Baofu tells the party that the younger Sudou is housed in a sanitarium on “Mt. Mifune,” which is one of the few names in the game that seem to have been translated into an entirely different name. This is supposed to be Mt. Katatsumari from P2IS, where we found the Caracol and Joker launched Xibalba. There’s no way to squeeze “Mifune” out of “Katatsumari,” at least not in English, so I’m going to bet this has something to do with the length of the name. Either that or they were changed between JP versions for reasons that are totally lost on me!
Speaking of “length”: do we really have to go back to this stupid forest mountain? Like, at all? Do you have any idea how long I’ve been there already?
Baofu forces you go make your first trip to the Velvet Room before the dungeon, but the Velvet Room is virtually identical in function to P2IS, so I have nothing to say about it. The Room doesn’t list your compatibility with Personas in his older version, which is irritating, but livable.
We also did the rounds on the two rumourmongers we could access, and they gave us two rumours. One set up a nearby shop as an armour shop. P2EP seems to have realized that the high level of customizability in P2IS’ shop rumours didn’t really add to the experience, especially since you’d have to comparison shop at five different stores to get the best results no matter your setup. Instead, EP gives you one permanent weapon shop, one permanent armour shop, and later, you get to pick whether you want to add a specialist shop for either weapons or for armour with special properties (Ed. and later still, you can add a second specialist shop of your choice with different special properties). It’s much improved in my mind, though the fact that weapons are so useless in P1/P2 means the improvement doesn’t amount to much on the weapon side of things.
We also got a rumour to turn one of the shops from the previous game into a Spell Card shop, for when you want to pay through the nose to get a specific spell for your personas. Unfortunately, if you want advanced spells, you need an additional rumour to improve the shop, and then you need to earn a card the old fashioned way, and then give one to the owners so that he can add it to his shop list. Still, more convenient than ever before, and it goes to show what you can dream up when you don’t have to clutter the city with nigh-identical copies of the same feature in the name of customizability.
Long story short, we bought a full set of armour for everyone and bought only a few items with our remaining cash.
Oh, and before I go too far, Baofu is voiced by Richard Epcar, whom Kingdom Hearts fans will know as the voice of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness from KH2 onwards. Recent years have seen him in the voice of Captain Ginyu for Dragon Ball, and Solomon Grundy for Batman products. Baofu fights with thrown coins, Zenigata Heiji-style. His starting weapon is a “$1 coin,” which cannot be sold, probably to spare the developers the trouble of quantifying the actual value of the coin in different regions. All his later coins are rare or weird somehow, so they could be given whatever market value the developers wanted!
Unfortunately for us, the road to the sanitarium was cut off by a “shady security guard.” The party decided to go through the interminable woods as an alternate route. Off to Tedium Forest! The dungeon was much shorter than before, being the game’s second dungeon, which I appreciate to a degree. The dungeon had a new addition in the form of tunnels that cut off parts of the forest from one another, but it was all relatively simple. Unfortunately, it was complex enough to cut us off from a secret. In the final room, there’s supposed to be a donation box that you can fill to get an endgame prize (you need to reach 10 000 in 100 yen increments, sheesh). If we had found the box, we would have certainly looked it up and learned the secret, but since we didn’t, we’ve been locked out of the prize, since the dungeon can’t be revisited!
Since I have nothing else to say beyond that I hate this place and am glad I never have to return, I’m going to make a brief complaint about Maya’s voice clips again. We were already familiar with her opening voice clip where she shouts, “Whoop-ass time!” (P2IS on the PSP had this as “It’s whoop-ass time!”), but now she has a closing voice clip: “Whoop-ass completed!” What a dork. And just mix “Whoop-ass completed” in with the previously maligned “I’m sorry” for added confusion, since it’s here too!
