Soul Hackers 2 Review

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Soul Hackers 2 Review

Summon the Soul... 

Shin Megami Tensei’s lengthy lineage continues to dominate the Japanese role-playing market, showing no signs of slowing down. The fact that after twenty years after its prequel’s initial launch in Japan, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers’ finally received its much deserved sequel after it garnered global acclaim upon its localised release on the Nintendo3DS. The title itself primarily faced scepticism, when it was noted that its gameplay would evidently be lifted directly from its PlayStation iteration and ported over with translated text, but would be enhanced visually with sharpened resolution (whatever that meant for the handheld at the time), and audibly favoured with a ensemble of notable cast members providing vocals to characters, including the likes of Laura Bailey, Sam Riegel, Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Liam O’Brien and many more.

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Reprising and rebooting the Soul Hackers series was going to take some effort by ATLUS, convincing fans that this was an entirely new experience from its predecessor, and unlike anything fans had played before. The qualms of many were answered through the Japanese development studio’s pre-existing engine built from scratch from Catherine, for initial use in Persona 5, then throughout a myriad of other turn-based titles within Shin Megami Tensei lore. The passé’ corridor gameplay had been labelled archaic and was most definitely not going to rope new fans into the genre, but what if the team could amalgamate both into one fresh take, having older fans welcomed in with some familiar aspects along with the Persona 5 crowd that have only just begun their journey through this epic franchise? Soul Hackers 2 is the answer.

Hacking Fate...

Accomplishing a mixture of classic and fresh tropes throughout its onset, Soul Hackers 2 is determined to slowly convince fans of the original that its new gameplay will definitely wow them, while the newer audience has an idea of what to expect from the development team in terms of presentation and overall experience. A polished third-person jaunt takes our protagonist Ringo – a synthetic AI built to represent human form, that carries a quirk that enables her to hack into the minds of the living and dead, to conversate with their soul. She represents one half of Aion, manifested through a catastrophic event that sent the world into turmoil, only to be put in stasis for both her, and her counterpart, Figue, to put a stop between a massive gang warfare between two Devil Summoner groups, the Yatagarasu and the Phantom Society.

With the two factions at a head with each other, the Great One of Aion instructs both Ringo and Figue to save humanity from extinction, by finding key individuals from both camps and forcing them to work in union to stop a potential apocalypse. Arrow, a glad-handed agent that lives a life of solace but a double-agent like demeanour that leaps into action when needed. Milady, a member of the Phantom Society and partner of the title’s primary antagonist the Iron Mask. Then finally there’s Saizo, a freelance summoner that has no allegiance to either faction. The title progressively campaigns through notorious landmarks that had been seen in the original, while making note that it was far into the future and that the world was completely different – an easy out for those that are new to Soul Hackers, but still keeping an inviting charm to the devout.

Soul Hackers 2 keeps most exploration light, while taking combat to a different demo, retaining that Persona 5 feel while adding splashes of Tokyo Mirage #FE and Shin Megami Tensei’s turn-based mechanics into the fold. Each Summoner will acquire their own respective demon, and harness their powers for use. Casualising, a Persona dedicated to each party member that commands an attack from their demon but is acted upon by the user themselves in an almost arcane-like offense. Physical attacks are still present and will expend zero points, while mana or SP will be spent if an elemental or specialised attack is used. Ringo can stack attacks as she can control her and her party’s demons in one blow. This is akin Persona 5’s All-Out Attack, a weakened blow known as a Sabbath will unleash the groups demon on one foe for a quick defeat.

Soul Hackers 2 does itself justice as its own independent title heading into the esteemed Shin Megami Tensei legacy, regardless of its pre-determined label as a sequel. [...] a JRPG modern day classic.

Social links and other aspects of the Persona series have also crept in, with our protagonist Ringo freely roaming the city, looking to mingle with patrons, purachase a variety of weapons and armour for battle, or new clothing that can be equipped to enhance her experience. You may also spend time with your party, helping their respective experience by strengthening your bonds. Now for some that are reading this, there’s not much to be surprised at here, however I do understand some frustration with attempting to streamline the Shin Megami Tensei experience, almost blurring the lines here and turning it into Persona. But understand that this is now a major franchise – ATLUS’ biggest even – and this helps extend that reach beyond its niche that was dwindling prior, so kudos to team for realising that its antiquated gameplay was not going to cut it.

