Review by Yoshitsune
"A sterling game that deserved a larger audience"
Released in late 2000, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment [EP for short] is the sequel to both Revelations: Persona and an intervening game, Persona 2: Innocent Sin [IS]. Innocent Sin has yet to see U.S. release (and may never), but at least the folks at Atlus have hinted that they might localize it - if EP sells well enough, which looks unlikely.
GRAPHICS - 8/10
The graphics are 2D sprites on 3D environments, like Xenogears (although notably less pixellated). The dungeon environments can on occasion be somewhat bland, but the town environments look amazing...they've captured every detail of Sumaru City, down to the Sony PlayStation sitting among the clutter in Maya's apartment.
The sprites are good-looking, although they don't move particularly fluidly. The character portraits are quite well-done, changing to reflect the characters' emotional state. The monster designs are quirky and odd, and very appropriate considering the game's setting and tone.
MUSIC - 8/10
The music is well-done, with several particularly catchy tunes. The dungeon themes are mostly forgettable, but the more plot-centric themes are very good, and the ending song ''Change Your Way'' by R&B singer Elisha La'Verne is one of my new absolute favorite songs.
STORY - 10/10
This is where EP really shines. This game has more dialogue than any RPG I've ever played, but it's all optional. You see, when you go into a shop or non-dungeon area, you can walk around and talk to your other party members. Each character has something different to say in each location, and all their dialogue changes after EVERY major event, as do most of the townspeople's. This gives you a chance to really get to know these characters, and hence enhances the story for those who are willing to take the time to explore this.
The story itself is intriguing and well-paced, although people who don't know anything about Innocent Sin may be in the dark for most of their first playthrough. The characters, as I mentioned above, are engaging and realistically drawn - Maya, the cheerful reporter; Ulala, the chronically unlucky romantic; Katsuya, the straitlaced policeman; and Baofu, the cynical outlaw. Nate and Ellen from Revelations: Persona and Tatsuya, the teen hero of Innocent Sin, also play a major role.
GAMEPLAY - 9/10
The gameplay is truly good in this game, and the only reason I haven't given it a 10 is that it's not particularly intuitive. Everything seems to take a little longer and a few more button presses than it should, especially in the menu, but it will become second nature to deal with in no time.
One of the main conceit of the Persona series is contacting demons. You see, in other games you just go out and kill them. Not so Persona. You must also contact them, and try to interact with them in a way that will intrigue them (thereby giving you the Tarot cards you need to summon a Persona) or make them happy enough to give you something; conversely, you can frighten them into running away or anger them into going berserk. So, for example, Maya can interview demons, Ulala can tell their fortunes, and Katsuya can interrogate them. You can also perform double or triple contacts - Maya-Ulala-Ellen will try to seduce the demons, and Baofu-Ulala-Katsuya will have a drinking party with them. The number of possible contacts are staggering.
Another pillar of the series is the Persona system. Contacting demons will give you Tarot cards. You can use these to summon Personae. They function rather like the junctioned Guardian Forces in FFVIII, only the Persona system is more polished and user-friendly. Each character can equip a Persona, and you can have several unequipped Personae with you. Each Persona has its own spells, strengths and weaknesses. Many of the Personae come from mythology or literature, which may be fun for those who are interested in that.
The battle system is quite unique. Rather than being turn-based, it's almost like an auto-battle system that's always on. The difference is that you can stop it at any time and change the attacks that your characters are making and the order they make them in. This sets up Fusion Spells, which are massive special attacks using two or more Personae simultaneously, and many of which are visually impressive.
OVERALL - 10/10
It's unfortunate that Eternal Punishment didn't sell well - it's a great game that deserved a much larger audience than it got. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is definitely a worthwhile purchase for anyone who's looking for a truly mature, enjoyable RPG in a modern-day setting.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/18/01, Updated 09/18/01
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