Session 4 carries through to the end of the game, though it was very close to the line. You’ll have to pardon us for putting optional content on the side like we did, because we gradually came to realize how close we were cutting things and wanted to get the game done! By the way, are we really through nearly two Persona games in a row with no new additions to our tacky Godslayer list? I thought this was a SMT game! (Wandering enemies don’t count. They have to be characters, or at least mandatory bosses!)
We started by going back to the bomb shelter, the second-last time we would do so (while the bomb shelter was “optional content” in the traditional sense, we had cleared the Abandoned Factory in P2IS, and so didn’t give up on the Bomb Shelter until a little later in the session. It probably helped that the Abandoned Factory feigned a shallow level of plot, but the Bomb Shelter had little to say that wasn’t clues to its final puzzle, which we never solved). Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to coax a Shoggoth back to our side to bust open the door from the hub to Room 5, we only ever saw one of them, only enough to restore our Pact but not enough to make a request! We had to go the long way, through Room 4, both forward and back, costing us nearly 45 minutes on one “room” worth of new progress. While we were there, we ran into this game’s version of Izanami as a wandering midboss, no longer with the bizarre pigtails, and got her material card. We would spend much of the session training Izanami only to completely drop her from our final layout. You could say she was the party’s Runner Up, a Persona who would have gotten in if there had been one more slot, as she had an in-combat only healing group spell that was more powerful than Mediarama. Oh well.
“Goodbye, Nanjo! We’re not returning this!”
The party decides to borrow a boat from Nanjo to attack the Nichirinmaru, and after some jokes about Maya trying to skipper, the audience got a cutscene that showed Chizuru and Kandori were on board the Nichirinmaru. Chizuru actually seems to want Kandori to take over the NWO, something Kandori thinks has to do with her being a woman, but then doesn’t elaborate on? The fuck? I feel like the localization’s been going downhill this session. Kandori says he doesn’t care about who’s in charge here, and Chizuru talks about how his only concerns seem to be Tatsuya (“The Paradox”) and the party. Gosh, I can’t imagine why that would be Chizuru, it’s almost like one of them killed him or something! I think the actual intent is that Kandori is in tune with Nyaralathotep’s game and realizes the party is what’s really important here, but I think the fact that Nanjo/Elly stabbed him to death in the past shouldn’t be overlooked!
At this point, Tatsuya starts firebombing the Nichirinmaru. Just… straight up. Kandori somehow knows Tatsuya’s responsible even though they can’t even see the explosions from where they are. In any event, he and Chizuru escape via one of the submarines they’re keeping on the ship. This is done in pre-rendered CG, and it’s probably the first one in the game I’d consider “poor,” which is still a pretty good proportion of good-to-bad cutscenes by the standards of the era! First off, there’s the design of the ship itself, which is disguised as a cruise ship… except for the blatantly obvious submarine launch bay in the fucking middle. It’s not just a bad design, but it looks hideous. Secondly, the game tries to mix its great 2D (a close-up of Kandori) with its simply passable 3D, and it looks baaaaad.
Session 3 now, from the return to Aoba Park to… well, actually we dicked around for a bit after the last major milestone, so I guess I’ll say “until Tatsuya took us to the Alaya Shrine.”
The return to Aoba Park is a bit of a bore, and I can’t imagine it ever being much better. The Persona 1 and 2 games are not built in such a way that you can get an interesting experience out of repeat dungeons, though for what it’s worth, other series don’t tend to do much better! We did run into one of those wandering secret bosses that the Persona 2 games have, one named Nata, during our very first battle, so that was nice. Apparently, Nata can actually show up during your first trip and will absolutely rock you, so I can’t help but feel fortunate about how things played out, considering the guy was doing more than half our health with each hit even now! (When his buff was active, I mean.)
At this point, the group overhears a broadcast saying that “several seminars [are] being sponsored by international celebrities,” supposedly on the subject of purifying Jokers. One such seminar is taking place at SMILE Hirasaka (“Smile Mall”), hosted by Ginji “Prince Taurus” Sasaki. No alternate universe redemption for this guy! Curiously, after this scene, Baofu remarks on how strange it is that NWO is collecting kegare not just from Jokerized humans, but also from normal humans, something we won’t learn they’re doing until we investigate these seminars! He also wants to know, “What about the ‘pure’ humans?” a concept that hasn’t come up at all, although maybe he’s just extrapolating? Geeze, what’s with these lines?
