All in all, I find myself agreeing with Brads review of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. The game is indeed a breath of fresh air in a genre known more for its predictability than innovation. Yet, while it certainly does bring some unusual elements to the table (in the form of a modern day setting and a battle system that requires far more strategy than the standard role-playing game), it also keeps many of the RPG standards as well. Because of this, Persona 2 is a game that works because it manages to strike a balance between innovation and familiarity.
Brads assessment that the plotline feels like a grand tale joined in the middle is correct. The Megami Tensei series of games is far more popular in Japan than it is here in the United States, and because of that, American gamers have missed out on several chapters in the series (U.S. gamers were treated to Revelations: Persona and Eternal Punishment, but never got the opportunity to play Soul Hackers, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, and several other games). However, you dont really need to have played all the games to get whats going on. In fact, the only game thats really important is Innocent Sin, which is like an alternate version of the story in Eternal Punishment. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Atlus will ever translate Innocent Sin into English or release it here in America.
The gameplay is where the title really excels, by blending your standard menu-driven turn-based combat with several new wrinkles that make the game more strategy-oriented than your standard RPG. While most games in the genre place an onus on fighting and leveling up your characters, Eternal Punishment relies far more on having the right personae equipped than being at a high level or having the newest weapon. That demons can be contacted and battle avoided adds another twist to the formula as well. Brawn doesnt win many battles in this game, and reaching the end successfully will require a great deal of forethought and experimentation.
The fact that most of the games best strategies are only discovered through trial and error can make Eternal Punishment a daunting experience for anyone other than the most dedicated RPG fans. Simply put, this isnt a game for the casual RPG playerlike most of Atlus titles, its quirky, challenging, and designed to appeal primarily to hardcore fans of the genre. This isnt a game that can be breezed through in 20 hours. To complete it successfully is going to require a large time investment. To find all the various secrets can easily have you maxing out the games clock. If youve got an excessive amount of free time on your hands or are looking for a game that cant be beaten during your average rental period, then Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is just the game youre looking for.
The one flaw of the game mentioned in Brads piece deals with the number of random encounters one must endure while playing through the game. While I certainly agree that the sheer number of battles in the game is staggering, I didnt find it bothersome. Eternal Punishment's combat and contact system is so unique that I didnt mind the random encounters or the countless hours spent leveling up each characters persona. How gamers in general will feel about this depends on their own personal preferences. Those of us who love RPGs wont mind, while more casual fans will no doubt be turned off. The game is essentially a throwback to the early days of RPGs where battle was a necessity to survive as opposed to todays more story-driven games that seem to require minimal leveling up in order to advance the plot.
In the end, theres not much else to say about the game that Brad hasnt already covered in detail. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is a difficult game to rate overall, primarily because its something of a niche title. However, gamers looking for an RPG experience that is both deep and involving, as well as innovative in terms of its modern setting will no doubt be pleased with what Persona 2 has to offer. Its a unique game that breathes new life into a genre often known for strictly adhering to clich and formula. Honestly, its one of the most original RPGs Ive ever played, and because of that, it earns a 9.0 from me.
A film critic by trade, specializing in Euro-horror, cult exploitation, and Asian action cinema, Mike has written reviews for a diverse group of print and online publications. He covers horror news, movies, books, and games at TheHorrorGeek.com and Horrorsquad.com and spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture game show, Beat the Geeks.
Mike's childhood was spent playing videogames any time he got a chance. His parents had a Pong console and his grandmother had an Atari 2600, where Mike cultivated his skills by playing hour upon hour of games like Space Invaders, Berserk, and Asteroids. From those early experiences Mike learned one thing: he loved games.
In 1999, Mike became a staff reviewer at Cinescape Magazine's website where he spent a year learning the craft of game criticism. After internal changes led to Mike leaving Cinescape in late 2000, he joined up with RPGFan in 2001 and spent several years writing reviews for them. Happy, but looking for an opportunity to expound on a wider variety of titles, Mike joined GameCritics.com and hopes to help Chi, Dale, and the rest of the GC staff bring a higher level of respect to the field of game criticism.