Person Q2 - New Cinema Labyrinth: My work here is done...

... Or is it? After wrapping up the fourth labyrinth, I was ready to bid PQ2 goodbye: not only was my run clocking at a respectable 46 hours at that point, but I got a lovely conclusion involving (spoilers) Hikari overcoming her inner demons and gaining the necessary strength to pursue a happy life. This outcome was so satisfying that the idea of cruising yet another labyrinth to rescue poor souls stuck in the same predicament as Hikari-chan felt perfunctory. I got my happy ending, now I'm outta here! (End of spoilers)

Music to my ears.

... Or so I though. But after taking a couple of steps in the final labyrinth, I... I want to keep playing! Not only is that final labyrinth the most gorgeous of the bunch by far, but I'm really just starting to master the whole Persona business for good and all. I want to fine-tune that mastery just a tad more before my first foray into the canon Persona series — and have fun doing so while I'm at it. Having said that, I still feel like I mostly had my fill of PQ2 — pun totally intended — and thus I'm gonna drop all the sidequesty fluff and focus on exploring that final labyrinth and refining my Persona mastery. Here's what I want to achieve during that last stretch:

  • Let my Fab Five learn Vorpal Blade and Invigorate 2 through Sacrifice Fusion. The former is the perfect boss killer; as for the latter, it will allow me to cruise longer in labyrinths without having to worry about my SP. (Then I'll have to worry about my inventory being full, but that's another matter.)
  • Let my dungeon navi learn Paths of Light and Roads of Light, and my battle navi learn Victory Cry — for even more insane HP and SP replenishment. 

And... That's all, I guess! Apart from maintaining my full elemental coverage all the way through, that is. I gave up on my plan to grow specialized Sub-Personas dealing with a single elemental field; not only is it way too tedious to achieve, but it can be downright counter-productive in battle when triggering Boost requires two elements handled by the same character. Things are working just fine with my Sub-Personas handling mixed elemental skills; and so I'll keep cruising that way until the credits roll. And talking about this: back to da grind — again!


Persona Q2 - New Cinema Labyrinth: Late stages

33 hours in, fourth labyrinth. I'm just done slaughtering the most obnoxious boss EVER, namely the despicable Mother Computer. Not only was the fight properly interminable, but the game had the nerve to force me to use some very specific elemental attacks lest the whole thing became totally unwinnable. How dare you, Atlus! This is nothing but a big fat case of fake difficulty, and it royally pisses me off — even though I did have the necessary skills to progress. Still, I swear I would totally have ragequit — and ditched PQ2 entirely for good measure — if not for the Safety setting, which allowed my whole party to rise from the ashes after biting the dust and continue the fight as though nothing had happened. Seriously, PQ2's difficulty is sometimes so extreme it's not even funny. I can only hope that this is the Etrian Odyssey side speaking and not the Persona one, because I really don't want to struggle that much when I finally decide to tackle the series.

Awesome characters talking about awesome subjects = Match made in heaven.

Anyway, I still love PQ2 just as much as ten days ago. I could do with slightly less cutscenes and characters, granted; however, I have to admit that the whole Persona lore and the crew from older entries are growing on me, and my desire to play said older entries is getting stronger by the cutscene. As for my original crew, well... I have to find a way to experience Persona 5 even if it's the last thing I do! Anime, manga, future port, borrowing somebody's PS3 — anything, as long as I get to see them evolve in their original setting. I don't know why, but I just love them to pieces! It's been a long time since a video game cast delighted me that much: not only do I dig their looks to death, but their personalities and demeanour really resonate with me. Were I twenty years younger, I would have drawn comics and fanarts featuring them — heck, I'm an mere inch from doing that anyway. I kid you not: my current wallpaper is a Persona 5 art — that's how hooked on that whole Persona 5 thing I am right now.

And talking about, well, Persona, I'm refining my mastery of all things Personas. I now have a clear view of what I want to achieve when it comes to Sub-Personas: since my crew's main Personas naturally wield and learn Curse, Electric, Bless, Fire and Ice abilities, I'll focus on developing Wind, Almighty, Psy, Nuke and Physical abilities for my Sub-Personas. As a matter of fact, I've already done so, but in a completely slightly haphazard and disorganized manner, which resulted in many of my Personas wielding the exact same skills. I want to streamline and simplify that whole business, and have each secondary Persona specialize in a given ability; then I can cherry-pick my favourite Healing and Buffing skills, and add them to the mix for good measure. I'm not too sure I can achieve that goal before the end of my run, because a) I'm starting so very late and b) I still have a lot to learn regarding Persona growth and fusion; but even if I don't, that will most certainly be the blueprint for my future Persona playthroughs.

