Persona 2: Innocent Sin Review

P2 Title

Title: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 Innocent Sin
Developer: Atlus
Game Type: PSP
Download: 905 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

The Persona franchise is an RPG franchise that’s been around almost 20 years and has spanned five different console systems in that time.  Originally, it was a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, though has recently dropped the SMT from its names and established itself as its own franchise separate from SMT.  With five main series games, six spin-off games, and having remakes of all the main series games, the series has come a long way since the original debuted on the PS1.

In the past, we have touched base on the original game, reviewing the first Persona game available on the Vita, which was the PSP remake of the original game.  Although many parts of it are dated and not nearly as in-depth as the newer games, it proved to be an enjoyable and worthy experience.  Just before, we also promised to review all of the games in the main series in order.  After a long break from Persona, it’s time we brought back on that.

If we take a look at the rest of the series, we see some interesting things.  Persona 5 isn’t actually going to be the 5th game in the main series, but actually the 6th.  Persona 2 spanned two games, both of which are canon.  As we start diving into more of the persona adventures, here is our official review of the PSP game, Persona 2: Innocent Sin!

Story

P2 Story

Imagine a world where rumors begin to come true.  Spread a rumor that your deceased grandmother is alive once more, and she shows up at your house the next day.  Spread a rumor that an old military power has arisen and, moments later, an air raid begins from above the clouds.  That is what’s going on in the city that Persona 2 Innocent Sin takes place in.  Rumors are coming to life and they seem to be centered on a mysterious entity known as The Joker.

In Innocent Sin, you take the role of a young man named Tatsuya.  In a chance encounter with The Joker and the fearful side-effects he has on the public, Tatsuya and a few of his allies are granted a power known as Persona.  With this power, Tatsuya embarks on an adventure to find what’s causing rumors to come to life, and put an end to both it and The Joker.

The story of Innocent Sin holds nothing to the deep characterization of its successors, but it is a large step up from the original Persona.  All of the characters have much deeper backgrounds, and there is more time spend on establishing your characters, rather than just showing they they’re there and going from there.  P1 fans will also be pleased that this has many returning characters from the original Persona, though the events of the first game don’t heavily effect the events of Innocent Sin.

Gameplay

Like its predecessor, Innocent Sin is a dungeon-crawler RPG.  As you play through the game, you will have several areas to explore within the city, many of which function as dungeons, where you will be fighting of demons, collecting treasure, and working to a checkpoint, where you can fight a Boss and continue the game’s story.  There are a few things that are different from the first game, but the main task of progression is the same between the two.

From the very get-go, you will have access to a City Map, which is this game’s version of a world map.  Persona 2’s City Map is set up in different section, each that unlock at different points of the game.  These are all represented as 2D overhead maps, where you have small object symbols to represent you and NPC’s.  You can navigate this map by moving your symbol through the roads and towards the various facilities that the areas house.  Each area has buildings that act as dungeons as well as shopping centers, where you can buy weapons, armor, items, service for healing, as well as the Velvet Room, which we will touch on in a bit.

Areas that don’t function as dungeons can be explored in an isometric manner, where you can walk around and talk to NPC’s.  Many of these types of areas are standard RPG areas, but there are some unique areas to Persona 2.  The main unique area is the Detective Agency.  Here, you can spread rumors, taking advantage of the fact that rumors come true, to be able to add optional bosses and other effects to the world.  This is the game’s form of side-quests.

When you get to an area that is in the form of a dungeon, you enter an area that has an almost top-down perspective.  In this area, you are set in various floors and areas, where your goal is to explore each area to find check-points to enhance the story along with other areas, like healing rooms, chests that contain items, or NPCs that can give you hints around.  All of this while you are encountering random fights with demons.  This is different from the first game, which focused more on first-person dungeon exploration.

The battles you encounter are turn-based, like the series has always been from the get-go.  You will go in with your party of characters and an enemy party of characters.  In battle, you have various attack options, from physical attacks to skills that use your Persona.  The thing that became unique in Persona 2 were Fusion Spells.  These are special attacks that require a certain combination of skills for multiple characters to band together and unleash a powerful attack together.  You can unlock more of these as you get more Personas from the Velvet Room to equip to your characters.  Fusion Spells also have the chance to increase your Persona’s stats or even offer mutations to transform them into more powerful forms.

The battle system is the biggest part of the game that feels aged.  The battles progress very slowly for an RPG.  Even in comparison to the original game, there is a substantial amount of time to wait as each animation slowly performs.  You’ll need to be a patient fan of turn-based RPGs to not be turned off by this.

