Before we begin our Review of Soul Hackers 2, it is important to give some context behind the craftsmanship and history of its creators, Atlus, who is most well-known for creating JRPG series such as the Shin Megami Tensei Franchise and its spinoff, the Persona series.
The first game, titled “Devil Summoner,” was originally released on the Sega Saturn, but later on, it would feature a follow-up title “Soul Hackers,” which would soon be ported to the PlayStation 1 and then even later to the Nintendo 3DS. Furthermore, both of the games were a branch of the Megami Tensei franchise, which became a massive hit in Japan, as critics and consumers alike came to love the complexity of the strategic and tactical combat of the games.
So after over two decades of waiting, Soul Hackers 2 was finally announced and had its fanbase reinvigorated, and newcomers were also intrigued by its flashy reveal. Now after finishing the game and exploring every nook and cranny of the mid-game dungeons, as well as collecting various demons to use in my party, I can say that Soul Hackers 2 delivers exceptionally well in some aspects yet feels shallow and lackluster in others. So it’s safe to say that I have some thoughts, which I am going to discuss in detail today to see if it’s worthy of your time and investment.
- Developer: Atlus
- Publisher: Sega
- Release Date: August 25, 2022
- Platforms: PlayStation, Xbox, and PC
- Predecessor: Soul Hackers
Setting And Story
The plot of the series is known for its themes of technological warfare and multi-layered narrative that keeps the story intuitive. Soul Hackers 2 takes place in the far-off 21st Century where two Devil Summoner Factions, Yataragasu, and the Phantom Society, are in conflict with one another and thus a war ensues between both parties which usherd in a devastating war. The game follows Ringo and Figue, two supernatural entities born from the continuous information data stream, who descend into the human world to prevent a calamity from occurring that will wipe out humanity forever.
During the starting hours, you meet some great cast of characters like Arrow, Saizo, and Milady who all individually provide some interesting backstories to delve into via their memories sequences. They are all enthusiastic and likable in their own unique ways, as is evident by the comical interactions that our main characters partake in with them during the prolonged cutscenes and dialogue moments.
Ringo and Figue are charming and witty protagonists that players will no doubt learn to adore and cherish. Newcomers will especially like seeing personalities in their heroes, as opposed to the silent protagonists you’ve seen in games like Persona or Dragon Quest. You will mostly be playing through the game as the neon green-haired Ringo, while Figue will mostly sit on the backlines as a supporting character for her party members in most situations.
The story has its charming moments, a few of which are extremely intriguing and full of twists and turns right from the get-go. However, it’s unfortunate to say that the rich writing that one might expect from Atlus, like what we’ve seen from their recent title Persona 5 Royal, doesn’t really feel strong enough in this game.
The opening sections of the story are strong enough to get you hooked into the world-building, but it ultimately falls flat on its back as the entire plot becomes somewhat predictable and dull. In comparison to older SMT titles and even Persona’s captivating writing, this is ultimately disappointing and uninspiring, considering the fact that a lot of JRPGs tend to have the greatest and most emotional stories told in the entire history of video games. I’m of course talking about titles like the legendary Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 7.
The combat and gameplay largely have remained the same across the SMT Franchise. The core mechanic is that you can collect different demons during your adventures throughout the dungeons of the games, and then use these monsters to fight alongside you. The only difference is that in the Soul Hackers series, your humanoid party members also fight alongside the demons in various combat scenarios. They can borrow the abilities from the demons, with the only catch being that each party member can only equip a single demon in their arsenal.
It is also worth stating that in the past, before the Persona games were a big deal, the Shin Megami Tensei franchise was notorious for being one of the toughest JRPGs to play. This was due to their sheer difficulty spikes right off the bat and the unforgiving nature of the gameplay, as well as the lack of accessibility options. This made most western fans or newcomers stay away from them for the most part.
Thankfully, I can safely mention in my review of Soul Hackers 2 that the game is easily the most accessible title in the franchise, especially when compared to the previous entry or even the mainline SMT series. The game does a fantastic job of easing new players into its combat elements, as well as introducing several quality-of-life improvements over its predecessor that allows ease of access and feasibility, which is an excellent and welcome addition for newer players.
The game is a JRPG after all, so it introduces several systems in place for you to get immersed in such as an extensive upgrade system that enhances the combat potential and ‘COMP’ stats of your characters and Demons. It is an essential tool that will help you fight against the harder bosses in the end-game levels with ease. But later on, it might end up becoming stale to constantly swap between traits and skills, or apply newer ones that make it all feel like a chore.
