The Persona series is an interesting one, everyone talks about Persona 3 and 4, but nobody talks about the previous games, sort of like they don’t exist. The reason is probably because they’re radically different games from their predecessors, and even Persona 2 is different from Persona 1. There are no social links, and you don’t get to play high school student. The only similarities would be the basic setting of taking place in modern Japan, summoning Personas, and the velvet room (though that’s also different). So if you had any preconcieved notion about the series based on Persona 3 and 4, you should pretty much throw all of that out the window when going into Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
Released by Atlus in 2000 on the original Playstation, it is the second in the Persona 2 duology, and overall third game in the Persona subseries of the Shin Megami Tensei series. Persona 2: Innocent Sin was the first game in the duology, but the original PS1 version never made it outside of Japan for unknown reasons, but we did get the sequel. Eternal Punishment takes place directly after Innocent Sin, but in an alternate reality where the events of the previous game didn’t happen and their memories are wiped out. So you don’t have to actually play Innocent Sin to jump into Eternal Punishment, there are instances where it wouldn’t hurt having played it first to explain some aspects of the story better.
You play as a girl named Maya Amano who is a writer for teen magazine Coolest, and your job is to go to gather information on a phenomenon known as the Joker, where calling yourself on your phone and naming a person will summon the Joker to have that person killed. Your latest assignment on the case brings you to Seven Sister’s High School, and your best friend/roommate, Ulala Serizawa, decides to tag along. While at the school, the two of you witness the principal’s corpse and you call the police and meet detective Katsuya Suou, and the three of you run into the Joker in person. After a series of events, the three of you gain the ability to summon Personas and discover there are demons hidden in your world, and with your newfound abilities, you go off in search of the Joker to put an end to his evil deeds.
Unlike most RPG’s from Square and Enix (back when they were separate companies), Eternal Punishment isn’t consisted of sprites moving around on pre-rendered backgrounds. The game instead uses top down 3D environments with a rotatable camera, and your characters are sprites instead of polygons. The game does follow typical RPG standards with modern weapons and armor, your normal attacks are fairly weak, and your main focus in battle is to summon various personas. If you’ve played Persona 3 or 4, this aspect is still fairly similar, except your entire party can switch between various personas instead of just the protagonist.
Battles are triggered through random encounter, and battles are turn based, but in two modes: Normal and Single. Normal mode has you put in actions at the beginning of battle, and the fighting will continue automatically until you hit the cancel button. Single is like any other turn based where after each character has made their move, you will then have to select the next moves. Another aspect of the battle is fusion spells. If you have the requirements for the correct spells, then you can use a fusion spell where multiple characters merge their attacks into a super attack.
Biggest difference is that when a battle starts, you have a choice between two actions: attacking, or contacting. Attacking goes straight into battle, which is already detailed above, but contact is how you increase your Persona collection. Contact is where you select one or many characters to talk to a demon in battle, and if you make it happy or interested 3 times, it will give you tarot cards. These tarot cards are based off of the various tarot arcana, and each demon will give you only one type of arcana card. Once you collect enough of one arcana, you can bring it to the Velvet Room and they will summon a Persona for you. This can be a bit tedious at times, but if you’re a hardcore RPG fanatic, you’ll probably enjoy card grinding to get the best Personas you can find.
Another large aspect of the gameplay is the rumor system. You go around talking to rumor mongers, and if you bring them to a certain agency, they will spread the rumor and it will become true. With this, you can turn certain places into weapons stores, or open up areas to explore.
The game does feature voice acting, but only in very important scenes, or just during battle. The quality can be a bit questionable at times, and even some of the lines are kind of odd.
While the graphics aren’t as impressive as other late PS1 games like Final Fantasy IX, they do get the job done. The character sprites are large enough to distinguish individuality between the characters. Similar to Persona 3 and 4, during the dialog, they show the faces of the speaking character and the graphic changes upon the emotion they’re depicting. There are a decent variety of environments to go through, while the majority of the game takes place in the city and the dungeons are mostly inside buildings, they do throw in the occasional forest or park to wade through, and they also have variety within the buildings to prevent a feeling of the game getting stale after awhile.
While the soundtrack is fairly well done and there doesn’t seem to be any music out of place, there aren’t any memorable tracks. So while not a terrible soundtrack, you won’t see anyone jumping out to buy the OST albums, so it at least gets the job done. Some of the music does seem to have an eerie atmosphere, which fits into the overall dark theme of the game, especially since it focuses a lot on death.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is a solid game, and is pretty large. While the demon contacting and tarot card collecting might be too tedious for a casual RPG fan, this will probably attract hardcore RPG fans who love getting the most out of the battle system. If you’re looking for a classic RPG and want a different setting than the typical fantasy styles, or are just looking for an overall dark RPG, then Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is worth looking into.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.