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Video Game / Nocturne (1999)

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Nocturne is a PC survival-horror game released in 1999, made by Terminal Reality (those folks behind BloodRayne) and published by Gathering of Developers.

Set in the 1920s to the 1930s, Spookhouse is a government-funded organization, started by Teddy Roosevelt, which deals with the occult and monsters, such as vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein's monster-esque mobsters, and dark rituals performed in caverns under small towns. It happens. You play as the mysterious Stranger, a man who likes no one, but hates monsters. Joining him are:

  • Colonel Hapscomb – A former colonel in the Army, Hapscomb is the vice director of the Spookhouse. He gives you the missions. Also, he's hook-handed and wears an eyepatch!
  • Svetlana Lupescu – A sexy half-vampire with whom Stranger has varying degrees of tension, due to her half-monster nature. However, she is a strong and very capable agent, which has earned her a place as one of the top operatives of Spookhouse.
  • Khen Rigzin – A wise old man who was a Tibetan monk. He teaches Martial Arts to the Spookhouse members.
  • Moloch - A demon rejected by both heaven and hell, who helped Spookhouse with a mission, though his reasons were to destroy the demon who had cast him out of Hell centuries before. He takes the human form of a Gentleman Adventurer, but he can change into a giant demon whenever needed.
  • Scat Dazzle – A voodoo expert possessed by Baron Samedi. Whenever Scat dies, the Baron can be summoned to revive him. Scat has died a lot.
  • Hiram Mottra - Medic and man of documents, Hiram is a nervous and husky fellow who can sense people's aggression, especially if it's toward him.
  • Elspeth "Doc" Holliday - Sexy and a bit of a snark, she's Spookhouse's top scientist, supplying Stranger with weapons and ammo to face anything. She likes testing her new equipment in the field.
  • Vicenzo "Icepick" Gasparro – An undercover agent who was once an enforcer for a Mafia family, he was "sold" to a mad scientist, where he was turned into a giant, lumbering stitched-together zombie. Despite this, Vicenzo remains a nice fellow, with a bit of a temper.

Cutting edge and beautiful for its time, Nocturne made use of dramatic camera angles in each area, though this was more fashion than function. It also made great use of ambient sounds for its time, along with various sinister public domain tracks.

Unlike almost all other games in the genre, Nocturne uses 360 degree aiming with the mouse (similar to a First-Person Shooter), instead of the standard "rotate along a fixed plane" used by the likes of the early Resident Evil or Alone in the Dark games. This allows a very high degree of free aiming, but can be disorienting due to the game's 3rd person perspective.

In the aftermath of the game's release, Terminal Reality had some loose plans for a sequel, and one of the few details that is know about it was that Svetlana Lupescu was going to be a playable character. The sequel idea was, however, tabled when Gathering of Developers first held off on green lighting the game, and then shortly after went defunct. Instead, Terminal Reality entered into talks with Majesco to have them publish their next game. The developer, however, found themselves unwilling to share the Nocturne license with a new publisher they had not build trust with yet, and so instead they suck with the idea of a female dhampir as the protagonist, but instead reworked it into its own stand-alone franchise and thus BloodRayne was born.

The game birthed a spin-off series of games based on The Blair Witch Project, of all things, as well as the significantly more popular console action series, BloodRayne. Unfortunately, the story of Spookhouse itself and the Stranger were never revisited by Terminal Reality (largely due to their assimilation by Majesco), despite the game ending on the mother of all cliffhanger endings.

Not to be confused with Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, though this game is why the game is known as "Lucifer's Call" in Europe. It's also not to be confused with the 2002 freeware Japanese RPG. Or with the 2007 French/Spanish animated film Nocturna, for that matter.

Tropes present in this game:

