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

p2is-00010There’s legitimately no way to pick up Tatsuya and Lisa’s legendary weapons at this early point, so we’ll return to the plot. After you complete the last temple, you get a call from Tamaki at the detective agency with bad news: Ms. Ideal has just been kidnapped by Prince Taurus! Jun explains: the Oracle of Maia demands a sacrifice of a “Maia Maiden,” and since King Leo had been twisting every step of the Oracle of Maia to fulfill it all along, it seems the plan was to just sacrifice a Ms. Ideal, whose name is Maia, instead of actually going to Central America or wherever to track down a descendant of the “Maians.” Evil bonus points for mopping up after themselves by killing the source of these rumours, plus who knows what else. Although… if they get away with the sacrifice, that sort of bonus might not matter any more.

Since Prince Taurus has such a strong lead, Jun figures it’s best if they just head for the centre of Xibalba, the final dungeon. It turns out it’s closer to home than anyone expected: the Naruto stone back at Sevens. Sure enough, we headed there and found out that someone had already opened the gate, and the Battalion had gone through (either after Taurus or before him, the witnesses weren’t clear).

p2is-00011Unfortunately, the Naruto stone doesn’t lead straight to the heart of anything. Instead, it sends you to an underground river called the “Silver River,” which you have to navigate on the back of a Last Battalion hover boat. After a joke about Maya’s driving skills, Tatsuya is put in charge, though the dungeon runs primarily on autopilot as you sit, manage items and otherwise wait for random encounters. Your only decisions concern branches in the river. At this point, it was the dead of night and Kyle was nearly unconscious, so I followed a walkthrough to complete the shortest route. Unfortunately, there were a few cutscenes to go before we could call it a wrap. No boss here.

After arriving at the end of the dungeon (simply known as “Xibalba” even though all of Sumaru is on top of Xibalba at this point), the party saw that the Battalion had installed searchlights, but there was no one to operate them or to guard the door into the dungeon. They began to speculate about whether or not Xibalba has its own traps that might have killed the guards, and you to pick from either lasers or a superheated room to gossip about. Apparently the party hasn’t learned anything, because whatever you pick comes true (I picked the laser, which led to someone saying the words “crispy critters,” which I’m positive is a reference to some other game but I can’t for the life of me remember which?). What’s funny is that the party doesn’t realize they manipulated the dungeon with their opinions, and this becomes a big hullabaloo later on. I feel let down.

p2is-00012At this point, we wrapped up the first of our two days’ worth of gaming. We picked up right where we left off, inside Xibalba. The first few floors of this dungeon are actually refreshing and easy, which makes it ironic when Lisa starts complaining about being exhausted around the midpoint. Damn, Lisa, we went through six and a half hours of nearly identical temples of increasing complexity, but “turn right and go through the next door” is tiring you out?

We come to our first cutscene almost right away, when we entered a room and saw another vision of the party’s Power Rangers days. It’s daytime, but Jun has brought a telescope to the shrine (which must be particularly hard to use through those masks!), noting that “Papa knows lots about the stars!” The others ask Jun about his dad, and he hesitates before boasting about him. This causes two bullies to in from waaaaaay offscreen to say that Jun’s dad is a deadbeat. When the party returns from the flashback, Jun seems to be in pain from this, suggesting in the FFVII tradition that he has repressed memories. About his dad, I mean, we already knew that he had repressed memories.

We got introduced to a new, annoying Reich monster around here – a spider mech that could cause Poison to the entire party, and liked to blow itself up for high damage. On the other hand, we also met our new best friend, Fafnir the dragon from the Volsunga Saga, who was probably our most reliable Pact buddy when it came to monster rumours for our Legendary Weapons during the next stretch of optional content.

p2is-00013In the next plot room, the party makes a morbid discovery: Prince Taurus, as well of his entourage, had been somehow cooked alive, with no sign of their captive, Ms. Ideal. The party presumes one of the local traps did this, maybe the lasers or the heated room they dreamed up earlier. What makes this scene particularly memorable and morbid is how Taurus’ body is stuck in a pose as if pleading for his life. Personally, I have my issues with how Taurus got left out of the plot for hours only to show up dead (if this were a TV show, I’d be speculating if the actor refused to renew his contract, so they decided to just kill him off!), but what an exit!

