The 13 August 2020 of Weekly Famitsu features an interview regarding Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster with director Yamai Kazuyuki regarding development of the game.
Yamai is asked about his experiences working on the original SMT3, and he says that he handled dungeon direction, text for messenger NPCs, and the creation of event scenes for non-human characters. As SMT3 was the first SMT game to have a 3D world and third-person camera, they had no past examples or people with experience to learn from, and had to figure things out on their own.
With the Maniax version, Yamai became director of an entire game for the first time, and so it is a memorable game for him. It was also the first “director’s cut” type of game for Atlus, and they had to figure out how to include content that would convince players that it would be worth the price, as well as give the game good publicity. He says that he worked so hard on the game that he got hives and ended up hospitalized at one point.
Yamai is asked about how players reacted to the game, and he says that because it was so different from SMT2, it was castigated severely on a certain big online message board, and the development staff were very disappointed. After players had more time to play the game, however, more positive comments began to show up, and by the time Maniax was released one year later, many had considered it to be a “godlike” game. The peculiar circumstances left an impression on him.
It is pointed out that fans had been wanting a re-release of SMT3 for a long time, and Yamai acknowledges this, and adds that they know that it is hard to play the game right now due to old copies fetching high prices, and says that this is not how they want it to be. They had been thinking for some time that they would want to make it available to a wider audience, and with the HD release, they prioritized respecting the original version above everything else.
Yamai says that SMT3 is one of the greatest games in Atlus history, and they strongly felt that they should not make unnecessary changes. The first thing they did was have their QA department get involved from the beginning to ensure that the game replicates the original perfectly, and they spent a great amount of time finding differences with the original.
Hardware from 17 years ago and now have not just different specs but also different ways of processing data and different strengths and weaknesses, meaning that just using old data would result in things working differently, if they even work at all. That they have currently fixed over 4500 points with differences from the original or issues, and Yamai says that it is nearing completion.
Additionally, Yamai points out that memories tend to be beautified, and the visuals of the original might not actually look as good as players remember. They thus also worked to improve the graphics in ways so that the players will not notice, replicating the beautified versions of players’ memories. He likens this to the renovation of a Shinto shrine, where the materials are replaced with the latest versions, while the look and contents are left exactly the same.
The interviewer points out the addition of voice acting to the game, and Yamai says that this was done because of how hard the story of SMT3 was to understand: They felt that with voice acting, players would remember the dialogue better. He says that this succeeded, with the dialogue now leaving a stronger impression, and that it also gives the game a stronger feeling of drama, which should surprise players of the original. He adds that the script itself is unchanged, and that players who liked the “quiet” of the original can turn the voices off.
Next, the interviewer comments that while SMT3 has a lot of passionate fans, there are also many people who have played recent SMT games and Persona but never played SMT3. Yamai says that there are indeed younger fans who know of SMT3 as a game that had a system that led to the current Persona series that they have heard of but never played, that they might want to play but cannot obtain. With the release of the HD remaster, all generations of players will be able to experience the game.
The interviewer asks if the addition of difficulty levels is similarly done to have a wider audience enjoy the game. Yamai points out that “Souls-like” games- games with high difficulty levels that give players a higher sense of accomplishment- are popular right now, and says that SMT3 has such a side to it. However, as there might be players who want to know about SMT3’s world and characters but do not like difficult games, they added the new “merciful” difficulty level. This new mode allows players to defeat tough enemies by just mashing buttons, and will be released as free DLC.
Finally, Yamai is asked to say something to fans, and people who might become fans in the future. Yamai says that he is thankful to all of the staff and Atlus, who helped continue development of the game in the current dark world climate. Moreso, he is thankful to the fans who are still waiting for new SMT games in this climate. He says that though SMT3 is a game from 17 years ago, the message in its story is timeless, and may in fact be more relative now. He says that he hopes that players will feel something in the story of characters fighting to create a new world after the destruction of the old one.
Shin Megami Tensei III Nocturne HD Remaster will be released for the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan on 29 October 2020 and in the west in spring 2021