I'd like the fourth labyrinth to be the last, but let's face it: there will probably be a fifth labyrinth acting as the final dungeon. And as much as I love PQ2, I'm actually not quite sure I'll have the energy to finish it in one smooth go: as far as my play meter is concerned, that game should end around the 40-45 hour-mark, lest we tread on 'Too much of a good thing' territory. Maybe I should wisely take a small break from PQ2, or play another game in parallel as a breather? Oh well, we'll see. Back to da grind for now!


Persona Q2 - New Cinema Labyrinth: It's a true love story

I love that game! I love it! I always say I don't give a crap about characters' personalities in my RPG, but PQ2 might be the exception that proves the rule. I adore my crew, and I'd like nothing more than to see them strive, grow and prosper in the game they hail from. Given that Persona 5 is still a PS4 exclusive and that the planned Switch port is shaping up to be a totally different game (which I'll probably buy anyway, let's face it), that probably won't happen any time soon. To compensate for that sorry state of affairs, I decided to stick dutifully with the Persona 5 crew when characters from older Persona entries started raining on me; I own all of said older Persona entries and I'll play them in due time, so I'd rather enjoy the Phantom Thieves when I get to. And since PQ2 won't let me run solo, I'll perform the next best thing to a solo run, i.e. an Initial Party Run: I'll stick with my original five fab through thick and thin, until the credits roll. I would gladly have played with the lovely Noire; but alas, she came too late into the mix, and with a giant five level-deficit to boot. Sure, I could use my Growth Incense on her for instant leveling-up and party integration; but let's face it, I'm just too used to my crew's dynamics to change anything now. And now that I unlocked Unison Skills, I have even less reason to ever want to switch party members. Sorry, not sorry!

Let's now talk about the famed Persona system, shall we? I love it! To pieces! It's so much fun, and so darn addictive! It took me quite a lot of time and experimentation to even get the gist of it; but I have a good grip on it now, and I'm succeeding more and more in crafting Personas that fit my fighting style. Since I'm playing on Safety Mode, and since I'm a brute that loves nothing more than to nuke everything on the battlefield, I'm favouring multi-hitting elemental attacks and strong physical attacks with a Boost bonus attached. And since I'm mentioning Boost... Oh, the glee! I know nothing more exhilarating than to surgically target all foes' weaknesses and wrap up the fight with a lovingly devastating All-Out Attack — and extra XP for the road. This is one of the most positive feedback loops I've ever encountered in an RPG fighting system, and it sure as heck encourages me to choose my skills wisely.

I'm smelling a whiff of yaoi fan service here.
You might notice that I'm only raving about the Persona side of things, dear fellow gamers, and rightfully ask "But what about da dungeon crawling?" Well, about that... The more I play PQ2, the more I'm convinced that it didn't need to be a crossover at all. The Etrian Odyssey side is so underrepresented and brings so little to the mix that it might as well not be there at all; the game could perfectly have taken place in regular dungeons and nothing of value would have been lost. In fact, I'll go further and say that the Persona side saps the EO side and makes it kinda pointless. EO's two main assets, namely its immense crawling freedom and its autarkic crafting system, don't get to shine at all in PQ2. The former is destroyed by the constant cutscenes, tutorials and narrative railing; and the latter is made redundant by the Boost system, which emphasizes elemental matching in battle rather than mere gear stats. I daresay that we're nearly dealing with a case of 'too much of a good thing' here: there's a mite too much to do and think of — draw maps, avoid FOEs, watch cutscenes, sell loot, find and manage Personas — and it can be overwhelming at times. Less is more indeed, especially as far as my RPG tastes are concerned.

Anyway, do you know what all that means, dear fellow gamers? It means that I'm gonna have a big fat blast when I finally decide to play a true blue Persona game! In fact, I'd do just that right now, if not for the fear of overkill. Let's clear PQ2 first, shall we? And since I'm mentioning this, I have a couple of Personas waiting to be fused. Back to da grind!


Persona Q2 - New Cinema Labyrinth: Off to a good start

So, I'm currently playing what will henceforth be known as PQ2. Why make my first foray into the vast and ever-expanding Persona universe with a spinoff series, you may ask — and the second instalment to said spinoff series to boot? Well, the answer is twofold. First, I just purchased this game, and I wanted to indulge in the all-too-rare pleasure of playing a game right upon acquiring it. Secondly, I dislike crossovers as a rule; and thus I wanted to play that game without any knowledge of the Persona lore and pretend that I was dealing with a particularly inventive Etrian Odyssey spinoff.