A bit of a plot lull here, where the party’s talking about Prince Taurus’ fate causes them to run into the alternate trap room that you could have placed at the start of the dungeon – in our case, the superheated room, which they run through thanks to their Personas. Sure, sure, but how about you use your Personas to break the exposed elements superheating the room?

p2is-00014In the room after that, we got our next flashback, and it’s finally time to learn what’s up with Maya’s dad. It seems he was a journalist who got assigned as a war correspondent and died during some unspecified conflict (Maya is a child in this flashback, complete with new portrait, so we’re probably talking about a conflict during the early 80s). Present-day Maya is still bitter at him choosing to live and work away from the family, much less to go somewhere so dangerous, though she notes that her father is why she sought out a career in journalism. It’s hard to say if Coolest was really her first choice of assignment, or if she’s still resentful of her father and doesn’t really want to do his style of journalism, or what. All she says is that she hoped to help people find their “dreams” and that word is already bouncing around the food processor on its way to becoming a slurry.

Maya gets a chance to cry (which would probably do Jun a world of good, just saying), and we learn that her beloved bunny rabbit plush was something she made as a “good luck” charm for her father that got returned home with his personal effects, Jesus Christ I’m shocked she can even look at it. Maya talks about whether it’s worse to die or to be forgotten, quoting Marie Laurencin’s Le Calmant. Am I just forgetting earlier examples, or is this trait of Maya quoting things showing up really late in the game without any buildup? It’s neat, but we could have used a few earlier examples, like the way Lisa used to give “Cantonese Lessons” at the start of the game!

p2is-00015In the next room, Lisa and Michel are tired of this apparently overlong dungeon (despite it being no more than an hour, totally unremarkable for a Persona 2) and both wish for Trish or the Velvet Room to show up. Magically, both do, but because the party hasn’t caught on to how this dungeon works yet, the other party members suspect a trap, and end up in trapped rooms created by their own imaginations. In the end, the room is restored to Michel and Lisa’s vision with the healing fountain and Velvet Room available for all. It’s very strange that the game put this room here, because when you reach the next elevator, the game will refuse to let you use it until you search a nearby room… which holds a Battalion teleporter that leads back to Sevens, where you can heal, shop, Velvet Room, anything you want! There’s only a few fights between here and there, so why did they bother putting the scene here instead of elsewhere in the dungeon?

We did use the Velvet Room, and our most important results were to get Lisa the Phoenix Persona and Michel the Su-Zaku Persona. The former allowed Lisa to team up with Jun and his Cerberus Persona to use the incredibly powerful God Hand technique, which we could count on to do around 400+ damage of rarely resisted Almighty-type damage. This was probably the single-most important technique we got in the entire game, since even the remaining bosses were susceptible. Su-Zaku, meanwhile, learned Hieroglyphein, the ultimate technique from P1. Unfortunately, Hieroglyphein was Light-aligned, which meant that Reich enemies and many of the upcoming bosses were immune to it. Really made a roast of the minor enemy demons though, let me tell you.

We also used this trip to the Velvet Room to belatedly follow the walkthrough’s advice to talk to Michel during one trip and then another to get a three-person combo talk option between Michel, Tatsuya and Jun, who team up to form a band. Yes, for real.

p2is-00017Back in the real world, we bought up all the game’s remaining armour (we had actually gone without for a while now, both because we bought Maya’s Legendary Gun, and in hopes that the shops might update their inventory for the final dungeon, which they did not). After this, it was time for the game’s small secret dungeon, and the not-so-small chore we went through to access it, thanks to an innocent misreading. You see, the only way into the secret dungeon is to go through a series of steps. First, go to Abandoned Factory and read every single one of its eleven notes at any point during the game. We had now unlocked Room 6, and found the eleventh note, which contained a rumour that you could find the “hidden boardroom” via a switch in Room 4. Unfortunately, you can’t spread this via the detective agency like you’d expect. Instead, and god knows why, you have to learn the rumour randomly by asking the local demons, even though you already read it on a piece of paper, and then spread it around with them as well. I made this worse when I misread the walkthrough we were using as saying the paper really does give you the rumour and then you have to spread it, so when it never showed up to spread, I assumed we had screwed up the “check all eleven notes” step instead! We actually hadn’t! We didn’t discover we had to ask a monster until nearly an hour later, after we had re-checked all eleven notes and had no idea how to proceed!

