Nocturne (video game)
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Nocturne is a survival horror video game set in the late 1920s and early 1930s – the Prohibition and Great Depression era. The player takes the part of The Stranger (voiced by Lynn Mathis), an operative of a fictional American Government secret organization known as "Spookhouse", which was created by President Theodore Roosevelt to fight monsters. He investigates four strange cases and saves people from classic monsters such as werewolves, zombies, and vampires.
Graphics, sound, and gameplay
The game featured cutting-edge graphics for its time. One of its biggest selling points was the realistic shadow rendering capability of the game engine. The makers strongly encouraged players to play in a darkened room for maximum effect.
The sound is also very detailed. The soundtrack of Nocturne is public domain music and has made appearances in other works, including the hit NBC TV reality series Fear Factor, the 2002 Japanese movie Returner, and the E3 2007 teaser trailer for Resident Evil 5. A lounge song in Nocturne's Act III is sung by Mary Beth Brooks.
Like many early survival horror games, Nocturne features pre-rendered backgrounds superimposed with real-time 3D characters. Camera angles were often chosen for style rather than function. During gameplay, it is common to experience difficulty keeping track of the player/character, because the camera view can radically change when moving out of the current camera frame.
The controls are fairly standard for the genre, but controls for moving and aiming are separate. In addition, a weapon must be drawn before it may be used. Therefore, if The Stranger encounters an enemy, he must draw his weapon, aim, evade, then fire with separate controls. This process can be greatly eased by the use of an "Auto-Aim" option on the "Controls" menu.
Instead of possessing a single overarching story, Nocturne's gameplay is broken up into four independent Acts. Each Act is a self-contained campaign that can be selected as soon as the game begins. Although the four Acts can be played in any order, they progress in chronological order from first to fourth, so some minor details, such as which agents join or leave the Spookhouse organization as time passes, are easiest to see when the Acts are played in order.
Act I: Dark Reign of the Vampire King
In 1927, the Stranger is assigned to retrieve a powerful artifact from Gaustadt, a remote vampire-occupied castle in Germany. The artifact, called the Yatgy Stone, later appears in the game BloodRayne, where it is explained to be the heart of Belial, the former ruler of Hell and the most powerful demon ever born. Despite his disdain for monsters, he is partnered up with a half-vampire (known as a Dhampir) Spookhouse agent named Svetlana Lupescu.
Upon their arrival, they find a village being terrorized by the monsters in the surrounding forest. They meet the mayor of said village who explains that a vampire master, Count Voicu has been warring with them for some time, and has taken the children and young women of the village hostage in his castle. They also discover vampires and werewolves have also been warring in the forests, and meet a hermit who tells them of how the werewolves were originally protectors from Count Voicu, before becoming feral, and gives them supplies in order to combat them.
As the Stranger and Svetlana make their way to the castle, they are quickly separated, and when they catch up to each other, Svetlana attacks the Stranger before fleeing. One of Voicu's servants reveals that the count has taken Svetlana to be one of his brides and she belongs to the count now. Despite his initial disdain for her, the Stranger decides he will not leave without her, and traverses through the castle, killing the count's minions.
Eventually finding the count's coffin, the Stranger faces and kills Voicu himself, freeing Svetlana. Before the two leave they also rescue one of the girls he has captured. They notice a centuries-old painting of the mayor who reveals himself to be Voicu's father and a vampire master himself. The mayor reveals that his son tried to usurp him from the castle and they've been warring for centuries. The mayor has them leave his castle, but warns that if Svetlana ever sets foot there again, she will belong to him. Since the mayor is too powerful to be fought, the Stranger and Svetlana are forced to accept this truce before leaving.
Act II: Tomb of the Underground God
In 1931, the Stranger is assigned to battle a zombie outbreak in a small, secluded wild-west style American town called Redeye. The Stranger is accompanied by Hiram Mottra, a nervous empath, and is to meet with Scat Dazzle, a Spookhouse agent who is a Voodoo expert and mortal vessel for Baron Samedi himself. On the train ride, the train is attacked by a pack of werewolves that the Stranger previously fought and seemingly wiped out. The Stranger holds off the attack, culminating in him fighting and killing the alpha.
