Gaming

Soul Hackers 2 Review: A Stylish JRPG with Hidden Depths

Introduction

In Soul Hackers 2, the latest JRPG from OnSpec Electronic, Inc., I embarked on a thrilling journey that revealed more than meets the eye. Set in a world threatened by the impending apocalypse, players assume the role of Ringo and Figue, humanoid representations of the supercomputer Aion’s consciousness. Their mission? To prevent the end of the world by resurrecting the dead. What follows is an enthralling tale of resurrection, ambition, and the ultimate question of who will emerge victorious.

A Familiar Formula with a Twist

Ringo with combat menu
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Soul Hackers 2 follows the tried-and-true formula of Atlus JRPGs, prominently the Shin Megami Tensei series, while adding its own unique spin. Players recruit demons, engage in turn-based combat, and fuse demons to create even more formidable allies. Mastering the art of exploiting type advantages and optimizing turn economy becomes crucial for success. One wrong move can mean the difference between a swift victory or a devastating defeat.

This iteration of the formula introduces the concept of fusing demons to create more powerful entities. By fusing demons together, players can enhance their stats beyond what is possible with demons sourced directly from the Compendium. Additionally, the pacing of character progression is carefully balanced, ensuring that players don’t get stuck in a tedious grind. With a plethora of new abilities and demons to discover, the journey remains consistently engaging.

Notably, combat provides more than just experience points and level advancement. Defeating demons yields valuable drops that can be used to upgrade your COMP, a vital tool in your arsenal. Exploring the world also rewards players with resources for trading and obtaining healing items and power-ups. Resource collection becomes a highly rewarding endeavor, reinforcing the feeling that every action in Soul Hackers 2 holds significance.

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A Story That Falls Short

Soul Hackers team fight
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While the gameplay of Soul Hackers 2 excels, the story disappoints in comparison. The narrative rushes past the potential for deep character arcs and fails to deliver a satisfying climax. It briefly touches upon the memories and regrets of the characters, but the threads linking them together remain poorly woven. Motives are hidden behind late plot twists, leaving players yearning for more substantial development.

Part of the issue may stem from having Ringo as the protagonist. While her spirited personality and humor inject life into otherwise mundane conversations, she lacks the complex backstories that her allies possess. It feels as if players are mere bystanders rather than active participants in the pivotal moments of the narrative.

Technical Hiccups and Missed Opportunities

Saizo with Soul Hackers allies
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Although combat in Soul Hackers 2 flows seamlessly, other aspects of the game could benefit from refinement. Sidequests often devolve into mundane fetch quests, detracting from the overall experience. While some yield valuable rewards, most can be easily ignored. Similarly, the Soul Matrix, a feature tied to social bonds, often feels like an unnecessary chore due to the repetitive nature of its associated dungeon.

While the controls generally function adequately, there are minor quirks that detracted from the gameplay. Adjusting the camera while running can be cumbersome, and its proximity to Ringo often feels intrusive. Additionally, the timing of certain attacks, such as Ringo’s slash, can feel unnatural, occasionally leading to unexpected battles.

Final Verdict

Soul Hackers 2 occupies a unique place in the Shin Megami Tensei family—it’s neither as darkly fantastical as its predecessors nor as whimsically lighthearted as the Persona series. Instead, it offers a solid, if not groundbreaking, return to a once-dormant IP. While the game impresses with its refined combat mechanics and character progression, it falls short in delivering a captivating narrative. Its emotional moments lack impact due to a reliance on telling rather than showing. Atlus enthusiasts may find enjoyment here, but newcomers to the genre may want to explore other options.

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Is There a Better Alternative?

For those seeking a more compelling story, Persona 5 Royal offers a lengthier and more entertaining experience, complete with similar RPG systems. Additionally, Persona 4, Shin Megami Tensei 5, and the recently remastered Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne present compelling alternatives that scratch the itch for an engaging narrative.

Time Investment

Soul Hackers 2 is relatively short compared to other works by Atlus, requiring approximately 30 to 40 hours to complete.

Should You Buy It?

For fans of the Shin Megami Tensei series, Soul Hackers 2 warrants a soft recommendation. However, newcomers to Atlus games may find better starting points elsewhere.

This review of Soul Hackers 2 is based on the PlayStation 4 version.

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