Release Date: June 4th, 2019 (Nintendo 3DS)
Publisher: Atlus USA
ESRB: Mature (Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence)
Persona Q2 is the latest in the spin off series of the Personal games. It falls into the category of the first-person dungeon crawler. This is seemingly one of the last big titles that the 3DS is going to be getting. While that is a good thing, some cut corners show up through the experience, given the age of the system in question. This is understandable given Altus is one of the few standing holdouts on the 3DS, this being their last hurrah. Does Persona Q2 hold up to the first game’s legacy and is it a worthy RPG to send off the ageing 3DS? Let’s see what this is all about.
This time Persona Q2 crosses the worlds of the last three Persona titles to create a fan filled beast of a game. Not much in the formula has changed since the first iteration, just some refining here and there, with the occasional difficulty spike that must be overcome. Map drawing is back in full effect as it is one of the more enjoyable aspects of this game and the Etrian Odyssey series that Persona Q2 is spun off from. Gameplay is super solid in this regard and is enjoyable to play through. The game can be a bit of a linear affair, and while it is not the longest title in the Persona series, it has more than enough content to get your money’s worth. Linearity seems to be the biggest flaw beyond the difficulty spikes, and while linearity is not inherently bad, it is something to note to make sure the player knows what they are getting into. It does help to intensify some other issues Persona Q2 has in the gameplay department.
Without delving too deep into the story, as that is half the reason one plays a Persona game, the protagonists of Persona 5 get sucked into a weird dimensional portal. They decide to go to mementos as the crew normally would, when some unknown force takes control of their vehicle, causing it to swerve uncontrollably and drives them through a screen. When the gang comes to, they are inside of a strange movie theater with odd movies playing within. These movies are where the dungeons and game play take place. The protagonists need to infiltrate and enter into each movie in order to restore civility, which will give each movie a proper ending. Once the ending is achieved, the group receives a key from a strange, non-talking movie projectionist. The key is then used to open one of the many locks that are placed on the exit of the building. As an aside, this is also where the player ends up locating the teams from the other mainline Persona titles. Down the line of progression, the player eventually gains access to a ticket booth which comprises of the game’s side quests if a slight change of pace from simply exploring the dungeons is needed. Difficulty spikes can be common in a dungeon or two, forcing the player to drop the difficulty or grind out experience to combat the suddenly stronger enemies. Some of the dungeons also seem to overstay their welcome and by the end of them, the gamer will just be happy that it is finally over. The linearity does not give any favors to these issues and seems to exacerbate them on some level. Even though there are some side quests during the gameplay, they still take place in the normal dungeons, so a change of scenery is not given to the player who is currently exploring a new dungeon.
If gamers have never played a Persona game or the first game in the spinoff series, there is still fun to be had with the title. The player will get the most out of the Persona Q2 fan-service if they are a fan of the main series itself. There are callbacks to the old games and of course all of the crossover content that will be lost upon a new player with no prior experience. The game does its best to introduce the new characters, themes and stories to the newcomer but I would recommend if the player has no ability to play or dedicate the time to the Persona games, reading a synopsis of the characters and partial story is a good idea. This is only advisable if the player has no interest in playing the main titles in the future. If the gamer in question does have goals of playing the older titles then DO NOT spoil the classic games for yourself and play Persona Q2 as it is, being that the story is mostly self-contained anyway. This needed past knowledge of the older titles can be a hindrance to new RPG enthusiasts and should not be taken too lightly in the grand scheme of the series.
Moving to the graphics, they are very well done, vibrant and surprisingly detailed. The character models look great and I was very surprised to the detail of the dungeons themselves. Very impressive for a normal 3DS title honestly. The music is, as always, catchy and fitting for the scenes. Not enough can be stated about the good of the Persona music over the years and presented here in Persona Q2 is no different. The production does not leave the player with much to be desired given the system it is on. I do not want to harp on the age of the system, but the maturity of the 3DS does factor into the viewpoint of the overall game. All the trademark Persona style is here, and shrinks down quite nicely on the small screen, just as the first title did. Clean lines and character models are on show here, along with full motion video cut scenes quite frequently during the experience. The 3D function is not supported in the game, however. Given it has a cutesier art style in the form of the chibi characters, this game is not intended for the younger crowd. The ESRB rating of mature is earned during the game play and it does not hold back on the series dark roots.
The game (just like Etrian Odyssey: Nexus before it) loses some charm points for not having English voice acting. The first title had wonderful voice acting with the voice-overs themselves handled by the same actors who portrayed them in the main series. This really helped to bring the title to life and overall be more believable. Given this feature was cut, and while it makes sense on a few levels, I am disappointed to see it go. If the player experienced the mainline titles in Japanese initially, this is not so much a problem for those select few. Those who have an attachment to the English voice cast, such as myself, are going to find it lacking in that regard. It is a shame that some budget could not have been allocated to get at least a quick English dub. This omission affected my experience more than I care to mention and as such it is worth noting. It blemishes an otherwise very solid game. The lack of 3D was much less of a blow to the adventure.
In conclusion, the game itself is nothing pioneering in any subject on show here. Persona Q2 is a very standard JRPG experience and does not offer many curveballs to the story either. What is here is enjoyable gameplay, good production quality concerning graphics and the music department. Given the game is just a standard experience, it never reaches the quality of the mainline titles. I do not think that is the point of Persona Q2 though, as a fan-service title first and foremost, I think it is a fine sendoff for Atlus fans and JRPG players on the 3DS. It is worth more than all the callbacks alone but do not expect the magic that the first Persona Q seemed to offer. A worthy follow-up with a couple of issues regarding the linear game play, difficulty spikes and frankly boredom. If you enjoyed the first game or are looking to have an Etrian Odyssey type game with a more “upbeat” and modern setting, then you are in luck. (Frank Granados, Gaming Staff Writer)
Review copy provided by Atlus.