Upon arriving in Redeye, the Stranger meets a reverend who is holding off the zombies in his church. The reverend claims Dazzle has died, but the Stranger invokes Baron Samedi to resurrect him. Apparently, Dazzle's death is a common occurrence. Dazzle explains that he has no power over these zombies as they are not voodoo zombies. The Stranger is sent into the town to gather survivors and take them to the church for safety. Upon gathering the survivors, the Stranger learns of an abandoned mine believed to be the gates of Hell, where all the monsters supposedly come from.
As the Stranger ventures into the mines, he encounters not only zombies, but eldritch bug-like monsters as well. The Stranger happens upon a tomb of a Lovecraftian entity, which is the source of the outbreak. The Stranger witnesses an argument between this entity and its high priest, and discovers it wants the Stranger as its new high priest. With the help of Samedi, the Stranger manages to defeat the entity and flees the mines as it collapses. The Stranger and Dazzle then make plans to seal off the mines for good.
Act III: Windy City Massacre
At Spookhouse in 1932, Hapscomb tells the Stranger of Al Capone's goons who have been appearing in Chicago despite reports of their deaths. The Stranger learns of a German scientist named Enric Loathring who has been starting Frankenstein-esque experiments on dead mobsters, and now works for Capone. The Stranger has a hard time believing any of it, but Hapscomb tells him of what the ramifications could lead to. The Stranger also meets General Biggs, who is to provide military assistance in case Spookhouse were to face a major threat.
Upon arriving in Chicago, the Stranger meets Vicenzo "Icepick" Gasparro, an undercover Spookhouse agent who infiltrated the mob. Icepick was caught up in Capone's plot and forcibly transformed into a large, stitched together zombie. Icepick arranges for the Stranger to meet a reporter at a speakeasy, but warns that Capone has sent numerous undead patrols around the city. Meeting the reporter, it is explained that there is documented evidence of Capone's actions hidden in a local theater. As this is revealed, undead mobsters arrive and massacre the inhabitants of the speakeasy, forcing the Stranger to fight them off.
With Icepick's help, the Stranger is able to make his way through the sewers to get to the theater. There, the Stranger finds it guarded by more mobsters, but eventually gets his hands on the evidence within a film reel. Once he views the film, the Stranger encounters Capone's hulking enforcer Smiley, who the Stranger barely manages to fight off. They make their way to the factory where the mobsters are reanimated, and the Stranger sets out burning and blowing the place up. The Stranger encounters Smiley again and eventually forces him into a tank of acid, and manages to flee as the factory explodes.
Act IV: The House on the Edge of Hell
In 1935, responding to a call for assistance, The Stranger is dispatched to the remote mansion of Hamilton Killian, a retired Spookhouse agent with many of the same qualities as The Stranger, including an overwhelming hatred of monsters. In his time, Killian was widely regarded as one of the organization's best monster hunters.
During a conversation with Espeth Holliday, the Stranger learns of Killian's history; Killian's wife was abducted, raped and impregnated by a vampire, who tried to turn her, forcing Killian to kill both his wife and the child. In revenge, Killian tortured the vampire to death and from then on was an especially ruthless agent for Spookhouse, before quitting out of outrage when Moloch was recruited.
Arriving in Paris, the Stranger meets Killian himself and helps clear out the monsters in his graveyard, during which the Stranger notices Killian has been using dark magic to summon monsters of his own. Upon this discovery, Killian has the Stranger knocked out. The Stranger wakes up and finds himself being subjected to a game that Killian has put up. Killian has converted his mansion into a giant prison for the purposes of torturing a diverse number of monsters, filled with countless death traps. The Stranger is forced to traverse the mansion, holding his own against the monsters Killian sics on him, and having to solve puzzles to survive.
Eventually, the Stranger finds Moloch imprisoned beneath the mansion, having been missing for years being tortured within Killian's maze. The Stranger frees Moloch and helps him regain his strength. The two team up to escape Killian's traps and eventually corner Killian in his control room. The Stranger then leaves Killian to die at Moloch's hands as he leaves the mansion.
