Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth Review – A Cinematic Finale for the 3DS

    Title: Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
    Developer: P-Studio
    Release Date: June 4, 2019
    Reviewed On: 3DS
    Publisher: Atlus
    Genre: Dungeon Crawling RPG

Not long ago, we released a little preview piece for Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth for the Nintendo 3DS. At the end of the piece, I said I wanted to return to the game and keep playing. Well, that’s exactly what I did. With no other major 3DS titles on the horizon, I think it looks like we’ve got the 3DS’ swan song on our hands.

Persona Q2 was developed by the team behind the Etrian Odyssey games, which explains the 3DS release. This development team is known for its unique dungeon crawlers with recognizable gameplay systems for both battles and exploration. The game utilizes the system’s top screen for gameplay, such as for fights and exploration. This leaves the lower screen for dedicated mapmaking. This staple setup allows players to mark down doors, chests, corridors, shortcuts, and all sorts of other gimmicks within the dungeons. Persona Q2 is a thematic crossover between the Persona and Etrian Odyssey series and uses this system while slapping a nice coat of Persona 5 themed paint on it.

Persona Q2 functions as a Persona crossover featuring the casts of the last main three titles, Persona 3 through Persona 5. You begin with the cast of Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves. On a routine mission to steal a particular target’s heart. However, this mission leads them to be sucked through a bizarre cinema screen finding themselves locked within a mysterious theater with two of their members missing. Also within the cinema are other trapped residents, Nagi, the cinema’s curator, Hikari, an extremely reclusive girl, and a mysterious entity nicknamed Doe.

They bring the Thieves attention to their two missing members who seem to be trapped within one of the movies which also seems to hold the key to their escape. The movies make up the titular New Cinema Labyrinths and hold films that are morally questionable Aesops, such as revolving around an individuality who is evil or a pro-dictator. The cast will need to enter these labyrinths and change the outcome of the films so they send a better message. Along the way, they’ll rescue their friends and encounter new allies from other Persona titles who have also ended up lost in the labyrinths including Persona 3 Portable’s highly requested female protagonist.

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For those who are wondering whether or not you’ll need to have played the first game, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth before this one, the answer is a resounding no. This game is not only standalone, but not a single thing that occurs in Shadow of the Labyrinth is acknowledged throughout the game so you won’t even be missing a continuity nod. However, being able to play as its character’s Zen and Rei would have been something I would have enjoyed immensely, even as paid DLC characters who don’t affect the story.

The gameplay is also a massive step up from the first title, so you can say goodbye to the ludicrously frustrating dungeons from that and welcome Q2’s dungeons with open arms as they are much more in the vein of the Etrian Odysseys simplistic and exploration based dungeon designs. As opposed to the more trauma inducing puzzles the original had. Inaba Pride still gives me flashbacks…..

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During gameplay, players assemble their team of five Persona characters along with a navigator and then outfit them with the titular Personas, to kick ass as you explore the labyrinths. Each character has their own unique Persona and skills, which really help them stand out in the 28-head cast. What was limited to a couple of standard preset skills is now a full set of unique and shared abilities. For example, the Persona 5 protagonist quickly learns a skill named, Rebel’s Vanguard, to fit his rebel theming and Goro Akechi, the second coming of the detective prince, has access to Sleuth’s Insight.

Thanks to the way the Sub-Persona system is utilized, allowing you to give any character nearly any skill, you are able to complete the game with any team you so desire. It’s a lot of fun to see these characters interact with each other throughout the story, with nearly all of them being pretty true to their original characterizations from their respective games. Special mention goes to Goro Akechi and the Persona 3 Female Protagonist because the extra characterization they get is just so wholesome.

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The battles themselves are turn-based and are played out in the first person to match the labyrinth exploration. The UI is extremely streamlined, taking major cues from Persona 5’s fantastic battle menus with a clear cinema inspired coat of paint thrown over. As this is an Atlus title, you’ll need to use every kind of tool available to get the biggest edge on your opponent. On top of Status ailments, buffs, debuffs, binds everything is fair game in order to win. However, the best way to get that edge is to exploit weaknesses.

When one of your team members strikes the enemies weak-point it’ll knock them down and apply the boost status to your character. Knocking down all your enemies will give you the chance for a powerful all-out attack, and finishing the battle with one will give you a neat graphic with your cast and increase your XP gain by 20%. Boost status reduces the next move the character uses to 0 costs, and increases move priority.

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You’ll have to play smart with that though since taking hits while in boost status will remove it. On top of that, obtaining boost status improves your chances of triggering a unison attack, fun team attacks that deal out solid amounts of extra damage. These are all tools a player is going to need as the difficulty of the game is very high, and while fairly paced, unless you spend copious amounts of time grinding, even easy mode will be fairly challenging to the more casual players. Luckily though, if you are having too much trouble, you can use Safety Mode to just continue the game after you die. This is really helpful for players who just want to have fun with the cast and the game’s solid story.

Everything in Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has is incredibly fancy and I never felt tired of anything the game had to offer. Animations are fast and pretty, menus are nice to look at, and the entire soundtrack is on another level. Each of the battle themes is a masterpiece in its own right, and you can select one of four pieces to be the random battle theme, or randomize the themes and go nuts. Atsushi Kitajoh has managed to compose an incredible tracklist that never lets up and is one of the better soundtracks I’ve heard this side of Chaos;Child.

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Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is a stellar new entry in the Persona franchise. The game had me hooked from beginning to end as I traversed through the cinema-themed dungeons and spent some quality time with these characters that I can’t seem to get enough of. Over the course of the game, I enjoyed the challenging bosses and level of strategy required to get through some of the enemy encounters.

The updated systems from Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth were all great new additions to the game and made it an absolute joy to experience. With its stunning visual style, finely tuned battle system, and brilliant soundtrack, this title is a must buy for any RPG fans who want to crank out the old 3DS or one of its million variations.

Score:
9.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so he can buy more murder mysteries. @JacobPFZE on twitter