Thankfully, we were able to use this period to spread a few more demon rumours, including ones that would make Jun’s Legendary Flower and Maya’s Legendary Guns even stronger than before. You can choose between making them flat-out-stronger or giving them four elemental powers but remaining at the original strength. We preferred the former. Note that if you use one of these rumours, but later Scare a monster away in diplomacy, it might get revenge by spreading a rumour that your weapon sucks, instead! That’s cute, but we had never Scared a monster away since we tested the feature at the start of the game, so it wasn’t much of a threat. Unfortunately, we never found anything but the elemental powers for Tatsuya, Lisa and for that matter Michel’s Legendary Weapons, and chose not to use them in case we came across an enemy that was immune, but oh well.

p2is-00018The secret boardroom contains a few more story notes, which I’ll talk about in a minute, but also a stranger, who turns out to be none other than Nanjo from Persona 1 wearing a Speed Racer helmet for no godforsaken reason. He tells you he came to town from his education abroad after hearing rumours that Kandori of all people had been sighted nearby. Ah yes, this is the best way to hunt for an old enemy: inside a top-secret hidden room not even associated with him, which has been willed into existed literally five minutes ago by a group of demons. Bravo. He strikes up a quick rapport with the party, and decides to give them his Legendary Katana for Tatsuya out of pure, not-quite-in-character generosity.

At this point, you have to follow up on the notes from the boardroom, which tell you that someone made a report on the demon rumours, and that the printed report was put in a basement room that no one can access now. Coincidentally, someone also left a report saying the first floor was weak in places and whoops look at that you fell right through and virtually on top of the secret report, who’d’ve figured? Once you’re there, you can also run into an Alice, the super-demon from the final dungeon of P1, as a monster-in-a-box, which the walkthrough had warned us about. We took the walkthrough’s advice: save scum to get the double EXP buff from the Sumaru Genie, then use an overpowered technique called “Low End Breaker” (which kills the lowest-levelled combatant in a battle) to instantly kill Alice for what was now 160 000 EXP in one shot!

p2is-00019At this point, you have to use the secret report you just read, which confirms what you already know: namely, the rumour about the factory being built on top of a waste plant. What’s different is that the report posits that if the rumour were true, there would be a way to get into the waste plant, and you have to once again find that as a random rumour and spread it amongst the local demons. This took way longer than you might expect, but then again so did the rumour about the switch! On the plus side, we ran into both a demon called a Nezha, who was supposed to have shown up earlier (totally underpowered at this point), and also a demon called Izanami. Both gave us cards to let us make them, and our Izanami Persona stayed with us until virtually the end of the game, though she wasn’t as strong as we had been hoping. Izanami, if you don’t know, is the female lead of the original Megami Tensei, aka the goddess being resurrected in a game titled, “Resurrection of the Goddess.” The game showed the proper reverence for this, the franchise’s literal title character, by giving her… prehensile pigtails?

The Waste Treatment facility under the factory is the game’s secret dungeon, a relatively simple maze filled with the game’s strongest regular enemies. There was a local wandering boss called Eden, whom we killed, as well as additional Alices worth even more EXP (we found one, although our genie had run out by then)! Once you reach the end, you learn why Nanjo thought Kandori was back: it turns out Reiji is also in the area, and he’s cut his hair, leading him to look a lot like his world-threatening half-brother, Kandori (urm… I forgot to mention they were related in the P1 Journal, sorry about that). Reiji only gets so many words out of his mouth before Lisa spots his combat gloves and basically annoys him until he gives her the Legendary Gloves to go away. What a scene.

One long walk back, and what would have been a quick side-trip if it just used standard mechanics was finally done, nearly two hours later.

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