Soul Hackers 2 Could Have Been Atlus’ Next “Persona”

Brimming with potential that wasn't capitalized on.

Story Highlights

  • Soul Hackers 2 launched in 2022 to mixed reception and disappointing sales.
  • Dungeons in SH2, a core element of the game, were painfully bland & that hurt it badly.
  • The interesting premise and cast failed to deliver due to poor execution on Atlus’ part.

I’ve been playing Shin Megami Tensei games for over a decade. Yes, it’s not that long compared to other people out there but I have to say it—Soul Hackers 2 is the greatest miss by Atlus in recent memory. By now, you’re either nodding in agreement, furiously shaking your head on the x-axis, or letting out a resounding “huh?”

Whatever action you might execute (it could be neither), I’ll explain why I feel that this game could have been the next Persona 3 or 5 but failed. 

Soul Hackers 2 Had Simplified Gameplay & Bland Level Design

Normally I’d start with the story since that’s the whole schtick about Shin Megami Tensei aside from dungeon crawling and collecting demons, which is the other main element. As Soul Hackers 2 is part of an offshoot series, I’ve decided to go straight for the jugular—the gameplay and level design were utterly bland.

If you’re coming into Soul Hackers 2 as a freshie with no prior exposure to Megami Tensei, you’re most likely going to have a nice time. That’s not going to save you from the desolate and repetitive environments that turn the title into a running simulator but hey, that’s not the worst of it.

Soul Matrix is the perfect example of how you don't do dungeons.
Soul Matrix is the perfect example of how you don’t do dungeons.

However, if you’ve played anything before Soul Hackers 2, then you know how bad this was. And before you say it, no, it’s not as “standard” as you might think. It’s not okay that a 20-year-old title has better player engagement than a modern title.

I saw what Atlus was trying to do with the gameplay. It retained the core element of exploiting enemy weaknesses but replaced the press turns with Sabbath stacks. I’ll admit, it was a cool move. Stack it up against Persona’s All-Out attacks though and I just can’t bring myself to praise it.

The idea Atlus had was definitely something that could be fleshed out. It had potential but ultimately, the combat was over-simplified.

And the level design? If it weren’t for the modern visuals and aesthetic, I’d have refunded this game in the first hour. Never in my life have I felt the level of boredom and disgust that Soul Hackers 2 made me go through. Next, you’ll say, “How?” and it’s simple—Soul Matrix.

Soul Hackers II: A Great Yet Disappointing Game (My Thoughts)
byu/Junior_Importance_30 inMegaten

Compare this to any Megami Tensei title or a Persona title and you’ll see how SH2 falls flat despite having a great setup. It simply failed to capitalize on it. Even Nocturne’s tunnels are better than this.

Fantastic Setting, Forgettable Story

I had to get that bit out of the way first. Now, I’ll talk about the setting and story of Soul Hackers 2. In all honesty, the premise of this game is interesting. It checks all the boxes of a traditional Megami Tensei game even though the Law, Chaos, and Neutral route patterns were absent.

A world where demons and humans coexist in secrecy is something unique. Unlike Persona where everything happens in the depths of the human psyche & Shin Megami Tensei in which the world ends within the first five minutes, Soul Hackers 2 brings it all into the present. Not to mention the cyberpunk Japanese metropolis where the game takes place.

It was truly a feast for my eyes. Something that’s juxtaposed with the bland dungeon design and a story that fails to capitalize on the setting. Soul Hackers 2 starts with a cutscene showcasing Ringo’s awakening as we get a rundown from Flamma, a being created by the advanced sentient AI Aion, to assist her and Figue. In classic Megami Tensei fashion, we’re told about the upcoming apocalypse with an eerie and unsettling cutscene.

Despite having an intriguing premise, the story was extremely forgettable.
Despite having an intriguing premise, the story was extremely forgettable.

Not long after that, the game turns into a checklist of preventing the deaths of the three main cast members. Somehow, we’re always late to the scene which results in them kicking the bucket.

But there’s nothing to worry about.

The agents of Aion have a convenient power, Soul Hacking, that can bring the dead back to life. It’s built up as an ability with severe consequences yet is used amply and with minimal repercussions.

Many aspects of the story are written well and raise anticipation. However, they ultimately fail to deliver leading to disappointment and breaking immersion. Some examples of this are the death of Kuzunoha Mangetsu and the reveal of Iron Mask, the former being hailed as one of the strongest summoners.

The whole universe of Soul Hackers 2 is well-designed. It had the elements that could have allowed it to stand on its own two legs and start something entirely new. Faction wars, ideologies, advanced technology, sentient AI, demons, humans, and connections.

Yes, Soul Hackers 2 very slightly ventured into the Social Link part of Persona; it didn’t amount to anything significant. By now you’re probably starting to see a pattern here. If what the game has is great, why then is it so bad? Simple, execution.

An Adult Cast Yet Minimal Depth

There’s not much I can say about the cast except that Ringo and Saizo are the only well-written characters. Generally, Megami Tensei puts its cast in their teen years. Some spin-offs change this element allowing for the exploration of darker and more mature themes. The only saving grace here was giving Ringo a voice and a personality.

Soul Hackers 2 had an interesting cast that ultimately wasn't fleshed out properly.
Soul Hackers 2 had an interesting cast that ultimately wasn’t fleshed out properly.

Despite having that advantage, Soul Hackers 2 does little to develop its characters that have some intriguing history. Those events are briefly glimpsed upon during the Soul Hack sequence and the Soul Matrix sections, ultimately leaving a wide gap unfulfilled.

Persona 3, 4, and 5 wrestled with mature themes & didn’t shy away from venturing into dark territory. Even though Soul Hackers 2 feels to have been poised for the same, somehow Atlus failed to deliver that final touch.

The cast managed to appeal to various players out there. However, all I saw were characters not fleshed out enough. 

What Soul Hackers 2 Could Have Been

Having invested as much time as I have in this game, its potential and the disappointing level of execution become clear as day. You know it’s bad when a repetitive labyrinth design from a game in the early 2000s is less suffering than whatever Soul Hackers 2 had.

Metaphor might be the next big thing for Atlus.
Metaphor might be the next big thing for Atlus.

Interesting characters but minimal growth, engaging combat but a victim of oversimplification, and a unique setting but a forgettable story. Had those factors been handled well, Soul Hackers 2 could have potentially become Atlus’ next Persona. Who knows, maybe fate decreed Metaphor to hold that title. At least SH2 had those gorgeous visuals and beautiful demons.

But hey, Shin Megami Tensei V: Vengeance is coming to PC in June. As a wise man once said, the show must go on.

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Saad is a News writer at eXputer. With vast journalistic experience working for a multitude of websites, Saad currently reports to eXputer with the latest news and dishes out his opinions on a frequent basis. He's currently studying Game and Interactive Media Design, which has further increased his knowledge about the ins and outs of the industry.

Experience: 1+ Year || Covers News Stories on eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Media Science.

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