Home Video Games Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Review

Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Review

Title: Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Published By: ATLUS USA (North America), Ghostlight (PAL Regions)
Based on: The Shin Megami Tensei – Persona series.
Console: Playstation Portable
Release Date: September 2011
Genre: RPG
Audio: English Dubbing
Subtitles: English
Region: This review was conducted on a North American Retail Copy. There is going to be minimal, if any differences between the North American and PAL versions of the game.

12 years it has been since the original Playstation 1 release of Persona 2: Innocent Sin, only… unlike the sequel game Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, this game never showed its face outside of Japan for a reason that can be hypothesized (A few elements of the storyline) but never been fully confirmed. Now, with the Persona series being more popular then ever, ATLUS USA have finally decided to take the plunge and release the Playstation Portable port of the game on English speaking shores, with Ghostlight soon to follow. Curious about this game? Read to on find out more about it in my review of Persona 2: Innocent Sin on the Playstation Portable.

The story takes place in Sumaru City, Japan, population 1,280,000. It’s protagonist attends Seven Sisters High School (“Devens” for short), whose emblem is considered a status symbol even amongst students from other schools. Soon though, a rumor that Sevens’ emblem was actually cursed and that wearing it would disfigure one’s face had spread around the city. Even worse, the rumor came true… and it was only the beginning of a string of rumors becoming reality one after another…

Before long, the protagonists discover the power to summon another side of them called “Personas”, which they use to investigate the strange incidents around the city, all while facing their own personal demons as well.. Time is once again on the march…

For those who have only had the chance to play Persona 3 and 4 may find it as a bit of a shock when they originally begin playing this game. Whereas the more recent releases in the Persona series have been heavily embedded into the school life theme, where you go to school by day and battle by afternoon or midnight, this game follows a group of students (and two reporters) who seek the truth behind rumors becoming true and a mysterious entity known as the JOKER who can both provide and extract the dreams of whoever calls him. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Persona game without the ability to summon Personas, althrough with many more people having the ability – both as protagonists and antagonists. You travel the world in a linear storyline that has you traversing through the many schools and (Incredibly Maze-like) buiildings of Sumaru City, and follows a system much similar to that of Persona PSP.

The game primary surrounds five characters, later six. The series starts out with Tatsuya (or *Insert Name Here*) as the protagonist, a male student of very few words and apparently a deviant, skipping classes and being anti-social despite being portrayed as a “cool” character. The other two student characters are Lisa Silverman, a bilingual Caucasian girl and Eikichi Mishina, a student at rival school Kasugayama High School, and the first to set his Persona upon the two of them. The three of them initially attempt to solve the mystery behind the JOKER, after three of Eikichi’s band members lose their souls through the JOKER’s game, and later on meet up with Maya Amano and Yukino Mayuzumi. In a bit of a twist to other Persona games, both Maya and Yukino are not students but journalists for teen magazine Coolest, yet both have pre-existing abilities to summon Persona.

Maya Amano is what you could consider the Female protagonist of the game, and most probably has the most to do with the overall backstory with the exception of the protagonist. Yukino on the other hand is a returning character from the original Persona game – perhaps as ATLUS repenting for making it impossible to play as her through the main storyline. Each of these characters get an adequate level of character development and provide a well rounded group of characters that provide a story that shows their quirks and personalities, but not to the point where they are annoying or unenjoyable to listen to. Fortunately, whilst one character is inevitably removed from the party and replaced by another, you are not put in a position where choosing who to add to a party can alter the storyline or gameplay experience, as similarily to the original Persona, once someone is on your team, they will enter battle with you, a nice addition which removes the plot hole of “Where are the other party members when fighting the final boss?”

Going back to the storyline, the storyline progressively builds from what is once originally an attack by the JOKER to a plot where a mysterious group of individuals use masks to steal the souls of their victims. The rumor element to the storyline is a nice touch, and gives you the option at times to alter the storyline a bit, such as determining if a most hated character from Persona survives or dies after jumping from the clock tower of Seven Sisters High. As you travel around town, incidents befall the residents and members of the main party, and whilst at times feels forced upon you too quickly after you have narrowly escaped dying in an impossibly long building, it is an enjoyable experience that translates well into the gameplay. The storyline is what I would consider original and perhaps a bit too different for fans of newer RPG’s including other installments of the game series. But the elements that plague the Persona games – Following ones dreams, pressure from peers and society, complications of past and present actions and determination of an individual identity are all present, but most probably the most successfully implemented.

The storyline in comparison to the original release is not heavily altered. The only noticeable change which was also made to the Japanese version was to the superpowered version of Hitler that appears at the end of the game, with a character portrait alterations and a name change to Fuhrer. Also in addition is the Climax Theater, which while not allowing you to create your own quests as it was in the Japanese release, includes brand new “Films” which takes the characters from the game and places them into unique scenarios based around Karukozaka High (From Shin Megami Tensei If…) and St. Hermelin from Persona 1. Apparently there is a rank system involved but after playing the original three quests, I didn’t rise a level – so no point in following that up.

