So with all the Persona 5 hype since the recent trailer, I’ve been put on such a Persona buzz that I’ve decided to return to one of the earlier entries in the series. The PSP remake of Persona 2: Innocent Sin. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a text-based lets play of the game for my second playthrough. It is worth noting, however, that I have no way of capturing high quality screenshots or footage of the game. I hope this wont be too boring to sit through.
Now lets get some things out of the way first. I’m a huge fan of not only the Persona series, but Shin Megami Tensei as a whole. While my first games in the series were Personas 3 and 4, these were quickly followed up by entries such as Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, and most recently, Shin Megami Tensei IV. I don’t love every entry in the series, however, as I find games such as Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers and the first Raidou Kuzunoha game (since I haven’t played the sequel) to be interesting, though fairly dull to actually play overall.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin happens to be one of those games, bearing in mind that I have not played Eternal Punishment, and likely never will, since I have no way of playing the game legally at this time. During my first playthrough of Innocent Sin, I found both the story and the gameplay to be lackluster and outdated, especially compared to later entries. That said, I do understand why people like these games, however, I have little sympathy for those that actively hate the later entries and the fans they brought in simply for not being Persona 1 or 2. I know that I love this series for the story, characters, themes, gameplay, and overall quality, and not because I like to write fanfiction shipping my favourite characters together while purchasing countless body pillows. It doesn’t matter what other people get out of the series, even if they do creep you out- they just want to enjoy a fun game the way they want to enjoy it, I don’t think a fan needs to show up with a list of credentials in order to be accepted as a ‘true’ fan. That’s all I’ll say on the matter of the fandom and my relationship with it, because the rest of this is going to be purely about P2:IS. I will try to keep comparisons to later entries and other SMT games to a minimum, especially considering the fact that this is an older game which came out before those entries. However, I hold no promises- the truth is, I think Atlus have become much better game makers, writers, composers, art designers and yes, marketers since their PS1 days. I’ll try to make comparisons wherever possible when I feel that the game does something better than the later entries, too. Let’s dig in.
The soundtrack for Innocent Sin was completely re-mixed for the PSP remake, and the opening music and animation is completely new, too. I actually like really like the opening, I’d say it’s even better than Pursuing My True Self. The original opening to Innocent Sin is still viewable on disc, and that one is good too. However, I feel that the new opening captures Persona’s unique identity as a franchise much more effectively, and the anime look is just more attractive to look at overall. I’ll be listening to the remix soundtrack.
First thing I’m doing before starting a new game is switching the battle difficulty to easy. Encounters in this game are frequent and tedious, and I want to get through this game as quickly as possible. I played through most of this game, before giving up, on normal difficulty originally and I found the game too easy then, but I was mostly just bored and wasn’t interested in prolonging the experience further by moving up to hard. I have a lot of patience, especially in regards to JRPGs, (I’m the guy who actually didn’t find the last ⅓ of Bravely Default boring whatsoever) but I found Innocent Sin painfully tedious to sit through the first time around. As such I’ll be doing everything in my power to make this as comfortable an experience as possible.
‘Any similarities to any person living or dead is purely coincidental’ This is a common disclaimer in Shin Megami Tensei games, but for this game, it’s particularly stupid, as later on it very clearly uses a famous political figure and the party he led.
We see the Protagonist fixing his bike. This scene is supposed to take place during the daytime, but the map construction makes it look like there’s a black void surrounding the important space. It gives more of a night time feel, and doesn’t look good overall. I wish they’d fixed this up a little.
Some guys steal protag’s… something, which is needed to start his bike. Jerk students are jerks. “You think you’re hot shit, don’t you?” They say, which I kind of have to agree with. Not only does he ride a motorbike, the most attention hungry vehicle ever invented second only to the jetpack, protag’s idle animation will involve him flipping up a lighter and then closing it again for seemingly no reason. If I recall correctly, the lighter does have some significance, but lets be honest, he does try a little too hard.
The velvet room or philemon or whoever suddenly starts reaching out to protag in the middle of the conversation. It’s pretty random, I mean, surely Philemon knows that we’re a bit too busy right now and don’t have time to deal with voices in our head.
