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This turned out to be an interesting game in a genre that can quickly become a slaughterfest. You and two friends visit hteir teacher in the hospital, and, just as you all arrive, the world (or at least Tokyo) comes to an end. In a peculiar version of the rapture, everyone dies and finds themselves in limbo. Now the various forces at play, demon, ex-human, angel, etc,, start a struggle for the power to create a new world. And right in the middle of all this is you, converted to a semi-demon, and a pawn in what could very easily be the last conflict.

You wander about a post-apocalyptic Tokyo making pacts with demons, enticing those you meet to help you, and tracking down your friends. Needless to say you do a huge amount of fighting as well. The battle system is complex because as the game progresses you gain the power to create demons of your own out of those you meet and miscellaneous accessories you can buy. Then you can develop those you like with their own special talents and spells. And you, you lucky person, get to add skills and powers by eating magatama, which bear an uncomfortable resemblance to bugs. Since the demons you meet also have a range of powers, fighting never quite becomes routine.

This is a very large game with a long story line. As you play, you will find that your friends are marching to their own drummers, and that they to are trying to win the power to create a new world. You can make major decisions about how you want to ally yourself that will effect the entore progress of the game. The bosses you fight are an imaginative selection of gods and legendary figures, many Japanese, but many others are from quite close to home. This game has a whole cosmology behind its story line.

Despite being no more violent than most RPGs and considerably less sex oriented than many, Nocturne is a very dark story. It's whether the good guys win or not, but that there really aren't any good guys. And you start out on the wrong side of the divine ledger, and pretty much stay there. The real question is how much you want to be in command of your own fate, and this is the first game I know of that addresses that as a story consideration.

Another good feature of the game is the large number of puzzles and mazes that make dungeon progress much less boring than a pure hack and slash approach. Most of the design inventiveness and eye candy awards goes into the huge number of monsters and bosses. Scenery is adequate, but not breathtaking. Animation is smooth and player control is quite natural. And just when you think you've seen everything up comes Dante from Devil May Cry. Wheee!
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on November 3, 2004
Nocturne is one of the most interesting (both plot and gameplay-wise) RPGs I have ever played. Having borrowed a successful monster collecting formula from Pokemon, and a plot line out of a horror movie, this game definitely monopolized my attention over some other recent RPGs.

Nocturne introduces the players into a strange post-apocalypse world where the hero becomes a demon after the rest of the world is destroyed. There are no princesses to save here, nor are you some do-gooder so typical of other RPGs. Basically you are trying to survive in a world full of demons, and you get to choose your own destiny. Most of the choices are pretty dark though.

Gameplay-wise Nocturne is a lot like Pokemon, but taken to the next level. The hero starts off alone and must recruit other demons as allies. The hero's party can either talk/bribe/kidnap demons to join, or to use a system called "fusion" which allows the player to fuse two or three demons together so to create a brand new demon. There are around 180 demons total in this game, seperated into multiple classes and levels. There are also around 100 (very rough guess) different attacks/skills here shared by these demons. When you fuse demons, you can randomly combine different skills of the parent demons. Of course, the gimmick here is that you can only keep up to 8 demons, and for each demon you can keep only 8 different attacks/spells.

Understanding of different attacks and spells make up bulk of the strategy here. Attacks are divided into phyical, fire/ice/lighting/wind elemental, curse/mind, and light/dark magical types. In addition you have stat buffing/debuffing spells. Since most of the enemies you fight against will have certain weaknesses, finding a weakness will not only allow the player to do more damage, but it will also allows the player to attack an extra turn. This mechanism means that even if the player's demons are leveled up high, the player can still easily lose to low level demons if the demon lineups are wrong. Having said this, it's very difficult to beat this game without dying many times, since you wouldn't know what to expect from most demons/bosses the first time.

Graphic-wise this game is Cell-shaded (reminds me of the game Breath of Fire V dragon quarters), and very stylish in terms of character designs. The overhead world is a bit blend though. Unlikely Final Fantasy you wont see 2 mintue summons or outlandish spells when you fight enemies and the attacks are mostly unspectular. Nothing too good or bad in this department.

The music for this game is very good if you can stand heavy metal/industrial. I actually like most of the pieces alot. The sound is fairly crisp. When you destroy some enemies they will moan, while others just simply disappear. Nothing too impressive here either.