I'll admit it: things didn't go well at first between me and PQ2. I had the fondest memories of Etrian Odyssey's first labyrinth and its soothing vibe — the lush greenery, the ethereal music, the crisp sound of my feet in the grass; so suffice it to say that I was not exactly enthralled by the ugly urban landscape and the faux-jazzy theme track of its PQ2 counterpart. And my gripes with the game didn't stop here: I was also seriously aggravated by the lack of exploring leeway and the overabundance of cutscenes, which contrasted nastily with EO's exhilarating freedom and lack of interference in the player's business. And don't get me started on combat, which managed to be both boring and irritating due to an uncanny combination of overall slowness, hysterical theme track and obnoxious interjections from the crew. Also, why were there so many darn doors to open along the way, and why did opening them always go hand-in-hand with an unskippable animation? In a nutshell: I didn't like what I saw, and I was just an inch from shoving that darn cartridge back into its box after an hour of play.

Then I remembered that I was dealing with a spinoff indeed, rather than with a canon EO game; differences were thus unavoidable, and I had to welcome them if I ever wanted to enjoy PQ2. I had to embrace such changes as the cast getting mammoth amount of screen time: while EO gave you blank slates with no backstory, Persona seems to be all about memorable personalities and chara development. I had to come to terms with the absence of the deliciously intimidating vibe that engulfed me whole when I played EO, and embrace the wackier and sparklier vibe of PQ2. I had to suck up the relative lack of freedom, the absence of solo options, and the presence of a story that was more than a mere pretext to roam dungeons. I just had to discover PQ2 and learn to love it for what it was, period.

A couple of hours and adjustments later, I can say I reasonably succeeded. Since this is no true blue EO, I had no qualms about selecting the lowest difficulty level — if I have to endure a million cutscenes, better make the ride smooth and relaxing! I then proceeded to study my crew and get to know them inside out — if I have to roll with established characters, better make the most of them indeed! I've also gotten used to the flow of battle, and I'm starting to seriously dig the lively, zany, colourful vibe of the whole game — especially stuff like the All-Out attacks in battle and the characters' flourishes when opening doors, which triggers sweet memories of superhero animes and detective cartoons from my childhood. Last but not least, I play it my way by indulging in as much level-grinding and farming as I want — which probably explains why I still haven't gotten past the 2nd floor after 4 hours of play.

And since I'm mentioning this: let's get back to the grind! It's safe to assume I'm on a roll now as far as all things PQ2 are concerned; expect thus more ramblings about that game very soon, dear fellow gamers!


Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory: All's well that ends well

On every front, mind you — including the narrative one. That story ends up much better than I had dared hope for (spoilers!): Chitose is rescued from the claws of Eden Syndrome without any major sacrifice, Keisuke remains BFF with Yu, Erika gets her dearest wishes granted, Ryuji gets his sanity back, and nobody kicks the bucket. Hooray! The only one suffering is poor Keisuke, who's the sole retainer of memories from the Hudie epopee and now has to live knowing that he'll never again meet Erika. But hey, little Yu is still around, and more than ready to fill in the spot left by Erika — in all possible ways! I deem this ending absolutely perfect: it's bittersweet without being heart-wrenching, and it makes me appreciate the story, and the whole game, even more. (End of spoilers.)


Not that I really needed more reasons to love HM, mind you: my 52 hours of play were absolutely delightful, and I enjoyed every single minute spent with my Digis. I cannot find a single flaw in that gem of a game — bar maybe the fetch quests, which were as tedious as they were pointless. Why make me look for NPCs all around the place when you could as well have fed me cutscenes, game? Good scenes such missions were few and far between, and the areas involved mercifully small.

I'm sure no one will be surprised to hear that the final showdown was a cinch, despite being a two-phase fight. I went at it with an full inventory and a kickass trio made of Dianamon, Ouryumon and Slayerdramon, and I quickly fell into a comfortable — and deadly — battle rhythm: Ouryumon and Slayerdramon dealt the main damage with their Special Moves, while Dianamon dished minor damage and handed healing and replenishing items when necessary. The fight was over in a matter of turns and with no major hassle, giving my run a smooth and satisfying finale. Gee, I love when level-grinding pays off!

I don't have much to add, all the less so as a good week has passed since I cleared my run. I loved that game, and I'd sure like to replay it at some point. There's just a small issue: I only have a digital copy, whose perennity is far from being guaranteed. Is it worth investing in a ludicrously priced physical copy, knowing that I already own a physical copy of Digimon Story - Cyber Sleuth, i.e. the original game? I'll mull over it; and as usual, my collector's instinct will have the final word. And now, on to the next game!