Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is the latest Nintendo 3DS only sequel to 2014s Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth which focused on the protagonists from Persona 3 and 4 in an epic Japanese Role-Playing Dungeon Crawling game.
While driving through Mementos, the Morgana Car suddenly loses control!
The Phantom Thieves stumble through a mysterious space and find themselves in an unknown, strange city filled with opponents they’ve never seen before. They barely escape with their lives by fleeing into a movie theater—with no exit.
Inside this theater, they meet Nagi, a gentle woman with elegant clothes, and Hikari, a quiet and reserved girl, who inform the team that they emerged from the movie screen. It is within the labyrinthine confines of this movie world that other Persona wielders are seemingly guided into meeting one another.
Will the Phantom Thieves ever be able to escape the theater?
While the Persona Q spin-off games do stay faithful to the source material, they have done away from some of the significant features from the main numbered entries. There is less focus here on social situations, or what I lovingly refer to as dating sim elements and time restrictions. These games also borrow quite heavily from another JRPG franchise, Etrian Odyssey and it’s first-person dungeon-crawling elements.
As exploration is presented in a dungeon-crawling fashion, the bottom screen of the Nintendo 3DS is a natural fit for your map. As you roam across each of the environments of the game, the map doesn’t automatically populate with detailed information. You only have access to the basic layout as you move between tiles, any vital information you will need to add to the map yourself, which includes walls and doors. In theory, this sounds cumbersome, but it’s an enjoyable/ rewarding process, and as you complete one hundred percent of each map you’re able to open a special chest!
Persona Q2 wouldn’t be a JRPG without random encounters, right? As you explore each environment, there is a danger gauge which will eventually begin to count down, and once it reaches zero, you’ll find yourself in a fight. This mechanic ties nicely in with the narrative of some of the environments, creating small puzzles to overcome. On the first floor, there’s an enemy which is patrolling on the path ahead, and he moves every time you make a move, regardless of distance. If you mistime your movement and get into an encounter, he will join the other enemies making for a challenging fight!
Combat plays out traditionally, but with some Persona flair thrown in, the camera is focused on your enemies, so you only see your characters as they perform their abilities. At the start of each turn, you choose your parties abilities, and once everyone has been set, the turn will play out before you. What I love the most is, if you manage to knock all of the enemies out within your turn, then you can perform an attack where all of your characters will rush in and perform a group attack!
Throughout the game, you’re going to meet characters from the other Persona games, and I look forward to seeing how they all interact with each other during this rush attack moment – I change my roster around regularly!
Persona is all about finding your enemies weaknesses and then exploiting them for massive damage, once you have your character goes into a boosted state where they’re able to use an ability without an SP cost; I can’t stress enough how scarce SP is this early in the game.
The quality of the game visually is outstanding, they are held back slightly by jagged edges, but this is most likely down to what could now be considered outdated hardware.
All of the characters from across the franchise are represented amazingly, maintaining their unique looks from their respective games. The super deformed looks are cute too!
Environments start to feel repetitive as you progress through each chapter but are still impressive once you’re first introduced to each chapter.
What makes Persona genuinely stand out is the full range of remixed music spanning from their respective games; you can also choose which battle music you want, once unlocked.
It’s disappointing that Persona Q2 doesn’t have dual language support, having played and loved the voice overs through the main franchise it’s upsetting that the option is missing… However, there are going to be players out there who prefer a Japanese dub regardless.
Final Thoughts / Opinions
I’ve really enjoyed my time spent in Persona Q2, but that’s not to say the game doesn’t have its problems. It takes a long time before it starts to get into full swing, I know this is something which associated with the brand, but when you take into consideration that this is a handheld game, it can be off-putting.
During my time with the game, I was set to normal difficulty, and I found myself struggling. What I would typically do with the genre is grind experience to overpower my enemies, but early on this is a lengthy process, especially with how much abilities cost to cast. As you progress through the game, you gain access to items which can replenish HP and SP so over time the process becomes more fluid.
Thankfully there is an option to increase the speed of movement in and out of battle, and for me, this is an excellent addition.
There is a great deal of customization available here, a lot of my early hours were spent trying to optimize my team to inflict damage and staying alive. All characters bring their primary Persona and get their associated abilities too. What sets the Q series apart is now everyone can have a sub-persona also which are unlocked through battle. It’s the min/max element which kept me coming back to the game.
While the quality of the visuals are beautiful and fitting for the platform it’s on, I feel that I have been spoiled by the Nintendo Switch and I just asked myself, why wasn’t this released for the Switch? I can only hope that both games within the series are ported to the Switch in the future.
Overall Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is an excellent addition to your Nintendo 3DS library. It’s a love letter to Persona, and the tried and tested formula, which makes the franchise stand out. The narrative is the right mix of series and ridiculous that will keep you playing to completion. Yes, it starts off slow, but this is something that fans of the franchise are accustomed to. While this brings the cast of three games together in one adventurer, it is still newcomer friendly!