Thou art I…

SOLID POINTS

✔️Shin Megami Tensei, Persona 5, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions rolled into one.

✔️An original story that will send you into an emotional tailspin.

✔️A great ensemble of interesting protagonists.

➖ Not really a negative, but I would have loved an updated ‘2D Field’.

Now let’s talk omissions from its predecessor that may impact some of its integrity. Unlike Soul Hackers, its sequel does not rely on a currency for traversing its unique maps, and corridor like structure. The world is your oyster, and you may explore it freely without any impeding needs to collect items that determine the amount of steps you make. A plus in my book, as playing the original for the last two years, the idea of having to trade Magnetite for Macca; a major pain in the rear end. I will say that interactions between NPC’s are less of a necessity and more of an addition to prolong the experience, while its prequel had the idea of visiting major markets for most in-game materials and medicines; even having the characters there feel like they have their own personality. I miss the Shibahama Core where you could visit the pharmacist, where he’d thank you and invite me back for oolong tea. While it was saddening to see some of these features foregone in favour for a streamlined presentation, I did understand how those features extended and somewhat bottlenecked the prequels campaign in length, while Soul Hackers 2 needed to omit them to keep the game timely.

The main storyline will only take players around 30 hours, however there are a multitude of outcomes that will wrap your campaign, meaning that its replay value is endless. I spent 100+ hours playing Soul Hackers 2, keeping in mind that its opening phase would be the same but forging different experiences through choices, and paths that can ultimately decide the fate and outcome of the human world. As a turn-based JRPG, Soul Hackers 2 is excellently crafted to keep battles short, and from waning interest. They most definitely bare a difficulty spike halfway through the campaign, but is easily overcome by following encouraged steps of socialising, building XP and your party’s strengths. Newcomers will have no issue adapting their RPG knowledge, whether it be from Persona or other franchises as the title does its best to welcome a more broad appeal into the fold.

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Yes, it does make Soul Hackers 2 monumentally straightforward compared to other titles in the Shin Megami Tensei collection, but it does itself favours in exposure by inviting the inexperienced. A great way to open the door to those that may have been looking into Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, Soul Hackers, or many others within ATLUS’ grand library. Presentation wise, the game performs without fault. No bugs, hitches or glitches; this is quite honestly the cleanest ATLUS game I’ve ever played, even over Persona 5’s vanilla iteration. No framerate dips, no freezes or anything that I was perturbed by. If anything I found it to be quite artistic in many factors of design and aesthetic. From a pre-doomsday future that looks dire, but not bleak or dark like its previous counterpart, Soul Hackers 2 puts on a eye-candy spectacle for those that love their Otaku-like Japanese animation, Shonen series.

A star studded cast of industry favourites take on our party of new protag’s including Megan Taylor Harvey heading the lead as the Silver-lined, emerald beaming Ringo, and her edgy personality. Erica Mendez as Figue, the softer and more thoughtful counterpart to Ringo. Zack Aguilar as Arrow, the slyly yet butterfingered assassin. Patrick Seitz is the only returning cast member reprising his role as the the sinister looking and very imposing Dr. Victor, who aids you in fusing your demons. Erica Lindbeck portrays Milady, the rough and gruff Demon Summoner that trusts absolutely no one, even her own teammates. Edward Bosco, Chris Hackney, Christian La Monte, Griffin Puatu, Kayli Mills, Laura Post and many other cameos all make up this excellent cavalcade of characters.

Soul Hackers 2 does itself justice as its own independent title heading into the esteemed Shin Megami Tensei legacy, regardless of its pre-determined label as a sequel. Fans of the series know that each individual title carries its own identity, and this game is no different to the rest. It’s a brand new experienced, demonstrated through a marvel of fresh and exciting features and faces that make this a must play for fans of the franchise. Walking in, I did have little hope that it would reference some of prequel popular tropes, I won’t lie. But to say that I expected it to be Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers would have been presumptuous, and insulting to the studio. I’m glad they took key elements of their most popular titles and applied them here for a brand new game that totally blew me away from its writing, and overall experience. Soul Hackers 2 is a JRPG modern day classic.

Soul Hackers 2 - ATLUS

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Soul Hackers 2 is a role-playing video game developed and published by Atlus. It is the sequel to Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers and the fifth installment of the Devil Summoner series, itself a part of the larger Megami Tensei franchise.

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Story
8
Gameplay
9
Presentation
9
Sound
8
8.5

8.5

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