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Persona Q2 (3DS) - the Phantom Thieves go to the movies

Persona Q2 (3DS) – the Phantom Thieves go to the movies

One of the last ever big name 3DS games is released in the UK and gives the spotlight to Super Smash Bros. guest fighter Joker.

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Persona Q2 is going to go down in history for one of two reasons: either as the last high-profile release on the 3DS or the one time that Joker from Persona 5 appeared in a non-Smash Bros. game on a Nintendo platform. Whether this is the last big 3DS game is unclear; there have been a few candidates recently and though this does seem like the final one you can never be sure. Atlus strange resistance to bringing Persona 5 to Switch does make it seem like this will be Jokers only real outing on Nintendo hardware though, even if he and the gang dont seem quite themselves.

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The Persona Q games are crossovers between the Persona series (obviously) and Etrian Odyssey (not so obviously). Everyone seems to like Persona nowadays, which is perfectly understandable, but Etrian Odyssey also happens to be one of our favourite Japanese role-players – even if its a while now since the series reached its zenith with Etrian Odyssey IV.

Although theyre nominally part of the same genre Persona and Etrian Odyssey work at completely different ends of the Japanese role-playing spectrum. Etrian Odyssey has almost not story and no pre-set characters, while Persona is focused in entirely the opposite direction. But its that chalk and cheese mixture that makes Persona Q so interesting, with neither franchise getting in the way of the others primary appeal.

Since its more famous, and is in charge of all the plot, Persona naturally takes centre stage here, with Persona Q2 focusing on the characters from Persona 5 but also including those from Persona 3 and 4. Each Persona sequel has a different plot and cast of characters, although theyre invariably all high school kids experiencing their own coming of age melodramas as they protect the world from supernatural menace.

Since the story happens independent of any of the existing games you dont need to have played them to understand whats happening, although you will lose the excitement of seeing favourite characters return and interact with others from throughout the series history. But either way, the plot of Persona Q2 revolves around everyone being dumped in a mysterious cinema, whose screen allows them to journey into various movies and battle with the often-familiar entities you find within.

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This is where the Etrian Odyssey angle comes in, as the film worlds are made up of maze-like dungeons viewed from a first person perspective but navigated using grid-based movement like old school role-players such as Dungeon Master. Etrian Odysseys biggest gimmick has always been that you have to draw your own map on the touchscreen and thats still the case here – although you can allow the 3DS to do most of the work for you if youre not interested.

The battle system is a halfway house between the two games, which is an easy compromise as theyre both turn-based systems with a common ancestor in Dragon Quest. Your party members are arranged in two rows, just like Etrian Odyssey, but youre also able to use personas for magic attacks and other special abilities. Personas are a sort of guardian angel personifying each characters inner self, although in Persona Q2 you also have access to a second interchangeable one that works in the same manner as parent series Shin Megami Tenseis demons – including the ability to combine them to create new creatures.

Persona Q2 (3DS) - the dungeon crawling is more Etrian Odyssey than Persona

Persona Q2 (3DS) – the dungeon crawling is more Etrian Odyssey than Persona

The problem with any sort of crossover is that its always a compromise, with both sources having to be simplified in order to work together. That was certainly true of the first Persona Q, where the characters were reduced to one-dimensional caricatures. Persona Q2 does only a little better in this regard (although it doesnt really affect Joker because he was always the player character) but does present a more coherent storyline, and while its still more simplistic than the main games there is some of the same style of social commentary and philosophising.

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In the opening superhero movie, for example, the Superman like protagonist is really just a fascist dictator, as well as being a familiar face from Persona 5. When it comes to Etrian Odyssey, the maze layouts are simpler than the dedicated games and theres no skill tree to unlock for your characters. The first Persona Q compensated for this loss by having surprisingly complex and varied puzzles, but one of the major disappointments of this sequel is that theyve been dumbed down considerably.

Everything has been made easier in fact, with the exception of some nasty difficult spikes that force you to go back and level grind ordinary enemies. The biggest problem though is that the compromises have forced both franchises to drop their most interesting elements, so not only are there no skill trees but theres also no overworld from Etrian Odyssey and no social links to create from Persona.

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