Under normal circumstances, should the dice include a Persona game in the list, it’s usually one of the top 3 games I will pick. With this being the last currently released game in the franchise I had not yet played, I would be more likely to. So when this game came up with Persona 5 in the works and coming out in the fairly near future, it was not even a question. And now as I put my controller down, I am glad to have played through, and not just because I am fully caught up on one of my favorite game series. Come on in and have a look.
Story: Maya Amano is journalist for the most popular magazine in the area, but not the favorite of her boss by any means. Taking a perverse joy in shutting down Maya’s plans for the evening, she tells her she is going to hunt down a story on “the Joker” rumors. According to these rumors, the Joker is a serial killer who doesn’t pick his targets, but takes requests from those who contact him by calling the very phone they use.
With her roommate Ulala by her side, Maya made her way to the Seven Sisters High School to take on this new assignment and interview the students and staff there. Joined by Katsuya, a local detective looking into the killings tied to the story, they discover the murderer on campus and his newest target, the principal.
Chasing him down, the Joker turns the tables on them quickly calling on demons to fight them. And in the fight that ensued the trio unleashed a power they did not realize they had to summer an inner aspect of their personalities as a weapon: the power of Persona. Unfortunately for our heroes, the Joker came out victorious, But their lives were saved by Philemon, a spiritual entity who called them into his realm to warn them of a danger that could destroy the city.
Upon awaking, the team chases down this serial killer anew and begins an adventure for the team that actually started well before now and when this game does. You see, there are actually two Persona 2 games, and if you have not played it yet, I highly recommend you play Persona 2: Innocent Sin first as it will directly continue the events in that game. While not doing so will not hinder your ability to understand what is going on right at the moment, it will leave you in the dark about a lot of things before the very end of your adventure as well as missing the significance of other events in relation to what has already happened. I will not summarize here however, as explaining the story for you here will spoil what is another very solid RPG.
But while you play, you will find yourself in a city where rumors, once believed by enough people, will become true, and your true opponents throughout your adventure using this to the fullest in completing their nefarious plans, weaving an intricate tale that along with it’s companion game, will lead you to the edge of reality and back. Enjoy the ride, for even when it seems random on it’s own, it’s anything but, and the complete picture this game finishes will be one of the deepest you have played in a long time.
Graphics: While Persona 2: Innocent Sin is an update to a PSX title we never got in the states, Eternal Punishment is the direct PSX title, and carries a look that reflects this. You will play this game completely from an isometric perspective of a 3D rendered world and sprites for you and the people you come across. As to be expected for games of the time, the world is fairly simple looking with very block-based maps and simplistic bitmaps making for a very classic 32-bit era look. And while the sprite-work looks great, it is by necessity to let you see what’s going on fairly low-resolution as to fit the ability of the system at the time. A nice touch, however, is that every map is fully rendered and there is no point you are not allowed to spin the camera to get a better view of whatever you need.
Fights are also fairly standard fair of the era. You will see a small area setup with your party and the opposing enemies taking up most of the screen with a bar of stats for your party (in this case, each member gets a block and if you have all 5 positions taken, it will fil in the entire bottom of the screen). Off hand, each character shows a picture, a name (which will have any status effect listed over it), the Hit Points (HP) and Spell Points (SP) as well as an “S” which will show golden if they have not moved this turn or greyed out if they have. It all looks very clean if simplistic and a product of their time. Finally being an RPG, Eternal Punishment will have a fair share of menus, which again keep the same clean motif.
But this being a PlayStation game, was made with a CD-ROM in mind, and as such does have the additional treat of a handful of FMV cutscenes to round-out the experience. As expected, the resolution will not match what you would demand of a modern game, but they are very clean and look very good even today.
The only real obvious downside is the overworld maps. The overworld is devided into several sections of city, each of which is represented by a map designed to look like someone took an arial picture of the neighborhood. Your possition on the map will be marked by a triangle with a dot over it that you can move iether to various places which will then open the dungeon, location maps, or stores, or go to the edge of the map to reach other neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are then chosen from a list which will highlight where in the city you are going on another picture much like the ones for the neighborhoods individually.
The effect is that these maps look very nice, but are very static with little that is actually interesting to see until you get into the dungeons themselves.
Sound: I can say nothing against the music that runs through this game, but I can not say a lot good for it either. You will be treated to a soundtrack of midi music which fits the game’s tones very well, but outside of the battle music and what you hear in the overworld map and in combat, you will probably remember very little of it, and even that pretty much sticks just due to the fact that it doesn’t change for most of the game (and in the case of combat, not at all).
