Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin ReviewJoe Shaffer
Juicy rumors slide from millions of lips all over the inner city. This is a given in urban haunts, but now many of the rumors are inexplicably becoming reality. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin follows Tatsuya and his friends as they test out one such rumor: that calling their own cell phone numbers will summon a wish-granting being known only as Joker. Little did Tatsuya's clique realize that they would raise the ire of a sinister being that they all share a connection with, one that holds an old grudge against them for a past they had all forgotten about. Together, Tatsuya and his friends attempt to uncover the mysteries of their forgotten past by confronting Joker and put an end to the spread of deadly rumors.
So to the streets they head, gathering information, picking up saucy gossip and using it to their advantage. Through a detective acquaintance of theirs, they can even spread rumors to their advantage. When they need better equipment, they can pay the private investigator to spread a rumor that a restaurant or shop carries improved weaponry and reap the benefits when the rumor becomes reality.
After gathering intel, you'll follow the quintet as they scour possessed high school hallways, massive music stores, and seedy casinos either to catch the next clue or stop Joker and his minions in the Masked Circle before they can cause any serious harm. Searching a high school may not sound as fantastical as a dank castle dungeon or a musty cave, but convoluted dungeon designs keep these modern locales true to RPG standards. Some may have qualms with maze-like dungeons, but old school RPG fans will feel right at home with designs that hearken back to first-person games of yore.
I had my reservations on the idea of exploring a multi-floor music shop crammed with aisle upon aisle of albums, but what better way to release your hangups than to surround yourself with the implausible. Innocent Sin wants you to remember first and foremost: this is a game, not a recreation of reality.
Its playful demeanor seeps into battle where you put the blade to snot-nosed fairies, punch out pretentious demigods, and use powerful spells to nuke nefarious nymphs. Each enemy has a distinct personality and way of communicating. It's because of this that you can select a diplomat from your party to reason with, scold, dance with, or even seduce your enemies. Different choices when contacting demons beget different reactions. Some demons fly into a fit of rage, others will flee with terror, and a few may become eager and present you with a handful of tarot cards. Perhaps the most intriguing of these reactions is happiness. Only in such a state will a demon form a "pact" with you, allowing you to receive items, money or even juicy rumors next time you meet it in battle. You can even command the demon to spread those rumors, granting you new skills, combat advantages, and even change the dungeon to access secret areas.
If you're not much of a diplomat, you can always squash your enemies using your Personas--powerful entities that bestow skills and stat increases. Through gathering the aforementioned tarot cards, you can summon more powerful Personas with more devastating attacks and effective healing spells. Many such Personas can combine powers to make Fusion Spells, higher powered combo attacks that drop enemy populations faster than normal spells. Combine two water spells and you can drown your opponents with Heavy Rain, or bring together the dark spell Zanma and holy spell of your choice and obliterate demons with the instant death spell Low End Breaker--which can even destroy some higher level enemies usually insusceptible to instant death skills.
Battle, unfortunately, spawns my one qualm with Innocent Sin: the encounter rate is much too high. At times, Tatsuya and company will have just finished a battle and take no more than three steps before beginning another one. The insane number of the battles consumes more time than traipsing through the dungeons, and sometimes causes Innocent Sin to drag. Dungeons can sometimes last over an hour, but the abilities to experiment with new Personas and tinker with the contact system alleviate some of the tedium.
Truly, what makes the hyper encounter rate tolerable is the great story and characters. Witnessing Tatsuya's friends transform from obnoxious teenagers into mature heroes is an experience in itself. Each character sports a unique personality that brings something different to the table. Michel and Ginko provide excellent humor, while Yukino balances the group with her cool demeanor and words of wisdom. Innocent Sin provides enough humor to remain playful, but balances the experience with just the right touch of drama and humility.
I get choked up playing Persona 2: Innocent Sin. It reminds me of what I loved about RPGs in the late '90s and early '00s. I think back to my PlayStation and Dreamcast, and all the great titles I used to play until the wee hours. I didn't sweat details like random encounters or grinding. I played for the experience--the lovable characters, customization, and the occasional gimmicky nuance that made each RPG stand individually. Innocent Sin helps us return to that time. It also allows Stateside Persona fans the opportunity to play the missing half they've been waiting eleven years to play (assuming they didn't download the translated ISO). RPG fans and loyal Persona followers, don't hesitate. Pop Innocent Sin into your PSP and remember the good times.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.