Persona 2: Innocent Sin – 7 Grand Dads (fused at the hip)

After stocking up our items for the final charge, we returned to Xibalba. The demons get more powerful from this point on, but they still weren’t a match for our overpowered spells. Unfortunately, the mazes also got harder and longer, with damage squares to boot. Our first flashback in the latter half of the dungeon saw us in the past, with Big Sis looking after Jun while they wait for someone to pick him up. They talk, and it’s clear that Jun doesn’t like his mother for some reason, but they’re interrupted by the arrival of a man who resembles Jun’s “father” from the present day, just a little less tidy. The man tries to introduce himself, but Jun interrupts him, telling Big Sis that this is actually his “uncle,” which the downtrodden man doesn’t confirm or deny. The present-day Jun once again keels over in pain as video game amnesiacs are wont to do, unsure of the facts of the matter. After the fact, Lisa notes that the “uncle” looks just like the clocktower ghost, and also that Jun’s father supposedly wrote In Lak’ech, and also that Ms. Ideal said the man who died in the clocktower wrote In Lak’ech. Kyle and I really appreciated that, since a lot of these details had been lost on us in the intervening months. In short: Jun’s real father was the teacher’s ghost from the clock tower.

In the next plot room, Maya finally starts to clue in to the nature of the dungeon, but doesn’t want to tell anyone in case that disrupts the process. A true scientist! She pounces on a minor discussion between Lisa and Michel, and asks Tatsuya (i.e. the player) to voice his support for one of the two: are the bad guys nearby, far away, or (in defiance of either perspective) somewhere in between? Your choice transforms the next stretch of the dungeon layout to match, but your party members still don’t recognize what’s going on, because they are walking bricks. Having learned from our experience with the mountain and the Jumping Geezer, we took the short route, since we now knew that it wouldn’t make much of a difference. If we had to go back to grind, a small space is just as viable as a large one!

At the end of this variant section, you run into all four survivors of the Longinus unit, including Longinus #1, their commander. Longinus #1 deduces that Maya knows how the dungeon works, although Maya will later confirm that she doesn’t know all the particulars. I understand the devs not giving her that kind of power, but it’s weird that she makes a fuss about not understanding the particulars, only for the game to… never explain them? It would have made sense if she works it out only at the end of the dungeon or so, when it would no longer help her or could only help in a limited manner! After a fake-out where it seems like you get to choose your fate in the upcoming fight (your choice actually has no impact), the four of them engage you. They were pretty tough, resisting or immune to a huge swath of elements. Thankfully, they were inconsistent about their resistances, so we pounded them with a mix of group spells and still ended up killing the three weaker soldiers around the same time. #1 and his boosted stats died only a few turns later. Curiously, Longinus #1 dies while taunting Jun about “where [his] mother has gone.”

We continued, and as we were going through the final dungeon, I remarked: “This game better end cooperatively or I’m going to be pissed. Like, if we lose because we didn’t get Chronos [Jun’s upgraded Persona] or something…” Kyle replied, “That shouldn’t happen,” to which I said: “A lot of things ‘shouldn’t have happened’ in Persona.”

In the next room, the party decides to ask Maya what’s up with her and Xibalba in general, and she gives up and tells them her theory: their imaginations are controlling the layout, obviously. The game then makes a Ghostbusters-style joke where they say that so long as they don’t think of anything awful, nothing awful will happen to them, only for Michel to pull a Ray Stantz by choosing the form of The Destructor: namely, his abusive father, who forms out of the wall into a statue of liquid gold. “Metal Daddy” then fights you as a boss. He had some high stats, but wasn’t rough overall. Michel was almost thrilled, saying that his dad is the only thing he’s afraid of, and basically ending that whole relationship’s story arc! With one person in the relationship not even present!

“Metal Daddy” is voiced by David Lodge, the voice of Vyv Dorden, FFXV’s answer to Hurley from Lost. He also voiced Bahamut in the same game, as well as Cid in Mobius Final Fantasy. Like most of the other credits we know, Lodge has other Atlus connections, including Manabu in SMTIV: Apocalpyse. Other fans will recognize him as the voice of Puppetmon from Digimon, or Villamax in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy.