After arriving at the sanitarium, we discovered why someone “shady” had been blocking the road: someone had gone on a rampage through the sanitarium, leaving numerous corpses in their wake. Even stranger, Baofu recognized one of the bodies, and identified the victims as all belong to the Taiwanese mafia. During this scene, the criminal Baofu and the lawful Katsuya started to snipe at one another for the first of many times. You’re allowed to defuse this by casting blame one or the other, but it doesn’t matter which. In fact, this game has a surprising number of dialogue branches that mean absolutely nothing, quite out of keeping with P1 and even P2IS!
Baofu reveals that these gangsters likely work for Tatsuzou Sadou, who “befriended” them when he was Minister for Justice prior to his current position. No one in the party knows why they’re here, in the sanitarium housing his son, but there’s nothing to do but to follow the clues.
The dungeon goes on for only a short time before you come to Sodou’s room, which he has naturally written and drawn all over, because this is a sanitarium and writers are hacks. Katsuya sees pictures of a few victims of the Joker killings, and immediately assumes this means Sudou is Joker. I assume they must be candid shots and not like, newspaper clippings, because otherwise this looks ridiculous. It’s still a little odd, though, because Katsuya is the most practical of the four, so how does he assume Sudou got out of the sanitarium? Teleportation? I don’t think Katsuya’s at that point in his supernatural journey yet! Unfortunately, Maya’s picture is also on the wall.
Maya takes note of one of the walls in particular, and it turns out to be the Oracle of Maia, but not as we were familiar with it. This time, the game gives us the full text right away:
The twinkling star of Pleiades sets time in motion:
Dance of pleasure
Feast of shadow
Tongue of stranger
Atonement lights above.
The lion’s roar echoes throughout…
The 5 skulls shine in Hades…
The holy cross shines in the Heavens…
The moment the stars stop rising…
The beat of the virgin Maia also ceases…
Paradise remains on earth…
This sounds like a similar oracle to the one from P2IS, so maybe it’s not important in this game? Katsuya reminds us that the Grand Cross already happened (remember, it’s two weeks later than it was in P2IS), and Ulala adds that nothing supernatural happened in response. At this point, Maya starts having chest pains, and Ulala explains that after she met “Déjà Vu Boy,” a bruise appeared on her stomach, ala her killing wound from the other universe.
We eventually came to the sanitarium director’s office, but let’s set aside the plot for a minute, because we got our asses kicked and didn’t go back for a stretch. Just spare everyone the trouble, there. We went off to grind for a while, which was tricky, because Katsuya and to a lesser extent Ulala were both had poor defence, with low HP and shitty weaknesses on their default Personas (although Katsuya’s persona was strong against the area boss). Katsuya as a character also has an extreme bias towards his Strength stat, a stat Kyle and I barely ever use, because regular attacks are garbage. Even his regular attacks are garbage, which just underline our open despise. Still, a few level ups were all that we needed to defeat the boss, so let’s catch you up to speed on the plot here.
The ex-King Leo was shaving when we arrived, a Hellhound at his feet, strongly implying that he was, in fact, Joker. Though how he got out of the sanitarium to commit his murders, who could say? Even if he can teleport in this universe, that doesn’t explain the guards not doing a bed check! Personally, I wasn’t buying that Sudou was Joker at the time, but the game carries on as though it was a 100% confirmed fact from this point on (because it’s supposed to be), and I see no reason to complicate the write-up with my ongoing confusion. Sudou wants to talk about the “Other Side” (the Innocent Sin universe), which he remembers, but Katsuya brings up the subject of more “Joker killings” that took place ten years ago. Sudou confirms that he was responsible for those as well, saying: “They said they needed a sacrifice.” No one even asks who he means! Baofu asks how he got all this demonic power in prison, and Sudou puts it down to “Kotodama,” though he refuses to explain this one.