Upon returning to Spookhouse, the Stranger informs Hapscomb of Killian's crimes. Hapscomb laments Killian's descent into madness, but praises the Stranger for not turning out like Killian despite their similarities.
Once all four Acts have been played and beaten, a five-minute interactive epilogue is unlocked that thrusts The Stranger into Spookhouse in 1942, with the place ransacked, Svetlana and Holliday are missing, and numerous agents are dead. The Stranger enters Hapscomb's office to find a message written in blood saying "We have finally found you Stranger" ending the game on a grim cliffhanger, paving the way for a possible sequel, that have never come. The game has semi-sequel Blair Witch Volume I: Rustin Parr. All the events of the semi-sequel take place prior to the Epilogue of Nocturne.
The Spookhouse is a major agency seen in the game. Its official name is the "Supernatural Domestic Defense and League of Research", and it is a secret agency founded in 1903, after President Theodore Roosevelt killed a werewolf while hunting. Its agents fight supernatural threats to the country. Some of the most prominent Spookhouse agents are:
- The Stranger – The main character in the game. A man without past, identity or history, he was employed by the Spookhouse in 1923 in strange circumstances. He hates all kinds of monsters and speaks only when necessary. He is greatly admired by his colleagues, but also criticized for his cold and sardonic behavior and having "the social skills of Attila the Hun". While he is initially hostile and reserved, he later softens and accepts his colleagues, he also has a complicated but close relationship with Elspeth "Doc" Holliday. He is also an excellent marksman who carries a pair of dual pistols with deadly accuracy and supernatural precision.
- Colonel Hapscomb – A former colonel in the army, Hapscomb is the Vice-director of the Spookhouse. The Stranger meets him at the beginning of Acts I, III, and IV, and he tells The Stranger what he must do. He is hook-handed and wears an eyepatch.
- General Biggs – A general in the United States Army who helps The Stranger in Act III. He is a close friend of Colonel Hapscomb.
- Svetlana Lupescu – A supernatural hunter with a human mother and a vampire father, she is one of the top operatives of the Spookhouse. Svetlana is very important in Act I, when she is the partner of Stranger. She makes only brief appearances in the following Acts but offers important information to The Stranger. Svetlana was supposed to be the main playable character in Nocturne 2, but later the game title was changed to "Bloodrayne" due to IP licensing and Svetlana became the original concept from which Rayne was developed.
- Khen Rigzin – A wise old man who was a Tibetan monk. He is the adviser and martial arts trainer of the group.
- Moloch – A demon who was "rejected both in Heaven and Hell", Moloch is not officially a Spookhouse operative, but became a volunteer after he helped the operatives in a "Nepalese Horucide in 1927" to destroy the demon who had cast him out of Hell centuries before. He assisted in sealing the portal in the mountains of Nepal, and Spookhouse brought him back to America as a potential agent. He appears briefly in the beginning of Act I, but is missing during most of the game after going on a mission to Spain. Later, he is found in Act IV and helps The Stranger.
- Scat Dazzle – A partner of The Stranger in Act II, he is a voodoo expert who can summon Baron Samedi, an extremely powerful loa who looks like a skeleton. Scat was dead in the beginning of the Act but is resurrected by Baron Samedi. It is implied that he had died many times before.
- Baron Samedi – One of the most powerful voodoo loas, whose dark, cynical attitude enrages The Stranger. He says that he knows a lot about the Stranger, but never reveals what.
- Haystack – A very strong boxer, who can defeat monsters with his fists and special, monster-specific gloves. He appears in the beginning of Acts I, III, and IV, when The Stranger visits the Spookhouse for his briefing.
- Hiram Mottra – Hiram's service to the Spookhouse consists mainly of research and documentation. Occasionally he is called upon to go into the field, but his nervous nature and considerable bulk makes him ill-suited as a soldier. To compensate, he carries an assortment of silver, wood, and mercury weapons so that he can handle confrontations with practically any supernatural creature. His education included a small amount of medical training, so his services as a medic are sometimes employed. He often utilizes his unproven extra sense that allows him to "feel" aggressive thoughts directed at him. Some think his "sixth sense" is actually just paranoia, but more often than not, his feelings prove true.