After defeating the boss and off to the next plot room, we get another flashback, with all the childhood friends talking about how great Jun’s dad is supposed to be based on Jun’s stories. Jun’s father then arrives in person, curiously looking just like the supernatural one does in the present, with no sign of aging. Young Jun reacts with visible fear that goes totally over everyone else’s heads, and present-day Jun shouts for his past self to stay away from his… mother?… who had just come up in conversation. Jun’s mother then appears as another gold statue, and says something about wishing Jun and his father would “disappear” so that she would be “free.” Xibalba responds to this (or rather, to Jun’s reaction to this), by causing Jun to partially disappear! Unfortunately, she attacks, and the rest of the party has to defend Jun as he has his flashback-attack. Unfortunately, “Metal Mama” reflects all spells, so you have no choice but to go auto on attacks and snore your way through the fight. Way to undercut a key plot point, game.

Maya is able to talk Jun back into the physical world, despite Tatsuya’s fucking around with the lighter. I know the lighter represents Tatsuya’s relationship to Jun, but the game has also been using this animation to imply that Tatsuya is bored, or too cool to pay attention, which really undercuts the drama. This wasn’t the only misplaced use of the animation, either – it became something of a running joke throughout the session!

The next room was a sci-fi cryo chamber of all things, seemingly created by the imagination of Ms. Ideal, who arrived just a minute before us. We never get an explanation for how she got away from her captors and the trap that killed them. She pokes around and activates a cryo tube, discovering not ancient Maians, but the alien “Bolontiku” that she talked about during her confusing, rambling conspiracy theory earlier in the game… and that I forgot to mention by name (Ed. Ironically, it’s been months now and I haven’t forgotten the name since!). The party arrives at this point. For some reason, Ms. Ideal’s hair, done up in a bun before now, becomes dishevelled at this point, just so you know for sure that she’s craaaaa~zy, because apparently Hollywood Insanity is enough to literally dissolve hair accessories. Ms. Ideal starts ranting about how Jun’s mother never deserved her husband, and seems to hate Jun for being related to her (you’ll remember that the head detective at the agency was once hired to investigate Jun’s father and Ms. Ideal, since Jun’s mother thought they were having an affair. It seems Ms. Ideal wanted to have an affair, but he never went along with it). Her rant is interrupted when the Bolontiku in the tube defrosts and straight-up knocks her out!

Jun mentions that the Bolontiku have the same “power of the stars” that the party does, presumably relating to the Grand Cross and the power to control the Crystal Skulls. Despite there being nine Bolontiku in the cutscene, the characters start making a big fuss about how there are only five in combat. This is meant to be a hint that they have the same powers as your party’s ultimate Personas, including “dark” versions of their specialized, ultimate attacks. I made a tactical mistake in this fight. Noticing that one of the Bolontiku was reflecting all my spells, I went after that one special and discovered it was weak to physical attacks (I suspect this was the one with Jun’s/Chronos’ powers, figuring… well, none of our Personas could do that!). Unfortunately, remember back in the game’s very first boss fight, and how I said the game was glitching out in its attempts to keep the battle on top of the giant, horizontal gear? This battle had a similar background, and one of its glitches convinced me that the camera had rotated, when really, only the background had moved! I ended up mistaking some other Bolontiku for my target, forgot it was supposed to be weak to Physical, and wasted turn after turn fighting the wrong target and healing myself from the overwhelming rebound damage! I’d have been better off keeping up the group spells and tanking the reflects at this rate! Kyle finally corrected me, and thank goodness for him. The fight ended only a few rounds after the real target was dead, implying that I had done a lot more damage during the earlier phases than I had thought!

After the fight, Jun brings up his father again and Lisa asks what on earth is going on with that. Maya has already guessed: the immortal, “handsomer” version of Jun’s father is a rumour-demon, and that rumours were coming true even back when they were children! For some reason, Maya then starts talking about the central thesis of the franchise, which is that you project different personae around different people, aka, code-switching. It’s a near-complete non sequiter, and I think the problem is that the game is trying to say that the children saw Jun’s father through rumours Jun presented to them, and couldn’t imagine his dad any other way, but the script forgot to actually… make… that… connection?

Jun admits that he was ashamed of his real father. The only sign of any pride in his father is that Jun wants to be a teacher, too. Maya once again ignores what other people are saying, and concludes that someone else is behind this, and has been making the rumours come true. Where is this coming from? Hell if I know. Why did this mystery person need Joker as an intermediary? Hell if I know!

The party decides to just leave Ms. Ideal unconscious on the floor, even though the Battalion could easily use her as their sacrifice just like the cult intended. They’re the heroes.

