SummaryDefeating evil can be fun even after twenty
The GoodEternal Punishment is the second part of a duology started by Innocent Sin, itself a semi-connected sequel to the first Persona. The original titles imply a connection to Dostoevsky's famous novel with their simpler titles Crime and Punishment. For a mysterious reason, Innocent Sin was never released outside of Japan. The whole Persona series, in its turn, is a spin-off of the vast Megaten franchise, represented in its most pure form by Shin Megami Tensei.
For most purposes, Eternal Punishment plays exactly like Innocent Sin, so if you are interested in a more in-depth analysis of the gameplay please refer to my review of the predecessor. There are only a few slight differences: for example, demon conversation is slightly simplified, though there are still personal approaches you need to apply - Maya interviews the demons, Ulala tells their fortune, Katsuya investigates them, etc. Characters can also combine forces to form new styles. Fusion spells are more streamlined, as the game arranges the characters for you.
Overall, I had a feeling that the second part had somewhat more to offer: there is an enormous amount of hidden Personae, items, weapons, armor, cards, and pretty much everything. There is a huge optional dungeon where you can encounter every monster of the game and get some rare cards and Personae. There are loads of mini-quests and mini-games that only become available if you have previously heard and spread an appropriate rumor: making maps of dungeons, finding missing people, playing poker and blackjack, etc. Although you mostly spend your time in dungeons fighting or talking to monsters, there are also lots of things to do in the city. The whole middle part of the game can be played differently depending on which character you chose to be in your party - you visit different dungeons, fight different bosses, and reveal different parts of the story.
For me, one of the game's definite highlights was its character cast. Japanese game designers stubbornly keep forcing us to play as teenagers. It is very tiresome to be cast into the role of yet another angst-filled high school student or child prodigy from a remote village who has just been "chosen" to wield a sword three times his size and go kill the big baddie, even though a local homoerotic muscular blacksmith would seem to be more fit for the task. Innocent Sin also had a slightly annoying teenage cast. Fortunately, we've been spared puberty-related melodramas in this installment - most of your party members are grown-ups.
The good news is that they are reasonably realistic and at the same time quirky enough to provide dynamics and chemistry to the group. They are also difficult to imagine outside of our environment and our modern society. For example, Ulala is a typical modern girl, good-natured, but frustrated and insecure, who has difficulties in her relationships with men. Katsuya is the older brother of a Japanese family, responsible and uptight, but with a softer side. Baofu is more of a freak, a hacker who enjoys fumbling with high-tech machinery and spying on people, yet he has a past he wants to leave behind. And Tatsuya, the only recurrent protagonist from Innocent Sin, is an eighteen year old boy who suddenly has to be an adult in a world he got to know much too early.
Those characters don't just stand there and remain the same throughout the game - they develop feelings and form relationships to each other, which are often ambiguous and anything but simple. In fact, the inner relationships of the group plays an important role in the story. It is even possible to say that the whole story is about those people, their feelings and their actions. Of course, there is the obligatory "kill the bad guy, save the world" part, and a couple of cardboard villains who want to destroy this rotten world and summon the sealed power of ancient gods, etc., etc. That said, the plot itself is quite dramatic and can even be understood without having played Innocent Sin before.
The modern-day setting is another aspect of the game I thoroughly enjoyed. While browsing the streets of the big city, shopping, talking to people, you always feel at home. More importantly, the mentality of those people, their goals in life and their superstitions are typical for modern times. In fact, an important part of the story is based on the modern people's inability to live without rumors and superstitions and their readiness to accept any doctrine that comes from above.
The BadJust like its predecessor, Eternal Punishment isn't very impressive visually. Many locations are unfortunately bland, and even though there is some nice variety in dungeon themes, much of their design is uninspired. Like in Innocent Sin, dungeons aren't always exciting and may border on tedious.
The animated cutscenes are sweet, but short and infrequent. I would really like to see movies at certain points of the game when an important event required cinematic arrangement. Instead, we had to view all this drama from an awkward isometric angle, presented by small characters with wooden animation.
In short, Eternal Punishment shares its flaws with Innocent Sin and doesn't really introduce any new ones, so there is no need to repeat myself. The only particular criticism I may want to apply to the second part only is its somewhat lesser emotional impact. The characters are more interesting, but the story lacks the bittersweet flavor of the predecessor.
The Bottom LineViewed as a single huge game,