My biggest complaint about this game is the naming convention used in this game. The monsters' names are mostly confusing and there are no numbers IDs assigned to each monster. This makes fusing a bit confusing/difficult for beginners. It's not too bad though if you get used to it.

Last but not the least, this game is definitely not for kids. The demons in this game do not only swear and use the F-word on a regular basis, this game also has many occult references which will certainly offend most religious fanatics. The Demons include Christian Biblical figures, far east deities, and various mythological creatures. This game's story line features alot of philosophical mumbo jumbo which will be difficult to understand to some, and possibly to be considered satanic to those who do understand.

This game will take a while to finish. Probably 50-60 hours the first time through, and alot more if you are planning to collect all of the demons in the game. Overall I recommend this to any RPG fan who are not too religious or easily offended.
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2005
The last two years has seen some unorthodox RPGs. With Shadow Hearts: Covenant, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and now the two Digital Devil Sagas, the Final Fantasys and other Square-Enix games have some creative competition.

After reading all the reviews and looking into this game, I was really excited to try it. I am about 20 hours (my characters are around lvl 44) into the game and for all intents and purposes I think I've only scratched the surface. I wanted to give my current review of the game up to this moment to let people uncertain if they want to purchase it what the game is about.

It has aptly been called a dark pokemon game. This is true in that you must negotiate with demons and find ways to recruit them to your side. However, a downfall to this sytem is that it boils down to you giving up hard won items like healing items, items to ressurect your people, 100s of Macca (the currency). And normally it goes, "that is not enough, give me 1 life stone...I'm still not convinced give me 500 Macca...okay you're starting to piss me off, give me 1 revival bead...no, I'm sorry but I don't want to join you." So you just wasted 500 Macca, 1 life stone and 1 revival bead on someone who just vanishes. If at any time you say no, the negotiations stop. Now, other demons you get can learn skills to help in the negotiation process. But, sometimes it's hard to justify an ability like Nag that is supposed to help get uncertain demons when you can only have 6 skills. If it comes down to learning that next heal spell or Nag, I'm going to have to go with the healing spell over Nag. So it can be frustrating to get some demons to your side. Other times it's s snap.

Then, you are able to fuse these demons together to create more powerful demons that share some of the qualities and skills of the previous two you had. More depth is added by the change of the moon cycle and the ability to sacrifice a third demon to make your demons even more powerful. It's a cool concept that works really well for the most part. IF you know what you're doing.

Which leads me to my biggest problem with the game. If you don't carefully plan out your demons and your demon fusing even early in the game, you will have a very hard time as the game progresses. You see, another concept that figures heavy into the battle system is the weakness/strength based on skills. Some enemies are weak to your skills, some nullify certain skills, some drain hp from skills, some reflect these abilities, etc etc. If you score a hit the enemy is weak against, you gain another turn to act in your round. If your attack is nullified, you lose turns. The same happens to you. So, if you end up fusing demons together and have to fight a boss that your new demon is weak to, problems can occur. Especially if that demon is your healer and is killed in round two...

On top of that, when you fuse demons you don't get all of the skills the previous demons had. You get a random assortment based on luck and what levels your demons are. The higher the level the more skills transfer. The result is that you end up getting two demons chosen for fusing, don't like the abilities, so leave the fusing process and go back in until you get a mix of skills you want. Also, each demon can only hold a certain amount of skills and when they learn new skills and the demon is maxed, you have to get rid of one of their skills. And that skill is gone forever. Chances are, you'll need that skill that you just lost at a future time. What seems unimportant now, can end up saving your life later. And it can be frustrating, trying to create your characters as the best of what they can do and then have normal enemies or boss battles trounce you in two rounds.

I have been playing RPGs since the very first Final Fantasy graced our shores. I have never found an RPG as hard as this one. In fact, with the exception being a COUPLE boss battles that I can count on one hand, I almost never die in an RPG. This game gives you two settings to choose from at the beginning, normal and hard. I chose normal. Traveling in the over world map, in areas where a character of my level is supposed to be can become death traps if you happen to run into an enemy that has attacks your party is weak against. Or, heaven forbid, your main character is weak against. Ran into a group of characters who have a death attack. I had spent about an hour grinding in the field (you'll also be doing that a lot by the way) only to have someone cast Mudo, a death type spell, on my main character. He's not weak to the attack but the attack went through, character died, there went 1 hour of my leveling. You can only save in terminals, not on the world map and in this instance I was pretty far from a terminal and didn't want to spend the extra travel time just to get back and save. Be warned, save often!

