Atlus has done a fantastic job giving us quality role playing games over the past decade in the form of the Persona series. Most people have heard of and adore Persona 3 and Persona 4, but many may not remember, or have even played, the older Persona games. Released back in 1999 in Japan, Persona 2 was split into two games, Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment. Innocent Sin was never released outside of Japan until now. Finally, the American players can see what they have been missing out in Innocent Sin. So, let’s take a look at the game that paved the way for Persona 3 and 4.
You play as a high school student that attends Seven Sisters High. He, and a few other students, accidentally release an ancient evil in the form of The Joker, but in turn, unlock the power to summon Personas to help them in battle. Now, you, a classmate, a gang leader from a rival school, a reporter, and her photographer assistant will have to take on the Joker and his minions in order to break a curse that was placed on the entire city, and to save the citizens of the city from turning into mindless shadow people.
The game is, essentially, a turn based RPG. You will begin in “dungeons” and be prompted into battle through random encounters. In battle, there are many things you can do. You can choose to fight the demons, make contact with them, run away, and set your attack order. You can chose to use physical attacks that have different attributes such as slash for swords and pierce for guns. All demons have strengths and weaknesses. After fighting a certain demon enough times, you can analyze it to see exactly what it is weak and strong against.
You can choose to attack with magic spells as well by using your Personas. Depending on which Persona you have equipped, your characters take on the attributes of the Persona. So if you have a Persona that is weak against ice attacks, that confers the ice weakness on the character equipping it. Using Personas in battle will increase its rank. Increasing the rank will allow it to learn new abilities as well as add better stats to your characters. The magic in the game has a very unique ability. If you use a certain element or attack in sequence with another, you can initiate fusion attacks. For example, if you have one character use a fire attack and another character use another fire attack directly after, they can fuse attacks together for a big fire attack. There are a ton of these fusions in the game so always expermient with changing the character’s turn and using magic to see what combos you can come up with.
The last, and possibly most important, thing about the battles in Innocent Sin is contacting demons. Instead of attacking your enemies, try talking to them. When talking to them, you can choose which demon to talk to and choose up to three party members to initiate contact. You will have 4 dialog choices to choose from and depending on the demon and its mood, it will either respond with anger, joy, interest, or fear. By instilling a certain feeling in a demon three times, it will either attack(anger), run away(fear), give you tarot cards(interest), or make a pact with you(joy). The tarot cards you receive from demons will allow you to make new Personas at The Velvet Room, so always make sure to try to make contact with demons as much as you fight them. Also, making a pact with demons will allow you to gain items, money, and the demons will spread rumors for you the next time you run into another of the same type.
Part of the story that intertwines with the game play is the rumors. One of the effects of the curse on the city is that if enough people hear a rumor, it will become real. All throughout the city there are rumormongers who you can talk to about certain rumors. Hearing these rumors will allow you to go to a detective agency and spread the rumors for a fee. After spreading them, they become true. These rumors can be about finding new weapon and armor shops, finding mini-bosses to fight in certain dungeons, and even making dungeons easier to navigate.
I found the story to be somewhat disconnected. I loved the stories in Persona 3 and 4, but Innocent Sin just feels a little off to me. Granted, after a few hours into the game, the story does start to unravel itself a bit more, but it will take a little while to get into. The characters are a bit more colorful in this game than in the later entries in the Persona series, but Innocent Sin still has a very dark overtone.
The dungeons can become very annoying very quickly due to the random battles, and getting lost. I know this is an older title, but the random battles just get on my nerves when I really just want to get from point A to point B. There is a nice auto-map that shows you where you’ve been, but I still found myself getting lost in some of the mazes they call dungeons. The voice acting, while very minimal, is well done, but even some of the dialog and situations feel dated. It’s very difficult to explain, but if you’ve been playing RPGs for over 15 years, you can just tell that some of the things you’ll see in this game wouldn’t be found in RPGs of this day and age.
Even with the problems I had with Innocent Sin, I still would have to recommend it to the JRPG fans out there. The portability for the PSP is well done. You can save at pretty much any point as long as you’re not in a battle. The combat is very well done, and it’s addicting and fun to experiment with different spells to make fusion spells. The Persona fans will still enjoy this game as long as you get back into that old school mentality, and of course, creating and fusing new personas is just as addicting as it is in Persona 3 and 4. The story may be a weak spot in this one, but after a few hours of play, you will become invested enough to keep playing.
Review copy provided by publisher.