The labyrinthine spin-off series Persona Q is back with an all-new dungeon-crawling installment featuring many familiar characters.
For starters, Persona Q2 does not follow the gameplay formula of the mainline Persona games. It's an unapologetic dungeon crawler set in the Persona universe complete with winding mazes, crazy difficult battles, and maps that you draw yourself. If you played the original Persona Q a few years ago, Q2 is much in the same vein and needless to say, if you did not like that then you won't enjoy Q2 either. However, if you developed a fondness for the Etrian Odyssey take on Persona, you'll feel right at home here.
Anyway, Persona Q2's story is focused around the protagonist from the most recent main title, Persona 5. Our hero and his buddies are sucked into a vortex while travelling around Memento inside the cat/car Morgana. After realizing that they've landed in a dungeon map with Personas around them which are less than friendly, they jump into a nearby movie theatre only to find out that their time spent in the dungeon so far was actually being broadcast on its screen. 2 new characters live in the movie theatre (Nagi and Hikari) and after the gang gets acquainted with them, they soon learn that there is no escape unless they can break all of the locks on the door to the theatre. So, they jump into the movie screen and complete dungeon after dungeon to find the keys to their freedom.
The cast of Persona Q2 is massive with a whopping 28 characters to swap in and out of your party as you choose. You start out with just Persona 5 characters but more join your group as you complete dungeons. All of the characters are represented in their chibi form, making even Kanji look cute. The story is mostly centered on the Persona 5 characters and the elements represented in battle also match Persona 5 including newer elements like Nuclear and Psychokinesis. Given that the large cast is matched with such a wide variety of skills and elements to master, I found myself constantly switching my party members which is rare for the average JRPG and much appreciated. As you unlock more characters, you'll find the music change to include more familiar rhythms. However, Atsushi Kitajoh also composed some unique tracks just for Persona Q2.
Additionally, you'll converse with other characters from the Persona universe such as Theodore and Elizabeth who both seem to get into the movie theatre vibe as they dress in popcorn and film reel outfits. As you can tell, the mood of Q2 is more lighthearted than its predecessor which was apparently an intentional change by the creators to lower the horror aspects in favour of a more cheerful setting. The humour in Q2 is just as absurd as you would expect from a Persona title. You'll even fight a dinosaur boss with a blond wig and eyelashes called Tyranniqueen in the Junessic Land (a nod to the department store in Persona 4) and a gym teacher transformed into a giant rabbit holding two carrots for guns. The fun continues when you watch beloved characters from 3 different games interact and learn each other's quirks all over again, including when some of them realise how similar they are to each other.
The dungeons in Q2 are sprawling and take hours to finish with each containing at least a few floors. As you make your way along the map, it's up to you to keep track of where you've been by placing relevant markers. If you're not as hardcore, you can also take advantage of the auto-map feature just like in Persona Q. There are 5 dungeons overall with each containing an interesting collection of hazards, gates, and logic puzzles to get through. I enjoyed how the hazards were always themed appropriately and seemed like they fit into the scenery such as the electric fences and rotating cages in the dinosaur park and the street lights in the city. Apart from environmental features, there are also F.O.Es dotted around the map, much like the predecessor in this spin-off series. These enemies are very tough to beat and require you to pay attention to where you're stepping in order to avoid them until you're ready.
Fighting in Q2 is generally similar to combat in other Persona games in that your main goal is to find out each enemy's weakness and use it against them. Hitting a weakness will knock the enemy over, allowing you to go into boost mode on your next round where you get to use a skill for free. Keep chaining those boosts and you're home free. Given that there are so many possible skills, it can take a few turns to learn every new enemy's vulnerabilities and strengths, sometimes forcing you to take multiple trips back to base to rearrange your party and Personas. I really enjoy this dynamic as it makes me feel like I have to actually work to survive in the dungeon and think critically about my party setup and choice of actions mid-battle. However, those new to the Persona series probably shouldn't start with Persona Q2 as it's known to have a high level of difficulty from the start. Thankfully, there are 5 difficulty settings.
Occasionally, you'll come across golden enemies in the field that take an all-out attack from the whole party in order to defeat. Once you get them, they'll join your party of Personas and become available to fill a sub-Persona spot on any characters roster. The standard system of fusing Personas is of course not missing from Q2 which allows you to combine them into Personas of higher levels and more damaging spells as you increase your character levels to match. As soon as I find or fuse a Jack Frost, I stick with him through a big chunk of any Persona game as he's just that adorable. Anyway, a cool feature of Q2 is the option to use blank cards when sacrificing Personas. If you can find a blank card, you can use it to capture a rare skill from a sacrificed Persona. This is handy when you want to hold onto spells like Poisma or Recarm that can be hard to come by.
After upgrading and fusing your Personas, you can spend time getting items appraised and buying and selling armour, weapons, and accessories. Finding certain items in the field and selling them allows Theodore to create new items so there's definitely an incentive to rummage all of the gathering spots in your travels. Another incentive to find every nook and cranny in a given dungeon floor is that you might trigger a scene that adds a special event ticket to your list. These tickets act as side-quests that expand on the relationships of the characters and have you play portions of dungeons looking for certain enemies or items to ultimately receive a reward.
Fans of the Persona series will delight in this dungeon crawling sequel that features characters from the 3 most recent mainline titles. If you can get past the initial difficulty, you'll happily spend hours in this lighthearted and challenging labyrinth-filled world.
- + Large cast of playable characters and NPCs
- + Unique, silly atmosphere keeps the story and dungeons entertaining
- + Battle system requires skill and planning
- - Normal difficulty is a little high for newbies
- - Nothing much new around collecting and fusing Personas