Editor's Note: This feature was first published at the end of 2018 in anticipation of an announcement for a Western release. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has just been confirmed to launch on June 4, 2019 in North America and Europe.
There are few things I love more than the Persona franchise. Each of the separate stories from Persona 3, 4, 5, and the spin-offs in between have brought me boundless joy, lessons learned, and unbreakable bonds with their respective cast of characters. However, I often see each game as its own contained world, as they all portray their own captivating struggles and triumphs. And I just as often wonder what it would be like if these characters met somehow, which is why I hold Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth so dear. It retained the unique aspects that made 3 and 4 special and proved that it's far from a game simply thrown together for the sake of fan service.
Naturally, I wondered the possibilities with Persona 5's flamboyant Phantom Thieves, and how they could fit into the already-endearing crossover mix. Well, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth makes that dream come true. Its premise revolves around each crew getting stuck in a supernatural movie theater, which lends itself so well to the idea of three separate worlds colliding in a light-hearted, yet consequential fight for liberation of friends, both new and old.
As with any entry in the Persona franchise, mainline or spin-off, music plays such an immense role in creating a specific vibe. It's the most important part of creating lasting memories of these games, and from what I've heard already, Q2 hits just as hard as everything else in this series.
Persona Q2 uses the familiar tried-and-true dungeon crawling mechanics from the Etrian Odyssey series, incorporating its non-traditional turn-based combat and challenging fights into the eccentric JRPG. You have to think differently about the sequence of turns and who's able to perform what in relation to enemy agility and movesets, since turns don't play out until all actions have been decided. And of course, the intricate system of persona fusion and party composition were factored in seamlessly in the first Persona Q game, emphasizing the strategic aspect of the original RPGs. With Q2, I'm hoping for another deft execution of that formula featuring tough fights that encourage devising clever sequences of actions each turn whether it be endurance-testing boss battles or normal encounters during exploration.
Persona Q2's biggest challenge is in how it balances this monstrous list of charming personalities and dedicating enough time and opportunity to let them have their moments. The Phantom Thieves are the focus in Q2, but if the first Q game is any indication, I'd trust Atlus to devise ways to let everyone shine and remind me of why I loved them in the first place. The fact that the cheery, yet sassy female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable is being brought into the same timeline tells me that they're pulling out all the stops to celebrate the past three games.
It's an ambitious crossover that unites my favorite games, characters, and soundtracks in one place. It's as if I had different groups of dearly beloved friends somehow meet each other, get along, and band together in a stylish fight for what's right.
As with any entry in the Persona franchise, mainline or spin-off, music plays such an immense role in creating a specific vibe. It's the most important part of creating lasting memories of these games, and from what I've heard already, Q2 hits just as hard as everything else in this series. It's evident in the groovy new opening track "Road Less Taken" and the Persona 3 Portable-themed battle song "Pull The Trigger" that already has me hooked. There are plenty of remixes of familiar tunes, but when they're paired with interactions between characters from other games, it brings a sense of cohesion that emphasizes the idea that they're all in it together. I'm always quick to attribute these wonderful soundtracks to series composer Shoji Meguro, but hearing the voices from the lead artists from each original game (Yumi Kawamura, Shihoko Hirata, Lyn Inaizumi, Lotus Juice, and Mayumi Fujita) belting out their unique styles in brand new swing-inspired jazz-rock tracks hits me right in my feelings.
Persona Q2 is already out in Japan and it's been tough not to peruse through the footage that's already out there. Everyone is here. It's an ambitious crossover that unites my favorite games, characters, and soundtracks in one place. It's as if I had different groups of dearly beloved friends somehow meet each other, get along, and band together in a stylish fight for what's right. This might be the 3DS's swan song, and it'd be a hell of way for the storied handheld to end its tenure when it comes to the West on June 4, 2019.