You remind me of the game, what game? The game with the Persona!
Full disclosure, I went into this review having never touched a Persona game in my life, but having always been interested in the series, I also had my attention piqued by Joker’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Most importantly I think a lot of Nintendo fans will currently be in the same boat, as the Persona series has only flirted with Nintendo hardware despite it’s origins in the Etrian Odyssey series. With Persona Q releasing years ago on 3DS before the monster success of Persona 5 or Joker’s smashing reveal. Switch & 3DS owners are suddenly invested in these characters and looking forward to Persona 5 Scramble (and waiting patiently for any chance of the regular Persona 5 on Switch), but with such a long series is this where you should start?
So what is Persona Q2? Well it’s a spin-off Persona title with the RPG mechanics of Etrian Odyssey, but featuring the main characters of the last 3 mainline Persona games, with all of them forced to explore labyrinths based on worlds from different fictional films. Yup, it’s typical preposterous JRPG fair but this crazy premise really allows them to throw so much weirdness at the game and allows for the stylish art style and loud character design to really shine.
First of all, even if you have no prior knowledge of this series New Cinema Labyrinth is an absolutely gorgeous 3DS game. The cute character style is cool and expressive, and adds a certain fun to the personality of everyone. Meanwhile the animation is so slick, with every move from your party having a corresponding over the top movement from the party member. These often drag in your Persona as well, a collection of weird and wonderful monsters you find as you explore and defeat enemies, and can be leveled up with your party to give you access to new moves of varying types.
These Personas became fun to find and train, even if they are just images on a selection screen that never truly come to life in this title. When you have enough of a collection though, you can start to fuse your Personas to create more powerful ones, allowing you to use multiples you collect whilst grinding, as well as rewarding you for experimenting.
Watching your Persona level up, only to reward you with a new attack in your arsenal is satisfying and addictive, and encourages you to match the right Persona with the party member as each has their own elemental weaknesses and advantages.These become essential to master in battles, while each enemy has their own weakness you must uncover by trying different types of attacks, enemies are not afraid to take advantage of your character’s elemental weaknesses. Fights in Persona Q2 are fairly engrossing, with the wild enemy designs being a constant source of bemusement and delight. With lots of strange religious inspirations, similar to the angels and demons of Bayonetta, but often mixed with everyday objects like teddy bears or tables. I found myself fascinated by the weird and wonderful beasts on display, and it made exploring all the more enjoyable.
Labyrinth is the name, and most certainly is the game. To progress you’ll have to move through movie based mazes to uncover the map, with the bottom screen letting you fill in the gaps with the touch of the stylus. This felt gimmicky to me at first, but I quickly started to enjoy filling in shortcuts and switches to make my next trip through a bit easier. Most of the mazes take a few sittings, as you’ll have to start using shortcuts to avoid obstacles, or push switches to avoid spotlights and outmaneuver giant enemies called FOEs as they stomp around the place. These hulking behemoths make exploring a little bit more engaging (and terrifying) while they also serve to give a great sense of growth when you later come back to earlier levels only to kick the ass of the giant chicken man who so terrified you earlier. It’s a satisfying Metroidvania flavoured gameplay loop of finding shortcuts to make future attempts quicker, whilst also coming back to clean up previously intimidating enemies.
While the title doesn’t support 3D, the 3DS is being pushed graphically in other ways to build the constantly interesting world full of flashing neon lights, as well as all the many different 3D models of beasts along with the animated party members you send to face them.Honestly everything looks absolutely fantastic, it just drips style and creativity throughout, with the later worlds (which I don’t want to spoil) all bringing a new and wild twist along with them, new enemies and insane bosses to beat, as well as a steady drip feed of Persona characters so you can swap previous members out and add to your party of five. Every single song is great as well, fitting perfectly as representations of the different games and the worlds you’ll find.
Persona Q2 is an incredible swan song for my dusty 3DS, a slick and clever JRPG with a wealth of content and style to spare. It felt so fun once I embraced the crazy different worlds and settings, and I am so invested in seeing these characters I may have to go buy some more games… Deep mechanics coupled with interesting characters, crazy enemies and a wild variety of settings make this a hugely entertaining ride. There’s so much charm, humour and ingenuity from the adorable cast to the wealth of strange monsters you can interact with. This world feels vibrant and alive, and it constantly gives you something else new to discover. I’m so impressed in the quality of the game from top to bottom, even as a newcomer to this series, I can only imagine this game is basically a dream come true for fans.