  • Action Girl: Svetlana to a T. Doc Holliday, too, but that's off-screen and in the semi-sequel.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Icepick wouldn't exactly wish his situation on anyone.
  • Anti-Hero: While the Stranger does go out of his way to help people, he does not discriminate when it comes to killing monsters, and even has to be talked out of it. He's even to be known to have committed genocide that wiped out entire races of vampires, werewolves, and changelings, which is still genocidal slaughter despite the targets being monsters. He can also be pretty blunt and isn't very sociable when it comes to some of the people he interacts with.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Instead of attacking The Stranger, Count Voicu's newest bride Nadia cowers behind a tapestry and tearfully begs for her life when he rousts her from her hiding place, which clues him in that she hadn't yet fed on the Count's blood and been brought fully under the vampire lord's control. The Stranger lets her live.
  • All There in the Manual: The official site gives some background info on the characters, monsters, and even an official timeline. The actual manual itself has oodles of backstory for both the Spookhouse itself, its operatives and various monster types.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: Episode 4 features most of the enemies from the previous 3 episodes all in a single dungeon. This is because Hamilton Killian essentially turned his mansion into a giant prison for torturing monsters, resulting in a very diverse population of "inmates".
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Despite having spent the prior chapters fighting vampires, werewolves, zombies and the inhuman servants of an Eldritch Abomination (with the assistance of a Dhampyr and Baron Samedei himself), not to mention a whole career of fighting these sorts of supernatural threats, The Stranger scoffs at the idea of Al Capone reviving his dead men ala Frankenstein.
  • Aw Look They Really Do Love Eachother: Despite the Stranger insisting he hates monsters and is reluctant to work with Svetlana, when he hears she's under the thrall of Count Voicu, he makes it a special mission to free her, insisting he's not leaving without her.
  • Badass Boast: The Stranger has quite a few, made all the more effective for his blunt way of phrasing them.
    Minion: "You cannot harm the Count! He is immortal!"
    The Stranger: "If you only knew how many 'immortal' creatures I've killed..."
  • Badass Creed: "The world is a dark place. Who will protect the world from darkness? We will." It doubles as a password to entering Spookhouse Headquarters.
  • Badass Normal: The Stranger is a seemingly normal man whose career revolves around going up against all manner of monsters, with little more than mundane weapons. Of course he does sometimes require supernatural weapons and help, against the likes of Count Voicu.
  • Badass Preacher: Reverend Maynard from Act 2. One of the few townsfolk in Redeye to survive long enough to meet The Stranger despite being unable to barricade up his church and losing the Spookhouse agent originally sent to protect him.
  • Bat People: Vampires are humanoids with bat-like features such as spear noses and elongated, winged arms. Humans converted by them, such as Vampire Brides, look more like your typical undead bloodsucker.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The game's backstory explains that Theodore Roosevelt founded the Spookhouse after killing a werewolf when he was hunting one time.
  • Child Prodigy: Holliday started her career AT ELEVEN.
  • The Chosen One: According to the official site, Stranger was born under "impossibly strict, specified circumstances", kidnapped as a baby, and raised by crazy strict monster hunters.
    • The manual adds that Spookhouse is not sure if this actually is Stranger's background. They had heard of such a specially raised monster hunter, and when Stranger came along with seemingly no past, they seemed to match. Nobody has dared to actually ask him.
    • Scat Dazzle was marked as a special boy, raised pretty much solely to be occupied by Baron Samedi. Despite his reluctance, this has worked out in his favor.
  • Cool Old Guy: Khen is more than a hundred years old, and a far superior hand to hand fighter than anyone else in the Spookhouse. Consequently he is the organization's main trainer, and helps everyone with their psychological and spiritual wellbeing.
  • Cut Short: The game ends on one hell of a painful (and fairly horrific) cliffhanger, and probably will never be resolved. Before their eventual closure, the guys at Terminal Reality still wanted to do a proper sequel to address this. In fact, Word of God says this game is Terminal Reality's real baby, and they created BloodRayne just to give Majesco a brand they could keep in case their partnership ends.
    • One of the devs has since stated that the villain behind the cliffhanger ending was supposed to be from the demon underground which Moloch helped Spookhouse to demolish.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Stranger has a go at most everyone, and Doc Holliday loves to snark right back.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: The Stranger is sometimes equipped with specialized ammunition for his twin .45s meant to do more damage to certain types of monsters: Silver and mercury bullets are respectively more effective against werewolves and demonic enemies, with a third type for vampires called "aqua vampira" (presumably blessed with holy water). No type of monster is immune to any type of ammo, but using the wrong kind for the creatures you're fighting is only as effective as a normal bullet would be.
  • Dhampyr: Svetlana is one of these, causing a bit of tension between her and Stranger. It does work in her favor, though, when she's been hypnotized by Count Voicu: Her half-vampire nature makes her strong enough to shake it off in the end.
