When someone discovered Atlus had registered the pq2.jp domain, it was obvious there was going to be a sequel to the first Persona Q fan service dungeon crawler so, it's no surprise we have a sequel in the form of Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. Featuring the gang from all three Persona games, 3, 4 and the more recent 5.
The story takes place after Akechi has joined The Phantom Thieves and are out training in Mementos. As the gang travels through the dungeon, Morgana suddenly loses control and find themselves thrown into a New York-like looking city. After escaping the police through a bright portal, they learn that were trapped inside a cinema where the only exit is securely locked. Not only that, they weren't the only ones that were suddenly transported to the strange place. There was also a little girl named Hikari and a woman named Nagi who was the manager of the cinema before its sudden change. After discovering they can enter movies screened in the cinema, they decide to explore hoping to find a way to unlock the only exit.
Gameplay is pretty much the same as its predecessor where you explore a dungeon in first person view, turning at 90 degree angles while drawing your own map as you explore similar to Atlus' Etrian Odyssey series. You can also draw auto-routes which act like conveyer belts so that you just follow the path you've drawn. I think a new feature they did add is a favourites palette since the 3DS screen isn't high resolution enough to fit too many icons. I can't remember if this happens in the predecessor but, walls are shown as you explore so you don't have to walk on every square and this speeds up the mapping a bit.
And of course, the chests that only unlock after you've fully explored that level of the dungeon are back. Or, you can spend game coins so now you have an excuse to walk around with the 3DS and use Street Pass again!
Tough F.O.E.s also make an appearance once again and exploiting enemy weaknesses is the way to win battles as with the Persona series although this time, they sometimes have "weakness barriers" that prevent you from exploiting until their HP is down to a certain point. Otherwise you can perform All Out attacks when all enemies are knocked out as usual. If your All Out attack finishes the enemies off you gain bonus XP and rewards. Also new is that you can now unlock amusing combo attacks via side quests too. It's a rewarding and satisfying battle system but as with most JRPGs, your inactive party members don't get any XP. Fortunately the game doesn't force you to have them in your party.
With over 20 characters available you probably won't be making use of all them but, the game encourages you to switch by letting a random character become psyched, giving them bonuses in stats and XP gain. Still, it would have been better if the "special screening" side quests helped boost their XP instead or have an XP pool you can spend on characters similar to the way Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does. Not to mention the side quest logs aren't very helpful in tracking your progress either.
You also have to dedicate some time to level grinding instead of being ready to fight a boss as soon as you reach the end of a dungeon unlike the Persona games and fights aren't that speedy to make it a quick process. I feel its predecessor did a better job of letting you speed through fights where enemies came in groups you could quickly exploit. It's not until two dungeons in the game does level grinding become easier. Boss fights are tough too. Even after dedicating some time levelling to 15 I had a hard time beating the first boss on normal. You really need to get the tactics right to win too, just being high level enough to survive hits isn't enough.
If you played and really enjoyed Persona 5 then right from the start you're hit with some nostalgia as the familiar BGM from the game plays as well as the locations. There's the odd video cutscene with characters in their chibi form. The story is just parody fun. I mean "all villains must be spanked" or weapons coming out of popcorn isn't exactly serious. It's entertaining watching the gang from the games hanging out together on the menu screens and Elizabeth is as lively as ever. I also like how the characters remind you about any items you have used up or your inventory's about to be filled up.
Unfortunately apart from the nostalgia, the screen time given to all the characters means there's less of a story going on compared to its predecessor. PQ1's story was much better paced but given the number of characters I guess it was a good idea to focus on them than a big main story. You've also got the P3P female protagonist making a return. Unfortunately as with most 3DS games, the dialogue isn't fully voiced, mostly the key cutscenes. As with its predecessor, characters are in SD form but I think the designs have been deliberately tweaked during the Anime cutscenes to match the Western movie parodies. Interestingly enough, the Anime scenes were done by CloverWorks which is a rebrand of A1 Pictures due to their deminishing reputation and frankly, I wasn't any more impressed here either.
Dungeon themes here are also horribly cliched which are more like parodies of old movies from the West. While it tries to add some variety to them, there's little progress in the main plot and little stands out whereas the predecessor had some fun surprises in store in each one. I'm sure those of you who have played PQ1 will agree the haunted dungeon was damn scary!
Personally I found the pacing for the early dungeons of the game really poor but, watching the characters from the different Persona games interact kept me amused. I didn't enjoy the boss fights and it took a while before the level grinding became smoother and themed scenarios become more interesting. Needless to say, it's nothing like recent Persona games but instead returns to the franchise's roots of first person dungeon crawling like its predecessor so, if you enjoyed the first Persona Q game or even the Etrian Odyssey series and don't mind level grinding, you'll most likely enjoy this. It has one of the best credit rolls I've seen in fact. Otherwise the unforgiving boss battles, dungeon crawling and cliche themes might just bore you.
- All your favourite characters from Persona 3, 4 and 5 including the P3P heroine.
- Fun banter and "Unison" combo attacks between the characters.
- Helpful hints from characters.
- Doesn't force you to use inactive, under-leveled characters. Well, for most of the game...
- A reason to walk around with your 3DS to use Street Pass and save Game Coins again.
- Boss battles can be unforgiving (at least on normal).
- "Special Screening" side quests are poorly tracked.
- There's not much of a story compared to its predecessor.
- Boring dungeons, mostly no fun exciting surprises like before.
- Inactive party members don't gain any XP as with most JRPGs.
- Need to dedicate some time to level grinding. Not very streamlined til half way.
- Not fully voiced?