I got to take a break from PC games recently and spend some time with an old, dusty friend. The world has not been overly kind to the PSP in recent times, and most of my purchases have been old imports since new releases have been trickling in slowly and without much fanfare. Even still, the PSP keeps on ticking, and with a big name like Persona 2: Innocent Sin, a game which had never been released in North America, the PSP proves that it is not totally dead. Although the Shin Megami Tensei series has taken years to become relevant in the Western market, Persona is a well known branding that has established itself on the PS2, to the point where gamers demanded a new entry to the series on the PS3. It was interesting to see how this old title would hold up, and if it was indeed worth the wait after all.
AGE OF INNOCENCE
Surpsingly Diplomatic - A traditional dungeon crawler, Persona 2 is able to get rid of some of the monotony the genre is known for by implementing a fairly robust conversation system. Like in other Megaten games, you fight demons who are not all necessarily bad, and you can talk to them instead of fight at your relative leisure. In doing so, you will be rewarded with Tarot cards which allow you to summon new Personas, which essentially make up the magic system of the game. It's fun, it works well, and in this case it actually overshadows the fighting itself.
Not Your Average Setting - It's extremely refreshing to play a game set in a modern locale, especially in the RPG genre. Persona 2 has you controlling a bunch of high school students, and though the story starts out slow, there is a great deal of story and character development along the way. It is not hard to care about these kids, and the general complexity of the overall narrative made me want to keep playing to the end, if only for that reason alone. The game is far more adult than many other RPG's, and has a general unsettling weirdness surrounding it that is unique to the Megaten series.
I Heard a Rumor - While on the subject of weirdness, I can't neglect to mention the rumor system. In this world, rumors that are being spread begin to come true, and you can make use of this as well. Want new guns? Spread a rumor that the Ramen shop is now a legitimate front for an arms dealer. Want a casino? Well, don't even get me started on that; I probably spent as much time playing blackjack as I did nearly everything else. It's neat, if a little simple, and it really helped to sell the supernatural element of the game by actually getting the player involved in it.
Showing Its Age - The biggest and only complaint I have with this game is age. The presentation is clunky, battles take too long without skipping animations, and the visuals are a bit washed out and lifeless at times. There is a great game underneath its 1999-era lack of polish, but you will have to fight through some nasty stuff to find it. I should also mention that random battles are quite frequent, and while that didn't bother me in the slightest, it is one of the greatest banes of the RPG genre today, especially for new, impatient players.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a very solid package that will likely (and unfortunately) be overlooked due to poor timing, and its release onto a fading console. While most people will be scared away by its near-archaic presentation, anyone who sticks around will be getting a very rewarding game that ends up being quite addicting after a bit of a slow start. It also offers some of the most unique mechanics seen in an RPG even to this day. I urge anyone to pick up and play a Shin Megami Tensei game at least once, and Persona 2: Innocent Sin is definitely no exception.