Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Alternate Sin

p2is-00153Further in, we came to another room where we were suddenly confronted with another flashback to the party’s Power Rangers days. In fact, it’s one we’ve already seen: the one where they lock Maya in the Shrine. But this time, Tatsuya does the locking and Jun the protesting, and suddenly Lisa and Michel are openly talking about murdering “Big Sis,” which Tatsuya does personally with his Persona, with no involvement from the future King Leo. It’s clear this is some false memory that Jun has been operating on for the past ten years, now raising the question of who planted it there. Joker is being manipulated, but why and by whom?

In another flashback a few rooms later, we learn that Tatsuya and Jun once tracked Big Sis down to her house some time before the incident, and hung out with her at a park without their masks, which reinforces the scene we saw earlier where Tatsuya and Jun were hanging out alone at some other point. It seems these two were cheating on the deal! Big Sis talks about how she was spooked to see them, and is inspired to recite Franz Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger.” Apparently Maya was just that kind of teenager! Besides introducing the term “doppelganger” to anyone who might not know it, the poem also introduces the idea of a doppelganger as a reflection of past grief that just won’t go away no matter how much time has passed. No significance there, no sir!

By the way, this dungeon was also the one that introduced a running problem where the game poorly communicated which side of a plot room you were supposed to leave through. It was never consistent. Sometimes Tatsuya would start near the entrance doors, sometimes near the exit doors… we were wrong almost as often as we were right!

p2is-00154After finally reaching the end of the dungeon, we found a showdown in progress. Joker had reached the end of the Caracol only just ahead of the Last Battalion, and had used the five crystal skulls to power a circular, stone device on an altar at the end of a big hall. He was protected by the three remaining doppelgangers – Tatsuya, Michel, and Lisa – as well as the fourth Masked Circle admin, the one we had never seen before, “Queen” something. On the other hand, he was now standing face-to-face with none other than the Fuhrer himself, Adolf Hitler armed with the Lance of Longinus, along with all seven remaining Longinus troopers! Speaking from personal experience from the end of the game (since virtually everyone in this room is fought at one time or another), Joker would have lost if things had come to blows, and in hindsight it’s clear he was counting on his inflated sense of destiny and control of the device to carry the day.

Joker announces that he’s here to raise “Xibalba,” and the three groups here – Joker’s group, the Hiter’s group, and the player’s party – represent the only groups qualified to possess it. Hitler explains that “only those born under the holy constellation of the Grand Cross can control the five skulls,” and that his Longinus troopers are the one that qualify. Wait, do you have any idea how many people are born every day? Are you sure the only people that qualify are the party, some duplicates that didn’t exist before now, and some rumour demons that didn’t exist before now? That seems… dubious, somehow. Maybe they mean that these three groups are the only ones in Sumaru.

p2is-00157Joker asks what a rumour demon even wants with Xibalba, something that grants dreams, and Hitler addresses him as a “marionette,” a word the Longinus troopers already used against Anna, and that will continue to be hurled at Joker as the game goes on. He then makes a speech about “destruction and progress… these contradictory impulses [that] are constantly at war within man.” Maya later starts shouting about mankind wanting to “evolve.” Funnily enough, I played another game recently (also a JRPG!) that was trying to make a similar point, and I want to ask both of them: whaaaaat kind of “human progress” and “evolution” are you actually talking about? They were both equally vague! When it comes to Hitler, I could make a few guesses, but Maya and everyone in the other game babble about this too. I would appreciate some specifics, something concrete, but as these two game went on, the concept they were talking about got more and more nebulous. Maybe the games were trying to cast a super wide net to capture every player’s idea of “progress” and “dreams”? Or maybe they were trying to avoid controversy in saying one particular thing is “progress?” In any event, they cast such broad nets that they missed me entirely and I doubt I’m alone. It reaches the point where characters are practically using “progress” and “evolution” as a nonsense words. “The human race will always pursue gooditude, but is it worth the badliness?” I’m curious if these are just two games were coincidental examples of sloppy writing, or if “progress,” “evolution,” and “dreams” mean something specific and concrete to a Japanese reader, as a sort of cultural shorthand, and that’s going over my head? Iiiii’m kind of inclined to think it’s just bad writing!

