There was no third riddle: this time, King Leo simply wrote a letter challenging us to go to the city’s aerospace museum for a real showdown. No new sidequests this time, either! We summoned a few new Personas and we went to the aerospace museum straight away! Thankfully, we had checked the walkthrough (to look for sidequests), which got us a warning that the next dungeon wouldn’t allow us to save, and for good reason!
There was bad news right from the off: the party discovered the aerospace museum was hosting an elementary school field trip, so the place was crawling with kids. Bad news #2: Tamaki and Tadashi from the detective agency are here, Tadashi dressed and armed like Zorro, and Tamaki as a Japanese film character from the time, complete with cat ears (did I mention that Tadashi is actually a self-insert character of a member of the dev team, who had redesigned Tamaki for P2IS after a real-world actress, and was using her as fetish fuel, so the fans called him out and Tadashi was removed from EP? Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that). They dramatically declared that the party is working for “the Fuhrer.” Naturally, the two of them had been contacted by the only other person who had used the name “the Fuhrer,” Ms. Ideal, who had hired them to look into “the Fuhrer,” and also to stop us, “the spies.” Thankfully, Tamaki didn’t believe Ms. Ideal (even though she still went through with her dramatic reveal with Tadashi…), which was good, because she was able to convince Tadashi to help us when King Leo revealed his plan: he was going to burn down the building with us in it, starting with the exits.
Maya was triggered by the flames at first, just like at the concert, but pulled herself together out of the overriding need to play “mom friend” to a building full of children. That’s not even a joke, that’s my actual “best guess” for this situation. Remember, this is the series I blasted for suggesting you can overcome physical illness by “trying harder,” so I would be wholly consistent if I wanted to blast them for saying Maya’s getting over her PTSD the same way, but I legitimately do feel that Maya’s overcoming her fear not through effort, but by being overcome by her character cliché. I don’t know what this says about me, except: there it is.
You have ten minutes to find all the grade schoolers and to usher them to the roof, which is the best you can do with the exits blocked. Thankfully, there are no enemies and all the grade schoolers have clustered in the exhibit halls. We also learn that there are exactly four such halls on each floor, so it’s easy to know when you’re done searching a floor for victims, even though not all exhibits have guests in them. You can leave a floor whenever you’re done with the rescues on that floors, but the only indication that you’re done on a floor (other than searching all four exhibits) is that Tadashi or Tamaki will be blocking the exit if you try to leave early. Since your viewing range is so low, it’s usually better to check all four exhibits no matter what. Annoyingly, fire blocks the stairs leading back down every time you leave a floor, so if you missed any items down there, too bad.
As it happens, there are just enough rescues for everyone in the party to get a scene where they, personally, tell the kids to leave, including a scene for silent protagonist Tatsuya, who only gets a “…” before the kids leave, the party telling Tatsuya that he scared them out. I love it.
Let’s rewind a bit. After clearing the second floor (which is where play begins), you end up on the upper level of the atrium, only to find Ixquic stranded on a Zero (the iconic WWII-era Japanese fighter plane) hung from the ceiling as a decoration. Maya volunteers to jump down to rescue her, but Tatsuya can choose to butt in. You probably know the drill by now: you have to let Maya be independent if you want to get an upgraded Persona later in the game. But curiously enough, they went out of their way to render a cutscene for both paths, and if you want to clear the game’s video gallery, you’ll need to at least make a temp or second save file to do both!
While the rescuer (Maya, in our case) is able to get Ixquic to safety, the rescuer themself nearly falls off, only to be caught by their opposite counterpart with the help of said counterpart’s Persona (Tatsuya and his Persona, Vulcanus, in our case). On contact, the two characters experience a shared vision of another fire: the one at the Alaya shrine, the fire we heard about ten years ago. There, a white-haired man with a knife is shown laughing over the body of a boy, while a black-haired teenaged girl shouts at the boy from off-screen, calling him “Tatsuya” and urging him to run. As the man approaches the boy with his knife, Tatsuya’s starting Persona Vulcanus rises from the boy to attack the would-be murderer.
