Shin Megami Tensei is one of those game franchises that help to define the genre of Japanese role-playing games. Though this genre tends to polarize gamers, this particular title begs a second look. For starters, this game was originally released in Japan, and this marks the first official release outside of its country of origin. There was an English language patch released by fans, but this is the first time you get a complete package meant for English-speaking gamers, which is exciting in and of itself. This game is also likely to be one of the last PSP games to be released before the Vita goes live, which gives it some distinction above other games on this device. Most importantly, this game is a unique experience, and when you consider it as a package it offers great value for money.
In the game you play as Tatsuya Suou, a teenager at Seven Sisters High School. At Seven Sisters there is a cursed clock tower which only runs at certain times. When it starts running, terrible things usually ensue. Thankfully, it stopped running a long time ago, so recent students at Seven Sisters have enjoyed a peaceful education. Unfortunately, you soon discover that the high school’s clock tower has started running again. Now strange things are happening around you – including your classmates being transformed – and it is up to you to get to the bottom of it. At the same time, students at the school have been playing a game which summons a demon called Joker, who can either grant your wishes or steal your soul, leaving you a shell of your former self. Obviously there is a lot going on.
The graphics look good on the PSP, especially in the areas that have been updated. When you start the game for the first time, you are treated to a beautiful, high-energy opening sequence that pushes the PSP hardware to lengths seen only on titles like God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Though this is typical for PSP games being released at this point in the console’s life-cycle, it is still impressive. But this is a re-release of an old game, and not every aspect of the original has been updated for this port. Some textures are reminiscent of the original 1999 release, and your perspective is still much like the original isometric view.
What makes this game stand out is the way it plays. When encountering demons, you have the choice of either fighting them and gaining experience or talking to them. If you choose to fight, you will summon your persona, an avatar that fights for you, similar to the Final Fantasy summon system. A turn-based battle will ensue and you will be awarded experience for your trouble. If you decide to talk to the demon, a set of dialog options will appear. Each dialog option represents a specific way of approaching the conversation, and depending on your decision, you can influence the demon. The goal is to get the demon to be in an eager state, as once the demon is fully eager they will give you a tarot card. Tarot cards are needed to summon new and more powerful personas. Approach the conversation from an unfavorable angle and you are forced to fight the demon. This system of influence and the combat combine to offer a different take on traditional turn-based role-playing games, and we really enjoyed the change of pace.
Another change is the game’s location and settings. The game contains a number of dungeons for you to run through, but these dungeons are far from the dreary, dimly-lit, “chains-hanging-from-the-wall”-type dungeons. They are record stores, high schools and other everyday locations that offer a welcome change to an old, tired stereotype. It was nice not having to run through a setting that we’ve all seen a thousand times before, and we think most RPG fans will appreciate that as well.
Overall, this is a great game for the PSP. It is true that there are some issues to consider when picking up this title, and we will be the first to admit that it is not for everyone. The graphics show a little wear and betray how old the game is. The story does take a long time to play out, and some people completely new to the genre may have difficulty figuring out what to do and where to go. But despite its shortcomings, we still believe this is a quality title worth your time – if you are willing to invest it. The interesting battle mechanic, the number of side missions, and just the amount of story you get for your money make this great value. We would definitely recommend this game to Japanese RPG fans and gamers willing to try something different in the role-playing game genre. We think those people will get the greatest reward for their investment.
This review is based on a review copy of Persona 2: Innocent Sin played on a Sony PSP provided by Atlus
- Updated Graphics for the PSP
- Brings the Game to a New Audience
- Not Enough Direction
- Very Long RPG