Two of the Longinus troopers stay behind to ward off the player party while the others engage the cultists, and Joker and Hitler argue over who would be the better dictator. Even dictators don’t talk like this. But whatever – it seems the progress is complete, and Xibalba rises from the island where it was buried, levelling the border of the city and carrying the rest of the city into the air atop a giant gyroscope-like flying machine! Four temples also appeared in the city, specifically in the places where King Leo had planted the bombs earlier, each featuring one of the zodiac signs we’ve been seeing repeated by the cultists. The cult “Queen” that we haven’t met before now reacts to this transformation with shock, and is identified by her character profile as Lady Aquarius, no mention of “Queen” whatsoever despite Ulala’s fiancé explicitly calling her a “Queen” (or maybe he was referring to Lady Scorpio – it makes just as little difference now!). Just then, Joker has an attack of conscience as Jun’s personality surfaces, and Longinus #1, riding a specially marked white Marionette mech, jumped up and launched an attack at him. Lady Aquarius shoves him out of the way, curiously calling him “Jun.” She is knocked out. And since I didn’t notice her curiously calling him “Jun” until I was writing this, I didn’t realize anything was suspicious about her at all and spent the rest of the playthrough making fun of the game for including her at the “last minute.” Sorry P2. Well, partially sorry. You really should have included her earlier instead of making her a virtual non-character.

p2is-00156

He’s flying here, really!

Longinus #1 then grabs one of the skulls out of the device – the Heaven Skull, Joker’s own – and flies off with it. The others follow… including Hitler, who I imagine may have been written as wearing a mech suit, only to be given a dress suit in the final game, meaning he just sort of jets away on his own flatulence.

Joker is left behind, and Yukino runs in to rejoin the party, almost unacknowledged. The party tries to talk Joker back to his senses as “Jun.” Unfortunately, a voice speaks up to convince him to fight back. Joker had only a few slightly effective attacks, and the fight wasn’t a serious threat. Perhaps for good reason, as we weren’t done yet! The unknown voice taunted Joker into wishing for more powers, and then revealed itself as his persona, Nyarlathotep, back from Persona 1. The Crawling Chaos turned Jun into an archangel. This form had some heavier attacks, but many of our party members had immunities, so even this didn’t stack up. Sorry Joker, you’re out.

Jun wakes up as himself, seemingly free of Nyarlathotep’s control, if dazed. Maya gives him the nemophilia flower from earlier, not bothering to say what it signifies since Jun would naturally understand – the player has to check it in the inventory to learn what it does! At this point, everyone’s Persona reacts with fear to something (strangely, so does Jun, even though he no longer has a Persona after we broke Nyarlathotep’s hold on him). At this point, a handsome man teleported in and asked Jun to continue his work as Joker. This marked the first instance (this session, anyways) of the bad guys referring to their goal of “turning people into Idealeans” as “going to Idealian,” as though “Idealian” were a location instead of a concept?

p2is-00158Jun identifies this figure as “father,” something everyone else takes at face value, assuming that this is Jun’s birth father. Kyle and I did not! We assumed this was just a term of endearment. This partially has to do with the fact that Jun will soon start acting like he has something to reveal about his father, but on my part, it just didn’t make sense for Jun’s father to be a supernatural entity that Personas are afraid of! Why should he be? Provide an explanation! We get one later – the childhood friends met this man as children – but it almost conflicts with the evidence in this scene here, where they seem surprised!

You know, there was a link going around a few months ago about how weird it must be to live in a cliché JRPG world if you’re not part of the main party, given how the world tends to get contorted to represent things that are important to the main cast and no one else. Games in this style are really egocentric about their main characters if you think about it that way, and I think “Oh, Jun’s father must be an all-powerful warlock or something, that fits my perspective of a world that’s already twisted to be all about us,” is pretty indicative of the style.

p2is-00159Jun’s father claims to have written In Lak’ech, though you’ll recall that this is unlikely, since the man who actually wrote In Lak’ech is dead – the teacher ghost from the clock tower, remember? Jun refuses to listen to his “father”‘s requests, and his father attacks him with magic and then leaves him to die in the rapidly collapsing chamber. The party is only saved thanks to Philemon, who teleports everyone away, including Anna… but not poor Lady Aquarius, who is left to die. Forgotten by the characters and writers alike, tut tut.

