Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is the third game in the Shin Megami Tensei series. It is known as Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call in Europe. The release of Nocturne in North America marked something of a turning point for Atlus USA, as it is their first published Megami Tensei title to remain entirely true to the original Japanese version in its localization. The company had previously published a heavily altered version of the original Persona, and while not as drastically changed, elements of their release of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment were edited to maintain continuity with the original game.
The game's protagonist, a young man living in Tokyo, becomes caught up in an event called the Conception, in which the world is destroyed so that a new one shall be born in place of it. While most people die when the Conception occurs, the protagonist gains the power of Magatama, turning him into a half-demon, or Demi-Fiend. Thus he sets out to explore the new world and help protect his friends, who are among the few humans to have also survived.
Demon Negotiation and Fusion
Nocturne uses the conventions that its predecessors popularized. Primarily those of demon negotiation and fusions. The core of the game lies in conversing with the different demons to try and sway them to join the player's side. To do this, the player may have to try and sweet talk them, bribe them, or in other ways just get lucky in them asking to join the player's party or granting the player gifts. This is easier said than done though as each demon has its own personality, likes, and dislikes that one must learn in order to sway them. Once on the player's side, these demons can be assigned as party members. However, they can also be fused together to create new demons. This process of recruitment and fusion is essential in making progress, and the higher the Demi-Fiend's level, the higher the level of demon he can fuse and control.
Fusion takes place at the Cathedral of Shadows. As in other Megami Tensei games, to fuse demons together, the player must select two compatible demons in the current party that are compatible with one another and confirm. The skills a new demon inherits through fusion are randomized and based on the skills known by the demons fused. While at the Cathedral of Shadows, the player may also access the Demon Compendium, which contains a roster of all demons that have been in the player's party and registered. For a fee, the player may summon specific demons from the compendium with the level, stats, and abilities that they had the last time that they were registered.
The battle system is a concept that originated in Nocturne and is referred to as the Press-Turn System. Later Megami Tensei titles such as Digital Devil Saga and Persona 3 use variations of the system as seen in this game. The combat system is predicated around the discovery and exploitation of enemy weaknesses. If the player damages the enemy with an attack type that it's weak against, the player is given another turn in order to deal yet more damage. However, enemies can also do the same to the player's party, and the game ends if the Demi-Fiend falls in battle. Therefore, for the best chance of success, the player must ensure the party's overall vulnerability to specific elements is limited while also maximizing their ability to attack enemy weaknesses.
The Demi-Fiend learns new skills as he levels up. The skills learned are determined by the magatama he has equipped at the time the level increase occurs. "Magatama" are actually living parasites that are "equipped" through ingestion. Additionally, the elemental strengths and weaknesses of the Demi-Fiend are determined by the currently ingested magatama, and each magatama also provides boosts to certain stats for as long as they are equipped. There are a total of twenty-five magatama in the game, each with their own effects. Each magatama is assigned an element or type of attack. For example, when equipped with the physical magatama Marogehra, the Demi-Fiend will learn physical skills such as Counter and Pierce. However, the Demi-Fiend and his demon companions may each only retain a limited number of skills, and once all slots are filled, older skills must be discarded to make way for new ones.
The game begins in modern Tokyo, and is centered around the protagonist and his two friends, Isamu Nitta and Chiaki Hayasaka. They meet up at the Shinjuku Hygenic Hospital in order to visit their teacher, Yuko Takao, at her invitation. However, when they arrive, the three discover the hospital is deserted. As the protagonist explores the hospital's basement, he stumbles upon Hikawa as he prepares for a ritual of some sort when he's rescued by Yuko, who asks that he meet her on the hospital roof. When he arrives, she briefly explains what is about to transpire; the end of the world.
Hikawa is the leader of a cult and a devotee of the Scripture of Miroku, and using both the scripture as well as his follower Yuko as a sacrifice, he enacts the Conception; an event in which the world is destroyed and returned to a blank slate. In this world, the Vortex World, a human has the power to give shape to a new world by imbuing it with a philosophy of his or her own design. However, Yuko is not entirely devoted to Hikawa's desires, and thus her invitation to her students was a means to ensure that others would survive the Conception and become potential creators of rival Reasons.
Following the Conception, the protagonist is knocked unconscious, and when he is found, he is forced to ingest a parasitic magatama that transforms his core being. No longer fully human, nor fully a demon, he has become what others refer to as the Demi-Fiend; a powerful being that, while unable to create a Reason of his own, has the strength to potentially affect the course of the world to be. As he ventures out into the world, the Demi-Fiend crosses paths with his friends Isamu and Chiaki, whose experiences in the Vortex World cause them to develop Reasons of their own. Isamu comes to desire a world of solitude, where people can live without fear of being interfered with by others, while Chiaki covets a world of chaos, reigning as the strongest in a world full of those weaker than herself.
In order for one of these Reasons to fashion a new world, the bearer of that Reason must ascend the Tower of Kagutsuchi and present it to Kagutsuchi. If the bearer can defeat the god in a final trial, the world will be reborn according to the philosophies of the chosen Reason.
During the game, the player is given the opportunity to support a Reason, or the inner philosophy of its founder that will define the laws of the new world. These effectively serve as alignments of Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. The choices made by the player will determine which Reason the Demi-Fiend supports and how the new world is formed.
There are three Reasons to choose from:
This philosophy emphasizes harmony and stillness. It removes individuality and creates a single collective inner peace that removes desire and chaos. It is conceived by Hikawa.
This philosophy emphasizes individuality and solitude. In this world, everybody exists separate from each other and would create their own world as they see fit. It is conceived by Isamu.
This philosophy emphasizes survival of the fittest. In this world, the strongest rule and the weak and useless are purged from existence. It creates never-ending chaos and absolute strife. It is conceived by Chiaki.
It is also possible for the player to either reject all three Reasons, or support more than one. In these instances, an additional three endings are possible.
In this ending, the Demi-Fiend is seen as apathetic to all Reasons and the future of the world in general. Kagutsuchi is in turn so disgusted with the Demi-Fiend that he leaves, leaving the Vortex World in its current state. As a result, this ending does not feature a final boss.
In this ending, the player has considered the reasons of Shijima, Musubi, and Yosuga, but in the end rejects them all while siding with Yuko. The Demi-Fiend confronts Kagutsuchi with no Reason to bear, and upon his victory, the world is restored to its prior state, as though the Conception never happened.
This ending can only be acquired if the player completes the Labyrinth of Amala in its entirety. In defeating Kagutsuchi, the Demi-Fiend prevents the world from being reborn and becomes an ally of Lucifer. The game ends with the Demi-Fiend and his demon allies marching onward to a confrontation with the Great Will, YHVH.
Two versions of Nocturne were released in Japan. The initial standard version and the later "Maniacs Edition". The Maniacs Edition is what was released in the United States simply as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. The additional content is listed below:
- New opening movie
- New dungeon: The Labyrinth of Amala
- Optional fights with Fiends, which are a requirement to enter the Kalpas of the labyrinth.
- A sixth "True Demon" ending, accessible to those that finish the game after completing the labyrinth.
- A bonus for keeping the player's first demon Pixie throughout the entire game without fusing her, or for keeping the fusion result of the Pixie's bloodline in the party for the duration of the game.
- Dante from Capcom's Devil May Cry series is an enemy and recruitable character.
- Demons encountered as boss battles are also made available as party members through fusion.
A subsequent rerelease of the Maniacs Edition in Japan removed Dante from the game and replaced him with Raidou Kuzunoha and his feline helper, Gouto.