Also, in reference to the weakness/strength problem, you are given the skill Analyze. It will give you the enemies hp/mp and their strengths and weaknesses. So this is good, right? Well it doesn't work on bosses which can become a trial and error as you probably won't have the right combination of people the first time you fight the boss. Chances are, you will wipe. The guide book is more helpful in this area and can usually help you prepare better (see my book comment below).

The game can be classified as a dungeon crawl. Not in the typical sense, but in the sense that no matter where you go chances are there will be enemies to fight. Finding areas of safety where you won't run into random encounters are few and far between. In my 20 hours of playtime I have run into less than 5 I believe. Most "towns" (I use that term loosely) where you can save/heal/buy/sell/fuse/etc have enemy encounters. On top of that, the encounter rates are higher than most RPGs. Sometimes you can run through a room with little or no encounters. Other times, you can run into battle after battle. There is a glowing compas on your UI that is supposed to alert you by changing colors as it gets closer to an encounter but that's not always truthful. It has gone from yellow (the first step) to red (the last) in one step and a battle starts.

So far, the story is pretty linear and honestly not too exciting. As far as I know, it's mainly a quest to find this guy and stop his plans of unleashing a very bad weapon. Yes, the story is dark, deals with the end of the world and also has angels and demons and familiar religious mantra in it but at this point in time it's not too terribly exciting. I'm hoping that something will happen that will change the focus of the story.

I cannot recommend this game to RPG newbies. You will be frustrated and might not ever play an RPG again. This is not a starter's RPG; it's made for the hard core group of people as you have to put a lot of time and effort into it. I would also recommend picking up the strategy guide. I don't normally do or recommend that, but at 400 pages it is almost essential in creating the best demon combinations and working your way through some really tough bosses.

If you are new to the Shin Megami Tensei series, personally I would recommend the newer Digital Devil Saga (and its forthcoming sequel). Almost all of my complaints above are addressed and fixed in that game; it also adds sorely needed voice actors and at this juncture in time has a better plot.

I know it seems as if there are a lot of "complaints" in my review which might seem incongruous with my score of 4. But I'm not exactly complaining; I just want to make sure that those who are on the fence with this game know all of the good and bad inside. I think it has the ability to really frustrate some players and I would hate to have new RPGers come to this game and decide the genre is not for them. I am enjoying the game for the most part, though I think I might enjoy Digital Devil Saga I and II better. Truth be told, the dugeon I'm currently in (the Obelisk for those who know) is kicking my ass which made me turn to Digital Devil Saga. For Nocturne, the combat system is deep and rewarding for those who play right, the dungeons are (mostly) long but fun and I have a feeling the plot is going to rachet up another level soon. But casual gamers need not apply.

**By the way, don't you dare spend the $60-80 on this game that the people are selling theirs through this site! That's outrageous that people are already selling it at that price. Check out Ebgames or Gamestop, etc. I got mine a few weeks ago for $44.
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on October 7, 2005
I'd like to start off by saying that Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is not for everyone. If you have problems with dark themes or shriek at the concept of anything remotely "demonic," you'll probably not want to play this.

Also, if you are looking for a "traditional" RPG - one with a band of likable characters going through a heroic adventure to save the world - you may find yourself disappointed in Nocturne. Characterization is small to nonexistent, and most of the time your mute hero is merely accompanied by hordes of beautifully designed but essentially characterless demons. And the story is not that of a traditional RPG either - rather than working to save the world, this game begins with it being destroyed.

You play one of the few humans left alive in this post-apocalyptic world - and indeed, no longer human, but now part-demon (and with a nifty neck spike and a set of full-body tattoos to prove it!). You make your way through this world to discover what it's like now, fighting demons and occasionally recruiting them to your side, and eventually you will choose a Reason that will remake the world in the way you want to see it remade.

Visually, the game is stunning. Kazuma Kaneko's character and demon designs are embodied beautifully in a stylish cel-shaded style. Aurally the game is not quite as outstanding, but the music is still generally quite good.