After this, it was a short walk to the “Heart of Xibalba,” the final boss room. Yup, we’re at the end! But instead of just opening a door, the party goes through a weird cutscene involving a temple of energy, and arrive at a place strongly reminiscent of Philemon’s dimension, though they end up standing on a weird, rotating sigil of light hovering above the floor, instead of on the floor itself. Hitler is waiting for them there. Maya attempts to confront him with the fact that they have four of the Crystal Skulls and are also the only ones left alive who can use them (since the Batallion, the cultist admins, and hell, even the Bolontiku are dead now), but Hitler doesn’t seem to care, and says the skulls were “meaningless from the start,” and even tosses her the Heaven Skull. He then engages them in battle, bragging about the Spear of Destiny and the power of Nyarlathotep are “very real.” Sure enough, he also has Nyarlathotep as his Persona, who looks very different. The Fuhrer is voiced by David Lodge, same as “Metal Father.” Props to him for saying “Nyarlathotep” and making it sound natural and nasty at the same time, and all while doing a German accident!

(By the way, check out this Redditor discussing a pseudo-“historic” approach for pronouncing the Outer God’s name.)

Like a lot of Reich, Hitler was immune to Heiroglyphein, leaving poor Michel with only sub-par options for his turn, but that wasn’t a huge problem. Hitler just had a lot of HP, and wasn’t very dangerous. Even the big Spear of Destiny didn’t seem to work any better than the ones held by the Longinus unit, except that it causes damage when it inflicts its status effect!

After the fight (which took a whole 18 minutes at our stats), the Fuhrer announced he had waited for this, and then revealed he was actually Jun’s fake father. He then claimed that… stars aren’t real… ???… they’re just human consciousness, which was an utterly baffling thing to say and I’m sure contradicts like dozens of points of SMT canon in addition to the more immediately obvious levels of bullshit. For what it’s worth, he does have a nice line where he says “You [humans] cling to fantasies by desperately rationalizing them [as science,]” which shows an apt understanding of how human practices related to the unknown (especially the future) evolved in the so-called Age of Reason. Don’t mind me, this subject is just one of my hobbies.

The party confronts this fellow about his choice of appearance, and he taunts Jun about creating the form, and says that Jun didn’t really become Joker to help people realize their dreams, but rather as a way of repenting for his behaviour towards his father in life. He also claims that Jun’s “last wish” has also been granted, and reveals that not only did Jun secretly want his mother dead after her abhorrent behaviour, but that she was actually the near-cameo we knew as Lady Aquarius, and that she died after Xibalba caused the Caracol to collapse. Jun never recognized that one of his admins was his mother, though she eventually came to recognize him. The demon also brings in both parent’s souls on fiery crosses, a motif SMT fans will recognize from the opening scene of SMT1.

After a few more taunts and even some physical blows, the demon makes a point of saying how “contradictory” the party is behaving, and then engages them in combat, in the form of a monstrous amalgamation of the party’s fathers, known as “Great Father.” Michel, Maya, Lisa and even Tatsuya’s previously unseen and unmentioned father act as “limbs” for this amalgamation, while the main head is presumably supposed to represent Jun’s father, though he’s been distorted out of recognition. Each father is a target in their own right, while you only have to defeat the “head” to win the fight. The Megami Tensei Wiki notes that the game is somewhat confused on which father is which: Tatsuya’s father calls out Jun’s name, uses Jun’s attacks, and is even able to Charm Jun (something only the character’s own father is supposed to do). Meanwhile, the main head, Jun’s father, uses Tatsuya’s fire attacks!

Great Father can be easy or hard depending on what the AI decides to do on any given turn, and the game decided to give us “hard” at the outset. It’s surprising how much the randomized difficulty “calmed down” later in the battle! The main head was the least dangerous, as ironic as that sounds. Most of the party could reflect or nullify fire damage, and its only other frequent attack was to slap you with its tentacle-dick, which barely hurt, for all I’m sure it was very humbling. The most dangerous attack was from Lisa’s father, a big buff man (the game had earlier made a point of saying that Lisa’s father had fought off demons and cultists with his bare hands!), who could land an 18-hit combo that our more fragile party members just couldn’t survive, and it’s not like the stronger ones were always on full health to begin with! By the way, it was a real chore to wait for those 18 numbers to roll past! P2 has a real problem getting numbers off the screen (Ed. P2EP too!). If it would just show the damage for group attacks on all targets at once instead of slowly rolling them out for each target in turn, I’d swear the game would shave an hour or two off its run time from that fix alone.

