I fricken LOVE Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne. I first played it way back in 2003, although, being a European, it went by the way more metal title of Lucifer’s Call. I wasn’t even a teen when a picked it up, but the concept of a darker, more adult Pokemon was appealing. Heck, the game even had a floating imp dude with an incredibly large, and uncomfortable looking shlong as a standard enemy. Being the pre-teen newbie I was back then, I stumbled into a chap called Matador and got my arse royally handed to me. So ended my brief journey through apocalyptic Tokyo.
Well, not really. I curb-stomped Matador on my third or fourth attempt and moved on. Replaying the game in 2021 via the recent Remaster, I came to appreciate how good of a boss Matador is. I would even go as far as saying he is one of the best skill checks…well…ever. So, let’s dive into who Matador is, why his name is feared, and why he is the greatest JRPG roadblock of all time.
Who is Matador
Matador is an undead bullfighter who acts as the second major boss fight in Nocturne – the first being Forneus. He is considered one of the most notoriously difficult early game bosses in JRPG history, and, is one of the reasons Nocturne is considered so difficult for the uninitiated. Matador has no weaknesses, he self-buffs to the point of statistical invulnerability, he can dish out high physical damage as well as high magical damage, and he can act multiple times per turn. Add to this a powerful party sweep and players, up until this point, have never faced a foe like him.
On paper, Matty is a bit of a twat. If you google how to clap this arsehole you will be met with hundreds of posts from the early 2000s advising you to grind for 10 levels. This is both time consuming and, ultimately, sets you up for failure in the future. Matador is a tutorial and skipping over his lessons leads only to pain. In reality, you can beat Matador with 0 grinding, at a deceptively low level, without any issues whatsoever.
Prior to Matador, you would have encountered Forneus. Practically every single enemy before, after, and including him, teach a lesson. They have all had basic elemental weaknesses. You scan them, find what makes them tick, and drop a magical nuke on their dome. These last few hours have taught you a valuable lesson – exploiting weaknesses is good. You do more damage, get more turns and take less damage as a result. It’s a powerful technique that the combat system is more or less built on.
Like I said though, Matador has NO weaknesses. Every strategy the game has been forcing upon you will fail against him. Instead, Nocturne wants you to dabble in other areas. Thankfully this isn’t very difficult. Throughout the game you should have been accruing strange magicks that seemed pretty useless – buffs and debuffs.
Lesson 1: Buffs and Debuffs
At the start of the fight Matador buffs his dodge stat to insane levels. This makes him functionally immortal for anyone who isn’t radically over-levelled. He has buffed himself, so sticking your fingers into that same pot is a perfectly valid, logical and correct conclusion. To counter Matador’s dodge, you can either increase your party’s accuracy, thus nullifying his buff, or, debuff his dodge chance for the same result. Now you can hurt Matador, and the fight begins.
But wait, Matador throws a new mechanic at you – condition removal. If you debuff Matador he will use one of his actions to remove that debuff. This is important as it adds a new strategic play. You can stop debuffing him and focus on buffing your team. Alternatively, you can continue to debuff him, expending mana to do so, and force him to waste a turn. This effectively halves his damage output. It’s an interesting choice worth considering.
Once you’ve buffed and/or debuffed, Matador should go down easily. He has a shockingly low health pool and will die in a few turns of solid smacking – especially if you apply other buffs, such as damage boons. This lesson is incredibly important because Fiends like Matador crop up frequently throughout the game. Additionally, enemies from this point onward won’t always have easily exploitable weaknesses, so relying entirely on elemental magic will fail.
Lesson 2: Fusion and Magatama
If you are anything like pre-teen Toasty, fusion was a scary concept. You take two of your ‘friends’, murder them, and use their souls to make a new demon. It’s a serious commitment that can cloud the mind somewhat. Matador is massively susceptible to early game fusion, and if you don’t have the above magicks, this is another lesson that can carry you to victory.
Matador is very proficient in Force damage, and can quickly wipe your team if you have demons rocking a weakness to said damage. There are a handful of early game demons that are completely immune to force damage – some even heal from it. Having even one of these demons on your team can instantly end Matadors’ turn, giving you ample opportunity to counterattack and heal up. Furthermore, many fusions come with the aforementioned buffs and debuffs in their base kit.
Magatama are these squirmy little parasites that crawl around your main character’s body and provide hefty stat boosts and skills. They also alter your strengths and weaknesses. At this point in the game, you can purchase a Magatama that makes you immune to Force damage, which is very handy indeed. Since Matador also uses physical attacks, you could even slot in a physically resistant Magatama for a similar effect.
Another benefit of fusion is, of course, the rapid power growth from doing so. Grinding is rarely the best option in Nocturne, and instead, you should be killing your demons at every available opportunity. Why have a couple of level 2 dudes, when they combine to make a level 10? That’s a huge increase in power, with no grinding. It’s well worth doing. The game wants you to fuse and Matador gives you plenty of incentives to experiment with the system.
All Together Now
Using either of these strategies will result in an easy stomp of Matador. The game will give you a couple more bosses shortly after our bullfighting friend to make sure you grasp both of them. Combining them both whilst fighting Matador is the most effective means of killing him as well. If you expend brainpower and not time, you are rewarded. Instead of burning hours grinding you can kill Matador in about two minutes and move on. Nocturne has a reputation of being difficult – and it is – but Matador is a tutorial. If you can’t beat him without grinding, you weren’t paying attention in class. He is the ultimate abusive teacher.
Let me know in the comments whether or not you agree with me, or if you think Matador is just a prick. Heck, are there any other bosses in other games that are similar to our bull-wrangling fiend?
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