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I’m a big Persona fan. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a big Shin Megami Tensei fan. Yes, Persona is a spinoff of SMT and has a lot of similarities. Both franchises involve turn-based RPG combat and have you recruiting and fusing demons to help you in battle.

Tone sets the two apart. Persona games can have their darker moments, but they are also full of warmth and humor. Stories and characters drive this series. SMT is drearier. The franchise has its roots in horror, so it’s often unsettling and creepy. Its games are also closer to being pure dungeon crawlers, with less focus on narrative and characters.

Given the choice between horror and, you know, not horror, I’m almost always going to pick the latter. Still, I’m surprised to find that I have been enjoying my time with Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster on Switch, which released May 25.

Tense

The original SMT3 came out for the PlayStation 2 in 2004. It released before Persona 3 introduced me to the Megami Tensei franchise, so I missed it back then. But I’ve always heard that it was a fan favorite, so I was curious about this Switch remaster.

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And, yeah, it lives up to the hype. All of the stuff that makes SMT great is working well here. Recruiting and fusing demons is fun and can give you some serious power boosts. The turn-based combat is simple, but the added complexity of exploiting enemy weaknesses to gain extra turns makes fights engaging.

Above: Negotiating with a demon.

Image Credit: Atlus

I am surprised by how much I am enjoying that creepy tone. SMT3’s setting is bleak and horrible. Shortly after the game starts, the world is destroyed. No one is having a fun time.

It’s a refreshing change of pace for me. If you have been following this blog, you know that I’ve been playing through the Dragon Quest series. I’ve been having fun, but those games are all a bit similar. And they’re all bright, colorful, and light-hearted.

Hey, normally that’s my jam. But I’m on my fifth Dragon Quest game on a row. I needed a JRPG change of pace, and SMT3 is giving me one.

SMT for me

I think the game is going to be attractive to a lot of other JRPG fans for the same reason. It’s refreshing to play a game like this that isn’t about a plucky teenager saving the world with all of their hot friends. Heck, this is what helped Megami Tensei stand out when the franchise debuted back in 1987, and this horror-inspired aesthetic and tone still make these games feel special.

Even if you’re only used to the Persona games or other spinoffs like Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Nocturne is worth a try. Just make sure you’re in the mood for something a bit a dry and dreary. Heck, it may even help to pick the game up closer to Halloween.

The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.

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