One of the most anticipated JRPG releases of August among ATLUS fans has to be Soul Hackers 2.
ATLUS surprised fans back in February this year with a surprise announcement of the game.
The announcement came as a shock to many players (including myself) because when ATLUS announced a new game, we all thought it would be Persona 6. This belief was helped by the fact that we are still in the year long celebration of the 25th anniversary of Persona.
Surprisingly, they announced another game; Soul Hackers 2.
At the time, I didn’t pay it much attention. Not only was the name of the game something I had never heard of, it also had the number “2” in the title, meaning it was a sequel.
It was only after a bit of research that I came to discover that Persona wasn’t the only spin-off of ATLUS’s Shin Megami Tensei series. I was late to the party but eventually, I came to discover another spin-off of the SMT series; the Devil Summoner series. And Soul Hackers is a part of the Devil Summoner series.
To put into perspective of Shin Megami Tensei franchise, the Devil Summoner series and the Persona series are the stylish spin-off children of the Shin Megami Tensei series.
My research into the series revealed an extremely interesting and cool game that I am convinced that more people should try. This means you, dear reader.
Whether you are an SMT veteran or a Persona fan or a complete newbie to this stuff, lend me your ear and let me tell you why you don’t want to miss Soul Hackers 2!
The game is a sequel to “Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers”, which was released back in 1997. To put it in context, that was the same year Final Fantasy VII and Persona 1 were released. Yes, it’s been that long!
Due to this, many new players might be hesitant to try this game. After all, if you need to play a game from 1997 as homework to understand this game, is it really worth it?
Well, dear reader… I’ve got good news.
Soul Hackers 2 does NOT directly tie in to first game.
This game has its own story, set in the world of Soul Hackers but does not continue that tale.
I for one and am very happy about this decision by ATLUS. It makes the series immediately accessible to new players (like me).
Next, let’s check out the premise of the game:
“The game takes place in the 21st century and is set during a war between the Yatagarasu and the Phantom Society, two opposing factions of Devil Summoners. The story follows two supernatural “Aion” beings named Ringo (right) and Figue (left), who descend into the human world from their birthplace in the data stream of information, in order to avert a cataclysmic event that they predict will doom humanity.”
Bits of Persona
To some fans, the popularity of the Persona series meant that the chances of elements of it spreading to ATLUS’s other properties was not low. This was clearly seen from the playable demo in Summer Game Fest, which had a lot more stylish presentation reminiscent of the Persona series.
That being said, I don’t want you to think that this is going to be a Persona clone. So how about we talk about the differences first?
The very first and most obvious difference is that SH2 is going to have a sci-fi story where you will be playing with a group of older characters.
You might wonder why this is something worth noting. Well… in most of the Persona games, you usually play as a high school student. Your party will consist of either your schoolmates or people around your character’s age.
This means that despite dealing with powerful supernatural threats, you were still subjected to everyday problems and issues that a typical teenager would experience. Going to school, studying, etc.
Since Soul Hackers 2 is ditching the high school setting and gives us a group of adults as playable characters, it opens many social and story opportunities that might not be possible with a cast full of high schoolers. Definitely a plus point for anyone who is a bit tired of games with high school settings, which are a lot of them.
Another highlight is that Ringo will be fully voiced and will contribute to social scenes that she is part of.
This is unlike most other Persona protagonists, who are always silent. I find this to be a breath of fresh air and I can’t wait to see what Ringo will say or do in the game.
The second major difference that I want to highlight is the setting of the game. Gone is the high school and the surrounding town. Instead, in the world of Soul Hackers 2, demons roam freely around a futuristic, cyberpunk city while interacting with humankind. Some of these demons can also be interacted with, like you would human NPCs.
This opens up to a lot of possibilities for story and mechanics. As all of the NPCs are aware of the existence of these demons, things like upgrading weapons and fusing demons can now be freely done in the overworld.
The Persona series often limited the choices of Persona for the cast. Usually, only the main character gets to have multiple Persona and switch between them.
Due to this, the protagonist always ends up being overpowered and is the key to winning most of the battles. Most viable player tactics centered around the strengthening the protagonist and keeping them alive, often at the cost of other party members.
Soul Hackers 2 is not like this. It gives the entire team the ability to equip more than one demon. This opens up a broad range of opportunities and customization to the team as you are given complete freedom on how to build the party members as how you see fit.
As someone who started with Persona, this is one thing I’m really looking forward to. Maybe this game will awaken the tactician within me…
Now let’s talk similarities.
For starters, Soul Hackers 2 is part social simulator and part dungeon crawler where you will spend half of your time hanging out with your party members or doing various activities and the other half fighting demons.
