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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin (PSP) artwork

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin (PSP) review

"It's whoop-ass time!"

The earlier entries in the Persona series are very hit or miss. Some say they've aged terribly, others say they are still the best games in the series. It's very easy to see why there's so much debate over these games. In "Persona 2: Innocent Sin," there's no Persona fusing, Social Links, or Shadows. In fact, the design is closer to the main "Shin Megami Tensei" games than anything else. If you became a fan of the series for these gameplay elements, then it's really easy to write off Persona 2, and the earlier Persona games as a whole. And, for a while, that's what I did. However, if you give the game a bit of your time, I feel as if you will be pleasantly surprised.

Before I go any further, it's very important to note that this game is the first in a two part series. If you are interested in this game, it's very important that you specifically start with "Innocent Sin," and not "Eternal Punishment," its sequel. It's also important to note that the PSP remake of "Eternal Punishment" has not yet been released in English, so unless it is released in English at some point/you can understand Japanese, you'll have a very different gameplay experience when going from game to game.

But back to Innocent Sin. The story takes place one year after Persona 1, and, other than a few characters and aspects, you don't have to play one to understand the other. You play as "Tatsuya Suou," of "Seven Sisters High School," a silent protagonist, who is, along with a classmate named "Lisa Silvermanm," dragged in a fight with "Eikichi Mishina," from the rival school, "Cuss High." The three end up summoning their Personas. After the fight, the three of them end up being knocked out and transported to the "Gulf between Consciousness and Unconsciousness," where they meet "Philemon," a mystical entity who explains that rumors are coming true, and explains their Personas to them. When they wake up, they decide to test whether Philemon was telling the truth.

To do this, they (along with three other Cuss High boys) play the Joker game, where you call yourself with your own phone, and the "Joker" comes out and grants your wishes and ideals. Unfortunately, the group doesn't ask fast enough, and so the Joker takes the soul of the three boys from Cuss and turns them into empty husks of their former selves. The Joker than tries to fight our protagonists, who he apparently has a grudge against. They lose pretty quickly; however, they have no idea why he hates them so much. The Joker then leaves, telling them that they should learn their sins before dying.

The group then decides that they should chase after the Joker, since they are some of the only ones with the power to do so. They end up meeting "Maya Amano," a reporter who can use a Persona, and her friend, "Yukino Mayuzumi," a Persona user from the first game. They team up, and their adventure to stop the Joker, and a few other villains, begins!

Overall, the story and writing is pretty good! My main problem is that the pacing can be pretty bad. It gets a little better as the game goes on, but it's terrible in the beginning, and the start of the game feels really aggravating and boring because of it.

The writing also manages to reach a great mix of humor and a dark, sad story. A common complaint you see for the later Persona games is that Persona 3 is trying a bit hard to be too dark at a lot of moments, and that Persona 4 is too lighthearted. This makes Innocent Sin really great because of this, because the game manages to be pretty sad and funny without one over-riding the other. The humor is pretty good most of the time, especially in the conversations between demons and the party members. The story has a few moments where it gets really...weird, but it is still good overall.

The characters themselves are pretty good as well. Even the comic relief character (Eikichi) refrains from being too annoying, and contributes to some pretty good moments in the plot. The characters also have unique backstory, along with a well written story that brings them together. The villains could be better, and there's a few of them that could be erased and almost nothing would change, but the main villains do their job well. However, there does end up being one main character that is pretty terribly written. Without giving it away too much, just know that they're a walking stereotype, almost everything they do is related to what they're stereotyping, and they're supposed to be a main character, not a joke. If you end up playing it, you'll quickly realize the person I was talking about as soon as you run into them.

Now, let's talk about the gameplay. This is the main area where my enjoyment of the game starts to...fluctuate. The PSP remake definitely fixes a lot of gripes about the game, such as slow text scroll, weird interfaces, and more. However, there are still a lot of things they didn't fix.
Like I said, the game uses a lot of game mechanics from the SMT games, such as demons, and the negotiation with said demons. Basically, each party member has a set of different actions they can do to interact with demons in battle. If you scare them, they run. If you make them angry, they stop the conversation and attack you. If they make them happy/excited, you get rewards, like items, money, or cards. To summon a demon, you don't fuse or anything, but rather, you must use a certain amount of cards that you get from negotiation. There's a card for every Major Arcana. So, to summon "X" demon, you must have "Y" amount of Lover cards.

The problem is, the game is really easy. It's very possible to beat the game with the original Personas you get/the few that the story gives you. In fact, it's probably more rewarding to use those, since it costs you less SP per spell. It's also a pain to use the summoning system, since demon negotiation feels very random at times, and the questions that demons occasionally ask you don't have an answer that's always right, making it a blind leap of faith.

If you do end up using the summoning mechanic, it'll only get easier. It got to the point where I was beating the last few bosses with one spell. Keep in mind, if you asked someone experienced with the game, I would've been called underleveled!

The main challenge with the gameplay is seeing how fast it takes you to go insane with the random encounters. The encounter rate is super high, and you can run into another battle after a few seconds if the last one. And it's not like the battles themselves are hard, because even if a party member dies, they'll revive after the battle, and so many Personas learn healing spells that it's very unlikely that every character will die in battle. It's almost like the game punishes exploring, because the battles are so annoying and frequent that you might as well not go out of your way to get a chest/item/event.

However, there is one aspect of the gameplay that I really love: the rumors! The rumors aren't just a story aspect, but a gameplay mechanic as well. You can find rumors from people, demons, or in the story. You can get attacks, make restaurants into weapon shops, arcades into casinos, and more! It's fun going through and making decisions on what rumors should end up becoming true or not, and it can sorta feel like a strategy game at that point.

Overall, the game has some aggravating gameplay decisions, some of which I didn't even include (such as being forced to walk through a bunch of floors of a school to find a teacher, only for her to be back where you started.), as well as a lot of fixes and neat additions. I would say that it's decent, but, if you aren't into the story, I wouldn't put all that much time into it.

Some other things to note: The game has a pretty good OST! Songs like the regular battle theme are pretty catchy, and it fits the game pretty well. Also, the sprites and models, while a little hard to understand at times, look pretty nice, and the expressions get the point across as well.

In conclusion, while "Persona 2: Innocent Sin" has some pretty awful gameplay decisions, as well as a few duds character-wise, it's still a very good game, with semi-decent gameplay and a very well-written story. I would highly recommend it if you had problems with the writing of 3/4, if you want to jump into the Persona series, or if you love all the Persona games and are itching for some more of the series. If I could give a more detailed score, a 4.5/5 would probably get my point across, but I suppose a 5 will do.


StarryPS's avatar
Community review by StarryPS (June 03, 2016)

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