As for gameplay...Nocturne is more difficult than a lot of modern RPGs. The dungeons are long (often VERY long), the enemies are often quite tough compared to your characters, and the battle system, while easy to abuse, is also unforgiving if you make the wrong move.

(Also, for fans of Capcom's Devil May Cry series, Dante - the main character of that series - appears in Nocturne as well, and can even be recruited to join your party.)

All in all, if you're looking for an unusual and challenging RPG experience (much like the Persona games, which are a related series), you may want to give this one a try.
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on June 13, 2005
While SMT:N has a storyline that is a tad controversial due to it's strange take on Christianity and other-worldly religions, it takes a stealar apparoach on old RPG principles and builds on them! The game features an interesting turn based combat system with "button press icons", which diminish as you take a turn. If you manage to score a critical hit or use an enemey's weakness though, you only use up one half of a turn press icon, so in theory you can end up going twice as many turns per round in combat (and possibly never let your oppoenent take a turn if you manage to kill them before your turns are used up!) The press turn system works for your opponent in the same way though, so look out. A down side to this revamped 'old fashioned' combat system though is that if your main character dies, you lose. This is an old rpg rule that many can probably recall in games from the past.

The heart of the game though is the monster/demon creation/recruitment system. Throughout the game, you will encounter tons of different monsters, of all shapes and sizes. Each of them have different combonations of strengths, weaknesses, skills and abilities. To obtain them, you will have to either recruit them in combat via negotiation, purchase them from vendors, or fuse your old monsters to create new ones in the Cathedral of Shadows (which is what you will probably end up doing most of the time in the end.)

The game states that it has over 55 hours of gameplay, but you could easily go into the 100's if you end up looking for all of the extra content in the game. In order to obtain the added ending in this 'director's cut' version of the game, you will have to embark on some rather lengthy side quests and also will have to create a tremendously powerful party if you are to ever have a hope of battling the awsome final boss that the game has hidden away. Definently a fun challange for those who have patience.

This game features a wonderful soundtrack, which eminates techno, rock, metal, and ambient tunes. It is mostly upbeat, and it's sound effects are also very well placed in. Sadly, there is no voice acting, but it helps out in the end with the 'old school' feel that the game has. The graphics are also wonderful, as they are done in a unique and un-childish cell-shaded manner the likes of which I have never seen until now.

Another positive is that the game features Dante from the Devil May Cry series, whom many gamers will probably be familiar with (as was I. In fact, he was the main reason I bought the game!)

SMT:Nocturne is a rare game, and it will be hard to come by at a price under $50 dollars, but believe me, it is very well worth the price of admission if you are looking for a GOOD RPG.
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on June 12, 2005
Graphics/Music: The graphics (both for characters and map textures) are extremely unique for an RPG or otherwise. Very dark, and very moody with lots of twisted (in some cases literally)enviroments. The same goes for the music which is a great mix of heavy rock and techno. All in all it matches the game very well.

Story: The story is one of the best parts of the game. Rather then set you off on yet another quest to save the world, you are treated to the destruction of it within the first 10 min! You are left with this question, "If you had to create a world without judgement, without the concepts of good/evil or right/wrong, what would you create?" A unique concept which pans out extremely well through the course of the game.

Gameplay: The gameplay is complex to explain as it involves a unique turnbased system which relies on weaknesses/critical hits/guards/dodges and a Pokemon style partner system. To sum it up, your stength in battle relies solely in your strategy; a level 30 character can easily be wiped out by a level 10 enemy or two if you've got the wrong weaknesses. An average gameplayer who finds Final Fantasy difficult would be crushed by their first or second boss in this game. The second 'Pokemon' style system is less complicated but just as fun as you can recruit a huge list of detailed and cool looking demons. Every single enemy and boss (except for the last ones) can be recruited or created to your team. Enemies join in a number of ways including being talked to, bribed, weakened, scared, or by fusing your demons together to make new ones.

Extra Info:

5 Endings

Dante from Devil May Cry is a playable character

Hard/Normal difficulty settings

New Game+ Mode

Overall, this is an incredible game that should not be missed by any RPG fan.
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on September 25, 2005
Right up there with the classic Shadow Hearts covenant, this game is pure class from start to 150+ hour finish. It's adult and totally different to the usually childish rpgs that come out so often.