At this point, the phone begins to ring, and Sudou says it’s someone outside, having presumably picked up a previous call from the same caller. Baofu goes to look and sees three members of the Taiwanese mafia, and abruptly rushes out, having seemingly recognized a figure the game calls “Man with Scar.” The remaining three party members stay with the murderer, who begins to rant that the “Other Side” is the “real” universe, and gets frustrated when Maya doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He sics the Hellhound on us, and says that if we survive, we should meet him at the “Sky Museum,” this game’s translation of the Aerospace Museum from Innocent Sin, where Sudou was killed in that universe (well, basically). He teleported off, finally confirming that he can do that.
Part of the difficulty in the fight against the Hellhound is the fact that, in losing Baofu, the party is down to three. Remember that P2IS gave you five party members at almost all times, so in paring things down to three, your survivability goes down. Even though the boss is statted to fight only three party members, and the enemies at large are statted to fight four, you only get three actions for every one action from the boss, and that leaves less time to heal from surprises, and only allows so much healing from group attacks. We also had a painfully limited supply of items, including only a single “revive from death” item, a situation that didn’t correct itself very much over the course of the session! Still, the second try pulled it off, and the party went off to join Baofu.
Baofu refuses to explain his actions after we reunited, which will hurt him in the long run, even in ways he rightfully shouldn’t have kept secret, like refusing to describe his quarry. He tries to get Katsuya to give up on calling the cops about the sanitarium murders, if only because Katsuya’s too dependent on them in a situation where they can’t help, but Katsuya does it anyways.
We return to the world map, now able to access the Konan district, containing the Sky Museum. While in the area, we were also able to visit Maya’s apartment (we still aren’t allowed in Ulala’s adjoining apartment, by the way, Ed. and never would be!), and to see the Sumaru Genie, but she had none of her powers from Innocent Sin, so was no help to us. The game had even turned one of its former shop keepers into a rumourmonger, making the whole district feel empty at the moment (this new monger is working in place of the Genie, who was doing double duty to begin with). Thankfully, the monger had a set of three rumours you can choose from, which start off this game’s sweepstakes system. Unlike the previous game, where you chose the quality and rarity of the sweepstakes’ prizes, you have no control over rarity or quality here, just content. There are also three separate magazines, and over the course of the game you set each of their sweepstakes as you please – at the time of writing, we’ve only unlocked two. The first choice was to set up a magazine to award Weapons, Armour, or Accessories. Since Accessories were so vanishingly rare in the past two Persona games, we went with that.
After updating our weapons and armour at the shops, we headed to work, and discovered (actually, as we had previously heard) that there was a group of grade school students at the museum, again. I realized seconds too late that of course Sudou was going to torch the place like he did in the previous universe, which would mean that we wouldn’t be able to save the game during the dungeon. And wouldn’t you know it, we had to put off a real-world obligation to finish the dungeon, because it wouldn’t even allow us to pause! Just to run around repeating this timed mission from the previous game with almost no adjustment! Shame on the developers! The only change is that you have more time, but now the timer continues to run during battles as well as between them and on menus (which is why Kyle and I couldn’t pause the timer and leave by simply going to a battle). Unlike in Innocent Sin, where Tamaki and Tadashi kept you from progressing without rescuing all the kids, Jun is here in this universe, having a relatively innocuous trip to the museum interrupted by this arson. Jun serves a similar role to Tamaki and Tadashi in blocking off the way forward if you haven’t rescued all the kids. Besides this, Maya has a sense of déjà vu in regards to the Zero suspended in the atrium, thinking there will be someone (Akari/Ixquic) to rescue there, but this time there isn’t.
On the roof, we discovered that things have already accelerated a few steps forward in the plot: Sudou has already taken Jun, our Tadashi analogue, hostage, and he’s already being accosted by Tatsuya!
…Oh, and also Tatsuya is here!
