|Release: September 20, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
by Becky Cunningham
Let's face it, high school can be rough. It's bad enough trying to figure out who you are while dealing with school, family, and social pressures. Just imagine also discovering that the weird, urban legend-style rumors going around your school are coming true and that you have the ability to rectify the situation by summoning projections of your psyche and fighting demons. This is the crazy situation that Japanese teenager Tatsuya Suou finds himself in at the beginning of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin.
The Persona series is best known in North America for Personas 3 and 4, which combine RPG-style dungeon crawling with high school life simulation elements. Persona 2 originally dates from the original PlayStation era, and is actually two games: Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Innocent Sin never made it to North America on the PSOne, so this PSP remake is the first time that English-speaking gamers can play the first chapter of the Persona 2 saga. It's a more traditional RPG than the later entries in the series, but it still carries the Shin Megami Tensei stamp and should appeal to fans of this out-of-the-ordinary Japanese RPG series.
The main character, Tatsuya, is a student at Seven Sisters High School in a fictitious Japanese city, where strange rumors have been cropping up lately. One of them is that people who dial their own cell phone number will have their wishes come true. Of course, Tatsuya and a couple other students attempt this trick, and in doing so summon a being called the Joker. The Joker holds a grudge against Tatsuya and his friends for reasons they don't understand, and their encounter with him leads them to further investigate the rumor crisis. As more rumors become true and reality warps around them, Tatsuya's group learns to manifest their inner selves as beings called Personas, which can be used to fight the demons that have been unleashed by the Joker's mayhem. Featuring themes drawn from sources such as Carl Jung and H.P. Lovecraft, the story of Innocent Sin is a mystery and psychological thriller wrapped in one.
Gameplay in Innocent Sin switches between peaceful areas and dangerous "dungeon" areas. In peaceful areas, Tatsuya can chat with party members and townspeople as well as going shopping. The town contains the usual RPG shops you'd expect, plus some specialized services. Rumormongers allow Tatsuya to use the rumor crisis to his own advantage—he pays them to spread rumors that work in his favor, gaining advantages once the rumors come true. The Velvet Room allows party members to alter and switch Personas. There are a huge number of possible Personas to create and customize, but characters can only equip one Persona at a time.
Unlike Persona 3 and 4, Persona 2's dungeon layouts aren't randomized, and can be navigated with the assistance of the game's auto-mapping feature. Hostile creatures are randomly encountered as the party moves through the dungeon. Fights occur in a turn-based combat system in which party members can attack with their weapons of choice or with Persona spells. Each Persona has a specific set of spells that it learns as it gains experience defeating foes, and these spells are important for healing and for killing demons that are weak to specific elements. Tatsuya won't always want to fight the demons he encounters, however. Demons can also be negotiated with, and if approached correctly, will grant Tatsuya useful information, treasure, or even a card that can be used to create new Personas in the Velvet Room.
There have been a numerous changes and additions to the original game in this remake. The interface has been redone and the battle system has been updated to match that of Eternal Punishment. The game has selectable difficulty levels that can be changed at any save point. A building called the Climax Theater has been added as a hub from which players can obtain side quests (side quests are reportedly full stories rather than simple fetch quests). In addition, the Climax Theater includes a quest editor that allows players to create their own side quests and presumably share them with friends. Players can also choose between the original game's soundtrack or a remixed version.
The Shin Megami Tensei series is known for tackling mature subjects and avoiding most typical anime stereotypes, facts which have gained it a lot of fans beyond the usual audience for Japanese RPGs. Persona 2: Innocent Sin is no exception, pitting high school students against supernatural beings that take advantage of the psychological weaknesses of humankind. Although Innocent Sin lacks the life simulation elements of later Persona games, it includes some interesting features such as demon negotiation that can't be found in Persona 3 and 4. Fans of the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series will most certainly want to check it out when it arrives in September, as will anybody who is interested in an RPG with traditional mechanics and a complex, mature story.
CCC Contributing Writer