So… the kid is the Tatsuya we know and the black-haired girl is teen Maya, right? And she knew Tatsuya – or at least encountered him – at some point in the past, at the site of the Alaya Shrine arson? It might sound like I’m explaining the incredibly obvious… and I am… but the game is going to spend the next four or so hours acting like it’s a big mystery! Why? All because teen Maya had a different hairstyle?
Back in the present, Ixquic hugs Maya (the game still refuses to let her let go of her sword, just like every other minor character with a prop in this game), and Maya urges her up to the roof with the younger kids. From there, it’s a fairly straightforward dungeon, save for a scene where you automatically rescue a kid from an elevator. The scene is really superfluous, and almost seems to be here as an honest-to-god “Don’t use elevators in an emergency” PSA? After the elevator scene, Leo announces that demons will show up from her on out, though thankfully the timer doesn’t tick on while you’re battling. No problem: we were soon on the roof ourselves, with everyone safe, only one chest overlooked, and three minutes to spare.
Unfortunately, Leo had already attacked the group on the roof, as I probably should have predicted. In fact, the only reason he hasn’t murdered his way through the kids is because Tamaki stood against him, leading her to announce: “I can’t believe even my demons are no match for him!” (Ed. I was originally incredulous that the protagonist of SMT If…, who presumably had an end-game party of demons, wouldn’t be able to best this mid-game boss, and I made some complaints here. But I later learned that SMT If… accounts for this after a fashion, so… whatever you say, P2.)
The party arrives at this point, Leo once again addressing Tatsuya as “the Cursed Star” (definitely Tatsuya this time, not Maya). At this point, Ixquic ran over and demanded to know why Leo left her for dead in the fire, and he took the opportunity to hold her as a human shield. Somehow, in the process of grabbing her, he knocked off his own mask and revealed himself to be the man with the knife from the Alaya Shrine flashback, and it seems the fire left him with horrible burns and cost him his right eye. I’ll cop to not recognizing him immediately, but he made it obvious within a few lines of dialogue. What was strange is that the game also gives him his name at this point: Tatsuya Sudou. If I had paid closer attention to that, I would have noticed something important in just a few scenes!
Sudou blames Maya and Tatsuya for his burns, but despite her obvious initial reaction, Maya claims not to recognize him, which may still be true (traumatic memories are like that). Unfortunately, Sudou then reveals that he has an alternate transmitter for the bombs at Smile and GOLD, the previous two buildings, and since we never actually cleared the bombs from each location (arguably another reason the game put such a cartoonish number of bombs at each site), he was able to destroy both, saving the game from having to branch any further! How unfortunate but clever – hopefully no one went back into the buildings after we evacuated them!
Sudou said that none of this would have happened if “you” (not clear if he means Maya, Tatsuya, or both) had died on the day of the arson, and then he adds something about “the witch” who was “spreading misinformation.” He then starts addressing Maya as a witch, though it’s not clear if that’s meant to imply she’s the witch I mentioned just a second ago. I’d normally presume that they are the same person, it’s just that his language almost goes out of its way to separate the two. He goes on to explain the Circle’s big plans, and the meaning of the Oracle of Maia: “to sublimate mankind to the Idealians.” …Yup, those sure are words. The game doesn’t seem to realize how bad the translation is, either, because Maya somehow draws the correct conclusion from this word salad, in a way that reminds me of similar, janky translation moments in FFVII, where someone would say something that made no sense only for someone else to say something else that made no sense, leading me into total confusion. Except this localization is from 2011! Long story short: the Circle wants to evolve select members of humanity into “Idealians,” while killing everyone else. We get that in plain English a few scenes from now. After this mess, Sudo adds that that, “When the Holy Cross forms in the sky, Hell will climb to the heavens,” which was honestly more informative. Hey wait a minute, “Hell will climb to the heavens?” We’ve already run that plot, and it was called Final Fantasy II!
