Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth might actually be the last big Nintendo 3DS game launching durig its lifetime, so it sure should be something special to commemorate its legacy. This game is the best of te Persona series and Etrian Odyssey series combined. The first game was a true masterpiece and with the second the developer hopes to follow the same direction now focussing on the cast of Persona 5.
In Persona Q2 we are entering the movie industry together with the cast of Persona 3, 4 and 5, although the story does center around the heroes of the fifth entry. The characters find a strange theater that is filled to the brim with classic movies we all know from Hollywood. When you enter a movie the game shifts to a dungeon crawler experience where you get to know characters better thanks to the ingame dialogues nad have turn-based combat against the evil entities and bosses that plague the movie.
While the mystery around the changed movies does propel the action forward, the real beating heart of Persona Q2 is the character interactions. Seeing which members from the different casts mesh well is a highlight, as it’s not always who you’d expect – like model Ann and tomboy Chie bonding over their similarities. Atlus put an extensive amount of detail and care into the character interactions, providing little nods for longtime fans, such as jokes about Chie and Yukiko’s bad cooking. I loved spotting the references to past games and seeing how they were inserted into Persona Q2’s world. You don’t need to play the previous games to understand what’s going on, but the familiarity provides some extra smiles for longtime fans.
While in the previous game you got to know all the characters early on and you could use them in your party almost immediately, this is not the case with New Cinema Labyrinth. It takes a long time before you bump into everyone and especially the entire Persona 3 cast take their time to show themselves. It gives players a nice time not to be overwhelmed with characters and it grants you time to give newcomers a place in your current team. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses so you have to look carefully at how you keep the balance in your team. Sometimes you get side missions in which you need to have a certain character with you and sometimes certain characters get “extra motivation” to sit with your team, making them more likely to have critical hits. Perhaps a downside for some is that only your current team will get experience when they are fighting. The people not in the party don’t get any experience, so they might be weak at a later time if you really need them for the story and you have to grind to catch up on the levels.
Just like in the main series of Persona you can also perform an “All Out Attack” by using your opponent’s weaknesses against them, you can also get boosts in your attacks which makes your next attack free. Persona fusions are also present and luckily a bit less horrorrific than with Persona 5. Each character has its own persona that can level up, in addition you can also assign a sub-persona to your characters, which increases your skill set and freedom alot more for your heroes.
Persona Q2 also lets you go deeper into the social aspect of the game thanks to “Special Screening” missions. Here you can get to know your characters better through small but fun and cute missions. During these moments you can also teach your characters special unison attacks so that they can attack together to do some serious damage, making these missions great for both attack skills and the social aspect of the game.
All these extras come in very handy when you have to make your own map with the help of your stylus while you explore dungeons with dead ends, solve puzzles, find treasures and defeat mini-bosses. The way to the final boss in levels is not easy and the A.I. gets smarter and more dangerous as you progress through the game. Enemies mainly focus on team members with low hp or use attacks and spells for which your team is weak. This makes New Cinema Labyrinth a bit more difficult than the normal Persona games, but also a bit more forgiving than the Etrian Odyssey series. No “Game Over” is unfair and even though you might see several while playing. Once you can beat the boss or finally find the right combination to wipe annoying enemies off the map is a very nice moment.
Grinding also returns while searching the dungeons. On the way to a staircase or a checkpoint you will have to return to your base more often because your inventory is full or you urgently need to heal your characters in order not to let them die. Not everyone likes grinding and even if you have smaller missions inbetween you will need to dedicate yourself to it if you want to have a good chance in the later dungeons and bossfights.
You grind in a large number of different dungeons that are based on classic movies with superheroes, dinosaurs or science fiction themes. Elements from Persona 5 also appear in these dungeons. Whether it is dodging searchlights or sneaking past enemies, these are things we know from previous Persona games. Perhaps the environments could have had a little more variety, because even if the themes of the dungeons are all different. The layout and how everything is structured remains all the same. Encountering the same type of decoration in both a superhero theme and a Jurassic theme is not super creatively thought out, but luckily the interactions with characters and battles keep you busy enough not to make it seem boring.
Although Persona Q2 has some minor flaws, it is and remains a great ending for the life of the 3DS. Whether you are a fan of RPGs, dungeon crawlers, a fun story or Persona, this game contains many moments when you empathize with the characters and want to see more of the game. Fans of Persona (Q) can enjoy this game with to the fullest and it is already making us dream what subsequent collaborations with the games can bring about.
Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is a perfect tribute to the Persona series and a wonderful last hurrah for the 3DS. All the more reason to take the handheld out of the closet once more.