Philemon once again mentions the “Crawling Chaos,” and Maya asks about it this time, but Philemon refuses to answer, because contrivances. All of a sudden, Yukino speaks up, asking Philemon can pass on her Persona powers to Jun! This really does come out of nowhere, as have a lot of Yukino’s recent developments. She says she feels grown up now and doesn’t need her Persona to help her thrive. That’s, uh, fine and all, but if the devs knew this was coming, if they were were planning to replace Yukino with Jun all along, why did all of her final events get chopped into salad over the last dungeon like they did? I swear everything that happened to the poor woman other than her already-dubious relationship to Anna came out of nowhere. I liked having the doppelganger storm in out of nowhere to reveal the other doppelgangers existed, but the rest was a mess, including Yukino not even speaking in the scene before the fight with Joker. Somebody absolutely did this last minute, but why?

p2is-00160Also, writers, you don’t have to transfer the Persona when you could just have Jun do the Persona game – in a game with no Persona Levels, a novice user is just as strong as a veteran! Or the writers could just say that he retained his ability to use Personas but didn’t have one, and then Philemon gives him one! What makes things worse is that once Yukino is Persona-free and hits the ground, she almost goes straight into combat, saying she has to defend people. That’s well and bold of her, but hasn’t it been Persona series mythology from moment one that the Persona are what allow you to fight demons to begin with? I get that you can handle your own personal growth now, Yukino, but you are also now an average twenty year old woman with a not-so-average but nevertheless 100% mundane pocket full of hairpins and sewing needles that you’ve been treating as “throwing knives,” so maybe don’t throw yourself in front of the nearest duke of hell? What I’m getting at is that not only was this sequence rushed, but the person who wrote it doesn’t seem to understand the series’ lore to begin with?

Before we say goodbye to Yukino, let’s continue discussing the alternate route that happens if the player didn’t encourage her to go into the ruins. We left off after the doppelganger and Anna jumped to their deaths. In this alternate version, it seems the doppelganger jumping off the bridge represents Yukino actually losing her soul after a fashion, and she’s unresponsive when you rejoin her during this scene. Philemon transfers her powers to Jun as a sort of dying wish. All-in-all, I can’t help but think the “bad end” version of this dungeon was originally the only one, sad and ugly as that would have been. It was better paced, and all the choppy scenes are from the good route. If it was the original version, it also means one less redundant Longinus trio fight, which makes more game design sense. On the flip side, it’s far less narratively satisfying and removes player agency, so I’m happier with the faulty “good” ending.

p2is-00162In a cute touch, Philemon doesn’t agree to the transfer until Jun proves he can remember his name here, just like he asked the player at the start of this game and also P1. He can, and Jun ends up with a new Persona, Hermes, who looks like a wooden doll for some reason. And hey, remember how Maya’s Persona Maia is Hermes’ mother? Philemon also doesn’t stop there, giving everyone more upgraded Personas for previous events as well. Once again, they were all Greco-Roman: Apollo for Tatsuya, Artemis for Maya, Venus for Lisa, and Hades for Michel.

(Ed. By the way, the MT wiki has a complex but intriguing trivia observation here: remember in the theatre scenario with Rose and Akari? During that scenario, Michel thought Rose was cute, but in this scene, we learn that Rose was really using Akari’s appearance! This means that Michel, whose ultimate Persona turns out to be Hades, was attracted to Akari, who transformed into Persephone!)

Philemon returns the party to the real world, at the Alaya shrine, now (with the rest of the city) on top of Xibalba. There, they’re greeted by Ixquic out of nowhere, who is leading around the kids from earlier, who have been left without adult supervision after the fucking city took off into the sky. For some reason, Maya gets it into her head to teach the kids the Persona game, because nothing ever went wrong with arming kids with demons, definitely not an entire series of video game conflicts, no sir! Ixquic marches off and out of the story. What a perplexing sequence, and/or character.

p2is-00163At this point, Jun says the best plan would be to retrieve the Crystal Skulls. Hitler has the last and has probably gone to “the center” of Xibalba, but the other four would have been moved to those temples that all-but sprouted up around town, so those seem like the easier place to start. Before she can get dragged into this, Yukino announces that she’s leaving the party, which Lisa and Michel take with surprise even though she already gave up her magic powers and everything? Come on, guys, get with the program! Anna offers to go with her, and personally I got a semi-romantic vibe from them well before I learned about Yukino’s alternate route. They never openly acknowledge it, but that’s not surprising from a 90s product. And I kind of hope I’m right, because if they are attracted to one another, the alternate scene where the doppelganger Yukino manipulates, kisses and then kills Anna reads like a demonically manipulated tragedy rooted in their real feelings, like how the demon Maya behaved. But if they aren’t attracted to one another, it’s just an unpleasant, “evil lesbian” sexual assault scene, and fuck Persona for it. The demon Maya scene makes me lean one way, and Persona 1+2’s overall bad attitudes make me lean the other!

By the way, if you go from the moment we entered the Caracol dungeon for our serious attempt, and go all the way up to the point when we finally returned to the overworld, this dungeon ran for an astonishing three hours, eighteen minutes!

Prev: Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Must not make a joke about “holy lances…”
Next: Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Gygax Weeps

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