Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Gygax Weeps

Yukino’s rushed exit finally complete, we checked out some of the surroundings, but got bored early and decided to pursue the main plot. Still, I’ll go over our results. There were doomsayers gathered in the park, waiting for the end of the world under the assumption that they’d become Idealian when it happened (they had been lifted into the sky, which probably feels like a significant omen). We also checked in for new weapons and armour, bankrupting ourselves yet again. Jun uses thrown flowers for his weapons, taking a page from Tuxedo Mask’s book while also sticking to the same weapon element (Thrown weapons) as Yukino. Jun soon came to serve as one of our primary demon negotiators, since there were very few demons that didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with his “Fawn” and “Horoscope” options. Not sure why, he just is! Jun also adds to the Maya pile of contradictory voice clips with his “I don’t want to fight!” followed by a smug and self-satisfied, “You got in my way!”

Oh, before I forget, Jun is voiced by Bryce Papenbrook, voice of Zidane Tribal in Dissidia and Tiz in Bravely Second, as well as many other mainstays: Naruto, Digimon, and Danganronpa. I presume he’s also the voice of Joker from earlier in the game, but in voice acting you can never be certain about that, which is why I’m only getting around to Papenbrook’s credit now, since I’m only certain about Jun. Or at least, as certain as I can be about these unsourced credits!

At this point, it was time for another trip to the Abandoned Factory. We ran into a rumour demon which returns no reward, the joke being that you misinterpreted someone complaining about their coworker as complaining about a demon, so there wasn’t even a rumour until after you spread it! Naturally they wouldn’t reward you! While in the Factory, we found more notes talking about the demons there, including from the person who started the rumour that there were demons here to begin with. He claimed that they came from an old (and fictional) waste disposal plant that the factory had been built on top of it. But when management found out, they got unusually curious and even took him to a seemingly secret board room to interrogate him. More on this later.

At this point it was time for the four temples. This is a curious section of the game, and it isn’t thoroughly explained. Here’s my understanding of the system, which could easily be wrong. You can approach the temples in any order that you want, but once you beat a temple, it powers up two of the other temples to become more complex in layout. Think of it as each temple having three forms: the base form, the upgraded form, and the twice-upgraded form (the upgrades aren’t arranged to allow a thrice-upgraded form). Thankfully, you don’t have to understand this system if you don’t want to, and can just approach the dungeons in whatever order your Personas make most convenient, which is what Kyle and I did: Leo, Scorpio, Taurus, Aquarius.

That’s all well and good, but I forgot to mention… each of these dungeons has the exact same set of monsters, except the cultists that vary to match the temple in question. But that’s it. Each dungeon even has the same story structure, too: fight with some upgraded Cultists in a checkpoint room, then fight with some Reich in another checkpoint room, and then finish with a boss, three of which are the surviving clones of the party members. The exact same structure. Four times! In a row! Add in the fact that the Cultist enemies are two dungeons out of date by now, and you’ll realize this is almost no variety at all. And it goes on. And on. You thought that three hours, twenty minute Caracol was bad? These four temples, barely distinct from one another and almost a single dungeon as a consequence, went on for six and a half hours. Do you see why we started to turn to the auto battle command in desperation?

By the way, did you notice how I said the midboss cultists at the checkpoint were “upgraded”, but didn’t say the same about the midboss Reich? That’s because the Reich group you fight in every single temple is just some wandering monsters with a Kommadant mixed in, and the latter might run away in the first turn!

The worst part is that I’m going to be able to pare back those six and a half hours into so little text that it’s not even going to be funny. It’s going to be the worst Marathon Journal compression since I compressed the entire Snow Queen quest. Shitpile!

