games / Reviews

Soul Hackers 2 (PS5) Review

October 28, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Soul Hackers 2 Image Credit: Atlus
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Soul Hackers 2 (PS5) Review  

While I haven’t played every Shin Megami Tensei game in the world, I have played a nice chunk of them, starting with Persona 3 on the PlayStation 2 and becoming a fan of the franchise ever since. There’s been a lot of offshoots from the core SMT series over the years and Soul Hackers was one I didn’t play since I never had a 2DS. With Soul Hackers 2 on an actual home console though I gave it a shot and I’m reasonably glad I did, even if it’s a pretty slight game in the grand scheme of things.

Soul Hackers 2 takes a more metaphysical bent to the franchise. You play as Ringo, sadly not part of the Beatles, who was a part of Aion, a god-like supercomputer capable of predicting the future. It has prophesied an end to the world unless specific Devil Summoners are saved, so Ringo and her partner Figue’s mission is to rescue them.

The x-factor however is that some of the Devil Summoners and people contain something called a Covenant. These are remnants of “The Great Will”, which is something that drives a lot of these games. It’s basically akin to the Infinity Gems/Gauntlet, if someone has one they have some powers but if someone manages to get all five Covenants, they will be able to remake or destroy the world.

The Devil Summoners in question belong to two different organizations, one of which is generally good and the other is…less so. Once rescued/resurrected, you meet them after they already died and Ringo “Soul hacks” them to bring them back to life, also become your party members. The first is Arrow, who works for the good organization. The second is Milady, pronounced “Melody” who works for the slightly evil group, and the third is Saizo who is a freelancer and works for whomever pays him. Saizo and Arrow are the ranged characters while Ringo and Milady are the melee ones.

The battle system is a bit dumbed down from regular Persona/SMT games but it’s not wholly bad. For one, there’s nothing about talking/negotiating with demons at all in battle. The way you recruit demons in the game is you just kind of find them in the game map and ask them to join you. They might require an item, money or health from you but that’s it. You can’t really “fail” a negotiation since there isn’t one. This does make battles go a bit quicker, since you don’t have to really worry about trying to save/recruit a specific demon but it has the other effect that if you want a specific demon in a dungeon, you’ll have to hunt around for it to actually show up and become attainable.

Another battle system difference in this game is what happens when you hit an enemy’s weakness. In most SMT games, if you hit an ice demon with a fire attack, they’ll be weak to it and it’ll net you an additional turn. In this game however, it doesn’t. What it does do is create a stack of demons for them to unleash a “Sabbath” attack. This is basically an area of effect that unleashes a lot of damage against your foes. The damage is relative to the stack size, so if you only have one stack, it’s a bit slight. But if you manage to get an 8 stack, which I think is the highest, then the damage will be extreme.

Aside from this, it’s the standard turn-based JRPG affair. Attacking, defending, using demon spells or abilities, healing when you need to and so on. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve played a JRPG within the past decade.

There is the usual story quest for you to follow, which takes up the bulk of the game, however the main side activity for you to do is plunging deeper and deeper into the Soul Matrix. You can basically go into the psyches of your three party members to help alleviate their traumas or to gain some backstory on them. Each floor has a main boss for you to defeat and then progress will be stopped until you proceed through the main story some more. Basically, think of it as the Mementos system from Persona 5, except for the dungeon layouts being randomized. Your goal is to clear out the dungeons, which helps boost your relationship with that specific party member and unlocks new bonuses for your group.

Aside from there being a story progression gate, there are also “Soul Link” gates that you also have to check. This is basically a check against a social level that you have in the game, like to progress through an Arrow gate, you may need a S. Level of 45, but your current level is only 43. There’s only two ways of increasing a Soul Level though, by agreeing with their dialog options during certain story sequences or by hanging out with them during your off time.

Unlike with Persona, you don’t have a rigid day/night schedule to contend with. You can abandon the main story and hang out with your party members whenever you want, however, there isn’t actually a lot of options to do this. You basically only ever get chances to hang out after main story quests or by doing side quests, so there actually is a limited number of chances for you to accomplish this. If you want to complete as much of the Soul Matrix as possible, which cannot do in just one playthrough (it requires multiple playthroughs), you’ll want to keep all three characters near the same S. Link as much as possible.

The big problem with this whole Soul Matrix system is, it’s boring. The environment looks like it fell out of a Tron video game, only without any personality. It’s a flat, kind of ugly, aesthetic that’ll see over and over and over again. Different Soul Matrix floors might have different gimmicks, the later ones have teleporters or might have a bit more multi-level floors, but that’s it. At least with Mementos in Persona 5, it at least looked vaguely interesting. This is incredibly dull and you’ll have to keep going back there.

Side quests are available in both the real world and in the Soul Matrix levels. These usually are pretty simple and just involve you killing a certain number of enemies, or a specific foe, bringing materials to someone, finding an item (or materials), fusing a demon with a specific skill and so on. The nice thing is, you can pretty much take on all the side quests that you want and largely forget about them. What I mean by that is that most side quests will be completed as you go through the levels or Soul Matrix floors, and you only have to go out of your way occasionally to do them.

This is a smaller-in-scope game than something like Persona or even Devil Summoner. Like, you can upgrade and customize your weapons but you can never just outright buy new ones. Or that there is really only four distinct settings in the game where dungeons are: construction zone, subway line, abandoned building, and underwater area. There’s a real lack of content here that even if you have the included story DLC (which I didn’t have), which adds a whole new character/setting, still isn’t really enough for most players. On one hand I can appreciate that this isn’t Persona 5, which can take over 100+ hours to complete if you’re doing it correctly, but I beat this game in about 35 hours, which for a JRPG, feels a bit slight.

It might help if characters were interesting at all but they aren’t. Ringo and Figue are somewhat engaging and have a pretty different take on events going on. But Arrow, Milady and Saiko are boring as hell and are all generic anime stereotypes. It doesn’t help that a lot of these names are incredibly stupid, notably “Figue” (Fig) and “Milady” (Melody). If you want to call her Milady, fine, but pronounce it like what the word is “Muh-lay-dee”, this Melody nonsense is annoying.

This is perhaps the biggest issue with Soul Hackers 2, it’s that it is too slight and unambitious for its own good. Even if you ignore the Persona games over the years, Soul Hackers 2 doesn’t even reach to the levels of Nocturne, Devil Summoner. You are required to playthrough the game twice if you want the Platinum trophy and good luck trying to stay awake for that second run. There are some glimmers of a personality, like the first bad guy being this rapping idiot, but he gets dispatched and it becomes a slog again. On my playthrough, I inadvertenly stumbled into the “good” ending, of two, and after reading I got the good one, I wondered “Yeesh, how bad is the normal one?” I was completely underwhelmed by it and I didn’t even know I got the good ending till it popped up a trophy saying I did.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Soul Hackers 2 is competently made, has a traditional battle system and one or two interesting story/character things to keep you occupied. But on the whole, I just kind of found it a boring experience. I did enjoy my time with it but I can’t really even remember what went on and that makes the story extremely forgettable in my book. It is a good game but there isn’t enough there to hold your interest for long.

article topics :

Soul Hackers 2, Marc Morrison