Nintendo really had to work to win people over with the 3DS.
Its Dual Screen predecessor was a phenomenon, but the addition of glasses-free 3D raised eyebrows and caused controversy in the press and papers.
I suppose it’s oddly fitting, then, that its final game doesn’t make use of the very technology that was made to sell it, and in many ways goes back to the basic benefits of a two-screen handheld.
For what Atlus have tried to achieve, it works a treat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of cool visual effects in Persona 5 that would have benefitted from 3D, but perhaps it’s better this way.
Especially since even Nintendo themselves almost entirely halted stereoscopic support.
Persona Q2 New Cinema Labyrinth is a spinoff from the main series, beginning with Joker and the Phantom Thieves getting transported to a mysterious theatre after journeying through the mysterious Mementos.
They find themselves trapped in a cinema, which probably doesn’t sound so bad at first. Especially since it’s Summer and that’s when all the good films are out.
But when they discover it’s actually a portal to a perverse dimension where old rivals are reborn and dear friends are trapped, the whole idea starts to lose appeal.
They can still buy popcorn to gain health and use sodas to revive each other, but they’re also travelling through dungeons, fighting oversized chickens and death-faced spectres. No Avengers Endgame in sight.
Q2 is still an RPG, but more in the vein of A Bard’s Tale or Legends of Grimrock as you take on a first person view to traverse each dungeon, tile by tile.
You open doors, find shortcuts, climb staircases to reach the next level and find lots of switches and treasure chests along the way. Usually containing Items that can be sold to buy new weapons and armor at the theatre shop.
You’re always encouraged to take breaks and venture back to the theatre to get your stamina back, especially since battles are a lot more draining than in Persona 5, but you could, theoretically, run in a dungeon in one go. Kind of.
The really cool feature about Persona Q2, though, is the map system, making it a game that could only really work on a system like the 3DS.
The top screen shows you events in the real world, while the bottom is your notebook area which is partly made up of map tiles of areas you’ve walked and your own additions while you play.
It’s up to you how much you fill in, down to the positioning of the walls, to the color of map tiles. It’s quite flexible, allowing you to fill in spaces, as well as highlight where the doors are, any points of interest and even door placements.
Sure, it might seem a bit redundant as most big games fill all this stuff in for you anyway, so why make it a mechanic, but there’s something quite enriching about doing it yourself.
I found it quite therapeutic colouring in walls, and dropping in little shortcut icons while going along. And it’s actually incredibly satisfying to zoom out and look at a map mostly made of your own creation.
In fact, if you 100% a map by filling everything in properly, you’ll even unlock a treasure chest which gives you even more goodies and rewards.
Of course, Atlus have brought across the trademark Persona 5 humour, Ryuji and Morgana still fight like cats and … humans … Yusuke looks for the art in everything.
The continuity is spot on with exciting exploration of these beloved characters in a surprisingly effective story, making it an essential purchase for P5 fans desperate for more.
But this is also its own self-contained experience, with a unique flavour and style, with a story that mostly makes sense even if this is your introduction to this eclectic cast.
Ask people at the beginning of its life cycle and they probably wouldn’t have said a Persona game would be the last major release for Nintendo’s 3D juggernaut.
Yet Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth is a fitting tribute to its legacy, a celebration of the uniqueness of the hardware and a continuation of a popular intellectual property in a very enjoyable form.
Persona 5 seems to be everywhere at the moment, with surprise character DLC and spin-offs galore, but amazingly it still doesn’t feel like it’s worn out its welcome.
If anything, after playing Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, it might even give you a taste to play the full game through all over again, and that’s before Royal comes out!
Thanks for everything, 3DS. This is the swansong you deserve.