The principle, Hanya, tells the students to leave, and his design is really unsubtle. Evil smirk, large scar across his eye, is introduced as being ‘hated’ in his previous school. Eh. Since he’s also introduced as being ‘looked up to’ at Seven Sisters High, the school our protagonist is attending, I suppose it does lend some mystery to proceedings. Why would he be hated at his old school, but liked here? Foreshadowing! And yep, the previous students who had been acting like delinquents just a moment ago suddenly decide to run away. Mmm. We get a clue that the protag is special because he doesn’t immediately obey Hanya. Can’t he tell that he still needs to fix his bike? What did the students need the… bike part-thing for?
Hanya asks for our name and we get to the name input screen. We’re not exactly signing a mysterious, binding contract with Igor, but there we go. The default name is Tatsuya Suou, so we’ll stick with that. We’ll also leave Ta-Chan as his nickname because who cares.
Hanya tells us that he’s heard ‘rumours’ and that ‘we really are trouble’. Tatsuya has literally done nothing but fix his bike since the game began, why the hell are the other characters telling us what he’s like? How dare he have a face, and how dare he fix his bike! What is the world coming too when youths act so… so… unorthodox! The game should have already started giving us dialogue options at this point. So that we could choose whether we want to apologise or generally act meek towards the students and Hanya, or weather we want to tell them to bugger off in a really witty manner. Tatsuya is just kind of standing there like a statue.
“He’ll” Referring to some really important thing using non-specific pronouns in order to foreshadow future bullshit ! Yaaaaay…
The game lets us move around. We’re supposed to go find someone named Ms. Saeko. We get to rotate the camera here, which works fine despite there being only 8 directions to choose from. Opening the menu spoils all of the game features, such as Personas, but it doesn’t really matter and we can’t select anything other than system. Holding O will make Tatsuya run. Basic stuff, though I don’t like holding run buttons in RPGs. I understand that they didn’t originally have analogue control on the PS1, but why can’t we hold a button to walk instead?
We head inside the school and immediately we are faced with one of the things I absolutely despise about the dungeon design in this game, besides the environments just being dull, gray building interiors with absolutely no imagination. Movement in this game is grid based, although it doesn’t quite seem like it at first glance. The map shows us that the current corridor has a width of four spaces, and the space is also dark blue. When we step on a grid, it turns yellow to inform us that we have steppe on that space before. This affects nothing, but it absolutely pisses me off. I wouldn’t call myself someone who has OCD, but this game absolutely aggravates the part of my brain that wants to be meticulous. Basically, when I first played through this game, I wanted to turn every floor tile yellow, which is pretty tedious to do as you just have to snake your way down a corridor. With this game’s horridly high encounter rate, this made the game’s tedious gameplay even more tedious, since I was having to deal with far more encounters than usual. There’s no actual benefit to completing the map, but knowing that I’ll have to leave lots of blue squares in order to retain my sanity doesn’t feel satisfying in the slightest. I’ll probably have to play Etrian Odyssey once I’m done with this game in order to calm nerves that are very likely to get aggravated as I play through this game. It’s the small things in life that really get to you.
Talking to a specific student tell us that Saeko headed to the second floor. On the second floor, we are told that she went to the third floor. On the third floor, we are told that she went to the courtyard. Christ, this is such a pointless run around. She isn’t here, either, but there’s a rumour that the statue of the principle sometimes moves on it’s own, and we run into someone named ‘Miss Ideal’ (Dumb name) talking about chakra and stuff. We are told that Saeko is ‘somewhere’. Uhgh. It’s a horrible idea to give a player this kind of fetch quest in the first place, but it is a sin to have this be the very first thing that you make players do. I’m sure they just wanted us to talk to the students to get a feel for the game world rather than front loading the game with exposition, but you get a good idea of what’s going on weather you talk to the students or not, and that doesn’t make the quest any less boring. I’m sure Atlus didn’t see what they were doing here, so I suppose you could say that this is an Innocent Sin! Ha!
But yep, she’s back where we started at the bike racks. Screw you game.
She asks questions about what Tatsuya wants to do when he graduates, which the player can respond to with multiple choice questions, it doesn’t matter though, since the questions are so open and the responses so vague that it doesn’t really matter. “Have you decided what you want to do after graduation?” Y/N. Of course, she just moves on to the next question if you say yes, so you don’t actually have to tell her what you want to do. It’s all so vague that any emotional connection it could really have with the player’s choices are meaningless.