  • Didn't Think This Through: There's a brief moment of humor in Redeye when the Stranger finds a surviving prostitute and tells her to come out of the bedroom she's hiding in so he can bring her to safety:
    Dixie: *panicked* "How do I know you're not another one of those monsters?!"
    The Stranger: "Because they don't offer to help?"
    *Beat as she thinks about it, realizes he's got a point, and unlocks the door*
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The second chapter has the Stranger find out that an Eldritch Abomination is the source of a zombie outbreak. With some help of Baron Samedi, the Stranger has no problem putting a stop this entity by sealing it underground. Just another day as a Spookhouse agent.
  • Downer Ending: The Stranger arrives for another day at Spookhouse only to find most of the staff (with the identifiable remains being Icepick, Haystack, Moloch, Doc Holliday's assistant, and the Colonel) ripped to bloody shreds and strewn about the place, Doc Holliday missing, and a message written in his co-workers' blood directed to him that whoever caused it all "finally found you, Stranger". To Be Continued, never.
  • The Empath: Hiram was a psychic who could sense the thoughts and emotions of anyone aiming their focus on him. This ability allowed him to sense a great danger while he was on a train to Texas with the Stranger. Didn't help him much when that danger made a beeline for him, though.
  • Enemy Mine: The Stranger mostly considers monsters his enemies, but grows close to the ones he works with like Sventlana and Icepick. There is the exception however as he insists his alliance with Moloch is purely pragmatic.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The game ends with Stranger entering Spookhouse headquarters to find it smashed open, with the body parts of most of the supporting cast strewn across the base (including Moloch, a super-powerful demon who was established to be The Juggernaut). He finds a message written in blood addressed personally to him essentially saying "we've finally found you, ha ha ha", then the game ends.
  • Eviler than Thou: Being Affably Evil aside, Count Voicu's father is described as making his son, who mentally controlled Svetlana earlier, look like "a frail degenerate" compared to him. He was mentioned to be powerful enough that even the Stranger and Svetlana facing him together would be suicide for them and that they were better off just leaving when he offered the chance. In Bloodrayne he ends up being on the receiving end of this from Hedrox, an even more ancient, powerful, and eviler vampire.
    • Hamilton Killian is this to Moloch. The fact that Moloch is a demon who was banished from Hell, should illustrate how bad Killian is.
  • Exposition Fairy: Colonel Hapscomb and Holliday.
  • Expy: Funfact: Rayne of BloodRayne fame was originally supposed to be Svetlana, but this was scrapped. Still, Svet is basically a nicer, longer-haired Rayne.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Colonel Hapscomb.
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: Because of how damage is applied, fire can kill anything, even otherwise immortal creatures like skeletons (though getting a flame weapon in most areas requires a cheat code). Once any actor (NPC or player) catches fire, the flames slowly spread and engulf them until they inevitably break apart into smoldering chunks.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Svetlana is a sweet, friendly person when not slaughtering things for the sake of justice.
  • Genocide Backfire: In 1924 the Stranger exterminated a tribe of wild werewolves. Years later, the Alpha male of the pack comes back to have his revenge.
  • Ghostapo: Surprisingly averted. Despite the time frame fitting and one of the missions even taking place in Germany, the game does not contain even a single mention of Nazis.
  • Good is Not Nice: The Stranger is blunt, gruff and described as having the social skills of Attila the Hun. Of course he gradually mellows over the course of the game.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Scat Dazzle. The Stranger's annoyed tone after resurrecting Scat ("You died. Again.") implies that it happens quite a bit.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: The shotgun Stranger uses is a double-barreled boxlock, which he handles and fires like a pump-action.
  • Henpecked Husband: Pa in Act 2.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: This is the central plot point of the final chapter and, arguably, an overarching theme of entire game. Hamilton Killian, the Big Bad of Act 4, is a former Spookhouse agent who grew to hate the monsters so much that he eventually brought himself down to their level. He currently lives in a mansion which he turned into a giant death trap, just so he could torture monsters... and occasionally even human beings whom he lured there, for being "monster-lovers". He subjects Stranger to this fate, on the grounds that working side by side with monster allies (like Svetlana or Moloch) supposedly makes him no better than them. Other characters express their worries that Stranger, with his hatred towards monsters, could walk the same path as Killian someday.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: There's one in act two, by the name of Dixie Buttercup.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The final chapter shows this with Hamilton Killian, who devoted an entire mansion to the point of torturing and killing monsters and amuses himself by putting the Stranger through all the traps and puzzles he created.
    • There is also The Mafia in the third chapter. Besides being reanimated through Frankenstein science, they're still essentially people and behave pretty much the way they would when they were alive. Doesn't stop them from trying to pump you full of lead, since they're criminals.
  • Implacable Man: Smiley, the toughest Frankenmobster ever created. He comes back after being bisected by an elephant gun, then he's burned to a crisp and reappears again; he dies only after plunging in a vat of boiling/acid resurrection chemicals.