You play the main character who wakes up on a train and in a hospital is witness to the end of the world. Only one idea can shape the new world and many will try for this power. You are the favoured champion of the fallen angel Lucifer who wishes you to lead all the creatures of darkness against God and free the Universe from pre-destination and Karma.

Beautiful and unique graphics

Excellent music and memorable fights - i.e the 4 horsemen

A HUGE number of characters to meet and recruit from hindu gods to sexual succubi to angels of heaven

A very satisfying ending/s, there are many endings.

Truly superb and very interesting.
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on December 4, 2015
One of the SMT series of games. I'll start off by saying that I love the Persona series of SMT games. 3 &4 were fantastic. I've played through most of the first Digital Devil Saga as well (still finishing it) and enjoy all of those ones better than Nocturne. Which is a shame as Nocturne does have an interesting premise and a suitably dark atmosphere.

The game is hard and unforgiving to the extreme. I died several times on the first battle and it appeared it was only dumb luck that let me get through that one. The next 25% of the game that I played through was only slightly less punishing. Plenty of restarts required when you plan poorly for the type of enemies you'll encounter, which I find frustrating although some may enjoy the challenge. The battle system itself is not bad, just difficult. Recruiting demons to aid you in battle was fun and is probably the best part of the game.

The storyline is very bare bones IMO. There's only a few characters to interact with and progress the storyline, otherwise you're mainly just walking from one place to the next and fighting demons nonstop. When I play an RPG I enjoy a storyline that is interesting and draws you in. Your character also has 0 personality, and your friends are equally bland so I never felt invested in anything that happened to them.

In my opinion, I would recommend the other games in the SMT universe first. This one I would only recommend if you want the satisfaction to beat a truly tough game.
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on November 2, 2006
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is an innovative RPG for the patient and hardcore only. Considering that this is an Atlus game and I am writing this about two years after the games release, this game has become a rare collectors item. Look forward to paying list price for a ex-rental copy with no case or manuel, so think hard before making the investment. I can not emphasize enough that it is hard to wrestle this lengthy beast of game into submission.

If you can get past the difficulty level, people who are able to comit themselves to learning how to take advantage of the complex battle system will be well rewarded. Nocturne takes place in a ruined shell of modern day Tokyo. An evil cultist has destroyed the world in a cataclysm called the Conception. By a twist of fate, the nameless protagonist manages to survive. As he wakes up in a hospital, he discovers that he has been transformed into a demi-fiend, a being with a human soul but the apparance and strength of a demon. He'll need it, because Tokyo has become a supernatural way-station for monsters and ghosts as they wait the rebirth of the world. The few surviving humans and monsters have split into factions, all fighting for the privilege of ascending to Kagutsuchi, the demon moon, and remaking the world anew according to their own desires. In the story, it is up to you to decide if you want to join a faction or not. The ending depends on the choices the player makes.

It may sound like the story gives you a lot of freedom, but it really doesn't. It is actually very linear with only a few side-quests throughtout. However, the fighting system is were you see an abnormal amount of freedom for a J-RPG. The player only starts out with his avatar, the demi-fiend. After that, the player must start recruiting enemy monsters into his party. This is accomplished by striking up a conversation while on the battlefield. Every enemy character in the game is ultimately recruitable, however some enemies like bosses can not be bargained with. In that case, the only way to get some of the best demons is by fusing two or more allies together at the Cathedral of Shadows.

However, level is not everything in Nocturne. Instead, victory depends on mastering the press-turn system. Each character has up to eight skills it can retain. It also has innate strengths and weaknesses to some types of skills. If you hit on an enemy weakpoint, you gain an extra turn. If the enemy is immune to the attack, you lose one. Your enemies also work under this system. Have the right skills and the immunities and the battle is yours. Have the the wrong team in the wrong dungeon, and prepare to be wipped out. Nocturne can be frustrating in that regard, because it take quite a bit of time to tweak your party to be just right.

However, there are times that Nocturne just doesn't seem to play fair. For only thing, if the main character falls in battle, the game is automatically over. About half way through the bosses all learn a spell that replentishes it number of attacks per turn. Demon allies learn only one ability per level-up, and they gain levels at a much slower rate than the main character.

Let's talk about Nocturne's technical qualities. This is a visually stunning game. It may not have the most cutting edge of graphics, but this is a case of style triumphing over technical prowess. Rendered in a cel-shades style, the game mixes cool pastels and burning neons to create a world that is visually beautiful, off-kilter, and a little creepy too. It's all complimented with some wonderful music that blends contemporary sounds with some elements to make it just a little frightening.