Returning to the world map and to our actual playthrough, we’ve lost a few minutes of footage here, but I made sure to make a note what we had done soon after I noticed the problem, so I think I’ve got it all covered. We cashed our first map with Salam, and also got the next blank one, which curiously comes in two parts (Smile Map A and Smile Map B), even though the dungeon doesn’t have two parts? I’m still confused about that detail. Even the walkthroughs don’t mention it! It doesn’t help that the blank maps don’t even show up in your inventory! We also went manhunting (one such search appears after we turned on the recording) and checked out some prospective new Personas, although we didn’t get any. The entire party was maxed out on their current Personas, and we really had to give Elly a backup for Nike, but there just weren’t any good ones in our level range! Also, Baoful’s Hel had mutated so often that I wasn’t sure we wanted to drop her for any reason.
The party went into hiding. It wasn’t clear how much of what happened actually ended up on the talk show camera, but you can be sure someone called the cops, not to mention Chizuro getting away to report to the NWO. They returned to Nanjo’s suite, only to find that someone had broken in and murdered the faceless NPCs in his employ. Nanjo is already here, and is too much of an emotional mess to do any deduction. The party initially suspects that Sneak might be the one responsible, and that he may have led them to Nanjo just to expose his base of operations, but that seems incredibly unlikely given that their meeting with Sneak was so far apart from the massacre. In any event, the party retreats to Baofu’s hideout in the same district. Here, Nanjo gives a summary of evenhis scenario, and in Nanjo’s storyline, Nanjo players will hear Elly’s version of events. So that means it’s time for me to check someone else’s playthrough to see the other side of the coin!
Because it’s just this one post, I’m going to fill our screenshots with general gameplay pictures.
Heading outside, we discovered Nanjo’s penthouse was actually in a new district, and I mean a new district, as not only was it new to this game, but wasn’t even in P2IS, having been recently constructed in this universe. That meant new shops and new rumours. This resulted in an incredibly busy overworld play-session, and not just in this district! First off, you can create another specialist shop, which we once again did with armour, giving us a bunch of magic resistant armour to supplement our specialist evasion armour from earlier (they didn’t even overlap in terms of equipment slots!). Next, we created a synthesis shop, though the only way to make use of it this early in the game is to have earned some high-level synth ingredients from the casino, or to have Retired some incredibly specific, max-Rank Personas. The Sumaru Genie, whom we had restored to her P2IS capacity at some earlier point in the game, was now rumour-upgraded again to also offer “affinities,” which allow you to boost Fusion Spells between party members or, more commonly, reduce prices from a single shop, although until she gets an third upgrade, the shop upgrade only works at item-hawking convenience stores.
Another important stop was to return to Kismet to have Maya meet with her boss and claim that she wasn’t at the bar, as this leads to a secret Persona later on for some reason. Mizuno doesn’t believe you, as she herself was at the bar and saw Maya there, but since she also seems to have seen Maya flirting with Katsuya, she gets distracted and gives Maya a weird lecture about not flirting on the job, using a lot of… uncomfortable flower metaphors.
We regained control of the party, and confirmed that yes, Ulala was now several levels behind the rest of the party and wasn’t level-averaged back to the curve. We gave her a replacement Persona (one of the ones we had picked up just for the hell of it during the past four hours). At this point, we decided to follow the walkthrough more closely, so that we would be better prepared if EP pulled any more stunts like the last one. The walkthrough informed us about two rumours we might have overlooked if we hadn’t checked it, one of them because it’s actually in the first room of Zodiac.
We went in and discovered that there’s a new entrance hall to the club, and I’m not sure why it exists, as there’s literally nothing there (Ed. and never was!)? But anyways. We met Anna in the dance hall, who confirmed the kidnapped Jokers were being held in the back. At this point, Maya took the liberty of telling Anna that Tatsuya was the one that saved them all at the clock tower. Anna talks a bit about their friendship, and says that Tatsuya talked about “[Atoning] for [his] sins” before he disappeared. Odd, Tatsuya was probably the most innocent person in the entire original party, so I wonder what he’s talking about! Long story short, Anna confirms the kidnappers spoke Chinese, making everyone feel confident that the Taiwanese mob was behind the kidnappings. Anna asks you to save Noriko. She doesn’t comment on the fact that Noriko committed a double homicide, just that Noriko and Tatsuya are the only two she can carry a conversation with. “Present company included,” Kyle said in his Anna voice, when Anna ended the talk on the spot.
Back at the beach, Baofu points out that they may have killed Joker, but the larger problem is Tatsuzou, the elder Sudou, who was on the phone talking about Joker before the killings even restarted. Unfortunately, Katsuya wants to call recent events in to the precinct, and the two get into a fight that leads to the party splitting up. Maya agrees to stay on the hunt for Tatsuzou, but Baofu isn’t even ready with the next step, and says she should check in at work while he gets ready. Meanwhile, Jun (still lingering) is curious about Tatsuya but not about to follow the four of us, and stays behind at the beach, for all we could use a fifth party member. So now we only have one party member, and you can probably imagine why we got it into our heads to put off any upgrades and grinding. Again: I understand where the problem started, but in time…
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?
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!