Version tested: PSOne
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (2000)
- Developer: Atlus
- Publisher: Atlus
Despite being one of the longest-running RPG series in Japan, the Shin Megami Tensei series remained largely unknown in the west until relatively recently. Perhaps that's because the edgy, dark stories which lie at the heart of the series sat poorly with the kind of high fantasy JRPGs which were making headway in the US and Europe. Perhaps it's simply because publishers had no idea what to make of these bizarre tales, which mixed up twisted characters in contemporary Tokyo with demon summoning and blood magic rituals. Either way; for quite a few years, we all missed out.
The first foray for Shin Megami Tensei abroad came from the Persona games, a spin-off trilogy from the franchise which bore all of the artistic and storytelling hallmarks of the series. The original game was somewhat underwhelming; but Eternal Punishment (curiously, actually the second game to be titled Persona 2, but the first was never released outside Japan) was exactly the mix of heady storytelling, gorgeously minimalist artwork and great music which we've more recently come to love in the likes of Lucifer's Call and Digital Devil Saga.
With a plot focused on a particularly gruesome serial killer and the emergence of powerful demons which act as alter-egoes to the characters of the story, Eternal Punishment is about as far from the "spiky haired boy washed up on a beach with no memory of his past" RPG archetype as you can get - and while the graphics are dated, storylines like that don't really show their age, even now. Persona is dark, creepy, and interesting; perhaps not one of the best RPGs in the PlayStation's embarrassment of role-playing riches, but worthy of a second look purely for being a rare departure from the fantasy worlds we're all so used to.