Maya demands to know who Joker is, and Sudou simply says that Joker’s face is “as beautiful as a goddess.” And just watch how that one line careens out of control, just you wait. Sudou passes on a message from Joker to Tatsuya to remember a day from ten years ago (presumably the Alaya Shrine arson), but after that duty, Sudou makes his move. It seems there was a rumour (that we didn’t hear a thing about, perhaps because we rushed here and hadn’t been talking to NPCs) that the airship model on top of the aerospace museum is an operational airship, and Sudou attempts to make escape by rumour by boarding it. Okay, that’s almost clever, except… Leo, can’t you teleport?
Lisa tries to stop Sudou, asking if Joker is, quote, “Big Sis.” This stalls Sudou with confusion just long enough that he’s caught when the floor gives out under him, and nearly pulls Ixquic down with him. Thankfully, Maya is able to rescue Ixquic, though Sudou falls out of sight. The party then boards the blimp and takes it from a few scattered Circle cultists, taking off into the air. The game gives this a long, heroic cutscene… only for it to burst into flames for literally no reason. Genuinely hilarious.
At this point, Sudou remembers that yes, yes he can teleport, and he rejoins the blimp to scuttle our escape plans. He starts ranting, adding something about having been his father’s puppet in the past, and engages us in battle. Unfortunately for him, he’s fire-aligned and we had more water attacks then we know what to do with, so the fight didn’t last long.
Sudou seemed to die after the battle, though with so much backstory left to reveal, that seems unlikely. In any event, we took his ruby crystal skull. But enough about recurring villains: we had to get a class full of elementary school kids off a burning airship before it plunged into the ocean. The party’s plan seemed to be that they would jump from the ship with two kids each, using their Persona powers to brace the fall (Kyle mistook the students’ backpacks for parachutes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, since they had them beforehand). Okay, I understand the plan here, but don’t we have to rescue like… forty kids? Plus a teacher and two detectives? Unless Tamaki’s got three dozen or more shock-absorbing demons in her DSP…
The party managed to get back to town via a beach, where they got a few apologies from Ixquic, now identified by her real name, Akari. Of course, Akari is a Japanese name, but she has brown skin and is pretending to be a resurrected Aztec warrior. Oh god, please be Latin diaspora with a Japanese given name and not a Japanese girl in brownface…
The party decides to go visit the detective agency at this point in hopes of missing up with Ms. Ideal at last, only for Maya’s cell phone to ring (wow, Persona power even kept the phones from getting wet!). It was Ulala, who said that the Circle was attempting to fight the party by putting out a rumour that the party was the terrorists responsible for the recent bomb attacks. This would continue to be an NPC talking point for the rest of the session. The party planned a counter-rumour, but not a very… ambitious one. They just had the grade schoolers tell everyone that they were actually heroes, in hopes that it would counter the terrorist rumour. Really, you guys? No… “The Masked Circle has been dissolved and will never do evil again”?
The party agrees to split up to avoid being spotted as the five wanted terrorists called out by the rumour. Considering the party reunites after the very next cutscene, with no mandatory combat in-between, you should already know the devs are up to shenanigans. Best we just hurry into the trap by heading to the detective agency as planned, where the party reunites… except that Maya has glowing eyes and is acting so conspicuously evil that, after an hour or so, Kyle and I were almost shouting at the screen for the rest of the party to wise up. It’s pathetic! The game even gives Evil Maya some clever extra polish: she not only refuses to negotiate with demons, but gets her own level-up/team attack portrait!
Okay, this scene is the mother of all infodumps (which is why I’ve been “delaying” my screenshots so that I can use them here for some visual variety), so I had better pare it down or we’re going to get nowhere fast. Ms. Ideal is still here after hiring the detectives under the misassumption that the party was working for the Fuhrer. The party manages to convince Ms. Ideal that they’re on the level, just in time for news to come in on the TV that rumours are spreading that “the Fuhrer” lives, “the Last Battalion” is real, and also they’re coming to town. This scene confirms the worst: by use of coded language, it spells out that “the Fuhrer” is supposed to be none other than Adolf Hitler, back from the dead… in rumour-demon form! And thank goodness for that. I had known about Hitler being in this game for years (actually, I had followed the PSP development and release of P2IS and the non-release of P2EP very closely!), but had been under the impression that he was the real Adolf Hitler, and I’m happy he’s not. I had also somehow gotten the impression that he’d be the man behind the man, Joker’s boss, and was worried that we’d reach a point in this Journal where I’d have to talk about Joker being a for-real neo-Nazi working for the actual, factual, 109-year old Adolf Hitler. If anything, Joker should be the one in charge, seeing as how he presumably spread the rumour. In actual fact, we’d later see that Joker has ordered the Circle cultists to fight the Last Battalion, so clearly his level of control is… minimal.