Apparently Tatsuya puts up walls… well, I just told her that I seriously want to go to college, a positive answer that seemed to cheer her up. There seems to be a real disconnect between sentences here, and again, we’re just being told what Tatsuya is like, we don’t get to make our own conclusions. If you wanted to give him a specific personality, like you apparently do in the sequel, then don’t make him a silent protagonist. I really don’t care if there’s a representation of ‘me’ in a linear story with no meaningful choices, Atlus, this isn’t a mainline SMT game. Yes, later Persona games also have silent protagonists, but there characters will only ever respond to your dialogue options, so there’s a greater sense of controlling your own character. Moreover, the social link system gives you a degree of choice. Which friends do you want cheering you on in the final battle? Who do you befriend? What does the people who you choose to spend time with say about your protagonist, and you as a player? From what I understand, Innocent Sin has very limited options, largely in terms of romance, but it doesn’t seem that special to me. I never did get to the point where that becomes relevant.
Lisa Silverman walks in, our female protagonist. She likes kung fu like Chie, and she’s caucasian, just like every character in every anime ever, for some reason. Apparently she really is foreign though, but her design doesn’t look any different to any other character in this game in terms of nationality. The art design of the characters becomes a major failing of her character later on, and it seems like such a huge mistake to simply overlook.
Lisa rips off Tatsuya’s emblem, which is rumoured to be cursed. All right. You know, I’ve always liked the range of expressions Lisa has in this game. She’s like a cartoon character (like, western cartoons) in how each of her different emotions are presented with such comic exaggeration.
A challenge has been issued from another school ‘Cuss High’ (what?) who have apparently taken a female student hostage, and want to fight Tatsuya. Ooook, is this actually a thing in Japan? Sure, there have always been rival gangs and such, but I don’t think gangs have ever had loyalty to their schools. Only in anime.
We meet Michel, who is a narcissist with a heart of gold. Well, the game just introduces him as a narcissist, and the girl they’ve captured, Kozy, doesn’t seem to be in all that much distress.
“Do I got you, babe!” The translation in this game feels really off at times. There was a line reading “I’ll let you alone” earlier as well. Something about the writing in general doesn’t feel all that polished, but I can’t really put my finger on why that is most of the time.
Michel is a bit of a hopeless pervert, which is standard for the Persona series I suppose. Apparently Michel’s band merely wanted Tatsuya to join. I’ve been trying to pay attention to every line of dialogue, but it already feels like I’ve skipped over something. If Michel didn’t know that his band wanted Tatsuya to join them, and if Michel didn’t want to fight Tatsuya in the first place, then why the hell did Michel want Tatsuya to come to the prison to begin with?
Apparently Michel is an ‘Undie boss’ who ‘pantses’ people. I don’t really know what this is, I was a very unhip kid. I suppose this just means that they pull down people’s pants. Because… what, Michel is actually seven years old mentally and actually still thinks that shit is funny, even as a late teen? This pisses off Michel so much that he starts glowing and stuff. Maybe if he stopped pantsing people he wouldn’t be called Undie. If he doesn’t pants people anymore then I don’t know why he still gives a damn about the stupid rubbish he used to do when he was younger. Just say ‘no, I actually don’t pants people, I’m doing something that makes me proud of myself’ ie, ‘I’m in a band now.’
We enter a battle instance which is voiced for some reason. These protagonists have it lucky. They just have to get a little bit angry to summon their god-like entities of supernatural power. It’s a far cry from shooting yourself in the head or fighting the personification of the most ugly sides of your personality. No, just yell and shit, or just wait for the supernatural power to come to you, don’t rely on that agency crap, that’s for lazy try hards who think they actually have to earn this stuff. Ok, Persona users in 3 were sort of chosen by random chance, but for the most part they could still choose to ignore the Dark Hour if they wanted to, and they couldn’t summon their personas without having to deal with the mentally draining experience of using an evoker. Here it’s only really taxing the first time they summon their personas.
The characters fall unconscious and find themselves in a weird place. A man named Philemon greets them. A lot of fans may not know this, but Philemon is actually still an important character even in the recent games. He’s the blue butterfly seen flying about from time to time, including Persona 4’s save points, and there’s no reason to believe that he isn’t still Igor’s master. He doesn’t really take an active role in those games, but from what I understand, he still represents the ultimate good of the human soul, or at least the part of the soul that chooses to accept oneself. Oh, and hey, he wears an opera mask. Perhaps his presence will be more pronounced in Persona 5?