The Contact element is also here in Innocent Sin.  In the original Persona, you could negotiate with Demons you fight with to get their card, which let you recruit them as a new Persona.  The same idea is used here, but is expanded upon.  Instead of getting their card, you can negotiate and get their Arcana Cards.  These cards can be collected in numbers to summon various Persona of that Arcana/Class.  This also greatly increases the amount of time required to use negotiation to get more powerful Personas for better skills.  This brings it to an annoying grinding status.  Negotiation can also be used to form Pacts with demons, allowing you to encounter them again and negotiate for them to give you money or items instead of fighting them.

Customization is done through battling and leveling up your characters and Personas.  When you win a battle, you receive experience, where you can level up and increase your stats.  When you do level up, your party members automatically increase stats, but you receive 3 stat points you can evenly distribute.  Personas can also become enhanced.  When you use skills so many times, your Persona goes up in rank (up to 8).  When a Persona goes up in rank, they can increase their stats as well as learn new skills to use.

The unique part about both Persona 1 and 2 vs 3 and 4 is that anyone can equip any Persona you may so acquire.  If you summon the Persona known as Angel, you may equip her to Tatsuya or any of the others.  You can acquire cards to help the summoning of them, though, like being able to increase certain stats or adding specific abilities when they are summoned.  These Skill cards can only be used during a summoning, however.  To be able to give it to a Persona you already have, you would have to release them in the form of an item and then re-summon them.

One thing to note is the difficulty about direction.  While the game is very linear in progression, there aren’t a lot of hints out there to show you where to go.  There were many times where there was a very small hint in a piece of dialogue in terms of where to go next and some areas where you have two choices and the story will go downwards if you choose the wrong option.  Apart from that, though, the game is easy enough.  There were very few times when we had to stop and grind for levels in the game.

All in all, Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a fairly lengthy game.  From start to finish your first time, the game should take you about 25-30 hours.  It’s not an overly lengthy RPG but not a short one either.  Considering Persona 2 has two games, then it’s not a bad bit of length at all.

Controls

The input controls for Persona 2 aren’t that hard to learn.  You won’t be using all of the buttons on the Vita and they aren’t extensive enough that you would need to redirect some of the buttons to the touch screen.

Controlling your character, be it in a dungeon or on the map is done with either the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad.  Since there is somewhat of a grid theme to the dungeons, we found it a bit easier to use the D-Pad than the Analog Stick in some areas.  You can also hold down the Circle button to run/dash or set the configuration of the game to automatically run within dungeons.

The other controls are pretty standard for RPGs.  You can use the Triangle button to open the customization menu, the X button to select an option in normal or battle menus, and the Circle button to cancel options in menus.  Finally, the L and R buttons are used to rotate the camera when you’re inside a facility or a dungeon.

As I stated above, the controls are pretty standard for an RPG.  If you’re used to playing RPGs, or have played the first Persona game, there shouldn’t be a lot of learning to be done, as far as the controls are concerned.

Presentation

P2 Presentation

The visual presentation is one of the parts of the game that gets the most complaints.  Innocent Sin on the PSP is pretty much a straight port, visually, as Innocent Sin’s original release.  Because of this, the character sprites are very pixelated on both the Vita’s display as well as the PlayStation TV.  Although it doesn’t bother the fun of the game, it’s a very noticeable degradation in presentation.  Anyone who isn’t okay with pixelated sprites and character models should take a look at the video embedded in this review’s Gameplay section before making their purchase.

The game’s soundtrack also excels at what it does.  While the game focuses on instrumental music more than vocal music (unlike Persona 3 and 4), it proves to be a semi-memorable experience.  While none of the music is well-known throughout the gaming community in general, there are a few tunes that were memorable and remained stuck in this reviewer’s head for more than a week after the game had been beaten.

The game plays well, for the most part.  Load times are normally only about 2-3 seconds in length, and the animations don’t feature any lag and slowdown.  The battle system is slow, but the actual presentation of the game performs well, especially when compared to its PS1 counterparts.

Summary

Persona 2: Innocent Sin is: Good
Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a step up from Persona, in terms of gameplay, music, and story.  On the downside, the battle system is slow, the Contact feature is very grindy, and the visual presentation degrades a lot in this remake.  However, the game can prove to be a memorable experience for the patient gamer and Persona fan alike.

7/10