  • Informed Ability: Haystack is a secondary character you can meet in the gym of the Spookhouse HQ, but you never get to see him in action on the field. Word of God says he's a boxer so powerful he can kill supernatural monsters with his fists, and a little help from specially crafted gloves.
  • Informed Flaw: According to the official site, Icepick is a sadistic, unpredictable machine. In game, he's actually quite polite and even earns Stranger's sympathy, and you eventually see him palling around with Svetlana.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: The stories of Hamilton Killian tell of a monster hunter who suffered a great and tragic loss at the hands of a vampire and has since then become a far more vicious individual, with a special hatred for monsters that has been described as "evil". He angrily quit Spookhouse when they started recruiting monsters, and has since then devoted himself to torturing monsters and even his human visitors for little more than his amusement.
  • Karma Houdini: Count Voicu's father, who is stated to be much worse than his son, manages to walk away. Of course this is because he's too powerful for the Stranger and Svetlana to face, and they're forced to accept a truce. He is mentioned as having eventually been overthrown and killed by Hedrox, an even more powerful and eviler vampire, in Bloodrayne.
    • Likewise Al Capone doesn't receive any on screen comeuppance for creating an undead army in the third chapter. Not only is he The Unfought, he doesn't even appear.
  • Kill It with Fire: The mobster-zombies in act III are extremely flammable thanks to all the chemicals pumped into them. Also, the only way to keep skeletons down.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Hamilton Killian's mansion. Every other room contains a trap, some monsters, or both.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Doc Holliday as the head scientist of Spookhouse and provides mundane weapons to its agents, mostly Stranger, but a lot of the special weapons are her own inventions.
  • Nintendo Hard: Zombies with guns that can chew through your health in seconds? Chapter 3's waiting for you. Tricky platforming segments that result in instant death? All over the place. Puzzles that can be made Unwinnable or also instantly kill you for failure? Hope you had a non-screwed quick save ready for Save Scumming. Even worse, playing the game on modern hardware results in the Stranger's falls being accelerated, so nearly any fall is either highly damaging or outright fatal - even running down stairs may cause him to glitch out and then explode his kneecaps or something.
  • Noodle Incident: When Baron Samedi is called to the corpse of Scat Dazzle, he ironically salutes the Stranger, adding that he knows a lot of things about his past. The Stranger rebukes him, telling to drink, smoke and please go fuck himself. This is the deepest (and only) mention of the Stranger's youth.
    • Sometimes, the Spookhouse agents will drop a line about Horucides, a mix of genocides and scorched earth operations that could totally eradicate a group of monsters. It seems that the Stranger participated eagerly in this operations.
  • One-Winged Angel:
    • Count Voicu, the Big Bad of the first episode, turns into a giant bat-like monster to fight you.
    • Smiley, Capone's top Frankenmobster enforcer in the third episode, is a Recurring Boss who keeps returning in increasingly tougher and more gigantic forms as Capone's scientists keep rebuilding him as you keep killing him.
  • Post-Modern Magik: What would you expect from a secret government agency fighting supernatural threats in the 20th century?
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: The high priest in the second act does this while talking to Gardath since the latter responds in Black Speech.
  • Rogue Agent: Hamilton Killian, although forcibly retired more than a decade prior, still effectively betrays his organization by abducting two of Spookhouse's best agents for his sick games.
    • The game could be defined as Resident Evil + 1930 pulp books + a sprinkle of humour + liberal amounts of Cool
  • Shout-Out: Some of the lines from the Frankenstein's Mobster enemies (e.g. "What's the rumpus?" and "Take it on the heel-and-toe before I whack ya' one!") make it obvious that someone on the dev team was a big fan of Miller's Crossing.
  • The Stoic: The Stranger isn't exactly the type to show emotion in his facial expressions or tone of voice.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Happens Once per Episode when the Stranger is forced to work with someone he considers a monster (Svetlana Lupescu in Act 1, Baron Samedi in Act 2, Icepick in Act 3, and Moloch in Act 4).
  • Tragic Villain: The game makes it clear that Killian has become worse than the monsters he fought against. That said it's made equally clear that what happened to his wife (being raped, impregnated and turned into a vampire, forcing Killian to kill her and the child) drove him over the edge.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: In his very first scene, Stranger admits that he hates monsters. Despite this, he's still professional enough to work with them. However, his Evil Counterpart, Hamilton Killian, takes this to its absolute extreme. After being ousted from Spookhouse for his feverish hatred of monsters, Killian has turned his mansion into a torture dungeon designed to kill and torture monsters (and also humans who, in his eyes, become "monster-lovers" if they tolerate non-humans). While his background is horrifying and tragic, he becomes so fanatical and cruel about his self-imposed mission that he potentially steers into A Nazi by Any Other Name territory.
  • Younger Than They Look: Holliday's hair is starting to grey a bit at the temples. She's 26.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The second chapter focuses around a zombie outbreak in a small Texan town.