Soul Hackers 2 is Atlus’ latest JRPG and a sequel to the twenty-five-year-old Shin Megami Tensei spin-off game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. In the wake of the massive success of the Persona and mainline Shin Megami Tensei series, it’s no surprise that the company has decided to go back to its older titles seeking the same success. However, whether it succeeds at being an enjoyable experience that’s separate from its predecessors is completely up for debate.
The first thing I’d like to highlight is the game’s story. Frankly put, if you expect a narrative experience akin to the Persona series with its grandeur stories and dynamically endearing characters, you’ll be disappointed as you won’t find that in Soul Hackers 2, as the story is significantly less awe-inspiring and is closer to the Shin Megami Tensei series but with its own unique twists and turns. The game follows Ringo and Figue, two AI agents of Aion, a “data stream of information” who are given humanoid bodies and sent to the human world to fulfill their quest of preventing the world’s end. They do this by involving themselves in a war between two Devil Summoner factions, the Yatagarasu and the Phantom Society, with the help of a few stray Summoners with their own motives.
Right off the bat, one can quickly tell that the game’s premise is your standard heroes save the world schtick. And unfortunately, while there are a few story bits here and there that spice things up and dark dramatic moments that evoke feelings in the player, these moments are few and far between and don’t do much to change the flow of the overall story. The world-building is brushed over, character interactions often feel flat, the story feels incredibly linear and moves from section to section with little downtime, and the overall plot and characters don’t feel as fleshed out as I feel like they should’ve been. That said, I admittedly still enjoyed the game’s story more than most games in the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series. I believe that while it sometimes takes itself a little too seriously, it still puts effort into developing its characters and making things a little more light-hearted compared to other Shin Megami Tensei titles.
Gameplay-wise, Soul Hackers 2 features a great mix of new and returning mechanics from the franchise. Combat is still your standard turn-based, menu-based system. Players use demons to fight other demons and sometimes humans with physical attacks, elemental attacks, item buffs, debuffs, and more. Then there’s the new “Sabbath” mechanic, the game’s version of an all-out attack executed by attacking enemy weaknesses that stack the more weaknesses you exploit. Players can also optimize their combat potential by upgrading their ‘COMPs,’ which is basically each character’s compilation of accessories, equipped demons, outfits, elemental augments, and more. Fine-tuning your COMP is incredibly critical to getting far in the game, and despite its importance, the game doesn’t do a good job of making it seem important to players.
Other gameplay innovations include the ability to eat specific meals and go to your safehouse to recover health and SP without the pressure of a timer. There’s also the “demon recon” mechanic, which lets players send out their demons at the start of each dungeon to find items, occasionally top up your health and SP, and even find other demons in the dungeon to recruit. Sadly, while convenient in several ways, the mechanic may cause frustration when trying to get specific items or recruiting certain demons as it makes the process more long-winded and up to chance.
Outside combat, players can also spend time with party members in a bar via short dialogue to get close to them and increase their “Soul Levels,” which in turn, unlocks each of their sections in the Soul Matrix, a Mementos-style section of the game that allows players explore the psyche of each of the main characters. It’s just unfortunate that the dungeons are incredibly bland and utterly empty save for the enemies that pop up randomly.
It’s not all bad, however, as the game still sports amazingly detailed and crisp visuals, with a vibrant and beautiful cyberpunk-inspired art direction. The character designs are also surprisingly intricate, unique, and stylish, especially that of Ringo and Figue. And supporting the visuals is the fantastic soundtrack filled with dubstep music that isn’t annoying and other cool techno tracks. Finally, the voice acting for both the Japanese and English dub is impeccable, and you can tell both casts put up an excellent performance.
All in all, Soul Hackers 2 is unlike any other Atlus title I’ve played so far. The title takes inspiration from both the Persona and the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series while including new things into the mix to varying degrees of success. As a result, I believe the best way to enjoy the game is not to compare it to any other title in the franchise. While some of its elements leave a lot to be desired, it still offers tons of fun in its own unique way, and I genuinely hope the title receives a sequel due to its sheer potential to be much better than it currently is.
Soul Hackers 2 will launch on August 25 in Japan and August 26 worldwide for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Soul Hackers 2
Soul Hackers 2 takes inspiration from both the Persona and the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series while including new things into the mix to varying degrees of success. As a result, it is best to not compare it to any other title in the franchise.
Abdul Saad is a seasoned anime and manga critic, art lover, and professional journalist. When he’s not covering the medium’s latest news, he’s giving his candid opinions on the season’s most unique titles or exploring the niche side of the industry. He has also played and reviewed more games than he could ever count.