Persona Q2 and a Goodbye to the Nintendo 3DS

I knew that Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth was going to be one of the last new games to be released for the Nintendo 3DS. I thought it would make a wonderful send off not only for that system, but for the entire Nintendo DS family of systems. There was no series that was more consistent across the more than fifteen years of DS and 3DS existence than Atlus’s Etrian Odyssey. The games only appeared on DS, with the first appearing in 2007 and the last proper game in the series, Nexus, hitting early this year. The Persona Q games, functioned as spin-offs of Etrian Odyssey, as well as spin offs of the Persona series. Persona wasn’t ubiquitous on the DS or the 3DS, but the greater Shin Megami Tensei series had more than a few releases. The last important game for the system being a mix of both seemed fitting.

That is why it pains me to say that Persona Q2 is an all around disappointment. It doesn’t really do anything as well as games in either of its parent series do. Some of it is baked into the concept; combining the casts of 3 Persona games into one meant that the game was always going to feel crowded. Some are seemingly self-inflicted, like changed to the map making interface. Overall, the feeling is a game that is constantly less fun to play than it should be.

I had a problem making sense of the bloated cast in the first Persona Q game, and that one was only combining the characters from Personas 3 and 4, this one adds the cast of Persona 5 to the mix and has an even bigger problem. The game does its best to lessen this, but it does so in the most disappointing way. You start with just the cast of Persona 5. At the start of the second, of five, dungeons you unlock the cast of Persona 4. Then in the third dungeon you finally get the cast of Persona 3. You are nearly halfway through the game before you even get to the Persona 3 crew. By that time you likely will have a pretty established party. The game gives you ways of getting underused party members up to speed in a hurry, but trying to sort through this many characters and find defined roles for them in the game’s battle system is a chore, especially because this is a game that is not afraid to punish the player. It is hard to experiment when any battle can go south in a hurry and a party wipe probably means a significant loss in progress. The game ends up kind of pushing the player to use the Persona 5 cast and they are the least interesting.

The combination of the casts of the three games also highlights their similarities. To me the differences were more apparent when it was just two, but now that all three of them are together you can see how the games have roles for characters to fill and while some details around the sides may change, the central conceits of these characters doesn’t.

There is a story. The somewhat parodic movies that the dungeons are structured after kind of work, I guess. The main plot, though, never even came close to catching my attention.

I was most disappointed in the map making. The game takes the stylish menus and such designs from Persona 5 and tries to transplant them on to the 3DS. It doesn’t really work, and it takes up more of the screen. The game adds a bunch of neat new elements to the map, like gates that toggle on and off, but zooms the screen in on the drawing part to make it something of a chore to actually use. Also, the drawing just doesn’t seem as responsive as it has been in the past. Overall, it just feels like a step back.

I did have fun with Persona Q2. I guess I liked it, it was just something of a disappointment. I wanted a fond farewell and I got a game that did its best to be unlikeable despite its many good qualities. There are other aspects of the game I could go into, like the demon fusing and the battles, but I don’t really have it in me. The baseline is that it was good, but everything it does has been done better somewhere else. I don’t really want just tear into the game forever.

Instead, I think this is a good time to eulogize the Nintendo 3DS. Persona Q2 is almost certainly the last significant 3DS release. It’s run was, if anything, a little longer than that of the original DS. Still, I get the feeling that the 3DS was written off years ago as a failure because it wasn’t the sales juggernaut that the original DS was and never really reexamined. I think it deserves to be remembered well, because the 3DS is a great little system. I’ve had a 3DS since only a few months after it was released, and I feel like I’ve played most of the major releases for the system. In the last couple of years I’ve skipped a bunch of Nintendo first party titles, but they have mostly been remakes and ports of games I have already played. Since 2011, the Nintendo 3DS has easily been my most played video game system.

It is home to lots of great JRPGs, like the Bravely Default games and a sizable chunk of Atlus output. There are tons of great platformers, including several Mario games and some really underrated Kirby games. There are adventures like all the Professor Layton and Ace Attorney and Zero Escape games. There are three excellent Fire Emblem games, several great Legend of Zeldas. A bunch of oddities, like Rhythm Thief, BoxBoy, and Attack of the Friday Monsters. There are three Monster Hunters. There are just so many good games. The 3D gimmick was kind of a miss, though it still looks really neat.