Okay, let’s rush this. The Leo temple’s gimmick seems to be staircases that lead to sudden dead ends, which isn’t much of a gimmick at all, but that may be because this was the un-upgraded form of the dungeon. The skull at the end of the dungeon was guarded by the Tatsuya doppelganger, who mocked the real Tatsuya for being such a goody-goody and asked if he honestly forgave Jun when Jun deserved worse. When we had Tatsuya say that he did forgive Jun, the doppelganger gave him more mockery, though this was the “right” answer after a fashion, in that it unlocked a new team chat option for Tatsuya and Jun during diplomacy (that I don’t believe we ever found a serious use for it, but oh well!). As a bonus, if you bring your new super-Persona from Philemon to the fight with your evil clone, it will be upgraded slightly by the end of the fight (it might be important to keep yourself from switching it out, too).

Scorpio next, the water temple. This dungeon was filled with poison pools that would sap your SP, although this also dissolves the pool. It’s possible to do this dungeon by dodging the pools, but Kyle preferred to power through instead of going the long way, eating a metric ton of Chewing Souls but otherwise not doing us any particular harm. We just had to buy a few more, and they weren’t that expensive!

I’m only now realizing that these dungeons are colour-coded to match the doppelgangers/characters, which raises the question: were the zodiac signs chosen to match the characters, or the characters designed to match to the signs?

The boss at the end of this was evil doppelganger Michel, and this is probably the ugliest of the four “face your inner demons” scenes, because Michel has been genuinely awful in the past. Worse, the doppelganger seemed he had the real Kozy with him (it’s been a while since we saw her), and we learned that she had joined the Masked Circle to become thin to win Michel’s affections to become thin and “beautiful.” The doppelganger rubbed all of this in Michel’s face, but Michel finally found the strength to confess to Kozy. Much to my disappointment, we didn’t learn anything about how or why Michel lost weight, just that he used to tease Kozy for being fat, which was already evident. I think you could probably hear my faith in these characters’ storyline start to deflate as I watched the scene, but the scene itself wasn’t so bad for Persona’s track record on this particular subject (evil doppelganger aside), I was just… hoping for something better. Or something at all. My expectations for this series are very low.

Taurus Temple had conveyor belts, and evil Lisa was the boss. More shocking revelations here, where doppel Lisa announced that Lisa only got her teenaged crush on Tatsuya because he was popular, just like people were insinuating at the start of the game. She also implied that Lisa has been using drugs, which is a lot like Yukino’s “sleeping around,” in that it comes from absolutely nowhere and is never mentioned again. These are what critics call “informed attributes,” traits we’re told about that aren’t backed up by the text. Every time I think of the word “informed attributes,” I think of Billy Campbell from Star Trek TNG’s “The Outrageous Okona,” and I’m not making that up as a joke! He just lurches into my mind, uninvited! The moment doppel Lisa started talking about drugs, within five seconds I was picturing Billy Campbell trying to flirt with Teri Hatcher and stopped dead at my note-taking keyboard, thinking “…Oh.” Lisa and the others beat up the clone, and Lisa admits to her failings but confesses to Tatsuya outright in spite of his chemistry with Maya, and you’re given the chance to accept or deny her feelings. There’s no harm in doing so, and you even get a team-up chat for it.

We fucked up with Aquarius, the air dungeon, but first things first. The gimmick is that it drops you through pits onto the lower floor. Get it? Air?? Like I had done in the previous session, Kyle stuck to the edges of rooms, a process that dragged out the upgraded dungeon layout used large, circuitously bordered rooms.

But let’s talk about our screw-up. The problem started in the previous dungeon, when we left Lisa equipped with Venus even though Venus had reached max rank. We wanted her Persona upgrade during the doppelganger fight, right? But it got kind of tiring, leaving her dead-ended like that. So when I missed the walkthrough mention that you should go into the boss fight with Jun’s Hermes equipped, as it causes him to transform to Chronos, instead, a much bigger upgrade than the others! As a result, we swapped our maxed-out Hermes out, and lost a powerful Persona, and powerful combo attacks to boot. Combo Attacks had really fallen by the wayside at this point in the game, since the strongest ones require some really obscure commands and we weren’t even looking them at this point in the walkthrough. The game expects you to have combo attacks too, I think, because it’s really tedious without them? Kyle and I are lucky we stumbled across a powerful one not far from here, because if we hadn’t found it, we might not have been able to beat the game when we did!