Nor, is there much else that will stand out either way for your ear, unfortunately. The sound effects are pretty much footsteps when walking around dungeon maps or combat sound effects when in the heat of battle. And voice acting is also fairly limited as most of the voice work you will hear is each character’s voice when calling their own persona as well as a short final interaction before each boss encounter. They did an admirable job in the age of CD based Playstation titles to keep the game on a single CD and not require you to change discs while playing, but the sound design clearly suffered some for it.
Gameplay: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is a classic-style JRPG which will be played between a few specific screen-types throughout the entire game. The most basic of which is the city map, which contains a picture of the entire thing and a list of all the neighborhoods you can currently visit. Selecting any one of the will highlight it on this map and selecting it will bring you to the neighborhood’s map.
Once there you will navigate by moving a cursor around the map to either select a location to enter or interact with one of the few other cursors representing other people walking around the city. If you choose to go to most locations, you will then go to a 3D rendered map of the location you chose. Some of these places are things like stores where you will be able to resupply your items or buy weapons and armor, while others will be dungeons where you will need to navigate you can explore and (if the story takes you there) find an objective to push the plot along or even hunt a rare demon you found by rumor, but we will get into that part of the game in a little bit. Dungeon areas are where you will fight all your fights, as they will appear by boss or of random encounters.
Once in combat, you will have the chance to setup what your characters will do via menu control before telling the game to proceed with the fight. And the options available to you vary greatly from simple attacks to spells known by the current persona you have equipped to changing that persona for another one you have available (doesn’t cost you the turn), use items, or even select from the fusion (group-based) spells you can do and pre-ready your team to perform. There is even an option to let the fight roll until you interrupt it to re-issue new commands or to make the game pause between rounds automatically, depending on your taste. And if you have run into the demon you are fighting before, the Analysis choice will remind you of their traits (such as what kind of attacks they are weak or strong against) so you can choose how to handle them more intelligently. Between the variety of options and the sheer volume of personas to pick from, you will find more then enough options to face off with anything that will come your way.
Nor is fighting your only option. Most RPGs have the option to try to run, but this game adds a third choice of Contact. Using this option, you will get to choose up to 3 of your party to talk to one of the demons, the result of each round will cause the demon to get get angry, scared, happy, interested, or a combination of the 4 moods, and depending on how it turns out, you can get anything from the enemy taking an early shot to them running away to them giving you stuff, including cards, which you will need during the game in order to get new personas for your team, but it is only the first step. To get these new personas, you will need to visit one of the special location that is a staple of the Persona franchise: the Velvet Room.
The Velvet Room takes on many forms throughout the Persona franchise, but a few specific traits always remain the same. The place is always blue, and long-nosed balding guy named Igor is always there who acts as host in absence of his “master.” Here you will trade in cards to get new personas as well as transform personas you no longer need into useful items. Both options will prove incredibly useful as there are some items you can only get by releasing personas you no longer intend to use and you will need to swap personas as you play for more powerful ones if you intend to survive the game.
It can be found within most dungeons (along side a fairy’s spring which will heal everyone for extortion levels of money), but at the same time if you haven’t entered yet, you can also find it in malls along side other shops and healing places in just about every neighborhood available to you, making the name-sake part of this game very easy to access, and incredibly useful as you progress.
Bugs: While I did not find any actual bugs in this game itself, I did notice a few changes in behavior when playing this game on the PSP instead of the PS3.
- Weird Slowdowns: I do not know why, but occasionally and at random the PSP would slow-down for a few seconds playing this game. And while I don’t understand what caused it, there is no excuse for this when playing a digital copy of a Playstation 1 game.
- Boss Behavior: If you have read reviews I wrote well before starting this site, you might remember similar complaints when I played through Final Fantasy VII on the PSP. At the time, I figured there must be something weird in the way the game uses the timing of the hardware due to very specific things that happened while playing that game, and I believe this occurs from time to time on this game too, as bosses will behave about like you would expect when playing on the PS3, but can get stuck on a single attack or pattern of 2 or 3, when playing on Sony’s old portable device. I do not believe this is a flaw in this game any more then I did for Final Fantasy, but an issue in the emulator used on the PSP. But you should be aware of it.
Overall: I will not lie to you and tell you this is the best game I have ever played. It is not. In fact it’s not even the best Persona game I have ever played. (I still stand by that being Persona 3.) However, Persona 2 Eternal Punishment is an incredibly solid RPG that actually lives up to the feature it is named after that completes the story started in Persona 2: Innocent Sin beautifully. I would easily recommend it to general RPG fans to play, but I would also highly recommend playing the other Persona 2 first, both because you will notice it generally improves everything the last game did and because you will then have a lot more insight into what is going on before the last few scenes make the connections you could at best guess at.
Source: Playstation Store