Persona Q2: The Cinema Labyrinth is a quirky little game, mixing the classic gameplay formula of Etrian Odyssey with Persona‘s ‘so hot right now’ shoot ’em up style. The blend works well for the most part, making Persona Q2 a fun and always interesting experience.
You play as Joker, the ever popular protagonist of Persona 5, as he and his gang of Phantom Thieves find themselves trapped within a mysterious theatre. Much like Hotel California, you can check out, but you can never leave. The theatre is home to a mysterious screen that transports your team into a Mementos-like world.
Gameplay is a strange, divided mix between Persona’s strategy-based boss battles and first-person dungeon crawling, where enemies traipse around you as you strategically traverse the map. You can place markers and tokens on the map as you journey, marking out hidden passages, shortcuts and obstacles. It’s confusing at first, but once you make it through your first dungeon, it all gets a bit clearer.
The further you go, the deeper it gets – and dungeons get more dangerous as the story progresses. There’s plenty of traps, barriers and bosses to hold you up on your way, and some of them with force you to face the dreaded grind. Sure, there’s side quests, but they’re not intensive enough to build up your strength, and you’ll find yourself returning to past dungeons multiple times to level up.
Battling is near-identical to Persona 5, where you’ll use a range of powered moves to take down a swarm of approaching enemies. Each enemy type has a weakness, and through trial and error, many of them are easy takedowns. Others are tougher, and require a hefty amount of grinding to defeat. It’s a simpler, more whittled down version of Persona’s classic fighting style, but it’s quick, stylish and simple to grasp.
Persona Q2’s appeal is aided by its chibi anime aesthetic, where the Persona cast is transformed into the cutest thieves on the planet. The graphics are simplistic and can be a bit ugly, but the game is broken up by fully animated anime cutscenes that really steal the show. These sequences are gorgeous, and really bring the characters to life.
And the characters really do shine in the game, with an equal focus placed on all the protagonists of Persona 5 – as well as guest characters from across the rest of the Persona series. It’s fun and at times, funny, with a well-written story and an interesting premise that unfolds (slowly) over the course of the game.
While it lacks an English voiceover and primarily features text-based speech, it doesn’t affect gameplay in the slightest, and is only a minor disappointment.
The pace of the story is a minor sticking point for me, with the introduction taking up a good part of an hour before you’re actually able to chew into the main story and begin your playthrough. It’s also good at holding its cards to its chest, stretching out the central mystery as long as possible.
The most surprising thing about the game is that while it might just be the final game released for the Nintendo 3DS, it barely makes full use of the console, and doesn’t feature 3D gameplay at all. In fact, making only minimal use of the bottom screen for a map that could have easily been part of the HUD, it could easily have debuted on the Switch and had just the same effect.
As a final chapter for the beloved Nintendo 3DS, there’s enough content to keep you going for hours, staving off the final, bittersweet end of the console for many hours. With quests and sidequests galore, there’s plenty to explore before the final curtain falls.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Gorgeous design; fun gameplay; interesting dungeons
Lowlights: Grinding to level up; slow story pacing
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Reviewed on New Nintendo 3DS XL with a retail code provided by the publisher.