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Review

Review: Persona Q2

If Etri­an Odys­sey Nexus was con­si­de­red a send-off to that series on the 3DS, Per­so­na Q2 is a send-off to the 3DS in gene­ral. Likely to be the last big release for the now age­ing hand­held, Per­so­na Q2 is a com­pe­tent dun­ge­on craw­ler even if the dun­ge­on craw­ling game­play is over­sim­pli­fied com­pa­red to Etri­an Odys­sey.

Per­so­na Q2 opens with intro­duc­tions to the fami­li­ar faces of Per­so­na 5’s Phan­tom Thie­ves. After Morgana’s bus form sud­den­ly mal­func­tions and sends them into a por­tal insi­de Mement­os, the gang finds them­sel­ves in a city they’ve never seen befo­re. After mana­ging to escape through a simi­lar por­tal, they once again arri­ve in ano­t­her mys­te­rious loca­ti­on, this time a movie thea­t­re. It turns out that the only way they can escape and pos­si­ble return to their world is to finish every movie that plays in the thea­t­re. On their quest they ally them­sel­ves with other groups of per­so­na users and find out more about the two peop­le they meet insi­de the thea­t­re that see­min­gly know more than what they let on. 

As with the ori­gi­nal Per­so­na Q and many of the Per­so­na spin-off games, the over­all sto­ry of Per­so­na Q2 is nowhe­re near the qua­li­ty of the main games. The movie set­ting does lead to some uni­que dun­ge­ons and boss designs, but it can often feel like the sto­ry isn’t going any­whe­re. Much of this is due to the lar­ge cast of cha­rac­ters, the inclu­si­on of both Per­so­na 5 cha­rac­ters and Per­so­na 3 Portable’s fema­le prot­ago­nist making an alrea­dy bloated cast even lar­ger. The sto­ry is also not very subt­le about its the­mes, and you’ll have a good idea of whe­re the sto­ry is going fair­ly ear­ly on. This is espe­ci­al­ly appa­rent with Hika­ri, a shy girl that often ques­ti­ons why the main cha­rac­ters are try­ing so hard to help each other and escape. Her and the plot of each film do litt­le to hide what mes­sa­ge they’re try­ing to get across, and it takes away from some of the story’s mys­te­ry. 

That’s not to say that the­re aren’t some good times to be had when it comes to cha­rac­ter inter­ac­tions. The­re is much less focus on the same jokes or ste­reo­ty­pes that plagued the Per­so­na 4 era of spin-off games, though unsur­pri­sin­gly many sce­nes end up rely­ing on humour than anything par­ti­cu­lar­ly serious. The small sce­nes that play while in the thea­t­re lob­by are also a nice touch, making the most of Per­so­na Q2’s cute sty­li­sed cha­rac­ter models and again adding to the most­ly light-hear­ted natu­re of the game out­si­de of the main plot­line. It’s also worth not­ing that Per­so­na Q2, unli­ke the recent dan­cing games, is Japa­ne­se audio only. This isn’t much of a sur­pri­se with the game releasing on the 3DS years after the Switch was released, but it will likely be jar­ring for tho­se used to the Eng­lish cast. Voice acting can some­ti­mes be spar­se during dun­ge­ons, most­ly rele­ga­ted to more important sto­ry events, but the voi­ced sce­nes are usual­ly enjoy­a­ble. 

Com­pa­red to the first game, dun­ge­ons in Per­so­na Q2 have been some­what sim­pli­fied. While this does mean that dun­ge­on craw­ling can often times be lacking in inte­res­ting lay­outs or events, the­re are no annoy­ing gim­micks that make game­play less enjoy­a­ble. Each dun­ge­on is the­med after a movie, lea­ding to some more crea­ti­ve designs and avoi­ding the bland are­as that pla­gue many DRPGs. One area that does suf­fer becau­se of this sim­pli­fi­ca­ti­on is dun­ge­on events, some­thing that makes each floor in an Etri­an Odys­sey dun­ge­on more enjoy­a­ble to explo­re. In Per­so­na Q2, the­re is a noti­ce­ab­le lack of optio­nal events and this leads to some of the ear­lier dun­ge­ons being a litt­le too unevent­ful, though the later are­as are at least more com­pli­ca­ted. 

Even if the dun­ge­ons them­sel­ves are more line­ar, the batt­le sys­tem is still an excel­lent blend of Per­so­na and Etri­an Odys­sey mecha­nics. Your par­ty is made up of 5 mem­bers, as is the stan­dard for most DRPGs, along with a maxi­mum of 2 navi­ga­tors who can pro­vi­de hel­pful bene­fits out­si­de of batt­le as well. The ele­men­tal weak­ness sys­tem from the modern Per­so­na games is pre­sent here, whe­re enemies can be kno­cked down if atta­cked with the cor­rect ele­ment (or a lucky cri­ti­cal hit). Kno­cking down all enemies during a turn will allow for an all-out attack that does mas­si­ve dama­ge to most enemies, but the other bene­fit of kno­cking down enemies has been chan­ged slight­ly. Ins­tead of gai­ning an extra turn, a cha­rac­ter that lands an effec­tive attack or knocks down an ene­my will be boosted which, as the name implies, will boost the dama­ge of their next attack while also impro­ving cer­tain skills even fur­ther. It’s an intui­ti­ve sys­tem that feels uni­que to the series, and the addi­ti­on of being able to pass boosts to other par­ty mem­bers later in the game adds to the level of stra­te­gy batt­les can have.

The dual per­so­na mecha­nic also makes its return, allo­wing every cha­rac­ter to equip a second per­so­na and gain access to a lar­ger pool of skills. Sub per­so­nas also grant a rela­tively small amount of bonus HP and SP that rege­ne­ra­tes after batt­le, though they can­not be switch out mid fight. Having mul­ti­ple per­so­nas for every cha­rac­ter is some­thing that should return to the main­li­ne Per­so­na games, sin­ce it allows for more par­ty cus­to­mi­sa­ti­on wit­hout being over­ly com­plex for new­co­mers.

Conclusion

After the mixed bag that was Per­so­na Q, the sequel is a more con­sis­tent, if at times dull, dun­ge­on craw­ler. Sure, Per­so­na Q2’s wri­ting can still rely a litt­le too much on cha­rac­ter tro­pes and the same jokes we seen many times befo­re, but the sto­ry is over­all far stron­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor. This was a fine way to say good­bye to the 3DS, as well as ano­t­her solid dun­ge­on craw­ler.

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