However, the one real flaw with Nocturne is this is just not a replayable game. One play through will take at least sixty hours, and it has such a steep difficulty curve that the prospect of playing it again probably won't be appealing to most. Trust me, I am not one of those people who can only play a game one. I tried to play Nocturne again, and I realized my heart wasn't in it. However, I have played its superior follow up Digital Devil Saga three times already.

Despite everything, Nocturne is not a game that should be missed by any serious RPG fan. It is truly a one of kind experience.
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on August 9, 2006
Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne centres on a modern day/futuristic vision of the city of Tokyo, or rather what's about to happen to it...A short introduction sees you as a teenage boy mooching round town, before meeting two friends in a deserted hospital. After much roaming around empy corridors and wards with no random battles or anything of note happening, your patience is finally rewarded when everything suddenly plunges into chaos as the whole world is obliterated before your eyes. This is not a spoiler by any means, in fact your adventure only really begins when you awake after this wipe-out and find that your entire existance is changed forever...

Wow, this is somewhat different from RPG's that I am used to. Although in some ways it's very traditional, I would say overall it's unlike most other games of the genre. So what's going on? Well, your character has survived this holocaust, but become changed, due to the intervention of a mysterious man, whose true identity remains a mystery for much of the story. But thanks to him, you are now a half-human, half-demon, with strength and magical powers beyond your understanding. And you will need them too, to fight your way through this bewildering new world.

To start with the basics, any RPG is only as good as it's battle system, and this game has a pretty good one...here are the main points: Fighting is turn-based, although in this game the whole side gets all their actions over with before the turn passes to the enemies, so you can choose all your actions and see how they pan out before they proceed to take all their turns. Now here's where things get interesting. A number of "turn" icons appears on the screen to let you know how many actions you have remaining before the round switches to the enemy. You can add extra turns to your round if an attack exploits the enemies particular weakness (such as hitting a fire demon with an ice attack). And the more you do it, the more turns you can chain together. Of course it's not always as easy as guessing that ice magic beats fire. And if you are careless or have not established the enemies weakness, you run the risk of hitting it with something that it is immune to or, worse still, that can heal it. And if you do this, you LOSE one or sometimes even all of your upcoming turns. I think this system is really clever. It means you can never just bash away with your best skills without thinking. Plus it also means that if the enemy attacks your weak spots or manages to miss you, it will also build up or lose turns in the same way. So fighting is a battle of wits as much as power, and some harder bosses can never be whipped unless you find away to stop them taking all your turns away and having loads of extra goes themselves. Great fun. And luckily save points are quite liberal so you can always weed out the weaknesses of difficult enemies by trial and error (this is especially crucial for some bosses), and then reload and go into battle fully prepared.

The other novel thing about the fighting is that you are to all intents and purposes the only playable character. Well, you are certainly the only human character. But, you will be aided and supported in battle by a legion of weird and wonderful monsters that you meet throughout the game and manage to convince to join your party. This adds a new dimension to fighting, as you can choose to break off the battle at any time and use the "talk" command. This allows you to negotiate with any monster you are currently fighting and see if you can get them to join your team. Now, there are dozens of variables that dictate whether this succeeds or not...they may ask for steep sums of money or rare items, or they may pose moral dilemmas and make their decison based on whether they like your answer. Sometimes other enemies may step in and mess it up for you. At other times you may be surprised to find that the monsters themselves actually ask to come with you in return for sparing their life, which is quite nice! Although this one usually only happens with enemies who are at a lower level that you are...try asking a high level monster to surrender and you'll just be laughed at. Anyway, it all adds more to the gameplay, especially as there is never a sure-fire formula for winning a new monster, they are an unpredictable lot at best. You can hand over huge wads of cash and jewels, only to be told at the last minute: "I'm sorry, I just don't think we are compatible"...bah!

