until the new demon receives the skills they would be pleasd with.
Fusion accidents, though rare, do sometimes occur. Normally, the chances of an accident are 1 in 256; however, during a full or new Kagutsuchi this rises to 1 in 16. Demons resulting from such fusion accidents are not good. Normally, they turn out to be low-level slime demons.
A certain fusion called "Sacrificial Fusion" can only occur during a full Kagutsuchi. This fusion allows for a third demon to be added to the mix which could result in a level boost for the new demon, as well as being able to receive some abilities from the third demon. Some demons can only be obtained through this type of fusion. There are also several types of special fusions. "Deathstone Fusion" is the only way for the player to create fiend-type demons, a special set of bosses the player may encounter. This special fusion requires the use of special items known as deathstones, which can only be found in the labyrinth of Amala. "Cursed Fusion" allows the player to create a certain type of demon if the player enters the Cathedral of Shadows with the main character cursed. "Element and Mitama Fusion" allows the player to fuse certain demons with elements or Mitama. The fusion with elements raises the possibility of a race change when fusing, while Mitama almost always guarantees a boost in stats. Mastering the art of demon fusion could very well be the key to surviving the vortex. The more time players decide to devote to Demon Fusion, the better the possibility of them getting more out of the game itself.
In a genre full of turn-based RPGs, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne looks to change the way that everyone looks at the genre itself. This title may be rated "M" due to the amount of blood, language, and themes throughout the game, but the game itself is Mature in many other ways. This title looks to be one of the first RPGs to really give players a choice in how the world itself is shaped, using real-life situations that anyone might face. At one point during the game, the characters meet a serial killer who wears the skins of those that he kills as if they were his own. What players choose to do with this killer is up to them and could very well be the reason that they get the ending that they eventually receive. With so many choices in the game, there will be quite a few endings that one can go back and see, making different choices in the process.
Will the world be destroyed? Will the vortex become the one true world? These choices are in the player's hands in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.