Words by James Daly
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is the perfect Persona game for you if you want ridiculously cute characters but without losing the darker elements of this iconic video game franchise. Gameplay is addictively challenging, and the expansive story is as huge as it is satisfying.
Right from the get-go, Persona Q2‘s kawaii aesthetic puts a smile on your face. The anime cutscenes are delightful and highlight the game’s art direction wonderfully, while the in-game visuals are just as pleasing. It’s a graphical style that suits the child-friendly nature of the 3DS, but that’s not to say this is a kids’ game.
In fact, Persona Q2 can be pretty dark in parts as well as testing at times, but more on that later.
In the game, you’re served up chibi versions of the cast we all know and love from Persona 5 (if you’ve played it, that is), with player character Joker returning as the main protagonist.
Throughout the story, you’ll meet plenty of other potential party members from other titles in the franchise’s history, leading to a total of 27 characters for you to choose from. Personally, I stuck with characters from P5 but that’s because I’m obsessed with that game (much to my workmates’ chagrin).
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t blown away by the inclusion of so many past characters because I genuinely was. This is an area where Persona Q2 really goes above and beyond, and I absolutely love that.
As for gameplay, it predominantly involves exploring dungeons through a first-person perspective, in a lovely throwback to the first Persona game, Revelations: Persona, on the original PlayStation.
As you brave each area, you chart your progress on a map. You can also make notes on this map using the 3DS stylus, marking down locations of shortcuts, treasure chests and other useful details. Sadly, I forgot to do this at first and found myself having to rely on my own sense of direction, which didn’t always end well.
In dungeons, the game incorporates a random encounter mechanic, cutting to turn-based battles when attacked. Here you can employ basic and persona attacks, as well as use items or try to escape, which is par for the course in this series. This game uses personas in an interesting way though.
Joker is unable to change his equipped persona like he does in P5, instead being able to choose a secondary persona to wield simultaneously. This lets you expand your attacks while still keeping your main persona Arsene active throughout the game, but it’s not just Joker who has this new mechanic.
In fact, every character you use is able to dual-wield personas, adding new moves along with extra health and SP (the fuel for using persona moves). This means you can get more creative with your party members, and it stops you from being forced to use specific characters for certain enemy types as you are able to diversify the moveset of everybody, in theory anyway.
This was easily my favourite feature in Persona Q2. You also have the ability to use support techniques through the character Futaba, meaning you can heal your whole party without sacrificing valuable attacking moves. I can’t express enough how handy this is.
Persona Q2’s gameplay is best played in bitesize chunks as battles can wear you out quickly, especially in the beginning. The temptation to retreat out of dungeons and heal up regularly is very real, and I suggest you do this often. After all, Persona Q2 is clearly not meant to be played through in one go, with the game almost always punishing you whenever you get a little reckless.
This can get a little frustrating at times, but it’s worth going at the game’s desired pace and not forcing the issue. Persona Q2 is long, and it can feel even longer if you don’t show it the necessary respect. I mean it, it’s merciless despite its adorable visuals.
This game is all about story, with cutscenes and dialogue sequences taking up the bulk of game time. It can drag on a bit when you want to actually just play the game but your patience is usually rewarded in Persona games, and this one is no exception. As the story unfolds, you’ll find yourself gripped by the enjoyable, surprisingly canon narrative and a massive amount of fan service. Even if you’re not a veteran of the Persona series, it’s hard not to get a kick out of what Persona Q2 does.
Being a Persona game, Q2 offers up a superb soundtrack, as you’d expect. It’s full of great pieces and each one perfectly compliments the events on-screen. However, you aren’t able to play the game with an English dub, instead only having access to the Japanese voice acting. The characters sound great though, and all the dialogue is subbed, but it’s a radical departure for players who are used to hearing these characters speaking English.
Personally, I would have liked the option to have an English dub but I can live without it.
In short, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is a very good RPG, combining a heart-warming, cute aesthetic with fun, rewarding gameplay that’s bound to please even the most experienced of RPG fans.
The story is thoroughly enjoyable, with plenty of fan service and a camp, theatrical edge. The lengthy dialogue sequences can drag on at times, and enemies will make you suffer if you’re not careful, but overall Persona Q2 is not a game you’ll want to miss.
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