By William Haderlie / June 21st, 2019
|Title||Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth|
|Release Date||June 4th, 2019|
|Genre||Dungeon Crawler RPG|
|Platform||New Nintendo 3DS XL|
|Age Rating||ESRB M for Mature|
The day has finally arrived where the final major release for the 3DS family of systems has come out in the West, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. There will likely be a few more small indie games released for the system (much like there still are for the equally doomed PlayStation Vita), but the system is effectively a relic of the past. While this is a bittersweet moment, at least Nintendo already has a portable system out there to replace it, even if it is not in the same way. My larger concern is what is going to happen with this sub-genre of Dungeon Crawler RPGs, which has had a major Renaissance with both the DS/3DS family and PSP/Vita family of systems. Not only does the portability fit well with the heavy grinding required of the genre, but the touch screens have also made a fascinating impact by allowing you to draw your own maps. This has been particularly the case for the Etrian Odyssey series of games and their two spin-offs, Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth.
For the Persona fans out there interested in giving this series offshoot a try, you should be aware upfront that it is primarily the Etrian Odyssey team at ATLUS who makes these games. As such, all the story beats are from the Persona games, but all the actual combat and exploration is from Etrian Odyssey. It works well, but if you are a fan of one and not the other, it is something to be conscious of going in. There is some small amount of auto-mapping that you can select from the Config menu, but that merely shades in where you have been and walls that you have stood next to. Any other map features, and there are quite a few, will need to be added by you. Thankfully in Persona Q2 they have made the map making even better than it was in Etrian Odyssey Nexus. There are more contextual symbols in this game that will alter on your map according to your actions. In other words, not only will you see whether the switch has been used in the above screenshot, but it will also show you if the Electric Gate is open. This adds the benefit of making the map even more useful, but it also allows them to have even more variety in the dungeons than in previous Etrian Odyssey games or Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth.
Wandering around in the dungeons is first person but anyone who has played Persona long enough, or the main Shin Megami Tensei series, should be familiar with that style. It wasn’t until Persona 3 and SMT 3 that they went away from the first person style, and several offshoots like SMT: Strange Journey Redux still use it to this day. Also like that latter title, the battle takes place in classic dungeon crawler style where you only see your characters when they enter the screen to attack briefly. They still use their signature Personas to cast magic, but never quite as obviously as they do in the main Persona series. Like in the first game, Persona Q2 takes place in an alternate world to any of the main story events. One of the primary ways that affects the gameplay is that the power of the Wild Card (featured in each series protagonist) no longer allows them to switch their main Persona. Instead it spreads across the whole team and allows everyone to equip a secondary Persona. The second one adds the primary benefit of being allowed to use a wider variety of skills, and it also adds a HP and SP buffer proportional to the power of the secondary Persona. The HP/SP Buffer is extremely functional in such a grind heavy genre because you enter every battle with those bonuses exceeding your normal stats and therefore can use an ability or two without it eating into your main HP/SP pool.
Because of the design philosophy of the developer, both Etrian Odyssey and Persona Q games tend to be a bit on the difficult side. As such it is even more important than in the normal series that you exploit the enemy weaknesses. If your characters hit an enemy with their weakness, that will cause the enemy to be Knocked Down. It will also allow that character to act first in the next round and use any skill with no HP or SP cost. If all enemies are knocked down in the same round, your party will do their standard group attack that you see in the previous three Persona games. Unfortunately if the enemies are not able to be killed with the All Out Attack, or you don’t knock them all over in the round, they can attack your characters back and also knock them out of their enhanced state. So you would miss your opportunity for a free skill next round.
In Persona Q2 the main cast is centered around the Phantom Thieves from Persona 5. As such it was important for them to bring over as much of the new combat systems as possible. They did have to remove the Guns from each of the main cast, because that would not work with all the other characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4 (Guns were a part of the first two Persona games, and most of SMT however). But they did bring over the new Fusion and Psychic elemental attacks as well as Holy and Curse attacks that are not just instant kills. As such, there is a much wider variety of weaknesses for the shadows to be susceptible to. That can be a little dangerous when you meet up with a new shadow, even if they aren’t a wandering FOE (optional mini-bosses observable on the map) or zone boss. Thankfully they have expanded the Support Strike system that has been used since Persona 4. A Support Strike is when a character not in your battle party joins in at random to knock down a random enemy on the battle field. This typically only happens after a character knocks down all but one remaining enemy on the field. But now they have added Unison Strikes, which can happen at any time even if the attack didn’t knock down the enemy. Support Strikes are typically only for pitiful damage, but Unison Strikes are some of the most powerful attacks in the game.
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