For the first time in what might have been the entire game, we were forced to convert someone to full-time healer, and that job fell to Michel. Thankfully, we still had Sakya and his across-the-board resistances and immunites, so Michel stayed healthy while he cast Mediarama, the mid-level group healing spell, sometimes supplemented by Maya with the top-level single-target healing spell. Tatsuya and Maya used their ultimate persona’s ultimate attacks whenever possible, but our real damage dealers were Lisa and Jun’s God Hand combo attack. After enough turns, we killed the limbs. According to the wiki, the limbs have 5000 HP each, and the head 18 000, but for some reason the head died only a few turns after the final limb, much to our surprise. We almost jumped in surprise because we were expecting the fight to go on for twice as long again! The fight took about half an hour in total.

By the way, Great Father is voiced collectively by Patrick Seitz, known for Danganronpa, Sailor Moon Crystal and the Viz dub of the original Sailor Moon, and a lot of the usuals like Naruto. For Atlus, he’s done minor roles for SMTIV, Devil Survivor Overlocked, and Devil Survivor 2.

The fight over, Great Father reverted to his appearance as Jun’s father. At this point, who should arrive but Philemon, who identified the bad guy as none other than Nyarlathotep himself (it’s only now, at the end of this game about masked cultists that even opened with rumours of a principal talking to a mask, that I feel comfortable revealing that Nyarlathtop is often associated with “masks,” a term used for his various incarnations and also the name of a famous Call of Cthulhu campaign). It soon became clear that these two had some sort of bargain going on, which they explained. Philemon says that the two of them are the sources of human souls, and they do a Manichean thing of good and evil, although I was sucking air through my teeth at their insinuation that strong-willed people are “good” and weak-willed people are hellbound. God, this series. It seems Philemon and Nyarly were having a debate about whether or not humans can overcome their inherent hypocrisies to become “something whole,” and decided to use the party as test subjects for a bet. This started back when the party were children / teens.

Unfortunately, even though Philemon was acting like we were wrapping up, Nyarlathotep wasn’t done playing the game. Without a word, he teleported Ms. Ideal into the room and set the Spear of Justice in front of her (it might have been better if it had remained on the floor since the Fuhrer had been defeated, but I imagine we would have been wondering why the party never picked it up, so I get it). She immediately snaps it up and stabs Maya. Why? I have no fucking clue, at least not from her perspective. The game just does not extrapolate, in fact it doesn’t even identify Ms. Ideal at any point during the scene (not even a talk sprite, since she never says a word!), and I had to work it out from closely examining her sprite!

The party tries to heal Maya with magic, but it doesn’t work. Philemon realizes why, and has apparently been wondering why Nyarlathotep wasted all this time on creating a Nazi army in possession of the Spear in the first place: he wanted the spear because it has the power to create an untreatable wound, backed by 2000 years of “rumours”… albeit, contorted quite a bit, since that’s not technically what the legend he cites actually says. It’s just a passing, poetic reference to bleeding in general! Maya, now dying, says that she realizes there’s something worse than being forgotten, her own conclusion to the poem she cited earlier: chaining people down with a memory they can’t escape, like her apparent death did to everyone as children. She asks her friends to get on with their lives, not burdened by the memory of her imminent real death. They don’t want to, and curiously, she thanks them for this, maybe too overwhelmed by sentiment to keep on-message. With some final words, she passes on, just like that.

It’s here where we reveal Nyarlathotep’s scheme: Maya has become the “Maian Maiden” meant to be sacrificed to complete Xibalba’s purpose. Now that Xibalba is able to grant him any wish, the Elder God uses it to cause a massive cataclysm, seemingly wiping out all life on earth! The party is only spared because they are in this extradimentional space!

Nyarlathotep reverts to his real form and leaves, gloating that some things can’t be changed, but Philemon disagrees. He says that the only way to change things is to go back in time and prevent the party from ever meeting, which would in turn prevent this from ever happening. Really now. The only way. You introduce time travel into the plot and you think there’s only one way to use it? Writers: never introduce time travel unless you’ve thought it over a hundred times backwards, and if you still think you should, stop anyways. If time travel isn’t the central element or theme of the work, it is only going to break things, like mister, “Don’t go back in time and prevent King Leo from setting fire to the Alaya Shrine,” here. Mister, “Don’t go back in time and prevent Ms. Ideal from stabbing anyone” here. Mister, “Don’t go back in time and stop me from making a bet with an Outer God” here. I could keep going almost to infinity, because there are literally infinite ways to change this. Philemon insists that his stupid plan is the only possible solution here in Nyarlathotep’s domain, saying that mankind itself must be made to change with a new timeline, but why is even this solution allowed, and what does these five never meeting have to do with changing mankind? No, no, this is horsepuck. Fuck’s sake, writers!

