Thursday, November 27, 2008

Shin Megami Tensei - Persona 2 & Nocturne


A couple weeks ago, Atlus sent out an email stating that they were repressing copies of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2 for the PS1 in 'ultra-limited quantities' for sale on and only. Needless to say, as soon as I got the email, I went and bought one from Amazon without thinking twice.

After checking out, I thought about it - how cool is this? For a company to reprint a two-generation old game is pretty awesome, even if most people think they did it to capitalize on their rabid fanboys needing a sealed copy of the game. Personally, I applaud any company that knows how valuable their old properties are and tries to make their fanbase happy.

When the game arrived, I was home sick and got a chance to play it, although, I have only put about three hours into it total. Even with such limited playtime, I can honestly say the the game is fantastic.


The Persona system seems pretty much the same as Persona 3 and the battle command system is streamlined and simple to use, if only a bit boring as you set your battle commands and just watch your party do their thing, round after round until they all die or win. Honestly, I like it. It's simple and fun, requiring little in the way of micro-management, but its there if you need it.


But the real draw for me at the moment is a mix of its tremendous story and fantastic characters and the world where the game is set. It's set during the present day, incorporating a heady mix of surrealism with it's rumor system, where you spread rumors and they can become true(!), evidenced early on in a resturant where an npc makes a phone call declaring that the resturant you are in is selling firearms (when, at that moment, they aren't) and a cut-scene later, a waiter has a silver case open in front of you, letting you know they have anything you need. Now that's cool.

I look forward to getting some time in on this in the comming weeks, but as Persona 4 hits shelves next week, I have a feeling I may be waiting until after the new year to get into this one fully.


The game I did put a bunch of time into while I was confined to quarters, was Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, a PS2 offering that had a reprint last year and I bought it, but never played it under the deluge of other titles I have been playing.

I dove into it and put about 30 hours into it in three days, trudging through the tough parts, committing fully to it and after 32 hours, I'm giving up.

It's not a bad title by any means, but one that requires you to A) be very into collecting and B) like to have your a** handed to you by every boss you encounter, multiple times before you have any idea how to defeat them.

The collect-a-thon element comes from gaining monsters for your party, which have certain attacks, strenghts and weaknesses and when fused together correctly, can be a reall asset to your party when it comes to boss battles. Unfortuntely, you have no idea what you need until you fight each boss.

Each boss requires a very strict strategy of buffs, debuffs and attack methods, which can be fun to figure out early on, but later, bosses will pretty much one-shot your party if you aren't sure which strategy to employ. Very frusterating, especially when you are sick and cranky.

Then the collecting comes in big time, as you need to find a bunch of monsters and convince them to join you, which can take a good amount of time, and then dive into the fusing system, trying out different combinations to find those which work best for your current strategy. Like Persona 3, you will have a few keepers in your party that have a fair variety of spells, but you need to adopt new menbers constantly, collecting them often, which kind of takes you out of the experience and can be a very boring trudgefest, fusing them, leveling them up and trying them out on the bosses before you have a good idea if they will work.

For all the headaches that the boss battles gave me, the game does have some standout points, like the characters and storyline, which are both well-thoughtout and exectued. The game takes place during the modern day, after the end of the world (the 'conception' as its referred to in-game) and in Tokyo. It's the desolate, sparse overworld and matching dungeon setting that really makes the atmosphere of this game startling. It's very mature and serious, even if almost all the characters are teenagers.

The gameplay is very similar to other SMT titles, though instead of recruiting other humans into your party, you recruit other monsters that you usually fight. This is a fun sort of minigame that you can indulge in in each and every battle in the game, except for boss battles. Instead of fighting, you can talk to the monsters and proceed through a conversation tree, giving them items and money to influence them and answering questions from them to convince them they should join you. It's a fun change of pace from typical rpg character involvement. It does get a bit tedious as you can fuse them together like in the Persona titles, but there is a lot of trial and error. Since you usually pay them in part to join your party, it can get expensive as well, especailly if they refuse to join you after you have given them a bunch of cash.

For all the difficult elements there are, and there are a number of them, the game is a solid jrpg, but not enough so to draw my attention away from the other SMT titles I am be playing, namely Persona 2 and next week, Persona 4.

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