The same cannot be said of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
’s gameplay. Unique, intriguing, and hard as hell (almost to the point of unplayability at times), Eternal Punishment
places you in a game world unlike any other in video gaming, dealing with a dark version of our own reality and the happenings in that realm.
You’re Maya, head of a popular teen magazine. Your boss isn’t too fond of you, and she sends you off to find out about the Joker, a murderer who can be contacted by dialing your own number on your cell phone. The inclusion of the words “teen magazine” and “cell phone” should tell you that Eternal Punishment doesn’t take place in your standard fantasy world, and that’s true -- it’s closer to White Wolf’s “World of Darkness” than anything else. It’s our world, only demons run about freely and there’s a lovely childhood game called “Persona” that has a bad habit of bringing out the beast in people.
Eternal Punishment is heavily plot-based, and although the translation falters occasionally, as a general rule, it’s pleasantly solid. It’s set in a Tokyo-style city, though, so don’t be surprised if a few of the concepts, actions, and motivations aren’t quite what we’d expect them to be. It’s simple enough to handle, though, and Eternal Punishment has bucket-loads of story that’s impressed on you as the game goes on.
The battle system in the Persona series is highly unique. You can fight, which is common, but you can also talk to the various “enemies.” By choosing the right people, the right tones, and answering questions correctly, you can persuade the demons to become your friends, give you items or hints, or even some money. This is necessary if you plan on progressing any distance in the game -- the new Personas that you can get with the cards from making friends are much stronger than your starting ones, and the game gets really hard fast.
There are also a few other unique features of Eternal Punishment. For example, there’s a rumor mill that you can give rumors too, and said rumors become true. This can alter parts of the game, and often carries the plot along or gives you new opportunities to do things. And the whole Persona summoning and creation thing is pretty unique in the world of gaming as well.
Besides the sheer difficulty of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, though, there often feels like there’s something missing. Those in the know realize that this is actually the second part of a two-chapter sequel: the first part, Persona 2: Innocent Sin, was never released here in the States. While the game certainly stands on its own, there are a few things that happen that make more sense if you know what happened in the first game. It’s a shame that so few Megami Tensei games have come out in the States; hopefully Atlus will be kind enough to bring Innocent Sin over as well.
There are a few issues, though, mainly with the battle engine. It’s a real pain to target a different enemy than the one the computer auto-selects, especially if you’re trying to raise your characters’ Personae ranks. And at times, there feels like a little too much randomness and not enough strategy in the battles. But these are relatively minor gripes -- until a boss squelches you in a matter of seconds.