One of the things I loved the most about the Persona series was the Social Link system. It something to look forward to while not exploring dungeons or fighting battles. You could enjoy your time hanging out with your teammates, get to know them more, and get some cool abilities out of it.
It looks like Soul Hackers 2 is going to do a similar thing. The game will have a Social Link-inspired system for party relationships called Soul Levels.
Ringo can hang out with her teammates, which boosts their Social Level. By doing so, the party members will unlock new abilities and increase their performance in combat.
These moments will allow you to get to know your party more and deepen your relationship with characters. This of course leads them to trusting you more and considering you a friend.
Doing these will get you more story out of the game overall and can endear certain characters in your eyes.
One of the most noticeable differences between the SMT series and the Persona series is be the “mood” or “vibe” of the game. The former can be dark and impersonal while the latter tends to be brighter and more personal. In some ways, they are opposites.
This difference also extends to the visual design of both game series. SMT features a more restrained art style while the Persona series, as of Persona 3, has opted for a more pop art style. Persona 5, for instance, has been widely praised for its exceptional interface and menu design.
From the briefest glance we got from the trailer, it was clear that Soul Hackers 2 took visual inspiration from Persona 5.
From portraits to the battles to the user interface itself, there is a stunning visual aesthetic to it all. This visual aesthetic also extends the neon-lit city peppered with ancient retreats and a vibrant circus. It reminded me of Palaces from Persona 5.
Influences from Shin Megami Tensei
Looking at the demo, it seems like combat system draws some influence from SMT. It has the basic turn-based combat system we’ve come to expect from ATLUS game, but with some twists.
During combat you able to build up Stacks (yes, that it actually what that mechanic is called) when you hit the enemies weakness. These Stacks let Ringo perform a powerful area-of-effect attack at the end of the turn.
This clearly takes inspiration from SMt as in that franchise, hitting enemy weaknesses extends your turn by giving your party more chances to act during a combat round.
In Soul Hackers 2, it seems that the more Stacks you have, the more demons Ringo will summon for the attack at the end. More demons = more power, of course.
Is it just me or is this like if you took the hitting enemy weakness thing from SMT and mashed it up with the All-Out-Attack from Persona?
One of the most fun things about the SMT series is that demons express a wide variety of personalities and interests, compared to the restrained presentation in Persona. In SMT, these creatures tend to have their own feelings, personalities, moods, likes, and dislikes.
In fact, to get a demon to join your party in SMT is a matter of negotiation. This process can be hilariously chaotic sometimes and early on, it’s not uncommon for demons to keep asking for lots of money or items or whatever and just leaving without joining.
Demon negotiation is back in Soul Hackers 2 and it is much more straightforward. For a guaranteed recruitment. it is best to give them a right item or be higher level than them.
This will be a welcome feature to some, while others might miss the mischievous nature of the SMT demons.
Expect a Banger of a Soundtrack
Personally, I’m a big soundtrack guy. Good music is one of the top things I look for in a game and Soul Hackers 2 is no exception.
After seeing the visuals of the game, I was predicting that the music style would be similar to that of Persona 5 and that it would be created by series composer, Shoji Meguro. I really liked how he combined various genres in the OST of Persona 5.
But to my absolute surprise, the composer of the game is not Shoji Meguro.
The OST of this game will be composed by Keiichi Okabe!
If you’re not sure who that is, let me fill you in.
Keiichi Okabe is the musical genius behind the OSTs of both NieR games. He worked on NieR Automata’s soundtrack with Keigo Hoashi, and Kuniyuki Takahashi.
I absolutely love NieR Automata’s soundtrack. Song of the Ancients (Atonement), A Beautiful Song, Amusement Park, and Weight of the World are among my favorites.
The picture below an approximation of my exact reaction to hearing this this news.
Okabe other works includes Tekken, Soul Caliber and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Okabe is going to bring to the game.
My hope is that the Soul Hackers 2 OST will reach the levels of quality the Persona 5 OST reached. I guess we will see when we play the game.
Soul Hackers 2 is one of the games that I plan to play on release day this year.
Initially, my plan was to buy the game only after checking out the reviews for it. But everything I found out while I was looking up the game actually convinced me to preorder it.
I am very excited for this game and think that it would be a great option for JRPG players who want a new story to chew on.
Whether you are an SMT fan, a Persona fan, or neither, Soul Hackers 2 is a game that deserves your attention. The fact that it seems to be taking inspiration from the rest of the SMT family this way is quite exciting. It’s looking to be an awesome game!
And that is why you should not miss Soul Hackers 2!