Our first encounter in the dungeon was the Helpful Slime from the original game, who does the conversation tutorial again. Guess I’m opening this post with mechanics, huh?
Conversation with demons is much the same in this version of the game (although Pacts are called Contracts, ala SMT), with two major changes. First off, everyone has only one interaction they can use solo, instead of four. I suspect this was also the case in the PSX version of Innocent Sin, because it makes way more sense with the team-up conversation system than the version we got on the PSP, where everyone already had 4 options each and the team-ups seemed superfluous. Unfortunately, this does often catch you in situations where there’s literally nothing you can do to manipulate a demon to a particular mood. One thing that does feel like a change is that team-ups now produce different interactions depending on the order you select members, which took us a while to grok to: Maya -> Katsuya is not the same as Katsuya -> Maya! Secondly, the emotion grid isn’t visible in the PSX version. That’s only screwed us up once (it was me, for the record), so I can’t say it’s been all that awful, though I would rather have been available.
Footnote, but whenever the game gives you items in this game, it refers to them both by their name and their category, so a Medicine isn’t just “Medicine,” but “Item/Medicine.” I bring this up because all cards are referred to as “Trt./”. It took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize that stood for “Tarot,” thanks to the silent second T!
Chapter 14 – Each and Everyone’s Resolve and Wishes
Shinra took their time setting up this operation – it’s now January 3rd, a whole three months after Verdot’s report. Shotgun arrives in Wutai and confirms that she’s here alone. One person. You sent one person. Unless this is some scheme to fuck with the mole, this is ridiculous. Speak of the devil: inside AVALANCHE HQ, the mole is passing on the news of the incoming Shinra attack. They point out that SOLDIER is ruined now after Sephiroth’s “death.” If AVALANCHE can just stop the Turks, Shinra will be nearly defenceless, since we’ve established the Shinra armed forces are afraid of the sight of grass.
A complication enters the scene moments later: Yuffie Kisaragi, who has discovered the AVALANCHE HQ accidentally and just as unfortunately gotten one of the troopers to chase her into the streets, where he runs into Shotgun. Shotgun spots the trooper and says: “This operation will fail if he alerts his comrades.” Good things bodies fade into the ether when they die!
Here I sit, at the end of our first session, and before I go to bed, I force myself to stay awake another few minutes, because I know I have to open the Journal with: “Oh dear.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Welcome to Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.
Chapter 13 – The Scar of Calm’s Destruction
We pick up exactly where we left off. Shotgun is holing out in the reactor with Zack and Cloud’s bodies, waiting for the incoming “medical team,” cough cough, that is definitely not going to be headed by a mad scientist. Unfortunately, a whack of Grand Horn monsters arrive (in waves of two, three and three) attempting to kidnap Cloud and Zack before Hojo can! How dare! These two are company property! During these fights, Ririn uses Bio twice, wiping them out fast but leaving Shotgun on virtually half MP for the rest of the mission! Yeah, starting to figure that’s Bioga, not just regular Bio.
Hojo and Tseng both arrive on-scene, Shotgun pointing out that Hojo shouldn’t even be here. Tseng responds that, “the president has issued a top-secret order.” Shotgun shouts, “Top-secret order?!” Yes, Shotgun, that’s what they call things I can’t tell you. Nevertheless, Tseng promises to brief her later? Right in front of Hojo??
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 more slovenly. 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 apt 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.
Chapter 12: Awakening Tears the Calm Apart
It’s September 21st, the day before Sephiroth, Zack and Cloud will ultimately be sent to Nibelheim, and Shotgun is attempting to helicopter her way directly to the Nibelheim reactor as a preliminary investigator. We haven’t checked in on her long before we suddenly cut to an unrelated section of Nibelheim mountainside, where we discover young Tifa Lockheart chasing a white cat with a Shu Takumi-style bandana around its neck.
Shotgun jumps from the helicopter (presumably with a parachute, although they never bothered to draw one) and the split second after she jumps, the wind picks up and she ends up landing on the peak of Mt. Nibel by accident. She calls Tseng and resolves to walk the rest of the way, but hasn’t gone far when she runs into a bird that attacks a Kimara Bug with some sloppily applied scaling effects, as though “flying out of the distance.” Judging from Ririn’s behaviour, you have to dodge the Mode 7 birds or be knocked off the bridges that line this span of the mountain. Ririn then takes a hidden path that loops behind a piece of foreground decoration, and seems to skip part of the map.
Because I wasn’t sure if we’d get another convenient Battalion teleporter leading back to the city even closer to the final boss, we decided to go and visit the game’s last Theatre mission right away, even though it was marked as Level 70 and we were below 60. We figured that if it was like the original two missions, we’d be fine, and if it kicked our asses we could just leave. We needn’t have worried – it was easy even at our current level, if you can believe it. Much shorter in terms of story, too. Let’s take a look.
This story is called “The Persona Thief,” and I suspect it was written/developed by a different author than the person who did “School of the Heart,” because there are major stylistic differences between the two. “The Persona Thief” prefers to have the characters narrate directly to the player, sometimes describing some real trifles. For example, you might see a scene where Lisa says, “Let’s go talk to that person,” followed immediately by a fade to black and Lisa narrating, “We decided to go talk to that person,” followed by the characters talking to that person! Holy shit! I get the impression that the person in charge didn’t care to program characters to move around, because this sort of narration tends to happen when someone would have to move from place to place. One side effect of this mode of story-telling is that Tatsuya barely feels present in the story, since everyone else gets such an inflated amount of screen time. Like “School of the Heart,” your fifth party member doesn’t appear in the narrative – Jun, in our case – though now that Yukino’s left the party, we finally know why: they had to account for either party combination!
Chapter 11: A Dash for Freedom
August, two months after the attack on Shinra HQ. Shotgun is in the Midgar slums, having a 1am meal in what… might be the Wall Market diner?… after missing a date with the other Turks. “Sometimes, it’s nice to have dinner like a normal person,” she says, actively cradling a magically-imbued, double-barrelled firearm through her entire meal. Since she has the day off tomorrow, she decides to go for a stroll and quickly ends up lost, happening across the Gainsborough house and garden, where it is clearly daytime. Writing team and art team not talking to one another, eh?
She’s admiring the garden when Aerith appears, apparently planning to run away from home just this very minute, a motivation that becomes irrelevant as she spots a Turk on her doorstep and assumes they’ve come for her. Why… even introduce that motivation, then? It relates to something she says later, but she could still say that later line without monologuing to herself about running away from home now. Aerith makes a break for it into the slums. “How rude,” says Shotgun, “She takes one look at me and then runs away!” Me! A face of the oppression!
There’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).
Chapter 10: The Sole Deciding Factor
A whole four months pass until AVALANCHE’s next move. Somehow, they sneak into Shinra HQ just before midnight, bringing a group of Bomb monsters with them. The Bombs start murdering their way through the unprepared interior guards, but someone soon sounds the alarm.
Verdot calls the Turks, announcing that the Bombs are actually a monster outbreak from Hojo’s labs. He’s not aware of AVALANCHE’s involvement yet, and seems to believe the Bombs broke out on their own. Tseng and Shotgun are the only ones in the building, so Tseng is assigned evacuation duty and Shotgun extermination. Curiously, Verdot acts like only the executives and researchers know that Hojo is housing monsters, to the point where they can’t even call in SOLDIER to tend to things. Clearly this was retconned by the time we hit Crisis Core, as Zack basically uses the monster research labs as one of his minor hubs!