Persona 2: Eternal Punishment - Reader Re-Retroview  

Joker's Wild
by Harrison Gallen

50-75 Hours
+ You can save anywhere.
- Difficult without a guide.
- Tons of missables.
- Bad voice acting.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   In Japan, Maya, the editor of a teen magazine, becomes involved in a series of murders committed by a killer known as the Joker. While covering an assignment at Seven Sisters High School, a new murder brings Maya and several others together to put a stop to the killings. Atlus's Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is actually the third game in the Persona subseries of the Megami Tensei franchise, being a direct sequel to Persona 2: Innocent Sin, which remained in Japan. The sequel largely builds upon the gameplay of the first Persona game, but still suffers from some of the same flaws as the original installment.

   Many major changes occur in the battle system. Random encounters return, although the general structure of battles is quite different from that in the first Persona, not to mention most other turn-based RPGs. Once a battle begins, the player can choose a number of options from a menu, including attempting to escape from the battle (which naturally doesn't work all the time), trying to converse with the enemy, and analyzing the stats and strengths/weaknesses of enemies (only available if the player has previously defeated a specific type of enemy). The player can also set up commands for each character to execute, including attacking normally, using an SP-consuming Persona ability, defending, using an item, and changing a character's current Persona, not to mention change their turn order.

   After the player has selected commands for each character, he or she can begin the battle, in which case characters and enemies take their turns until the player cancels for want of changing character commands and/or turn order. As with most turn-based RPGs, there is no indication of when enemies will take their turns along with those of the player's characters, which can occasionally throw off the player's planning. Battles naturally end when either the player has defeated all enemies, or the enemies have defeated all the player's characters, after which everyone obtains experience, money, and occasional items.

Time for ludicrous speed! Spaceballs: The RPG

   The conversation system from the first Persona returns in Eternal Punishment, being somewhat different from that in the original game. This time, the player selects up to three characters to converse with an enemy, after which the enemy will glow one of four colors to indicate its level of interest in the player. If an enemy glows a specific color three times, different events will occur; if the color is red, the enemy will stop the conversation; if blue, the enemy will run away; if yellow, the enemy will provide tarot cards necessary to unlock new Personas; and if green, the player can make a contract with the enemy type.

   Making contact with an enemy with which the player has a contract has its differences. If the player makes the enemy glow yellow three times, then the enemy will provide "free" tarot cards in addition to the tarot cards of a specific arcana, which the player, at Velvet Rooms, can change into cards of any arcana. If the player makes an enemy glow green three times, then a number of options become available, including obtaining an item from the enemy, asking for money, or getting information from the enemy. However, the enemy will break its contract if the player makes them glow red three times with conversation.

   As in the first game, Personas play a significant role in combat. This time, all characters share an inventory of several Personas, with each character able to equip one at a time and the player able to change them in the battle menus. As with before, all of a Persona's abilities have the same SP cost, with a Persona having up to eight levels that the player can increase through repeated use of its abilities, occasionally unlocking more abilities. At the Velvet Room, the player can obtain new Personas of different arcanas with tarot cards gained through enemy conversation, and "return" Personas with maxed levels for special items.

Bag-head Nice costume, buddy.

   The player is also able to combine certain Persona abilities to execute fusion spells, which can make battles go by more quickly, although it can be somewhat difficult to discover these without a guide. If the player ends a battle with a fusion spell, a Persona mutation may occur, in which case the Persona will gain increased stats, a new ability, or the ability to evolve into a more powerful Persona. Finally, the game has a rumor system, with the player able to spread rumors across the city to perform functions such as changing shop inventories (which is in fact necessary to obtain the most powerful weapons and armor).

   Overall, the battle system has some nice ideas, with the ability to turn off animations in normal battles being a welcome change (though the player has to sit through them in boss fights), although as with the first game, the conversation system involves too much trial and error unless the player uses a guide. It can also be somewhat annoying to have to constantly change and level new Personas throughout the game. Ultimately, combat in Persona 2 can be enjoyable, although the battle system somewhat lends the impression that the developers intended the player to use a guide to make the most of things.

   Persona 2's control scheme isn't any better than in the first game, although one major improvement is the ability to save anywhere, but this can be something of a double-edged sword, given a few points of no return throughout the game. The menu system, furthermore, is a bit on the sluggish side, and in most cases, once the player has beaten the boss of a dungeon, they are unable to revisit the dungeon, accounting for plenty of missable items and in some instances Personas. Overall, interaction could have definitely been better.

   Being a sequel, Persona 2 naturally borrows from the original game, although this installment greatly expands upon the first game's systems, what with a different conversation system, tarot cards, the rumor system, and so forth. The story is also somewhat unique, and Eternal Punishment today remains a unique entry in the Megami Tensei franchise.

Cyclops Scott Summers makes an appearance

   The story is a definite improvement over that in the first Persona, given the improved translation quality, although links to the game's immediate predecessor, Innocent Sin, will definitely be lost to non-Japanese gamers. The plot does become somewhat convoluted and a bit too philosophical as the game drags on, but the ending is reasonably satisfactory.

   The soundtrack is also somewhat better than that in the original Persona, although some tracks like the battle theme can become somewhat repetitive, and some areas rely a bit too much on ambivalence. There's also some voice acting, both in battle and before boss fights, although its quality is somewhat poor, what especially with an odd echo effect for all the voices. All in all, Persona 2's audio is average at best.

   Persona 2 changes visual styles from the first game, this time with environments being fully three-dimensional, although character and enemy sprites remain two-dimensional. As in the first game, though, battles have odd psychedelic backdrops, in addition to decent Persona spell animations. There are also some rare anime cutscenes, which look decent. The environments appear somewhat blocky and pixelated at times, but the visuals don't detract too terribly from the game, yet could have been better nonetheless.

   Finally, the sequel is somewhat lengthy, taking somewhere from fifty to seventy-five hours to complete, with a replay mode and tons of sidequests, extras, and things to discover adding plenty of playing time. In the end, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was in some respects a step forward for the subseries, although many aspects, such as the conversation system in battle, endless secrets, and plenty of missables, lend the impression that the developers meant for players to use a guide when going through the game. Even so, it does have redeeming aspects, but is by no means the strongest installment of the Persona subseries or Megami Tensei franchise.

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