It seems Sudou is trying to get Jun to take back his role as Joker, since Sudou doesn’t feel fit for it, and seems to want to be commanded instead. Read into that as you will. Between Maya, Ulala and Katsuya, it quickly comes out that Tatsuya is Maya’s “Déjà Vu Boy.” Sudou shouts at Maya to remember this scene from the alternate universe, and Tatsuya shouts the opposite, finally revealing his motivation: he wants his friends to forget about the Innocent Sin universe so that they can live their lives free of the trauma. Unfortunately, Sudou seems to remember something Tatsuya does not. He makes the mistake of hinting at it, though, and Tatsuya is able to shout for the others to run just when the roof caves in like in the alternate universe, nearly taking him with it. He catches and edge, and Maya rushes to help him. Tatsuya urges her to let go, either out of concern for her safety, or maybe remembering that King Leo survived the fall and figuring he’ll do the same? Sudou goes to knock Maya over the head, and Jun reflexively shoves him into the hole. Jun’s naturally upset at having seemingly killed a man in self-defence (goodness knows the devs had their pick of sprites for “Jun in agony”), but Tatsuya hurries the others off onto the blimp, having already prepared the rumour to make it fly. He’s even learned how to fly it, sparing us an embarrassing crash right out of the gate! (He claims he learned to fly it by watching someone else, but since the only person he ever saw fly a balloon crashed the thing, I suspect he may have secretly gone out of his way to learn, preparing for this day.)
Tatsuya says that they’re not in the clear yet, since he knows that Sudou is going to get on the blimp by teleporting, just like he did before. Unfortunately, Sudou blows the blimp’s engines right after he arrives, so Tatsuya’s flight training was for naught. Sudou and Tatsuya start to have a predestination vs free will discussion, but then Sudou starts rambling about “voices” and summons a troupe of demons to assist him.
Tatsuya joins you for this fight, a level 50 giant with his Ultimate Persona from the previous game. He can near-instantly kill any of the assistant demons with his Persona’s fire attacks, but Sudou is immune to fire, so can’t even be hurt by Tatsuya’s spells until you Rank Up Tatsuya’s Persona from Rank 1 to Rank 2. Of course, you could just have Tatsuya attack, that’s hardly out of the question. I know I mock physical attacks in these games, but he’s level 50! Tatsuya’s voice was provided by former Young and the Restless actor Kim Strauss, although he also has the usual Naruto and Bleach credits that seem to crop up every time I do these things. He was also a frequent Power Rangers voice actor back in the “Saban Era,” including several notable roles, most of them villains.
Sudou’s Persona, a exaggerated jester figure outright called “Joker,” helped to confirm to me that he really was Joker, though it still took a while for me to give in. He and his assistants make quite the dangerous group, dropping Baofu in about two hits. After the Hellhound fight, we were kind of used to our party members dropping like flies, but that didn’t mean we were happy about it. Basically, the fight was mostly just the main party trying to stand on their own two feet while Tatsuya did all the real fighting. Sudou dies, but shouts that the Joker won’t.
At this point the zeppelin crashes, only for the Tatsuya start to shoving people out the door, the writers having forgotten that the Persona users were supposed to carry the kids out to make up for their lack of parachutes! Soon it’s only Jun and Maya, and Jun pauses to give Tatsuya the lighter he gave them as children in the other universe, saying he feels compelled to do so. After Jun jumps, Tatsuya urges Maya to go back into shelter from this paranormal stuff, and gives her a shove too. He’s not seen exiting the blimp, but you know how these things are, he’s certainly fine.
Our party regroups at the beach. If you remember the plot of P2IS, you might remember that this was the point where the party split up. They have even better reasons for doing so this time, what with the suspect in the Joker killings being dead and all, and there being no reason to suspect there’s still any danger! Unfortunately, just because the party was “safe” doesn’t mean the players are! This split would have major consequences for Kyle and I, as it meant we didn’t want to do any major party upgrades and certainly no grinding until the party was reunited, and surprise! The party doesn’t fully reunite for a long time, leaving you with an inadequate party for a painful stretch of the game. Holy shit, this is going to get bad, just you wait.