The Persona series is no stranger to spin-off games. Since the successful release of Persona 5, we got two rhythm games and a promise of a musou-style hack-and-slash. Beyond those, Atlus released a first-person dungeon crawler on the Nintendo 3DS called Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. As of the time of writing, it’s only available in Japan. Fortunately, the game will release worldwide on June 4, and it should absolutely be on your radar if you liked Persona 5.
Persona Q2, as you might have guessed, is a sequel. The original Persona Q blended the gameplay of Etrian Odyssey — another Atlus JRPG — with the world of Persona, and this sequel is no different. In Q2, you navigate dangerous dungeons with a party of five, all while drawing a map on the touch screen. A mysterious movie theater acts as your home base and prison, and each dungeon is a film that the characters jump into. Completing each film seems like the key to escaping the theater. All your JRPG staples are here: random encounters, turn-based combat, and debilitating status effects.
However, Persona always puts a twist on turn-based combat. In Q2, hitting an enemy weakness grants characters a Boost. This gives them turn priority next round, and all skills are free to use. Boost leads to many interesting choices; for example, after getting your foot in the door with a weaker spell, you can go all out with a massive attack while saving some mana. Alternatively, you can spam that weaker spell, maintaining a chain of free attacks. The combat even borrows the Baton Pass mechanic from Persona 5, but in this case, you can transfer Boosts between party members.
Fair warning, though: Persona Q2 will not go easy on you. When you first step into a labyrinth, your party will likely be worn out after just a handful of fights. Even a basic enemy can take out more than half a health bar on normal difficulty. The high risk encourages strategic spell usage, and you want to be sure to hit every opponent’s weakness. If you down everyone in one turn, you can trigger an All-Out Attack, much like the mainline Persona games. Even with the chibi character designs and poorer 3DS graphics, the All-Out Attack looks as stylish as ever.
To give players more options, the Wild Card power has been expanded. Instead of the protagonist freely changing his persona, everyone now gets access to two personas at all times. For example, Ryuji from Persona 5 will always have his main persona, Captain Kidd, but he can freely switch out his sub-persona outside of battle. This opens up a lot of doors, essentially meaning that every character can equip up to 12 passive or active skills. The level of customization lets you build whatever party you want to. If you play your cards right, you’ll almost always have your bases covered.
On the other hand, Persona Q2 can overwhelm you with options. You start the game with access to almost all the Phantom Thieves from the fifth game. By the time you gather all of them, that’s eight fighters to juggle in a five-person party while Futaba navigates. In the second dungeon, you’ll run into the Persona 4 crew, which nearly doubles your numbers. Oh, and the protagonist from Persona 3 Portable joins the fray, too. On top of that, now you have two navigators to manage, who provide different passive bonuses depending on how you use them. Sidelined characters don’t reap any experience points, either, which makes swapping out party members a real chore. Managing the equipment, sub-personas, and experience points for eighteen characters sounds like a daunting task. No one would blame you for wanting to stick to your five favorites.
Realistically, though, if you’re considering playing Persona Q2, the characters should be a large part of the reason. The previous Q title brought together the casts of 3 and 4 in a fan-service-filled adventure. Q2 ups the ante by throwing in the crew from 5. You can’t get through a single floor of any dungeon without some cutesy cutscene fulfilling many people’s fanfiction dreams. How would Kanji react to Morgana? Would Ann and Rise get along? How many times will Teddy hit on the girls from Persona 5? All those questions and more are answered as you delve deeper into the labyrinths.
Persona Q2 was built from the ground up for the Persona faithful. If you aren’t a fan, this game won’t change your mind. No one really explains the power of persona, and a lot of the humor relies on the player remembering jokes from previous games. For the most part, if you enjoyed what Persona 5 offered, this dungeon crawler is worth a shot. Most of the story so far is told from the perspective of the Phantom Thieves, so knowing the older characters isn’t as crucial. However, if you’ve beaten every mainline game since 3, you owe it to yourself to keep an eye on Persona Q2.
TechRaptor previewed Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth on Nintendo 3DS with a copy provided by the publisher.