Never in my life have I simultaneously loved and hated a game so much. I’ve spent over 70 hours on Nocturne. I am SO CLOSE to the end of the game! I will beat Nocturne. I will write my full review. I can do this! I will beat Nocturne!
Within this week or the next, I will dedicate the time to finish my playthrough. So why make a Petty Review? Two reasons. The first is I have way too many feelings right now. The second is while I may get to the end of Nocturne, the game has already beaten me.
*Spoiler warning: I will be talking about one particular boss fight. No story spoilers*
In Nocturne there are bosses called Fiends. You encounter them in various parts of the world as you continue the story. There a few that you automatically encounter. They are part of the story and unavoidable. However, after you defeat them the rest of the Fiend fights are optional. They only occur if you continue to progress in the optional dungeon the Labyrinth of Amala.
For the second to last Fiend battle, you fight The Trumpeter. He has the magical ability of “Holy Melody”. Which is the most overpowered recovery spell I’ve ever seen in any video game. It’s the equivalent of that bratty kid who makes an “everything proof” shield when playing pretend. This ability allows The Trumpeter to regain all of his HP and MP in one move. ONE MOVE! Not even one full turn! After 3 or 4 rounds of combat, he will use it. There’s no escaping it. No matter how many prayers you send to RNGesus, it will happen. He will undo all your progress in one move and put you back at the start point, worse for wear.
Up until that point the game rewarded strategies that favored endurance. As long as I could withstand attacks while doing some damage meant that you win. It didn’t matter how many turns it took. As long as I stayed alive I could win.
Not this time. No. Staying alive wasn’t enough anymore. I had to change up the entirety of my core strategy for this fight. I knew what I had to do. I had to level up and optimize my team for damage output.
So I did. I changed out my demon team and tried again. And failed again. My numbers weren’t big enough to win. It was at this point that I gave up. Instead of trying to “git gud” and use careful strategy, I abused Nocturne’s systems. I used one of the DLC dungeons added in to the PS4 version of Nocturne to level up fast. Within 10 minutes I went from level 66 to level 75.
Normally, this wouldn’t feel like cheating. After all, what could be a more gamer move than cheesing the system to your advantage? However the dungeon I used wasn’t part of the original PS2 Nocturne. Doing this felt like admitting that the original game was too hard for me and I never would have beaten it without the assistance. It was demoralizing. The pride of being able to say “I’ve beaten SMT Nocturne, one of the hardest JRPGs ever.” was diminished in that moment.
At higher levels I did more damage and was able to fuse high level demons. The third and last attempt at The Trumpeter lead to victory! It was a bittersweet victory. Since that moment I no longer cared about playing the game the “right way”. Now I look up the stats of bosses before facing them in order to pick out the best strategy ahead of time. I no longer care enough to try to face a boss blind, fail, adjust strategy, and retry. SMT Nocturne broke my patience. As much as I love this game, I just want to get to the end and be done with it.
*This post is dedicated to all the people who put SMT Nocturne guides and walkthroughs on the Internet. I love all of you. I hope you get to eat all the pizzas, pet all the dogs, and experience every happiness this world has to offer. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you. I never would have gotten this far without you.*
*Image does not belong to me. It’s a screenshot from SMT III Nocturne HD Remaster.