Twenty years after the release of the original game, Soul Hackers, a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) franchise, presents a second episode to surprise everyone. Meanwhile, the SMT saga has gained fame in the West thanks to the popularity of Character 5. What inspires Soul Hackers 2 to reproduce the success of its biggest?
- The colorful world of cyberpunk is in the grip of the apocalypse
- Agreed scenario for Shin Megami Tensei
- Effective battles for dated level design
Released in 1997 on Saturn, Soul Hackers is arguably the most famous title in the Shin Megami Tensei (SMT) franchise. At that time, in addition to the launch dedicated to Japan, the saga was not really known outside the Japanese archipelago. So inevitably, it took sixteen years for Soul Hackers to reappear with a port to the 3DS, and this time it’s available worldwide. although, With the release of Persona 4, but especially Persona 5, Shin Megami Tensei became known in the West As one of the must-have J-RPG stories.
And if you do not know this privilege, we remind you about it Shin Megami Tensei is an RPG where you face folklore demons from around the world that you can recruit and combine in order to constantly strengthen your team.. In the face of the success of Persona 5 Royal, Atlus has decided to release more and more episodes of its flagship license worldwide. After Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster, we’re treated to a new numbered opus with Shin Megami Tensei V, exclusively for Switch. Now it’s Soul Hackers’ turn to take center stage with its live-action sequel, Soul Hackers 2, inspired in many ways by Persona.
The colorful world of cyberpunk is in the grip of the apocalypse
In Soul Hackers 2, humanity has reached such an advanced level of technology that it has stopped developing. In the shadows, a new form of life called Aion has been created from the sea of abstract data saturated with information that makes up today’s society. As an entity beyond comprehension, Aion watches over the history of mankind but also its future which it can predict. When the end of the world seems inevitable, This transcendent group decides to create two beings with a physical body, Ringo and Vig, so that they can infiltrate the humans and prevent disaster. During his mission, Ringo, the heroine we play, meets Aru, Milady, and Saizo who will help him restore the Five Covenants which, once united, allow him to summon the Supreme Being who makes any wish come true. Obviously, if this falls into the wrong hands, it could end up causing the destruction of the world, as the ghost community wants to build a new one by turning the existing one into ruins.
more of his script, The great strength of Soul Hackers 2 lies primarily in its world and graphics. We discover the world of cyberpunk with its cartoon aesthetics and bright colors in neon style that give a true identity to the title. This can also be felt in the designs of the main characters, which sparkle with their originality, but also in the artworks of the merchant lists, which are very successful and reminiscent of Persona 5. So it is very good to explore the streets of this futuristic, colorful Tokyo that also benefits from a shaded pattern with ink effects. It looks especially good. The iconic demons of Shin Megami Tensei that we find from game to game also make use of this graphic design to delight fans of this saga.
If the title holds up visually thanks to its artistic direction, We all note that his style is very simple, with basic materials and environments when we look in detail, which is disguised by its anime side. In terms of exploration, we are not in an open world, but rather move using a map that allows us to go to different places in the city that take the form of small spaces as in the old games of the series. Another point of detail, the title has a lot of little loads here and there on its PS5 version if you leave the tips active. However, you should be aware that if you deactivate it in the options, it disappears. A very strange choice.
Agreed scenario for Shin Megami Tensei
If you’re a fan of Shin Megami Tensei, these apocalypse themes to recreate a new community may seem quite familiar to you and for once, Soul Hackers 2 isn’t particularly original in this area. Something to remember Shin Megami Tensei V which was quite similar in this aspect. but, If the scenario is not the greatest strength in the world of Soul Hackers 2, the latter can still rely on its characters to attract the player’s interest. Each team member has interesting past motives that can be detected in particular in the Soul Array, a type of dungeon that allows you to relive their memories and get closer to them.
One of the first inspirations for Persona 5 that we find in Soul Hackers 2, is precisely the possibility to interact with its partners to become closer. So some dialogue options will make one of your teammates happy, while you can go for a drink with one of them in an effort to get the soul resonance. The higher this scale, the more you will be able to explore the Soul Matrix and unlock doors that only open if you are close enough to your buddies.
Effective battles for dated level design
In addition to walking through these futuristic Tokyo streets to purchase items and equipment, the heart of Soul Hackers 2 is above all else to explore dungeons to defeat groups of demons and advance in the story. In terms of combat, The title makes use of the classic mechanics of Shin Megami Tensei that have proven themselves all these years. Thus, clashes occur on a turn-by-turn basis, and every member of your team is able to use their assigned demon abilities. The goal then is to find and exploit the enemy’s weak spot as much as possible to create an Evocation, a group attack that is triggered at the end of the player’s turn. This attack gets stronger the more attacks you make that match your opponent’s weak point.
Outside of combat, you can recruit demons and then equip them with one of your characters so he can use his skills. However, while in most of the Shin Megami Tensei you had to negotiate with them in the middle of the fight before they joined you, now it’s your demons who will look for them in the dungeons and you just have to accept whether or not you’ll give in to their whims in order to join you. And in order to become more powerful, instead of upgrading your creatures, it is interesting to incorporate them into a circus dedicated to this purpose, a typical function of SMTs. Finally, you can also improve your characters’ vehicles in the Shops, a type of device that allows them to use demons’ powers. In general, you should always walk around the city to shop and buy equipment that increases your allies’ defense or recover healing items. To finish customization, our heroes can also restore their special skills thanks to their COMP, but also by advancing their soul matrix.
So Soul Hackers 2 takes advantage of the powerful fighting system of the Shin Megami Tensei series to deliver effective confrontations that require strategy. This is absolutely true because our hero Ringo has access to very practical skills, such as the ability to change demons in combat or strengthen summons, which provides additional tactical options. Unfortunately, Some options make the experience more complex than in other games in the franchise. In Persona 5 or Shin Megami Tensei V, the ability to negotiate with demons made it possible to have enough to fuse to create the perfect creature to defeat a boss for example. Here, since you can’t recruit that easily, you’ll sometimes find yourself stuck if you don’t have the right demons. Fortunately, it is always possible to modify the difficulty at any time to circumvent this issue.
Beyond that, The biggest problem with the title is above all the design of the dungeons which are nothing but a series of corridors full of enemies who struggle to be exciting.. So we follow straight paths until we reach our goal, we cross a lot of enemies on the way and our demons who can heal you or bring things back. In addition, exploration often takes place in simple and mundane environments that contrast with the colorful and cheerful art direction in Tokyo. Something to remind Shin Megami Tensei III who also suffered from the same problem, except that the blank aspect of its trappings was in keeping with the post-apocalyptic atmosphere and loneliness provided. So we’re a long way from Palace 5 that shines with its originality and visual identity, and we’re closer to Memento, the randomly generated dungeon that’s used to gain experience.
- Beautifully colored cyberpunk anime aesthetic
- Effectiveness of No Shin Megami Tensei Fighting System
- Friendly characters with original designs
- Abnormal dungeons are nothing but a series of corridors
- deja vu story for epic fans
- Technically very simple
Behind the colorful neon lights, Soul Hackers 2 remains the “old school” role-playing game that strays from modern titles in its franchise like Persona 5 Royal or Shin Megami Tensei V. It has an effective and proven combat system like SMT, but also a friendly cast of characters that features with its original designs. Unfortunately, the experience is delivered by a very simple story at the end, with some technical shortcomings, but above all by very basic and repetitive dungeons that struggle to motivate the player. A title that has something to please the experienced RPG enthusiast.
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