He tells us that the characters have awoken to the power of Persona, for some reason, and that they’re representations for the various metaphorical masks that people wear in day to day life. This is pretty much what Persona has always represented from the beginning, and it’s just a wonderful concept overall.
Philemon outright tells us that there’s an evil entity out to destroy the world, and that ‘Sumaru is now a netherworld where rumours are reality’ what made him decide to take the hands off approach in later games, eh? You’re not really studying the true nature of human behaviour all that well if you’re hand-holding them this much.
“I summoned you here to tell you this” So basically, he gave us Personas and summoned us in order to tell us ‘It’s dangerous to go alone, take this’.
When they wake up they figure they weren’t dreaming since the three had the same experience, and then Lisa randomly suggests that they play the Joker Game. The rumour was that calling your own cellphone would summon someone named Joker, not the Batman one, who would grant you one wish. If Philemon was telling the truth, then rumours should be coming true. Sounds good to me!
Joker is summoned, but the characters aren’t fast enough to ask Joker for a wish. As such, he turns the unimportant characters into ‘shadow men’ which basically turn them into emotionless husks. Joker’s logic is that their dreams, or their ‘ideals’ wouldn’t be possible to grant since they are powerless. Basically, they don’t have Personas. They don’t have the will to achieve their dreams, and because of this fact, Joker feels it would be kinder to take away their desire to have dreams in the first place. Can’t be sad at your lack of talent if you have no ambition, right? I actually really like this idea, in fact it’s a rather nice reflection on the worldview of the culprit from Persona 4, though I can’t remember Shadowmen being important after this scene. Persona 2’s themes are rather scatter-shot and poorly presented, even if the themes in and of themselves are interesting, they aren’t developed. No point is really made about people in society who choose to give up on their dreams, other than the simplistic ‘it’s better to pursue your dreams anyway’ message implicit in the scenario anyway. Apparently these Shadowmen will be forgotten and will become shadows, but shadows aren’t really a thing in this game. Nope. That would be an interesting and unique idea for an enemy, to literally be fighting against the personifications of crushed dreams which society forgot, or chose to ignore. We’re just going to be fighting demons as usual under the thinnest semblance of context.
Joker attacks us and summons weak demons, but we don’t actually get a combat tutorial, it all happens automatically and Joker beats us down. It would have been nice to do that in gameplay, give us a sense of triumph at having beaten our first enemy, before shoving our helplessness in our faces as Joker crushes us anyway. But no, Joker is just stronger because plot.
Oh no Joker knows that I told Saeko that I wanted Tatsuya to go to college he must be psychic or something noooo…
Joker displays that he has a grudge against the trio but they don’t remember anything, which utterly shocks Joker. This is where the subtitle of the game comes from by the way, ‘Innocent Sin’. We’ve committed some sort of crime against Joker that he cannot forgive, and that’s why he wants revenge against us. Learning what sin we had committed against Joker is supposed to be one of the major hooks of the game, and one of the most major plot twists. Unfortunately, this crucial plot point is really stupid, and doesn’t even match the title of the game. It’s going to be a long time before I’ll be able to go into depth as to why, however.
In any case, Joker wanted to kill us, but since we don’t remember anything, he decides that he’ll let us live until our memories have been recovered. He wants us to understand our sin first, to die with regret rather than bewilderment. Joker leaves an Iris behind before leaving.
Michel starts to feel sad since his friends had been turned into Shadowmen, on top of that, Kozy, who had been standing nearby, has already forgotten them. It’s a pretty scary idea to have all trace of your existence, past, present, and future to be erased. I guess since the main trio have Personas, however, they can still perceive Shadowmen.
Lisa suggests that we call the police on Joker, but of course, there’s no real evidence that Joker exists. I suppose since the police don’t have personas anyway, there wouldn’t really be anything that they can do. Kozy tells us that she’ll try to gather information about Joker, and that the ramen shop sells weapons. This is where the rumours factor into gameplay, but I’ll go into more depth with that system when it becomes relevant.
All right, we’re at the world map at last. I’ll be saving here and ending the current session. Until next time!