Most of the time, party members and demons can be equipped with any customizable trait, but the game still utilizes ‘Dedicated Roles,’ as is the case with other JRPGs with party systems. It is akin to how Yakuza Like a Dragon has characters specifically focused on either DPS or Tank roles. So similarly in Soul Hackers 2, characters like Milady will primarily be fire element-based while Saizo will have skills allowing him to multi-task as both the support and the healer of your group.
The ability to negotiate demons to join your cause and invite them to your party inventory is more or less streamlined this time around with Soul Hackers 2. As long as you choose the correct dialogue options to match their moods or gimmicks, you shouldn’t have too much trouble recruiting them. However, I found that most of the spawn locations for the demons I actively sought out were limited. Most importantly, the option to even recruit them would be absent in some cases, making it tedious and frustrating to even go through the process of spawning them again.
The Character Affinity aspect consistently provided ways to grow my relationship with the party members, as well as enjoy the charming hangout events that were a breath of fresh air in between the gameplay.
Furthermore, I occasionally found myself appreciating the helpful new feature introduced in the game known as the ‘Demon Recon’ function. It allows you to discover a random friendly demon that will provide you with useful items, bonuses, and rewards that will greatly help players on their dungeon-crawling escapades.
Speaking of which, aside from the game being highly accessible and addictive in its systems, it is important to acknowledge the fact that the dungeons of the game, whether they be the mainline story progression ones or the aptly named ‘Soul Matrixes’, fail to carry much weight. The vast majority of them are not that unique or particularly good at engaging the players.
It’s almost as if Atlus purposely wanted to firmly stick to the roots of the past SMT titles by making these supposedly multi-layered structures feel repetitive and visually identical in design and quality. The city exploration sections serve no purpose other than to advance the main story or gossip with characters. It leaves much to be desired in the gameplay side of things, but thankfully the combat is a saving grace.
Visuals And Performance
The original Soul Hackers had a dark and gloomy atmosphere, which obviously coincided with the other SMT titles at the time, with their insidious visuals and gritty attention to detail. Soul Hackers 2 does the opposite in this case, with its vivid atmosphere and cyberpunk dystopia. It puts on a stylish display for the audience through its various types of neon and exuberant colors popping out of the semi-linear world and city landscapes. The game genuinely looks gorgeous from a visual perspective and the overall animation looks smooth as silk.
But each of the Soul Matrix dungeons or the underground subway levels of the main story lack those details as they all feel relatively identical in design and flow, which feels rather underwhelming and repetitive. The minor upsides include the menu and UI elements being snappy and responsive just like the recent Persona games.
Now briefly going over the performance, you should obviously find no flaw in running the game on your current-gen gaming consoles, especially since the Series X and PS5 both support it at 60FPS. There are however a few minor concerns with the PC port, as I found some rather inconvenient stuttering during the combat encounters as well as the game not responding to tasks such as closing it when prompted.
Aside from that, you should not face any sort of major issues that will hinder or impact the experience too much.
Soul Hackers 2 Verdict
Atlus has shown that it isn’t afraid to resurrect some of the famed classics in its renowned catalog as shown by the critically acclaimed Shin Megami Tensei V or even the brand new Soul Hackers 2. The game mixes the best of both worlds from the latest JRPGs of the modern era, to craft a freely accessible game for newcomers as well as retain some welcomed familiarity of the past to appease the veteran players of the Meganten franchise.
There are many mechanics in the game to keep you immersed such as creating the best deck of Demons or spending quality time with your party members in the Life sim events.
But the cookie-cutter dungeons and odd writing ideas may prevent it from tying together to form a perfect or coherent package. But that gets outweighed a bit as the game constantly strives to maintain the quality and action that gamers would expect from such a stellar-looking JRPG, with its intriguing cast of characters and applaudable gameplay.
- Gripping Narrative.
- Fascinating Cast Of Characters.
- Pleasantly Accessible.
- Rich Visuals And Gameplay.
- Bland Dungeon Design.
- Predictable Plot-Twists.
- Questionable World Building.
Soul Hackers 2 Rating 3.5/5
We truly hope you enjoyed reading our review of Soul Hackers 2. We hope this clears up any misconceptions about the game and helps you decide if it is worth your time and investment.
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