- Elspeth "Doc" Holliday – The chief scientist of the Spookhouse. She always helps The Stranger, supplying him with weapons and devices she has invented. She is a very resourceful agent, capable in laboratory research, medicine, paranormal research, invention, investigation, and fighting in the field, as well as having great knowledge of The Spookhouse's best agent prior to The Stranger (as revealed in Act IV) she also has a complicated relationship with the Stranger, but they are close. She is the main character in the semi-sequel Blair Witch Vol. 1: Rustin Parr.
- Justine – Justine appears only in the semi-sequel as an assistant to Doc Holliday.
- Vincenzo "Icepick" Gasparro – Originally an enforcer for the Ghiberti Family in Chicago, Icepick was betrayed and "sold" to Professor Loathring as an early experiment in Al Capone's "Frankenmob" scheme. Already a large man, Gasparro was subjected to experimental medical procedures that transformed him into a horribly scarred and stitched together giant. After Act III, he is recruited by the Spookhouse and trained by Doc Holliday, becoming very loyal to her.
- Gabriela Augustini – She did not appear in the final version of the game, but in early versions she was intended to have a great role or maybe be one of the main characters. Can be unlocked by players who changes the system files. She's almost a female counterpart of The Stranger.
In the United States, Nocturne sold 109,000 copies by October 2001. The game received positive reviews, scoring 75.05% at the review aggregator site GameRankings, based on 29 reviews. For instance, John Misak at PC Game World said in his review, "You'd be insane not to pick this game up, even if you only casually consider yourself a gamer." GameSpot gave the game a "good" rating of 7.0 out of 10. AllGame gave a very positive review of the game, stating that the graphics were "perhaps the best graphics ever for a 1999 PC title" and that gameplay was "very enjoyable, a masterpiece that's addicting. It's a bit on the easy side but the story is very involving and the action is intense. There are a few minor problems that can get a little annoying but once you get past that everything is dandy."
Nocturne was a runner-up for Computer Games Strategy Plus's 1999 "Adventure Game of the Year" award. The editors wrote, "Wickedly high system requirements provided some impressive atmosphere for this Alone in the Dark-styled horror romp." It won the 1999 "Adventure Game of the Year" prize from GameSpy, whose editors called it "the best adventure game [...] in a long time".
There is a partial sequel to Nocturne – a crossover between the Nocturne universe and The Blair Witch Project. The game, Blair Witch Volume I: Rustin Parr, is the first of a trilogy of Blair Witch games published by Gathering of Developers. The game stars the Spookhouse agent Elspeth "Doc" Holliday, who investigates the legend of the Blair Witch. The story's background involves an old hermit named Rustin Parr, who killed seven children in Burkittsville, claiming that he was doing it for an "old woman ghost". Spookhouse becomes interested in the case, and Doc is sent to investigate. The game was developed by Terminal Reality and uses the Nocturne Engine. Some other agents from Nocturne appear in the game. However, neither of the two following volumes in the series made any mention to the Spookhouse; although Elspeth and Volume III's protagonist meet during a temporal breach in Volume I, the scene is not present in Volume III. Both Volume II and III also use the Nocturne Engine.
Nocturne was heavily influential in the creation of Terminal Reality's BloodRayne game. The first BloodRayne game's working title was Nocturne 2, and it contains several references to Nocturne, including several levels that take place in the German castle from Nocturne's Act I. Nocturne 2 was not greenlit by Gathering of Developers, who went defunct soon after, and the developers, unwilling to share the Nocturne license with a new publisher they did not trust yet, decided to create a new franchise which "give[s] familiar nods to the Nocturne fans". The main protagonist of BloodRayne, the dhampir Rayne, is based upon the Nocturne character Svetlana Lupescu. Rayne's costume in the beta version even suggests she was originally supposed to be Svetlana. The "holy grail of the Vampires", the magical stone that can render a vampire invulnerable to most things that should normally harm him from Nocturne's Act I, is the heart of Beliar in BloodRayne.
The name Nocturne for use in video games remained under trademark, forcing Atlus to license it when releasing Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne in North America, and for Ghostlight to change the subtitle to Lucifer's Call.
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- NTSC Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne title screen