12 Hours Into Persona 2: Innocent Sin

Japanese role-playing games, specifically the ones with turn-based combat used to not appeal to me. I found the turn based combat to be tedious and usually the games require grinding, which just means a lot more of the combat I hated. As I have grown older, I have become more open to trying things I may not have liked before, so I eventually decided to play Persona 3 Portable to see what all the hubbub was about. That game now ranks as one of my all time favorites, along with the even more excellent Persona 4 Golden. Recently, I decided to go backwards and give Persona 2: Innocent Sin a shot.

Minor spoilers for Persona 2: Innocent Sin are below

Before I get to my experience with the game, I do find the need to explain the rather unique nature of Persona 2…both of them. There are actually two Persona 2s, Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. This situation is very much like Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2; Eternal Punishment serves as a direct sequel to Innocent Sin but each newly numbered Persona game is a standalone story. Therefore Eternal Punishment keeps the 2 to indicate its status as a follow up story. However, that is not the end of Persona 2’s awkward situation. Both Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment were released on the PlayStation, but only Eternal Punishment made it to the West. A few years ago, Atlus went on a PlayStation Portable remake spree and released updated versions of all Persona games, except for Persona 4 whose remake was on PlayStation Vita. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment’s PSP remake did not make it to the West. So the only way to experience the complete Persona 2 saga is to play the PSP remake of Innocent Sin and the original Eternal Punishment, which is available for purchase digitally on the PlayStation Store.

Hopefully that made sense, but now I am back to my thoughts on Innocent Sin. I purchased Innocent Sin about a year ago, but put it down after a few hours. I found the storytelling to be a little clunky and I was scared away by the number of selections in the combat system. I have realized now that I went in with the mindset that the game would have a more hardcore combat system than later Persona games. A few days ago, out of nowhere, I got struck with the idea of trying the game again. As of this writing, we are mere days from the launch of two of my most anticipated games of the year. However, there have been several times where I have entertained the notion of retrying games I put down, deciding to eventually do it, and then never actually doing it. I came to the conclusion that it was now or never.

Before I fired up the game, I located a comprehensive walkthrough just in case I began feeling overwhelmed again. I used the walkthrough to familiarize myself with the basic gameplay mechanics, which I think the game does not do a good job of. The beginning of the game felt jarring to me the first time through; it was really rapid paced and kind of hard to swallow. Within minutes of introduction, a character whips out his persona, and then several characters blackout. They awaken to a supernatural being, known as Philemon, appearing before them; he grants them use of personas, tells them that rumors in the town are coming real. He vanishes, and they decide to put this to the test and play a game that is supposed to summon a being known as Joker. It works, Joker turns out to be really evil, and the main cast decides to stop him. They show up to a detective agency, tell the detective this, and he agrees to spread rumors for them. This is the point where my head started to spin. This random detective guy decides to start spreading rumors based on their story and does not question anything about it. At all. I was having trouble swallowing all of these plot developments and this professional detective believes every word of it. After that is the first dungeon; the main character’s high school. He walks in and is attacked by demons. Okay, sure, pretty run of the mill video game stuff. Except the students seem to be oblivious to the demons. Maybe this is explained later in the story, but so far, each of the dungeons are public locations, all of them have demons, and all of them are populated with normal people who do not notice this. I got a few minutes into the school my first time, found the battle system complex, and was really confused by aspects of the narrative.

My second time playing through the intro, I had the exact same problem, but since I knew what was going to happen I was able to ride it out. Then I started to actually try the battle system. I do think the navigation of the battle menus is a little clunky, but I was able to actually figure it out. In fact, the game’s battles are ridiculously easy. I have not had my party wiped out once in the 12 hours I have played the game. One aspect of the combat that is interesting is the ability to converse with the enemies. Each playable character have unique ways of communicating with the demons, and demons all have distinct personality types. Talking with demons results in several types of rewards, scaring them off, or really pissing them off. The system gets a little predictable and repetitive after awhile, but does make the cannon fodder more memorable.

As mentioned before, rumors play a big part of Innocent Sin’s narrative. This extends into the gameplay itself and allows the characters to spread rumors by visiting that gullible detective. Unfortunately, the rumors that can be spread are really limited, at least so far. Most of them have been about weapons and armor shops. By spreading rumors, the stock, prices, and buyback prices can be changed for shops. For instance, I spread the rumor one weapon shop has high quality items but also high prices. Then I spread the rumor that another has a mediocre selection but high buyback prices. I went to the expensive shop, bought new gear, and sold my old gear to the other shop; I nearly made back all my money. The only two other types of rumors I have found are about a sweepstakes and a casino. The sweepstakes can be either hard to win with expensive prizes, or easy to win with cheap prizes. The casino can be altered to make the slots really easy to win, or the payout of blackjack to be high. It is a really interesting mechanic, and I am disappointed, and kind of shocked, no one has tried to improve on it.

Right now, I find Innocent Sin to have an interesting narrative, but rather clunky delivery. New plot developments sometimes seem to come out of thin air. For instance, Lisa, one of the main cast, says something about her dreams at one point. It seems random, but I have just reached a location in the story that reveals her dreams are apparently really important. Hopefully that improves at some point, but I have a feeling it will not.

Even if I seem a little bit hard towards the game, I really am enjoying it. Definately not as much as Persona 3 or Persona 4, but I plan to stick with it and want to roll right into Eternal Punishment. I can still take away a lesson from my experience no matter what: give things, maybe not just video games, another chance even if they fail to impress the first time.

Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG who has way too many video games to play. You can follow him and his immense backlog on Twitter.


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