Last month, I took a quick trip down to New York City. I brought my Nintendo 3DS with me for two reasons. First, I was only there for a day, and I still don't believe the Nintendo Switch is a great system to walk around with. Second, I intended to play Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth. Which I did.
I walked several miles around Manhattan with my 3DS in tow. I even visited the Nintendo Store at Rockefeller Plaza. There was a time when a jaunt of that magnitude would earn me an easy two dozen StreetPass communications. But on that sad day, I didn't receive a single StreetPass. Not one.
I know the Nintendo 3DS's game library and userbase has been in decline since the launch of the Switch. Even Nintendo's own plans for its 3D handheld have seemingly dried up. Nevertheless, I didn't feel like the 3DS was well and truly done until my trip to a city of millions—including a detour in a store dedicated to Nintendo—failed to make my 3DS's little green light blink on.
It's all over for the 3DS, at least as far as major game releases go, and I guess it falls on Persona Q2 to shut off the lights. But Atlus' Persona-themed dungeon crawler isn't about to let you leave without showing you a good time first. In fact, Persona Q2 feels celebratory in a loose, light-hearted way that's different from other recent releases on the Switch. Playing it is like being part of a quiet but cheerful gathering of friends who drink and laugh together before the landlord padlocks the door in the morning.
Of course, the Persona Q games don't take themselves very seriously to begin with. If the chibi-style graphics aren't a tip-off, don't go into Persona Q2 expecting a story as intense as Persona 5's tale of rebellion, or as intriguing as Persona 4's murder mystery. Instead, Persona Q2 unites the cast of Persona 3, 4, and 5 in a movie theater that seems to exist in some isolated, twisted pocket of reality. They're expected to fight their way through the films on the marquee, all of which are uncomfortably familiar and yet not at all. For example, the first "movie" labyrinth you're up against is a superhero action film starring Kamoshida, the corrupt gym teacher from Persona 5. Even though "Kamoshidaman" is as odious as he is in Persona 5, he's not the same Kamoshida the kids already know and hate.
Persona Q2's spinoff story meshes well with its gameplay, which is much closer to Etrian Odyssey's dungeon crawling than anything you experience in the mainline Persona games. You map out levels floor-by-floor, step-by-step, and take on groups of enemies as they run you down in each labyrinth. Like the first game, Persona Q2 is a bit more streamlined than its inspiration: You get a preview of where each maze's walls are located, which makes them easier to fill in. Party-building is mostly done for you as each character you meet brings their trademark Persona (and subsequently, their skills and magic roster) into the fray. There's still considerable party-building to perform, however, as each character is allowed to equip a sub-Persona. It's a good way to balance out your attacks without having to run back to the theater lobby and change party members every fifteen minutes.
Even though Persona Q2's theater-based story is kind of goofy and doesn't enthrall me like the plots for Persona 4 and 5, I still find mapping each level as satisfying as I do in Etrian Odyssey. Things are a little slow to start because enemies soak up damage and your attack options are limited. Once you open Persona fusion and recruit more fighters, however, things start rolling along at a much nicer clip.
Recruiting more characters also invites you to enjoy Persona Q2's greatest strength: Watching the casts of Persona 3, 4, and 5 interact with each other is a lot of fun. I'm probably biased when I say, "Especially the casts of Persona 4 and 5," because I've yet to play Persona 3. That's fair, but the differences and similarities between 4 and 5's characters make each crew a perfect foil for the other. It helps that Persona 4 has one of the best-written casts in any RPG to date, and their quirks are bolstered by their new Phantom Thief friends. Soft-hearted bad-boy Kanji Tatsumi steals the show: He teaches Ann how to knit in between missions, and he falls head-over-heels in love with Morgana's velvety, huggable fur.
Kanji cuddle-attacks or not, you probably won't get much out of Persona Q2 if you don't like Etrian Odyssey—and especially if you didn't like the original Persona Q. Persona Q2's tone and gameplay are so different from the mainline Persona games that I don't even think I can recommend it to someone who's a Persona fan but isn't even a little bit keen on dungeon crawlers. Though they're fun to map out, Persona Q2's dungeons are a far cry from the extravagant, gimmick-riddled Palaces of Persona 5. They might even be a little too stuffy and claustrophobic for anyone who's familiar with the straightforward labyrinths of Persona 4.
If, however, you believe Persona and dungeon-crawling sound like two crazy ideas that just might work together—well, you're right. Persona Q2 is a fun, silly game that never rushes you; it just wants you to hang around for a while and draw some pictures. It's a long goodbye letter to the Nintendo 3DS, and it's a good one.
See you crazy kids on the Switch someday. I hope.