Similar to how Persona itself is a spin off, the popular title is seeing a number of different experiences. There is a Dynasty Warriors title, the lovely different rhythm games, several fighting games and even a dungeon crawler. Even if Persona Q wasn’t the most beloved games, Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth hopes to expand on the idea and bring these characters to a new setting. With mistakes out of the way and the popularity of Persona 5, does it become a series worth investing in or is it trying to cash in on the name?
Much to Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth’s credit, it tries to approach the crossover concept in a way that makes sense for the characters. The phantom thieves end up in a mysterious location, connected via a theater and need to come together to figure out what is going on and work together to be successful. If you can stomach the extremely long and exposition heavy introduction, it’s actually a story that Persona fans will enjoy. Similar things can be said about the gameplay too.
There really isn’t that much of a difference between a turn based RPG and a dungeon crawler. Both involve moving around, fighting enemies, leveling up and using tactics to succeed, with the main difference being approach. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth creates an journey where planning and tactics are required for success.
For starters, unlike most games, you need to make your own map. This comes with various advantages and disadvantages, though it’s mostly just tedious. Since you have full control over the outline, information on the map and more, you can make notes or indicate things that you can return to sometime in the future. I personally prefer just writing it down but this is far from the worst function the second screen has ever got.
Part of what makes this so tedious is the world is somewhat dynamic. Not in the sense that every level is randomly generated, just that you can map out a level and then unlock a shortcut, which in turn forces you to change your existing map. Some will find this fun, others will try to avoid it or just do the minimum required, it just depends on the type of player you are.
Outside of making your own map, combat is actually pretty satisfying. Like the source material, it retains turn based elements and success hinges on your ability to make the right calls. With special attacks costing health and enemies being in a number of arrangements, sacrificing some health to deal damage to a wide variety of enemies can sometimes be worthwhile.
This is really the long and short of the combat system. Analysis, maximizing damage, planning ahead and waiting to go all out is the best way to win. In a lot of ways it says a lot about how it’s designed, as it’s one of very few RPGs where you need to actually maximize potential, even on normal, if you want to come ahead. Thankfully, if you’re not interested in that, there are lower settings and even an auto fight option. It won’t have the best tactic, though it will do fairly well and at least match what your average fight first, buff/heal later player.
What really stands out about Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth isn’t the story or combat but the overall style. Fights start with black and white flim playing, opening doors has two characters go and do it, even the group attack isn’t a cool super move as much as all the characters jumping into a cloud of smoke as if it’s a classic cartoon. Even attacks break the traditional look at the enemy, slash appears, someone takes damage gameplay loop found in dungeon crawlers. Here characters summon their persona or have a brief animation before finally landing an attack. It’s the little things that add a lot of charm and help make the experience a bit more than the sum of its parts.
It’s quite possible Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth will be the final major release on the Nintendo 3DS and it’s a solid send off. Fans of the franchise should be use to the exposition heavy dialogue sequences and the story takes a bit to get good, but once it gets there it’s fun. Sure, making your own map isn’t the best mechanic and dungeon crawlers are not the most fascinating experiences around, though Persona has more than enough charm to overcome these shortcomings. So, unless you want another bland and generic RPG, it’s hard to say no to Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth.
[Editor’s Note: Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth was reviewed on 3DS platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]