Philemon basically suggests that they will an alternate universe into existence, the ultimate manifestation of imagination that the game has been talking about all along. They all agree to do so, and one by one they disappear to be amalgamated into the new world, until only Tatsuya and Lisa are left. Lisa kisses Tatsuya so that he “won’t forget her,” and then vanishes too. At this point, Philemon steps forward and asks if there’s anything Tatsuya wants to say to him. I was just about to joke about slugging the bastard, when what should be on the multiple choice docket but “Hit him”! A walkthrough even confirmed that this gets you a little extra, so I did so happily, causing his mask to fall off, which revealed that he was actually Tatsuya, after a fashion. “I am you. You are me,” he says.

The game proceeds to a cutscene of the surviving party members saying goodbye to Tatsuya, and we plunge into the alternate universe. At this point, we cut ahead ten years to the start of the game, with Tatsuya and his motorcycle. The first change we see? Miss Saeko actually keeps her appointment with Tatsuya, which probably wasn’t supposed to be a change, but I’m calling it! In fact, not as much has changed as we expected, which just goes to show how poorly the authors understand time travel. You just erased the defining moment of these characters’ lives, they should be entirely different people.

There are some changes. Lisa isn’t willing to approach Tatsuya any more, though she still has what must be an entirely petty crush on him in this universe. Characters who died during the game are still alive, and Michel and Kozy are dating… also, Kozy is thin in this universe? Why? Michel is a different person and maybe less of a bully based on what we’re seeing, and so… Kozy lost weight? Fuck, and to think I had hope in their storyline at one point, but now I don’t even know what’s going on! Jun’s mother is also still living with him and they have a good relationship, even though the game made it clear their relationship was bad even before Jun even met the other kid. I don’t… I don’tWhat!? It’s not clear if Jun’s father is alive in this universe. Jun’s mother phrases the only hint in an ambiguous matter. I am really hating this ending.

In a final scene, the original party (including Yukino) are all more-or-less coincidentally in the same place (Michel and Kozy are actually there to find Tatsuya to get him to join Michel’s band, but otherwise it’s a coincidence) when Tatsuya accidentally meets-cute with Maya by bumping into her. It may be that she recognizes him, but it’s impossible to say, because the game ends there. The game ends with a shot of Philemon’s butterfly.

This game makes me feel very bitter, but I suppose that’s a step up from P1. P2IS is not as repugnant as P1, nor is its gameplay as dull and infuriating, but it’s not as though it’s lost those traits. It’s got P1’s “awful” in miniature, despite a far more promising few opening hours.

With that, the new universe is born and the stage is set for Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Frankly, I was surprised the ending lacked any sequel-baiting, given that the devs must have known Eternal Punishment was coming, what with Ulala’s cameo in this game, and the developer quote I mentioned at the start of the Journal discussing the sequel being developed as soon as they shipped this game. I hope EP might answer some of this game’s loose threads, big and small. Why did this game about awful fathers not include Tatsuya’s father in any major way? And hey, remember Tatsuya’s brother? Never had his text updated after the temple quest! From an P2IS-exclusive perspective, he was just kind of slapped in there last minute, as though to explain why Tatsuya wasn’t sent to a foster home! Why was Nyarlathotep in P1? Shit like that. I guess we’ll find out!

…Or rather, we’ll find out eventually. Kyle and I were both so burned out by Innocent Sin that we decided not to play EP the next time we got together. We only expect a one-get-together delay, but I figured I should mention it, to express our shared exasperation for posterity.

As I said during P1, our Persona playtimes are all somewhat dubious. Most Final Fantasy games run us in the neighbourhood of 30-40 hours, but P2IS somehow managed a time of 46h 45m. While this isn’t out of the question, as the game is full of mind-numbing hours of repetitive content like in the zodiac temples, I still suspect that I may have left the game running at some point, maybe during my attempt to find the Jumping Geezer.

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