Persona 2: Innocent Sin is the sequel to the first Persona game. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is the sequel to Persona 2: Innocent Sin – sort of like Persona 2.5. Eternal Punishment was inexplicably released in North America while Innocent Sin was not, even though Punishment referred to Sin quite a bit before its conclusion.
Well, Innocent Sin is available for North Americans on PSP, so now we can see what was going on all this time! Mostly the same thing that happened in the other one. Rumors become reality as the mysterious Joker preys on the populous of our lakeside city, and only Persona-users can stand up to the demonic maniac.
Innocent Sin provides an interesting look at the complex gameplay mechanics that were available to players before the streamlining and simplification of Persona 3 and 4. All five members of your party can switch personae at will. Users and personae also level up individually, and their statistics are averaged when joined. This level of control provides the possibility of different strategies based on the many varying combinations of personae.
Or it would, if such a level of thought was necessary in battle. Bewilderingly – compared to every other Persona game, and certainly any other Shin Megami Tensei game – Innocent Sin is really easy. This ease partially stems from the constant flurry of random encounters. This continuous stream of experience guarantees several level ups in a single dungeon, and since levelling up comes with a free replenishment of HP and MP, there’s pretty much no reason to hold back from casting the strongest spells all of the time to guarantee victory.
A new addition to the PSP version of Innocent Sin is the ability to access standalone dungeons from the world map. The first of these takes place in a high school, which was a little disappointing considering it can be accessed after the completion of the very first dungeon, which is a different high school. Within, however, the battles actually offer quite a challenge. It was the first time I made good use of the Contact system, which allows you to converse with demons to persuade them against killing you, or to makes friends. It was almost dramatic! Imagine being caught off guard by high-level enemies, trying to very carefully negotiate your way out of the fight, failing, suffering another near-fatal attack as a result, and then having to cobble together a combination of personae strong enough to withstand another attack while still having the moveset to use the fusion spell that will hopefully end the battle before things get worse! It’s like I’m thinking creatively and playing a game or something!
But then once you’ve cleared that dungeon, not only are you back in the featherweight division that is the main story, your party is even stronger now, making the next dungeon – likely another, different high school – even more boring.
Compare the cakewalk of Innocent Sin to the hell that is Dark Souls, which is constantly forcing you to refine your methods. Even the simple trek from one bonfire to another is constituted of many small lessons, truths, and opporunities for success or failure.
You may curse the bonfire’s resurrection of every enemy that you had slain before, but it also restores your magic. If you died with four fireballs and three swigs from your Estus Flask during your last attempt, now you know you don’t have to be so frugal. And on the next try you may find out that certain Hollows can be killed more quickly with one strong attack than two weak attacks. So NOW you know you can defeat two in one blow, which could be very risky – but, oh, if it succeeds, your next run will be more efficient and you’ll feel so much cooler! And if it doesn’t, well… now you know.
When your success is balanced on the edge of a knife, the ingenuity of your actions count for so much more. It’s more engaging when the decisions you make from moment to moment change the relationship between you and the world you inhabit. More is gained in losing and trying again and again than pressing the WIN button repeatedly and never having to change.