The boss fight in Aquarius is just another three Longinus grunts. A teensy bit boring, but still a nice job mixing up the boss fights with at least one victory for the other faction. But just because Jun doesn’t have an evil twin waiting for him doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be any ugly revelations… or hints in that direction, at least, as the dying Longinus #6 says that Jun doesn’t “even know who was meant to be seated here.” Although, frankly, I’m not sure what he’s hinting at even after completing the game!

~1250 words discussing six hours over four dungeons. Gygax weeps.

You might notice I just said “six” hours, not six and a half like I did earlier. That’s because we spent half an hour or so in the middle there on a sidequest, a refreshing break of sorts. While we were doing the temples, we stumbled across a demon rumour about a legendary gun, and not much further on, we heard another about a “legendary case” (that is, the guitar cases that turn into Michel’s machine guns, not that the game made that clear). Hey, remember demon rumours? Because I have literally never mentioned them in any detail. It turns out they’re a lot of overhead for minimal returns, and the devs were probably drawn to put the ultimate weapon stuff here thanks to the sheer obscurity of the system. You have to ask Pact demons about “Information” to learn these rumours, and then spread them via more Pact demons (often just copies of the one who told you in the first place). The majority of these sparse rumours are meant to upgrade specific demons and their corresponding Personas (although the number of demons/Personas available represent a vanishingly small number overall), but in this case they give you weapons. Curiously, the walkthrough we were checking said this isn’t rumour supposed to appear until you get mid-way through the final dungeon, and yet here it was!

The Legendary Weapon rumours don’t work like regular demon rumours, and shame on the devs for the incongruity, which is only going to get worse as we come to another sidequest later on. Instead, you have to get the rumour from a demon, and then ask a certain shopkeeper if they’re selling the item. They report that they aren’t. You then have to pay the detective agency to spread the rumour, even though this is a demon rumour and demons usually spread them between one another! Doesn’t work until you’ve confirmed it’s not true, either! After that’s done, the shopkeeper will sell if the party member that matches the weapon will eat something goofy and stupid. This Poisons them as a final punchline. Long story much deflated, this got us Maya’s legendary pistols for 500 000 yen, while we left Michel’s legendary case on the shelf, since our lottery prize was better! Kyle did pick it up towards the end of our double session, but only because we were out of other things to buy!

After you finish these two rumours, it becomes possible to get a legendary flower for Jun. This quest was different: after you confirm it isn’t for sale as usual (which happens in a cutscene, not a regular dialogue like the other two), you have to visit the rumourmongers for the last time in the game. Why we do this instead of just spreading a rumour that it’s for sale, I don’t know. Bear in mind that Jun’s quest doesn’t show up until you do the other two Legendary Weapons that I’ve mentioned, so the party should know the drill by now! Like I said, the incongruity is only going to get worse, and this is just a stepping stone. Each of mongers has a different rumour-explanation for why the flower is gone, one of which will actually erase it from the game! If you have a walkthrough open, however, you can get it for free by saying the store owner gave it to a young woman who turns out to be Maki from Persona 1.

By the way, remember when we beat up the school principal ages ago and we had to say if he survived or not? It turns out that if you said “no,” the power of your saying that starts a rumour that literally kills him! (Or is it that saying “yes” gives him the power to survive?) If he survives, as he does in our folder, he attacks the Lost Battallion when they show up and keeps Sevens (mostly) safe, earning genuine respect from the student body, although random encounters persist. If he’s dead however, the Persona 1 cast (at least, the ones we’ve seen so far) have to defend Sevens, which means you have to get past some random encounters to speak to Maki for this quest. That’s literally the only difference you make with that “brick decision” from the start of the game!

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Next: Persona 2: Innocent Sin – Dip a toe in the final dungeon

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