Review by damagedude
"Atlus hits a homerun"
To preface this review, I'd like to say that I did try the first Persona game for the Playstation console but found it unbelievably bad- like something that shouldn't have even got out of planning stages. So it was with a bit of skepticism that I tried out Persona 2. I figured that the second game wouldn't be the same as the first one. But better? Significantly better? That I did not expect.
The story is complex, which is makes it appealing. This a sequel to the first Persona game and many of the characters from that game reappear here. A "Persona" is like a summon monster that you can equip- similar to Final Fantasy 8. It has its own unique spells and benefits. One Persona, called Joker, is being used in a roundabout way to destroy the world while one city- Sumaru, Japan- remains. Whether the city has enough agriculture to sustain its population or whether it will simply float off into space rather than following Earth's orbit is something the antagonists haven't considered. They're going ahead with their plan whatever the consequences might be.
The characters are revealed little by little. The best thing about the game is that when you talk to the characters in the stores, their responses changes based on the events that just happened. There's a LOT of text to read, and that's a good thing. There are certain dungeons which deal with one specific character alone, fleshing them out a little bit. A cop fallen into disfavor with his bosses meets up in secret to discuss corruption on the force. A mysterious wiretapper confronts a villain from his past. A young girl worried about being single gets caught up in her own weaknesses. These are the things that Persona 2 presents, and they are good enough that the story doesn't even need to be there. It just so happens the story is good too.
Battle System: 10/10
The battle system revisits the first Persona game in that you can talk to "demons" (a blanket word for the monsters you find) and make them happy, interesting, scared or angry. You have to provoke an emotion three times to get a reaction. When they're happy, they want to form a contract with you. When they're interested, they'll give you tarot cards from which you can make new Persona creatures. If they're scared, they'll run away and if they're angry, they'll attack you. If they're both interested and angry, they'll gain a beserk status, powered up their attack but preventing them from casting magic. The Personas themselves require a bit of juggling. Sometimes the spells they provide require a lot of MP to cast. At the beginning of each battle, a bit of MP is added to the party, making it possible to recover the party's MP provided you're willing to have enough conversations with demons. The boss fights can be hard and/or tricky, but it really comes down to the Personas you have and how much you've leveled them up.
In this game, you can create a rumor to make something happen. For instance, a bartender can be made to sell armor. I say "made" because when you create the rumor, it suddenly happens without any say-so from the person who's doing it. The rumors are acquired through rumormongers at various places in the city, which means that you get to choose from among a series of options the game presents you with. Even so, this system is so unique that I find running around the city doing optional stuff is just as engaging as the plot itself.
Later in the game, you'll meet an Arab man who is obsessed with maps. He'll commission you to walk or run over every square inch of the dungeon in order for some prizes. Whether you choose to do this or not is up to you, but since I chose to do it, the dungeons ended up being much longer than expected. The trade off being, of course, that I was more than ready for the boss fight by the time it came around due to running around so much everywhere.
The menu is a bit unusual, but not in a bad way. Gone is the moving a green icon everywhere throughout the city and the first person perspective while walking throughout the dungeons. This time, you get to SEE the character as you're progressing through, and this is the biggest improvement from the first game to the second.
I can't really detract points from this score largely because of the item store's unusual theme, sung in Japanese, which gets remixed in odd ways depending on which branch you visit. The other songs are good enough that I was able to listen to them for a while without feeling the need to do something else. Is that the result of creative composition or auditory conditioning? Either way, I couldn't find fault with the music here. As an added bonus, whenever you're about to enter a boss fight, the music fades out, giving way to the sound of a beating heart.
Everything is good for this game. It does lean a bit towards dungeon/plot point/dungeon, but I didn't mind that at all. I haven't always liked the games Atlus has made, but I really like this one. I suspect that the strength of this game inspired the plethora of Shin Megami Tensei games that appeared on the Playstation 2. This one, though, this is the game to have.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/12
Game Release: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (US, 12/22/00)
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