Ms. Ideal spills the beans, and they’re some… some really funky beans, let me tell you. I will try to summarize. It turns out that Ms. Ideal turns is a conspiracy theorist. She believes the ancient Mayans (spelled “Maians,” presumably to distinguish them from Maya the character, but a bizarre choice by any measure), used to live across the entire world in an advanced civilization run by space aliens from the Pleiades. Unfortunately, the aliens (or possibly a second group of aliens? I’m losing track of the details) were forced to die out on the site of this very city, right here in Sumaru. In the process, they left behind the technology the aliens used to evolve human life to begin with, including a device that could evolve humanity further. Or to look at this from a more accurate angle: Joker is exploiting Ms. Ideal’s conspiracy theory to create an alien device via rumour magic, a device that will allow him to evolve his inner circle and kill everyone else.
Unfortunately, this comes hand-in-hand with Ms. Ideal’s conspiracy theories about the Last Battalion, a secret Nazi unit with advanced technology that ensured the survival of Adolf Hitler. I believe Joker spread the rumours about the Battalion to get an army that would want to dig up the Maian ruins for him, though that’s just a guess for the time being. Joker presumably got these theories from King Leo, as Ms. Ideal credits a “Sudou” as part of her conspiracy theory circle of supposed academics. Another such member was the teacher who died in the Sevens clock tower, Kashihara. Ms. Ideal believes the Last Battalion killed him. Oh and by the way, Ms. Ideal also believes that the Masked Circle, Joker’s cult, is the Last Battalion. She also mentions Sudou having a Persona that spoke the original Oracle of Maia itself, raising the possibility that it, too, is just something Joker seeded to make it true. I hope you’re keeping up with this. By the way, Ms. Ideal describes how Sodou’s Persona gave the prophecy without knowing a thing about Personas, which makes it sound far more realistic than anything in the rest of her theory.
At this point, Ms. Ideal gives us a copy of her book “In Lak’ech” (Ed. the MT Wiki informs me that the title is a close-to-accurate, real-world Mayan greeting! Cute, but also a bit like titling your book, “Hello”?), which serves us as a portable, text copy of the Oracle of Maia, which is late to the party but not unappreciated.
Everyone puts up with this infodump for far longer than I would have (it goes on even further if you ask her clarifying questions from a freaking menu), but finally Lisa snaps, saying that she knows Joker is actually a specific person from Sumaru, not a secret Nazi officer from Antarctica (oh, I forgot to mention the Nazis have been hiding in Antarctica). She finally puts Michel on the spot about their shared dreams, and he soon realizes it’s not a dream, but a memory. Lisa refuses to say more, only asking that the party go to the Alaya Shrine so she can explain something.
Curiously, at this point, the owner of the detective agency suggests that he’s actually a demon possessing the body of the owner of the agency. Uh… dude, I’m sorry, we haven’t been talking to you between missions, did we miss something important? The game refuses to clarify at this point, so I went to the wiki, which suggests that he’s possessed by the protagonist of Devil Summoner 1… for some reason. Yeesh, we missed the fuck out on this one! He directed us to his computer files, which talked about a case his… body’s original self… did before he was possessed. He was spying on Kashihara – the dead teacher from the clock tower – to see if he was being unfaithful to his wife with Ms. Ideal. The detective concluded Kashihara and Ms. Ideal weren’t having an affair, though the investigation had to be cut short by the Kashihara’s death. Just more on the infodump pile!