I’m not a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I can tell Atlus that their game rocks.
I’ve always been academically interested in the Etrian Odyssey series, but certain art decisions like the Dancers have kept me away from the games. Adding the characters of the Persona series to the Etrian gameplay in 2014’s Persona Q created one of my favorite games of that year. Five years and a new mainline series game later, Persona Q2 is a sequel that lives up to the original and then some.
If you missed Syrenne’s review of the Japanese version of Q2 or my prior preview, know that the Persona Q games fuse the Persona universe of RPGs with the Etrian Odyssey series’ first- person dungeon crawling and map creation. All the combat is on the top screen of the 3DS, with the bottom screen devoted to the drawing of the map of the floor that is being explored. There are plenty of options for touching up and drawing the map, or you can let the game auto-draw the map while placing doors, shortcuts, or “events” that affect the environment. In the interest of time, I ran the automapper, but still had fun playing around with the tools and trying to lower the cost of the golden treasure tied to the percentage of the map completed. Other things on the map include the incredibly difficult FOEs: massively overpowered enemies that will basically require running from for a long while, but beating them can offer big rewards. The FOEs seem smarter this time around; I frequently found myself trapped in between two of them and forced to leave the dungeon, especially during the second labyrinth.
As the title suggests, each of the dungeons is a send-up of common Hollywood movies with a Persona twist. The first film, Kamoshidaman, combines teenage rebellion with superhero films, while the second film dances with dinosaurs in Junessic Park. A.I.G.I.S., the third film that unlocks, is a dystopic science fiction tale. There are also multiple “special screenings” of shorter films that use the existing environments in a confined fashion and grow specific characters. At least 40 of these short films are available, and doing all of them will greatly empower the characters and unlock specific “Unison Attacks” for two members of the team. The short films are worth doing not only for the experience, but for more of the writing; the game does a good job of parodying classic film stories in combination with the existing Persona characters.
The other half of Persona Q2 is the battle system, which itself uses a lot of classic Shin Megami Tensei techniques. Striking an elemental weakness of an enemy does two things: it knocks the enemy down for the remainder of the turn (skipping the enemy’s turn if possible), and gives the character who performed the technique a “boost” that stays until after their next action or the next time they get hit. A boosted character’s techniques cost nothing, and some techniques power up in this state. Knocking every enemy on the screen down results in the All-Out Attack, which does massive defense-ignoring damage to everything on the screen. There are nine possible ways to inflict the knockdown: physical attacks, four elements (Fire/Ice/Lightning/Wind), Light/Dark, and SMT staples Psych/Nuclear. Five party members are present in battle, and in addition to their regular Personas they can equip “sub-Personas” who offer additional elemental variety. The rough part of the combat system is that there are five party slots, but by halfway through the game there are 26 playable characters (not even counting three non-battling navigators). A lot of time will be required to manage the sub Personas in order to keep hitting weaknesses on everything: even a sixth party slot would be appreciated. Keeping them relatively close in level and equipment to have party members ready for the special screenings will result in a lot of time spent grinding. And I thank my lucky stars that the original characters of Q2 aren’t playable, unlike the first game.
Q2 keeps alive the tradition of Persona games having killer OSTs; Shoji Meguro might be the best composer in the business right now. The different battle theme options offer a lot of variety, while the FOE theme does a great job of emphasizing just how screwed the party is unless they manage to escape. Graphically, the environments are necessarily repetitive, while the character designs do a good job of giving each playable character a unique look (it helps when one of them is a dog, and another is a self-loathing cat).
The end credits for the 3DS started rolling on March 3, 2017 and Persona Q2 is basically the post-credits scene. And it’s a good scene that really makes me hyped to hopefully see more of the Persona series on Switch in a fashion besides musou and Joker in Smash. For now, make sure your 3DS is nice and stable, and start mapping those dungeons.