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Review

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PSP

More than 10 years after its original release, Persona 2: Innocent Sin no longer has the magic it once did.

The teenage years are a tumultuous time for many, but for Tatsuya Suou and the other young stars of Persona 2: Innocent Sin, being a teen is especially challenging. Not only do they have to deal with high school, the first pangs of romantic yearning, and all the other trials and tribulations that go with being a teen; they must also use their shared ability to summon powerful spirits called personas to help them defeat a mysterious evil force. When it was first released in Japan in 1999, Innocent Sin stood out from most role-playing games because of its contemporary setting and atypical cast of teen heroes. Now, the game is finally being released in the US, but alas, its time to shine has passed. By today's standards, the mechanics of this RPG are dull, repetitive, and outdated, and subsequent, superior releases in the Persona series offer more involving tales of modern-day teens faced with tremendous, otherworldly challenges. Today, Persona 2 is a bit like a former high school star quarterback whose best days are behind him.

As Persona 2 begins, strange things are afoot at Seven Sisters High School. The school's emblem has been cursed, and students are suffering from unusual, disfiguring ailments. Meanwhile, a dangerous new trend is spreading: teens are using their cell phones to summon Joker, a mysterious figure who might make your dreams a reality, or sap your soul and leave you a shadow of your former self. And on top of it all, any rumor that spreads to enough people in Sumaru City inexplicably becomes true. The pieces that make up the story's puzzle are interesting--ancient Mayans, aliens, and Adolf Hitler are all involved--but the story doles out new information much too slowly to make you feel invested in the early happenings. The shallow character sketches of somber Tatsuya, intense Michel, lovelorn Lisa, and the other party members aren't enough to make their quest feel personal or involving at first, and it's far too many hours into the game before you start learning more about this unlikely team of heroes. When you do, though, the characters reveal themselves to have fascinating connections, both to each other and to the events in which they're embroiled.

The fact that the game looks its age makes it less involving still. It wasn't a particularly attractive game in 1999, and the intervening years have not been kind. You view the action from an isometric perspective. The tiny characters express themselves with stiff shrugs and robotic shakes of the head. And although the high schools, record stores, aerospace museums, and other locations that serve as the "dungeons" for this RPG are a refreshing change of pace from the fantasy locales of so many games in the genre, these locations have no personality; one bland hallway is very much like another. Every once in a while, animated sequences are used to lend drama to a situation, but these are too infrequent to have much impact. The game fails to generate much tension in even the most desperate situations, such as a race to locate detonators for time bombs placed in various locations around the city.

Tedious, repetitive gameplay makes even inherently suspenseful situations like this one fall flat. As you explore a location, you're interrupted after every several steps by a random encounter with demons. The frequency of these encounters drags down the pace of the game, and the tiresome, menu-driven nature of the combat makes the battles a chore. At the start of an encounter, you can opt either to do battle with the demons or to attempt to communicate with them. Each member of your party has four different ways of making contact with these creatures. Tatsuya can "do impressions" and "discuss manliness," among other things, while Yukki has the abilities to "reason" and to "take photo" in her repertoire. If you say or do the right things, demons give you tarot cards, which you need in order to summon new personas. Initially, it's fun to see how demons respond to your different communication techniques, but it quickly stops being interesting. Once you learn that you can make a cockatrice hand over tarot cards by using Maya's "compliment" ability or that you can please a puck with Lisa's "kung fu" demonstration, the mystery is gone, and successful contact becomes a matter of just selecting an effective technique from the list again and again.

Discussing love with demons might sound fascinating, but Innocent Sin's battle system gets dull fast.

Of course, you don't want to talk your way out of every potential fight; you need to get experience killing things so that you can kill the tougher things you encounter later on. In battle, you can use physical attacks or call on your personas to cast spells that harm your enemies or benefit your party. As you use a persona, it gradually ranks up, giving you access to more spells. And some personas can work together to cast fusion spells, which, in addition to being powerful, are accompanied by attractive character portraits that depict the participating heroes with their hair blowing dramatically in the wind. But, like communicating with demons, battling them is generally a simple, repetitive matter of selecting the same effective options from menus again and again, and because these encounters happen with such frequency, this process quickly becomes a drag. You also have the option of triggering auto-battle, which makes the characters keep repeating your last selected actions until either the battle is over or you interrupt, but this option doesn't speed up the action. You still have to wait for every animation to play out, which is frustrating when you're tired of combat and just want to move on.

When you're not exploring one of the game's many dungeons, you move about the modern-day Japanese metropolis of Sumaru City on a map. Here, one of your most important occupations is gathering rumors from homeless people, fortune-tellers, and other rumormongers and employing the services of a detective agency to spread them, making them come true. But these aren't exciting rumors about buried treasure or even juicy high school gossip about who's dating whom; these are rumors about shops selling weapons and armor. You might get a hot tip that one shop sells poor weapons for cheap, for instance, or that another has high-quality armor, but the prices are high. Collecting and spreading these rumors is a dull process, and it's one you need to engage in repeatedly to have equipment that suits your party's level.