So, once you are holding a good supply of monsters (limited to about 6-8 at the start of the game), you can select a team of three to participate in battle with you. If a battle starts and you realise the monsters in your team have got the wrong skills for this particular fight, you can use the "summon" command to swap any of them with one from your reserves. It's that easy. Your monsters level up with experience the same as you, and learn new skills if you let them. Refreshingly, all your stats are customizable, but those of your monster allies are not. If they level up they may learn a new skill or change an existing one, or even evolve into a whole new monster if you let them. But none of this can be predicted, and the results can be fantastic, or they can cause you to regret it! Now, I said this was refreshing, although on paper it sounds like it could potentially be a complete nightmare as all your careful plans go awry because your monster went and changed the skill you were depending on into a completely useless one. It happened to me when my Pixie changed her healing magic into one I really didn't want, called "Taunt"...and I was ages on from my last save. So save often if a monster is getting close to levelling up - thankfully a "points until next level" counter is always at hand for you to check on! But in reality, the times when the changes end up being worse are very rare, and I found it great fun to see what new spells my monsters produced. It's also a proud moment to see the unexpected times that a monster you have been training up finally mutates into a brand new creature. It does not happen to all of them, and you can't foresee it, but when it does, it's always an enhancement in all departments.

But even that's not all. In each "town" there is usually a place you can go and "fuse" your monsters together, which, put simply, means combining two monsters to make a new, more powerful one. This process is also really good fun - and this time it's all under your control. The process lets you see every outcome available before you commit to doing the fusion, which is really important as otherwise you would be saving and re-loading forever to get a good result. As you may expect, there are many factors involved in fusing that can affect the result, so be prepared to spend a long time on this if you want to make some really high ranking, rare monsters. You'll need to spend a lot of time ammassing a team with a nice selection of skills, too because you'll need plenty of back-up for the bosses. And in this regard, be prepared for some real trials. The Matador ( a really cool-looking skeleton in a bull-fighter's outfit) that you encounter a few hours into the game makes for a huge jump in difficulty and for a while I thought I must have got to the area he was in before I was supposed to (I hadn't - he's just hard!). Of course after finally beating him I wanted him in my team and to my delight I was able to fuse him later, and now he works for me...another very satisfying aspect.

Now that I have praised the game enough, I need to list the drawbacks. Although there are not many, and the fun with the monster team is good enough to outweigh them....My first niggle is a simple problem of localization. The names of the monster families, spells and abilities are impossible to remember, being, as they are, all Japanese in origin. So, for example Agi is the name of the basic fire spell, while Media is the name of one of the healing spells, and a defence raising spell is known as Rakukaja. And sometimes (as in the case of fusion or skill replacing) you need to know what something is pretty sharpish before you can make a desicion...would you prefer your demon to keep Tarunda or replace it with Makajam? You also can't name the monsters in your team, and I spent a lot of time early on having to check the Status menu to see which one was the fire-pixie (it was Hua-Po), and work out which one Nozuchi was (a big hairball with feet and an elephant's trunk, if you must know). I suppose it's good to learn something akin to a foreign language, but as there easily over 100 different skills and types of monster classes in total, it's almost impossible to remember what they are without a guide.

Secondly, I found the graphics quite...unusual. Although the characters are very chic and dynamic looking cel animations, the locations can be severely bland. Most noticeably in the early hospital and shopping mall sections, every single room was identical, with a distinct lack of variety anywhere in the level as a whole. Apart from being boring, it means you have a lot of trouble knowing whereabouts in the building you are. At least the game provides a very good map for every indoor level, unlike the outdoor areas which appear as a drastically miniatuarised landscape for which there is no "world map", so exploration with trial and error is really your only option here. The battle animations are quite good though, with some very nice spell effects - although the characters "dodge" animation is absurd - it's a completely static "slide" to one side and back again, which looks like just plain lazy animation. The monsters look great, and they all have a little signature "victory dance" move that you can see when they level up - some were so cute I was actually reluctant to fuse them...I miss my little Shiisaa...

I would recommend this game to lovers of RPGs - and if you are the type who likes a bit of experimentation, you're in for a treat. You might have to make your own notes to keep track of a lot of things, though! And the dungeons are often both puzzle-based and maze like so expect to get lost a fair bit too, which adds to the overall time!

You should have hours of fun with this game. I was wary of an RPG that had a large bias towards munster hunting...I didn't want to play Pokemon. But it turned out to be very addictive and fun to play. Even when it was hard work it was good...I soon realised that when boss battles were too hard I was just going in without paying attention to strategy - because just being buffed up is NOT the key to success in this game. But with lots of saving, you should never be too frustrated.
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