Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth (3DS)

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Visuals
  • Audio
  • Entertainment
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Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 7/11/2019 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night

I had a very love/hate relationship with the first Persona Q game, and my feelings about Persona Q2 are quite similar.  On the one hand, it brings together the protagonists from three of the best JRPGs of the past two decades – Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 – into a single game.  It also provides a pretty interesting dungeon crawling experience.  On the other hand, the game is just way too damn long for what it is.  It just feels like it drags on and on and on, and regardless of the actual time spent playing, if it a player ever finds himself or herself thinking “How much longer?  I’m just ready for this game to be over,” then the game has some pacing issues.  That was the case in Persona Q, and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, it’s also the case in Persona Q2.

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Persona Q2 plays almost exactly like Atlus’s Etrian Odyssey series.  You pick a party of five characters from a list that, since it encompasses the three most recent Persona games, is quite extensive, and you explore and map dungeons from a first-person perspective.  As you explore and draw your map of the dungeon, you find switches, traps, gimmicks, etc. that introduce some challenges to your progression.  When you encounter enemies, the battles are done from a first-person-esque perspective in which your characters are not visible at all in a similar fashion to the original Dragon Quest games.  In terms of gameplay and game mechanics like that, Persona Q2 is identical to Persona Q.

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The story is also pretty similar to the first Persona Q – the three games’ cast of characters all find themselves trapped in what appears to be a pocket dimension of sorts similar to the Velvet Room along with a couple of unique original characters.  To find a way to escape, they cooperate with one another to explore their prison and discover its nature, purpose, and means of escape.  What made Persona Q2 somewhat interesting was that despite throwing together the characters from three games, you actually had four protagonists; in addition to the protagonist from Persona 4, the protagonist from Persona 5, and the canon protagonist from Persona 3, you also got to play as the alternate universe Persona 3 protagonist that was introduced in the PSP port of the game, Persona 3 Portable.  It was a fairly minor plot point that only popped up in the narrative from time to time, but it was cool to see Atlus give her an official and solid place in the Persona metaverse as being from a nearly identical but still distinct universe from the male Persona 3 protagonist from the game’s original release.

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Visually, the game is on par with its predecessor.  It definitely looks better than most 3DS games, but I didn’t find myself exceptionally impressed the way I was with a game like Resident Evil Revelations or Xenoblade Chronicles 3D.  The sound, however, is exceptional, although gamers familiar with the Persona series would expect nothing less.  The voice acting, while only in Japanese, is well done, but as is always the case with Persona, the soundtrack is what really steals the show.  The game has some musical nods to the three source material games as well as truly great original battle music.  The battle music especially hits a balance with which a lot of RPGs really struggle – maintaining a high level of energy without taking the focus away from the action.  A lot of games will either have boring and forgettable background music or music that is so high energy that it steals the spotlight to a certain extent from the action.  Persona Q2 not only finds that balance but strikes it perfectly.  I had my fair share of gripes and letdowns with the game, but I have to give credit where credit is due; Atlus really knocked it out of the park with the sound design here.

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My biggest complaint with Persona Q2 is the same primary complaint that I had with Persona Q – pacing.  About halfway through, I was just ready for the game to be over.  It’s a good and enjoyable game, and it has an interesting story with characters that I went into the game already loving, but the game’s pacing is just painfully slow.  Each dungeon has between four and seven floors, and each floor is larger than the last save for the “boss” floor.  While the game’s five dungeons are all themed differently and each have their own gimmicks that set them apart from one another, within those dungeons, I found myself extremely bored after two floors, and with the giant ass dungeon with seven floors, I found myself pulling up YouTube videos to watch so that I could keep halfway entertained while I played just for the sake of seeing the game through to the end.  For folks who LOVE dungeon crawlers or Etrian Odyssey super fans, the dungeons would probably be fine, but for me, the battles and gimmicks weren’t nearly enough to break up the monotony of the dungeons’ samey floors.  Had each dungeon been half the length, it would have been fine for me, but a four floor dungeon felt like spending an hour playing FIFA ’14, then playing an hour of FIFA ’15, then playing an hour of FIFA ’16, and then playing an hour of FIFA ’17; they’re all fine for what they were, but they’re also all basically the exact same thing with some minor tweaks and differences.

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Persona Q2 is absolutely a good game, but it’s not a great game.  In most ways, it’s just more of the same as Persona Q, and that’s not what I look for in a sequel.  There were definitely improvements in some ways – the unique gimmicks that each dungeon had were definitely a nice touch, and the soundtrack was virtually perfect – but as an overall product, it just didn’t expand on or add to the foundation of its predecessor the way that I think a good sequel should.  It’s not a sequel like Army Men to Army Men II, Resistance to Resistance 2, or Titanfall to Titanfall 2 was where major improvements and additions were made that affected big and positive changes to the gameplay and the overall experience.  I would definitely consider it an essential part of a 3DS collector’s library, but it’s not necessarily a must play for 3DS owners in general.  It’s a high enough quality game to serve as a fitting swan song for the 3DS, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed.

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