Soul Hackers 2: one step away from the end of the world

Thanks to the unstoppable success across the globe from the episodes of the Persona series and from the fifth main chapter of Shin Megami Tensei (have you already devoured the review of Shin Megami Tensei V?), Recently Atlus seems determined to infuse new lifeblood in the others as well. secondary sagas of the MegaTen, which for a long time remained suspended in limbo. It is the case of Devil Summonerwhich many years after its last incarnation is about to return to the market thanks to the flaming Soul Hackers 2, a cross-gen title that will debut on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X / S on August 26th. Having spent a few hours in the company of Rindo, Figue and the other protagonists of the story, we will tell you below what we have already learned about the most anticipated role-playing game of August.

One step away from the end

The world is about to end. Away from the eyes of ordinary people, the Demon Summoners belonging to two different secret organizations – the Yatagarasu and the Phantom Circle – are fighting a war that will very soon spell the end of all humanity.

To avoid this possibility, a digital mind born from the sea of ​​information and which transcends any human intellect she was forced to take some drastic measures. If Aion normally limits itself to observing our species, the imminent catastrophe that threatens the future of all humanity requires instead a direct and immediate intervention: by suspending its role as neutral observer indefinitely, the incorporeal Aion therefore gives a form material to two of its agents, Ringo and Figue, so that they can investigate and prevent the tragedy at the door. Created to protect the world and even endowed with individual personalities at first glance, even complex ones (that we can’t wait to fully explore!), immediately after birth the two temporary manifestations of Aion learn that they must protect two extremely important men, as their deaths will trigger the disaster. Therefore, as Figue reaches the human world to track down a world famous engineer named Ichiro Onda, Rindo tries to track down Arrow, a simple Demon Summoner belonging to the Yatagarasu.

Unfortunately, however, both targets are found dead, which is why, instead of accepting the failure of the mission, the careless and somewhat hasty agent named Rindo decides to bring the young Arrow back to life using the phenomenal skill called “soul hacking”: by accessing the memories of the human just deceased and synchronizing with his mind, Rindo proves to be able to reach the soul of Arrow, to whom he immediately offers a second chance to “do the right thing”. Back in the kingdom and alive and not entirely convinced that he has temporarily met death, the Summoner therefore agrees to collaborate with Rindo to unmask the true intentions of the Demonic Circle and put an end to the chain of events that, through the butterfly effect, should lead to the terrifying future predicted by Aion.

As anticipated in the introduction, for the moment we have only experienced the first hours of Soul Hackers 2, and although the narrative plot has once again drawn on the apocalyptic themes so abused by Shin Megami Tensei’s brandthe protagonist’s ability to penetrate the souls of allies to learn their stories and even deny their death, with consequences that for now we can only imagine, has already been able to arouse our irrepressible curiosity.

Since the very existence of the two agents represents a contradiction and goes against the primary directives of Aion, yesIt will undoubtedly be interesting to see how they interact with the human world and its inhabitants. Also because, although we do not yet know the purposes, Soul Hackers 2 presents a mechanic aimed at strengthening the bonds between Rindo and the supporting actors recruited during the campaign.

Between welcome confirmations and attractive news

Putting aside the narrative component and the harmony with the companions, which we hope is supported by a satisfactory system of Social Link on the model of Persona 5 (for all the details, jump on the review of Persona 5 Royal), it is time to analyze the mechanics of gameplay of the new Devil Summoner. Let’s start with a premise, emphasizing that Soul Hackers 2 uses the classic combat system of the main series of MegaTenalso known as the “Press Turn” system.

During the battles, therefore, allies and enemies enjoy two distinct turnsit is no coincidence that the two factions will pass to the counterattack only after all the opponents have acted: it is a solution that greatly enhances the strategy, because if on the one hand the player is called to select in rapid succession the actions to be performed in the assigned turn to his darlings, on the other hand, the inability to act between one attack and another in the enemy forces him to carefully evaluate the situation and carefully plan your moves. While fighters basically have access to the standard attack, guard and abilities of the Daemons they are affiliated with, in this round the development team headed by Mitsuru Hirata and Eiji Ishida has come up with a mechanic not very different from the “All-Out Attack“in Persona. Whenever Rindo and his people exploit an elemental weakness of the enemy to inflict much more damage than normal, the Demon used materializes on the battlefield and, at the end of the current turn, launches into a special attack called “Tregenda”.

Therefore, hammering the weak points of all the enemies engaged causes the appearance of as many demonic creatures, which, once their return of action has arrived, simultaneously storm the entire rival faction. It is a fanciful and fun alternative, which users who are more attentive to the strategy factor can use to quickly thin out the waves of gruesome monsters that in the dungeons will repeatedly try to annihilate them.

The so-called bonus attack must then be added to the Tragenda, which is triggered automatically when Rindo’s party comes into contact with an enemy caught off guard and stunned: when this happens, all the creatures of the shadows they lose a significant amount of HP before the player’s first turn even begins, which consequently enjoys a tactical advantage that should not be underestimated. Keeping in mind that Soul Hackers 2 also has an automatic attack function, useful for getting rid of low-level or otherwise not very dangerous obstacles, the union of the mechanics described so far significantly speeds up grinding sessions, favoring the acquisition of experience points.

The other pleasant novelty of Soul Hackers 2, which in any case we suspect still has many hidden aces up its sleeve, is to be found in the “Demonic Recon“: an unusual function and in our view well contextualized, which at the entrance of a dungeon sells Rindo and his team to forward the demons subjugated by the team.

Traceable to the farthest corners of the maps, they can locate money and hidden items to deliver to their allies or, better yet, convince other demons to embrace their cause, so as to dramatically expand the choice of partners. However, it must be said that, while exploring the dungeons, it happens from time to time to come across unknown shadows, who join the gang only at the end of a negotiation: in those cases, the important thing is to satisfy the requests of potential new recruits. , which depending on the circumstances could even extort money from you!

Faithful to the tradition of the genre, the title does not even lack secondary content, such as the sidequests that can be undertaken by visiting the glitzy club run by Madam Giriko. Although these are mostly boring fetch quests aimed at recovering objects or eliminating certain targets, these allow you to access rather interesting rewards, as well as unlock new items in the various shops scattered around the city.

Suspended judgment

Since we have just placed Soul Hackers 2 on the test bench, for the moment we prefer not to give any preliminary judgments about its technical component. Also because the only element that has so far made us turn up our noses is represented by a camera too close behind the character and rather inconvenient, but which apparently will be improved by a patch that Atlus plans to publish by the launch date of the GDR.

As expected, the product enjoys delightful nocturnal settings, which through an abundant use of lights and lively soundtrack made by MONACA (production studio founded in 2004 by the phenomenal Keiichi Okabe, historical composer, among others, of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, Tekken And Drakengard) are giving us pleasant urban atmospheres.

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