Games and their nature have changed a lot over the past few decades. Gone are the times where the most advanced feat was having the Starwing fly through a 3D city on the SNES, and since a few generations ago, games have evolved into adapting more cinematic traits, such as having a more ambitious presentation, or telling a complex story.

When I first learned about the Etrian Odyssey series, I read that it was meant to be reminiscent of RPG games of yore, along the likes of the early Bard’s Tale games. I didn’t quite get what that meant at first. Was it the grid-based gameplay? Was it the fact that the battles played in a first-person perspective? I couldn’t quite answer my self-imposed question, but after having played Persona Q2 a few months after I finished Persona 5, I think I finally understand.

Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is the newly-released sequel to Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, a game released in 2014 that combined the gameplay of Etrian Odyssey with the characters, style and themes of Persona 3 and 4. The sequel adds Persona 5 characters into the mix as well.

All your favorite Persona users are here.

I’ve been a Persona fan for around three years or so by now, but I only played Persona 5 until December last year due to me not having a PS4 until around that time. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it has become one of my favorite games ever, so naturally I couldn’t wait until the release of Persona Q2 last week.

Upon playing the game, I realized the gameplay is Persona 5 through and through, down to the addition of enemy weaknesses and All Out Attacks to the Etrian Odyssey-styled battles, and thanks to the more Persona-themed dungeons, unlike the more generic ones found in Persona Q.

Persona Q2’s dungeons are designed beautifully, and tie well into each of the three games’ themes.

And finally, that question, “What makes Etrian Odyssey an old-styled RPG?” made sense.

Persona 5 features a group of teens rebelling against the problems in modern-day society, and as such, it has an ambitious storyline, with political undertones driving the characters motivations. The gameplay is excellent as well, but the presentation makes it that it doesn’t overshadow the story.

Persona 5 and its story is all about social commentary.

In Persona Q2, however, the story takes a step back, so that the focus this time is map-making, battles, as well as enjoying the 34-character cast and their interactions. The story does have some social commentary on it, but the focus clearly isn’t leaving a message, it’s just to have fun, and seeing your favorite Persona characters interact with each other.

None of the two examples are a bad thing, it’s just that I’m in awe at how two games in the same series manage to share quite a lot, but after examining why are they the way they are, it’s clear that they’re complete opposites.

Persona Q2 focuses on you having fun, on you liking what you’re seeing, what you’re playing, and most importantly, having fun. The story isn’t invested in delivering a message, in some ways it could’ve be seen just as an excuse to have the Persona games cross over. It’s not a complex story, but it’s not trying to be one. The gameplay boils down to exploring, going back to the hub, selling what you found to buy more equipment, rinse and repeat.

Persona Q2’s gameplay may not be as varied as Persona 5’s, but what it does, it does extremely well.

Persona 5 on the other hand, is more about the experience, about what you’re taking with you after you finish the game. You’re left with amazing memories about the cast, about the music, and you’re left thinking about your role in society, and whether it’s a good one or not. The gameplay is so varied that you can’t sum it up in a sentence, as every day you’re doing a different thing. That “thing” could be either beating a god from an ancient mythology, or scoring a home run at the local batting cages.

This is where I’m getting at when I say that Persona 5 and Persona Q2 are two ends of an spectrum, almost as if they were the same game released across two different time periods. One focuses on the experience, like a lot of games today, and the other just wants the player to have a good time, like the games back in the 80’s and 90’s.

Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is available now for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.

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