‘Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne’ The Hardest Game I’ve Ever Played

Image courtesy of Steam

Image courtesy of Steam

I have a love-hate relationship with “Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.” I mean, I’m an avid lover of the turn-based RPG formula, and “Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne” (I will refer to it as “SMT III” from here on out) is that exact thing. So if that’s the case, why would I have any problems with the game?

The game is ridiculously unfair.

I don’t mean that term loosely. Games like “Dark Souls” and “Cuphead” are extremely difficult, but they are fair. “SMT III,” on the other hand, is just blatantly unreasonable. You can do everything right and still die because the enemy got lucky. I kid you not; you can die in the tutorial. It’s not like a scripted death either, you can straight-up lose the first battle because the game decided it wanted to torture you. 

What I like about the “Shin Megami Tensei” series of games is that their stories are much darker than your average game. “SMT III” is no exception. The game starts with your character’s teacher inviting you to a hospital (who doesn’t like a field trip to a hospital?), your character running into a room with a bloody summoning circle, and then everyone dying because the world is ending apparently. 

I wish I was joking, but that last sentence literally describes the first 30 minutes of the game. Then, you suddenly become a demon hybrid, and you have to run around a demon-infested, apocalyptic area looking for your teacher because your character has no idea what’s going on and wants answers. It’s an accurate representation of how you are feeling as the player. Just like the main character, you don’t know what’s happening. All you know is that you’re fighting other demons for some reason. 

Throughout the game, you run into your friends who somehow survived, and you make decisions that will change the story’s outcome. Honestly, the premise of this game is literally a fetch quest to find your teacher until you eventually do, and suddenly you’re fighting Lucifer and deciding the fate of the world.

So what about this game is unfair? Well, the game requires you to debuff (use skills to weaken demons) your enemies while buffing (use skills to strengthen demons) your team. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, “SMT III” gives the enemies abilities that can completely nullify your attempts to buff/debuff. They can wipe you out in one turn, and most of the time, it is completely out of your control. I mean that literally. Sometimes the enemy gets lucky and destroys your entire, fully healed team despite you being buffed and them being debuffed. So if that’s the case, the answer must be to reach such a high level that the enemies aren’t even close to as strong as you are, right?


Grind experience all you want, but the enemies can still get lucky and wipe you out. It may make it harder for them to do so, but not impossible. What’s even worse is that there is a very limited amount of save points. Imagine going through hours worth of progress just to get wiped out by some stupid enemy because the game decided you weren’t miserable enough. Oh yeah, and there is no safe place to be. Enemies can attack you literally anywhere. Even places with shops and save points are not safe. 

This game requires you to encounter demons in the world and fight them as enemies. However, you can choose to talk to the demons instead of fighting. If you negotiate with them successfully, they may join your party and fight alongside you. That being said, the demons in this game are complete jerks for no reason. Sometimes, demons may ask for some of your health and items before they join you. You can do everything they ask, and then they’ll run away, leaving you broken and depressed. This happens way too much in the game. Like battles, you can do everything right and still fail. 

Luckily, once you get a demon, you can summon it again without having to go through the torture of convincing it. If you manage to persuade enough demons to join you, you can fuse them together into stronger demons. This is my favorite part of the game. I love taking two demons and putting them together to see what stronger demon I get. Although, you can have the strongest demon army and still lose a battle because if your character dies, it’s game over. You can revive demons in battle, but if your character falls, too bad. Even if your other demons are alive, apparently, you have the inability to be revived like everyone else. 

The icing on the cake is the dungeon crawling. Dungeons are hallways. That’s it. They have connected hallway labyrinths with a few puzzles to solve. It gets old after the 2nd official dungeon. Imagine the Collier Hall of Science here on campus, but the hallways are much longer, there isn’t anything interesting to look at, and when you exit, there are 50 more of these cursed buildings staring at your broken soul, each one larger than the last. 

The enemies in these dungeons attack you for what feels like every step you take. You finish one battle, and another batch of enemies is waiting for you before you even have time to remember what you’re actually doing with your life. What’s worse is that the dungeons are designed for you to get lost. It’s like the game laughs at you when you stumble upon a dead end and you get attacked 20 times on your way back to figure out where you took a wrong turn. 

Now, “SMT III” is available on modern consoles, but it was originally a PlayStation 2 game. The re-release added a merciful difficulty, so new players can plow through enemies without the fear of getting wiped out. However, I guess I hate myself, and I decided to play it on the normal difficulty. I still don’t understand how I was able to beat it, but I don’t ever want to think about it again. Believe it or not, there’s actually a harder difficulty than normal. I have accepted that I will never beat the game on this difficulty, and anyone who does truly does not value happiness. 

“SMT III” is a game about demons and godhood. It’s what religious freaks thought Pokémon was in the ‘90s. It has some very dark and somewhat confusing themes, so it would be hard for me to recommend it to someone who doesn’t play many video games. However, despite ripping this game to shreds, I can’t deny that I like it. It is frustrating, but the final moments of the game, along with the mature ideas presented were phenomenal. As much as I hate this game, I also really liked it. That being said, unless you are an avid turn-based RPG player, please don’t play this game. Even though the re-release for current consoles has a brainlessly easy difficulty, the game still has many faults. For anyone else, though, good luck.

Score: 6.5/10