Persona-2--Innocent-Sin-PSP-Review Persona 2: Innocent Sin PSP Review

   22/02/2012 at 20:41       Flying_Pig       2 COMMENTS. - Score 2/5
 - Persona 2: Innocent Sin, PSP, RPG, Emo, Random Battles

Persona 2: Innocent Sin is, in gaming terms, an old game. Originally released for the original PlayStation in 1999, this PSP port represents the first time the game has ever been available outside of Japan. So the question is, has the 13 year wait, for this integral part of such a well known and loved series as Persona been worth the wait? Honestly? Sadly not.

Persona 2 is set in the fictional Sumaru City and follows Tatsuya Suou, a popular high school student at Seven Sisters High School. Sevens is home to the most popular, attractive and successful students in Samaru City, however from the beginning it’s clear that there’s something seriously wrong at the school, with students becoming disfigured as rumours that the school emblem is cursed spreads.

As Tatsuya and his friends; Lisa Silverman, a fellow student at Sevens with a massive crush on him, and Eikichi Mishina, a student from the rival Kasugayama High School; investigate these rumours, they encounter The Joker. There’s an urban legend that if you dial your own number on your mobile ‘phone, The Joker will appear and grant your wishes. While our protagonists don’t recognise this individual, he certainly seems to know them, claiming that they wronged him in the past and that he’s out to get revenge.

My mention of rumours above is a significant one, as it becomes clear that rumours, no matter how far fetched or outlandish are coming true. This is a key theme of the game, with you also able to start your own rumours, both to help you progress through the game and for personal gain. One example of the latter is starting a rumour that if you order a particular dish at the local restaurant, you’ll be offered an array of weapons instead.

This wonderfully original story is the core to the game and is certainly a departure from the usual genre clichés. Alongside this is your cast of characters, initially appearing to be typical (in a gaming sense) teenagers, it becomes evident that they share a darker past which slowly reveals itself as the story unfolds.

Part of this dark past, as Tatsuya and his friends quickly discover (although it’s not clear how they would have forgotten!) is their ability to summon ‘Personas’ – their own unique spiritual form - which can be used in frequent encounters with various demons and other allies of The Joker.

Each of your characters starts out with their default Persona, although you can ‘buy’ new ones by gathering Tarot cards obtained during battles then exchanging these cards in the Velvet Room. The new Persona is allocated to one of your characters giving them new abilities, stat boosts and different resistances to enemy attacks. Furthermore, using your Personas in battle ranks up or mutates them, resulting in a more powerful Persona for your character to make use of.

Personas aside, another unique feature of Persona 2 is that for most battle encounters, instead of instantly heading into combat, you’re given the option to make ‘Contact’ with one of the enemies of screen. The system then allows you to select one or more of your characters to converse with the demon from a number of dialogue choices. Each demon class has different personality traits, so will react differently depending on these traits.

In these encounters, the demon has a status gauge, divided into 4 parts: Happy, Angry, Eager and Scared. Make them Happy and they’ll enter into a pact with you, rewarding you with money or items; make them Eager and they’ll reward you with tarot cards which can be used in the Velvet Room to craft new Personas. If you’re doing is wrong, it will make the demon Angry, resulting in them attacking you. This will happen quite frequently early on, as you learn how the different types of demons react to certain dialogue and even then it’s not obvious. During some of these interactions, demons may ask you specific questions, but despite choosing the answers which sound correct, you often only manage to upset the demons more.

Sadly, Contact becomes a rather dull and tedious diversion to the normal battles. Once you know how to get the reaction you want, there’s no benefit in diverting from this option and experimenting.

In the event that you made the demon angry, or simply decided to skip the Contact option, the combat system offers you a number of different options. It’s a turn-based affair as you would expect, allowing you to choose actions for each of your party members at the beginning. While you can opt to attempt to escape, or make your character guard against enemy attacks, you’ll really just use 3 options; physical attack, a standard spell, or a more powerful fusion spell. It’s here that the battle system is too unbalanced; fusion spells (a combined attack by two or more characters) are far more powerful than either physical or standard magic attacks and there is virtually no limitation or penalty for their use. In fact, using fusion spells is actively encouraged by giving the chance of mutating the personas used into more powerful forms. In reality, you’ll use fusion spells for almost every battle, reducing the challenge for the non-boss battles to zero and cheapening the victory, however there’s not benefit in trying anything else.

So while the battle system is probably weaker than I would have expected for a game of such pedigree and reputation, there is one issue which completely kills the game for me: Random Battles. Now I accept that this is a stalwart feature of the genre (especially as it was 13 years ago) and it generally doesn’t bother me, but in Persona 2 it’s no exaggeration to say that at points, you’ll be faced with a random battle every 20-30 seconds! When you’re lost in a dark, dank dungeon it’s massively infuriating and disorientating to be dragged into yet another 3 minute battle which you’re guaranteed to win.

What really grates is that each transition from exploration to battle and back again is met with a loading screen – even in battle, selecting a fusion attack results in a short pause for loading. While the loading is only a few seconds at a time, this time quickly adds up when you’re engaged in a random battle every 20 seconds or so. It just feels like the game hasn’t been optimized for the PSP, and despite the option to install game data onto the memory stick, this issue remains.

While I am as much of a fan of publishers updating and re-releasing titles for newer hardware as the next man, there are some titles of such legendry reputation which should simply be left alone, for bringing them to a new audience on forces us to re-assess our rose-tinted, nostalgic memories. Sadly Persona 2 is one such title.

Persona 2: Innocent Sin is not all bad: The music is great, and you get the option of the original score, or more modern updates and while slightly clunky, the sprites are crisp and the overall look is clear and sharp. The PSP's screen certainly makes this game look its best.

The story itself is brilliantly original, with some finer nuisances, and the characters are all interesting and memorable. While it takes some time, the characters really do start to grow on you.

However, despite these positives, the frequency and tedium of the random battles totally overwhelms Persona 2’s merits, and the game feels every one of its 13 years old. If you believe you can look past these issues, you will discover an interesting and compelling game which can stand toe-to-toe with the best that the genre has to offer, but for everyone else, I simply cannot recommend it.

User Comments:

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LockeTribal - on 22/02/2012 at 21:08 wrote:
Nice review F_P. Seems very much an acquired taste then from the sound of that.

ilmaestro - on 23/02/2012 at 01:29 wrote:
Nice and comprehensive review, I think people definitely need to know that the older games are mechanically a bit removed from P3/P4.

2 comment(s) in total.
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