Cool story, bro.

The PSP version introduces a movie theater you can visit to play two new side quests, so those who imported the original PlayStation release will find some new content here. But Innocent Sin wasn't hurting for content to begin with. The main story lasts a few dozen hours on its own, and there's no shortage of side quests you can complete that offer significant rewards for your party. But despite its length, the $40 price for a 10-year-old game whose visuals and mechanics make it a relic of a bygone era is much too steep. Diehard fans of the Persona series who are eager to experience every chapter in the saga might find that their enthusiasm enables them to overlook Innocent Sin's dated design, but those who are just in the market for a fun and satisfying RPG are much better off going with one of the more recent entries in the series. Though we might sometimes yearn to turn back the clock, we can't relive our teenage years, and we can't go back to 1999, when Persona 2: Innocent Sin was an exciting example of what an RPG could be.

The Good
Story and characters eventually develop into something interesting
A lengthy adventure with plenty of side quests
The Bad
Extremely frequent random encounters hurt the pacing
Story takes too long to pick up
Bland, outdated visual design
Combat mechanics are dull and repetitive
5
Mediocre
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14 comments
Anime_Fan1986
Anime_Fan1986

I disagree with this review. I fell in love with this game the moment I popped it into my psp. This game is pure magic. I think the 5.0 is way too low for a matter of opinion, I think the gameplay should be broken or glitchy  for a rating that low.

matastig
matastig

Sorry Caro, but i kinda disagree with you on this one, this is a 5th Gen RPG , means lost of grinding (the frequent random encounters thingy you referred to ) plus they polished the graphics a bit (which is a good for a PSX port) this is not a 'full' remade , although they did great job with the menu designs,and sounds.

BoldoAsesino
BoldoAsesino

This review (like the Shadowman one, the review of SMT: Persona for PSP and the review of The Dig --among others--) that we should really pay more attention and give more credit to the reviews written by the users, who are the real gamers here. At least, the users have plenty of time to play and evaluate a game, and they are not pressed/biased by corporative pressures.

Crok425
Crok425

So... FFIV: The Complete Collection gets an 8.0 because of it's classic looks and this gets a 5.0 because of the same thing...

Are you kidding me? You really suck at this.

BarnacleSamurai
BarnacleSamurai

oh. you rated it 5 because it's "dated". you're one of THOSE.

gix47
gix47

was like a 5! and then i saw who did the review..sigh

finally got around to picking this up and love  it,very good game and great for the PSP

dom28
dom28

@shindark lol the original ps1 version of innocent sin was WAY better than Eternal Punishment are you kidding me lmao?

shindark
shindark

Eternal punishment was far better than this (obviously), but innocent sin does not deverve a so low score. Still a good RPG for hardcore fans though the time on his shoulders weight heavily on him.

racerxgundam
racerxgundam

I have been a faithful reader to Gamespot and i will continue to do so...but i have to completely disagree with this score. Easily a 9.5-10 to anyone who enjoys old fashioned J-rpg's with the trappings of a demon element that resembles an adult take on Pokemon. Its scores like this one that make me think that gamespot should incorporate scoring from the staff and a quick descriptions of strengths and weaknesses along with the main review. MAJOR credit should be giving to Atlus for not only releasing this product but the little extras that they tossed to the fans. My only real criticism of the game is that its a tad on the easy side, some of the dungeons are too large for their own good, and the rumor system is a bit unnecessary. The battle system/demon creation and plot are definitely some of the best in the genre. Atlus please make a remake for Eternal Punishment!!!!!

CapitaoNinja
CapitaoNinja

Oh man, you only pointed at the dulls of the game. And not why it was one of the best of its time. The ambientation, artistic design, plot, music and overall style is still pretty unique. Is like venturing in a dark and misterious alternative reality.

Bhemont
Bhemont

@Anime_Fan1986 Maybe you are right, but she said it cost 40$? 


That's... uhm, interesting. 

wumpscutnut
wumpscutnut

 @Crok425 What do you expect from a guy who can't figure out what sex he is? Sorry, I usually don't go that low but this DUDE is a f'ing joke. His reviews never make sense.

Crok425
Crok425

 @wumpscutnut That is going low. The sex of this person is irrelevant to the discussion. It's like saying ''Why did you jump?'' and the other persona answers ''Why did you say 'hi' the other day?''. Try to stay in the discussion instead and not bring an irrelevant matter.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin More Info

  • First Released
    • PSP
    Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin brings fans a different side of the Persona 2 arc with a dark adventure about high school students who find their reality being twisted by rumors.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 100 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 - Innocent Sin
    Developed by:
    ITL
    Published by:
    ATLUS, Ghostlight
    Genres:
    Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Drug Reference, Language, Mild Blood, Sexual Themes, Simulated Gambling, Violence