Nintendo combining their development for the console/handheld hybrid Switch is almost certainly the smart move. I will likely get a Switch sooner rather than later. The Switch is great, and Nintendo not splitting their resources across two different platforms is a good thing. But I am going to miss the little clamshell 3DS. I’ve been taking one of those with me everywhere for more than a decade and likely will continue to do so until I completely exhaust the DS/3DS games I can get my hands on. The dedicated handheld system appears to be dead, unless you count the Switch Lite, and I am sad to see it go. But I am thankful for all the fun I’ve had with my 3DS over the last eight years. Good night, sweet prince …

Now Playing October 2019

Beaten

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne — This was a lot of fun. I still have more to do; some armor I want to make, some endemic life to capture, Zinogre to beat, etc. But I saw the credits roll and I am ready to put this away for a while. I really like a lot about Monster Hunter, but I am not a huge fan of fighting the elder dragons. I don’t mind failing a hunt because I, or my partners, got KOed. What I don’t like is hammering away (literally, the hammer is my tool of choice) at a monster for 50 minutes only to lose because he didn’t die in time. Sure, part of the problem is I need better tactics, but with the really frustrating monsters, like Kushala Daora, the problem is that there just aren’t a lot of opportunities to do damage. I realize this is post-game DLC, but a lot of the content here is elder dragon nonsense that just is not that much fun. That is the one part of this huge expansion that I didn’t like. I liked the snow area. I really like most of the monsters here. Nargacuga and Barioth are fun returning monsters. Banbaro is pretty great. There is a lot to love here. Just the very end annoyed me.

Final Fantasy VIII — I wrote about it here.

Ongoing

Persona Q2 — Yeah, I am really trucking on this now. It is still a game that is prone to throwing sudden, unavoidable deaths at me, but they are growing less frequent. Still, I cleared a stratum and a half in fairly short order. The bosses have been pretty uniformly a chore. I have been told that this is actually a pretty easy part of the Etrian and Shin Megami Tensei series. As someone who has beaten all of the Etrian games and most of the SMT games to reach the West, I disagree. This game is hard, and not in a fun or interesting way. I have never felt less interested in the demon fusion system; it feels like I am always full up on demons that are too high leveled to fuse in a helpful way. As I’ve said before, the map making tools are more stylish but wholly less useful. While I have begun to enjoy this game, it is still a disappointment. That is mostly on me; I don’t think this game was ever intended to operate as a farewell to beloved series and system on its own.

Sonic Mania — I only beat a couple of stages of this game last month. It is an excellent recreation of the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games. It captures that feeling perfectly. I was just never any good at those games past the first couple of Areas. I am trying to push through the back half of this game and I neither am good enough to do so, nor do I care enough to get better. It is definitely on me, not the game, but I am going to wait until I get a real itch to play this again before finishing it instead of trying to force it.

Upcoming

Judgment — This game keeps falling off the ongoing list, but I am going to clear it before too long. It’s fun. (Yes, I did mostly copy and paste this from last month)

Sega Genesis Games — I’ve got the mini, I am going to play some of the games that came with it. I already started with Alisia Dragoon, a game I do not understand at all.

Elliot Quest — I feel a need to go back and finish up some leftover WiiU games, or maybe some Wii games. Elliot Quest is one that I got most of the way through, and really enjoyed, but never got around to finishing. Another one high on my list is Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Or maybe either of the Shovel Knight alternate paths, neither of which I’ve finished.

Okami HD — I’ve got this on my PS3 and I played the first chunk of it a year or so ago. I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to it.

Now Playing July 2019

Finished

Crash Bandicoot 2 – I didn’t exactly beat it, but I am done with it.

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage – I finished it off. It is a good time, but a step down from the first game.

Ongoing

Judgment – I like playing Yakuza as essentially a PI. I need to play this game more.

Sword Coast Legends – I tried to get back into this. Something about it is not quite right with, it feels like one of the old Black Isle Infinity Engine games that is just not put together correctly. I am still working through the early portions, though, so maybe it gets better. I don’t know if I will have time to stick with it.

Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth – I just don’t know with this game. All of the elements seem like something I would like, but for some reason it is pushing all the wrong buttons. Battles seem to take too long, with the hard hitting Etrian Odyssey style not mixing well with Persona’s knock-down critical hits. I hope I am just getting to the point when it all clicks together and becomes its own game instead of an inelegant mix of two others, but I am becoming increasingly concerned that that moment is not coming.

Shadows of Destiny ‒ I only played the opening this, but I am intrigued by it. It is an early PS2 game where the player time travels to prevent his own murder. I’ve only got through the first little prologue cycle, but it is very interesting. It is also apparently pretty short, so I see myself getting through this pretty quickly. If I find the time to get back to it at all, that is.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West – I played through a chapter of this as well. I got this game a few years ago after hearing some good things from acquaintances. I like it, but I guess not enough to stick with it for more than a chapter or two. The dual protagonist gameplay is good. It isn’t really an escort game, except the parts where it is, but it does give the player two characters to guide through the game. I feel like it is just a little bit from clicking all the time. I’m not sure I’ll be getting back to it anytime soon, but I am not really giving up on the game either.

Upcoming

Suikoden II – I am really feeling a desire to replay one of my favorite all-time games. We’ll see if I can actually make the time to do so.

Crash Bandicoot 3 and Spyro The Dragon 3 – I’ll get back to the final games in these trilogies sooner or later.

Paper Mario: Color Splash – I don’t know why I’ve never played this. I need to fix that.

Dragon Quest XI – I’ve let this sit for too long. I was loving it when I started playing it a few months ago, then I got distracted and never really got back to it. It is likely in line after Judgment.