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline of this game and I think it has been well worth the wait of 12 years… unless you like myself actually own a Playstation 1 copy of the game. The rumor system really was a unique element of the storyline and whilst it did feel tedious at times jumping from dungeon to dungeon, I actually felt there was a purpose to my traversing through these levels over the purpose of grinding away.

Design is one of the more interesting elements of this Playstation Portable port. In terms of in-game graphics minus the menu and character portraits, the only modification made was to suit the different screen resolution and perhaps the odd little tweak here and there. Unlike Persona PSP which really needed updating (The means of travelling the town in the PS1 version of the original game was in laymans terms… a bitch to navigate), Persona 2: Innocent Sin was of a standard I would consider appropriate for normal porting – and everything from the 3D environment designs to the 2D character sprites really do work well. That being said, it is still nothing highly special even from 12 years ago, but is still more then appropriate for a gamer who wants to play a solid RPG. New inclusions are new character portraits and an improved menu system from the original messy one, both of which are welcome additions.

Unlike every other Persona game that has been released so far with the exception of the opening sequence, Persona 2 has absolutely no J-POP tracks within the game which may come as either a blessing or a disappointment depending on how you look at things. The new opening sequence for the game “unbreakable tie by Lotus Juice and Asami Izawa” takes the serious elements of the storyline and shows them off in style that is a mix between J-POP and J-ROCK, and contains English lyrics. For actual ingame Background Music you are given two choices – choose the original music style from the Playstation 1 game or choose to hear the modern remakes of the songs. I chose to jump between the two of them during the course of my gameplay, and highly recommend the remixed modern tracks. There is only minimal voice acting in English throughout this game, generally during the battles but also for a few pre-battle sequences, and is of an acceptable quality – including the retaining of Yukino’s Persona 1 voice actress which was a nice touch. There were a few issues with the design, namely the occasional awkwardness of the camera when trying to move your character around and the lack of enemy demon designs.

Moving along to the storyline, the gameplay is similar to the more recent Persona games with a few changes. As the title of the game suggests, battles are held between up to 5 main characters versus a number of enemy demons. As you are only human, you can cause physical damage to these demons using weapons, but are not able to use magic against them, which is one of the most efficient ways to defeat them. Instead, you are very early on in the game granted the ability to summon a Persona, a “demon” side to yourself which allows you to use magical and physical spells and attacks which are of great importance in the battles to come. The battle system is turn based which relies on your speed attribute (The others being Strength, Vitality, Dexterity and Luck) to attack more frequently, and also allows you to modify the order to pull of Fusion Spells, combinations of normal spells that are stronger. As with many other Shin Megami Tensei games, just battling isnt the only way to successfully win a battle. You can also interact with the demons you are up against using dialogue choices that may or may not correspond with the demons personality. There are four ways the demon can react – Happy, Intrigued, Scared and Angry and depending on what one or two you unlock, may result in them attacking you, halting attacks, forming a pact or more impritive, handing over tarot cards to unlock further Personae.

Sure the Persona you have is supposed to be another side of yourself, but using the Velvet room, you can summon new Personae to battle with, giving you a completely different skill set to work with if you are finding that boss to be immune to Agi spells, which your normal Persona prides itself on. Trading tarot cards won in battle, you can select a new Persona from a range of Persona from different Arcana (Which may or may not be compatible with the specific character) as well as giving them new spells or abilities from cards found through battle and in the environment. In comparison to later games, I found myself struggling to enjoy the whole “Gotta Catch Em’ All” element of the game, and instead chose to very infrequently change Persona, instead opting to boost my characters Strength and attack with my sword. Outside of battling, there were a few extra things to do such as spreading rumors to convert every Restaurant and Jewelry Shop in town to a supplier of fine weaponry and armor, play games at the casino and go through the Climax Theater quests, but you will find them only distractions to the strong 40-50 hour storyline.

There were a few things of note that needed mentioning that are more related to game experience then any other criteria. First of all, I love the turn based battle systems, unlike a fair few RPG’s nowadays that require quick thinking or mashing an auto attack button (I am looking at you Final Fantasy XIII!), it actually requires strategy. However, despite the need to formulate strategies being present, the enemy encounter rate was way too high which may turn away some of the less hardcore gamers or fans of the series. As well, for say 90-95% of the time, the game runs flawlessly with very little issues in term of frame rate. Despite this, there are moments, namely when going to and from battles and in some buildings where the lag is overwhelming and not exactly something I would expect to see in 12 year old game being ported.

But when you look at things, 12 years on and we are finally getting this game in our hands and whilst nothing overly fancy has been done to the game besides a few pieces of visual eyecandy and a new mode… we have a game that has:

a) A strong storyline
b) Evidently something that will appeal to fans of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise.
c)  A gameplay system that takes you back to the time where games were not about just getting from A to B, but to take you there in a challenging fashion.

Of course, considering that quite a few gamers would have been introduced to the series through Persona 3 or 4, we now have to await what will hopefully be the eventual release of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, which is the sequel to this title.

Final Score
Storyline/Character Development: A-
Design: B
Music/Voice Acting: A
Gameplay: B+
Replayability: B
Personal Opinion: A-
Overall Score: A-

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