Persona 2: Innocent Sin review
For some, Japanese RPGs are a delicious elixir – to others they’re harder to get into than a pair of size-four jeggings. Whether you end up adoring or despising Persona 2, you’ll have made up your mind long before you visit a local private detective agency and hire them to spread a rumour that the local ramen restaurant sells weapons on the side, which makes the rumour come true so you can buy weapons to stop the ‘joker’ who’s been making the rumours come true in the first place. (Phew.)
It’s that kind of convoluted and unmistakably Japanese gameplay that makes Persona 2 such a polarising experience. Broken down, it’s basically The Legend Of Zelda plus Pokémon, with some weapons-grade weirdness drizzled on the top. A level of weirdness that forces you to keep playing, because you have no idea what it’ll throw at you next – a genuine rarity in modern gaming.
Starting out as a humble schoolboy with a knackered motorbike and a few bullies for company, Persona 2 grounds you firmly in reality. Initially it’s a world of nagging teachers and cheerleader girlfriends, but 15 minutes in, the plot spirals blissfully out of control, chucking wish-granting demons, Adolf Hitler cameos and inner-monster battles at you.
Those monsters are the titular ‘personas’, a kind of internal Pokémon that you summon. They grow stronger throughout the game, as you awaken deep spiritual powers in the dark recesses of your mind. Or something. The upshot is that you use it to engage in Final Fantasy-esque turn-based battles. The regularity of random combat encounters is one of the game’s chief irritations though, and if you’re unfamiliar with the old-school RPG design, that’s even more of a pain.
Persona 2 isn’t for everyone. The esoteric style and ageing looks will see off many a curious gamer, but persevere through the niggles and you’ll uncover a stylish, incredibly written, charismatic experience.