Aka Etrian Odyssey Q2.

Title: Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: ATLUS
Publisher: ATLUS
Release date: Out now
Tl;dr: It’s basically Etrian Odyssey with a Persona skin.
Price: £35 / $40
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

While Persona 5: Royal looms on the horizon (for the love of God, ATLUS, give us the release date already), there are a few scant offerings around for those of us who want more Persona 5 content and don’t want to watch the disappointing anime. Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, following on the heels of 2014’s Persona Q, is a map-making dungeon crawler that’s bizarrely made its way on to the dying 3DS, and it shows – no dub for us.

The gameplay is near identical to that of ATLUS’ other series, Etrian Odyssey, where you’re balancing resource management as you crawl through dungeons as chibified versions of Persona 3, 4, and 5’s cast members, all dragged into a mysterious cinema with warped versions of the big bads from various games in the series. It’s a charming title with fun character banter that’s a real treat to see, but the initial steep learning curve makes me wary to recommend it to any of those who aren’t fans of the genre.

If there’s one thing that this game personifies, it’s cute. The artwork and characters use chibi models of themselves that work well within the limitations of the 3DS. The banter back and forth between the various group members is genuinely funny, and in my opinion, is the strongest draw to the game. With dungeon crawlers a dime a dozen, Yosukesaurus is doing a hell of a lot more to convince me to buy this (along with, y’know, the stupid rarity of small print run ATLUS titles). I won’t say that the lack of English dub hurts the game, per se, but it feels a shame that we don’t get to have another round with the excellent English voice cast, especially when you factor in that the anime for Persona 5 wasn’t dubbed (and we all know that the Persona 4 anime was the stuff of legend), and the dancing games were.

So yes, we’re dungeon crawling, and unlike the jazzed up and smooth dungeons of Persona 5, I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a step back, here. This time, we’re moving around and making making maps as we go, and the game feels skewed heavily towards those who already like this kind of genre, and doesn’t make it particularly welcoming to newcomers. The maps are huge, yet as you traverse between floors, it’s easy to get turned around and disoriented, since it all looks very similar. All the staples of dungeon crawling are there – auto move, map markers, and dodging enemies by watching and timing their path movements, but the game doesn’t do a particularly good job of explaining how to use these, and assumes that you already know how.

I think the majority of my frustrations with this game come from the steep learning curve at lower levels, and that the whole thing feels more difficult than it needs to be. The battle system has been understandably watered down from its PS4 predecessor, and while it’s technically turn based, your team attacks one after the other, and then the enemies move. Ren doesn’t have access to his entire arsenal of Personas, and is instead stuck with Arsene and can equip various others as “sub Personas,” instead, though interestingly you can equip the same sub Personas to your team mates as well, and in doing so, give them various spells, abilities, and raises your HP/SP. Fighting special Shadows will earn you bits of shining film that add more Persona to your arsenals. All sounds good so far, right?

At the earlier levels, at least, you’re severely underpowered, with your physical attacks doing little to chip away at enemy health levels. So you just target their elemental weakness, knock them down, and go for an all out attack? Sure, if that all out attack didn’t only knock off half their HP, or the enemies get up again on the very next turn, meaning you don’t get a chance to go for them at all. Likewise, your SP is very low, meaning if you stumble into a few random encounters on your way to the boss battle, you’ll be forced to go all the way back to the theater in order to replenish this. It’s an improvement over some of the mechanics in Persona Q, but there’s still a lot to be desired unless you’re actively seeking out this kind of game – and I was playing on Normal mode.

Overall, Persona Q2 is a decent buy – if you’re into heavy duty dungeon crawlers. It’s a lot to take in for newbies, and you’ll definitely struggle in the beginning, but the plot and character interactions (especially the inclusion of FemC/Minako) make it well worth a buy.

The Good

  • Great soundtrack
  • A fun merge of all three casts
  • Very cute

The Bad

  • Heavy difficulty curve for newcomers

Family Focus

Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is rated PEGI 12 and ESRB M for Mature. While it’s light-hearted, it does deal with some more adult themes later on.

This review is based on a review copy of the game purchased for the purposes of this review.