A couple of weeks ago we presented our preview dedicated to Soul Hackers 2. The latest home title Atlusthe next one will hit the market August 26for console PlayStation, Xbox And PC Street Steam.
A title that since the first trailers has given the impression of being an important release for the Japanese house, which has decided to bring to light a series of the past, consisting to date of the only Devil Summoner: Soul Hackersspin-off of Shin Megami Tensei that here in the West we only got to know in 2013.
Riding the wave given by the successes of Person 5 And Shin Megami Tensei 5, Atlus has chosen the best time to attempt the raise of Soul Hackersoffering a title playable even by those who have never tried the original.
In a videogame world that moves more and more towards action when it comes to JRPG, Soul Hackers 2 is part of the circle of those titles that still carry on the tradition of turn-based games, attempting to offer a classic experience but at the same time adapted to modern times. In this Atlus she has shown herself to be a teacher in recent years and we will see if she has hit the mark in this case too. Let’s begin.
Solite Apocalissi, modern solutions for Atlus
As we anticipated in our preview, Soul Hackers 2’s narrative puts us in front of an impending apocalypse. Such an expensive theme at home Atlus what is declined in always different ways and able to interest the fans of the titles of the Japanese house.
What makes this event peculiar in Soul Hackers 2, is how this is announced. Indeed it is thanks to the super-artificial intelligence Aion if humanity will have the opportunity to defend itself. Aion it has self-generated over time through the enormous data network offered by the internet and, since its inception, it has limited itself to existing and learning more and more.
Only the risk of the end of the world and consequently of Aion itself, pushes the AI to give birth to Ringo and Figue, two emanations of herself in the form of two young girls. Although with functions limited by the human form, the two agents of Aion they have exceptional skills, with which they will have to investigate the causes of the impending Apocalypse and prevent it.
And in several respects we can call the story of Soul Hackers 2 a coming-of-age tale. Figue And Ringo they are literally baby girls in the human world and their journey will lead them to grow. The relationship that will be established with Arrow, Milady And Saizo (the party members along with Ringo) will allow them to better understand how human beings think, how they relate to each other and the weight that emotions have on their choices. And immediately what seemed like a common story of destruction, reveals itself as something deeper and that puts in the foreground not the mission but its interpreters.
All in all we enjoyed it very much the writing of the characters and the mature tone given to the narrative. Although we do not come close to the dark and gloomy tones that have characterized the past of Shin Megami Tensei and of the same Devil Summoner: Soul Hackerswe do not even live that lightheartedness and lightness that characterized the modern era of Person. Our protagonists are adults who carry scars and experiences with them and, more than from a movement of heroism, join the mission of Ringo and Figue for personal goals.
With these premises, the narrative flows thrilling and with several twists and revelations (not all unexpected if you are a home expert. Atlus) that push the player to progress in the title to find out where the narrative will go.
Unfortunately, however, we must also talk about some defects of the title from the narrative point of view. In the face of a very interesting study of the characters, we found the game world little explored, sometimes even in important things. For example, the Soul Hackingthe special ability of Ringo And Figue which by title should have a certain centrality, is never properly investigated, appearing to the player as a “trivial” means to bring someone back to life.
Or, worse still, we found the antagonist’s motive to be really weak. Not so much for the motive itself, which is legitimate, but for the timing and development with which the latter comes to make certain choices.
Furthermore, the narrative is strongly diluted, but this is not due to the writing but the gameplay, which we will talk about shortly.
Final note for the Italian adaptation. The game features texts in Italian and English or Japanese dubbing (both of excellent quality). Adapting it to our language will certainly make it easier to enjoy a title with so many dialogues and whose narrative is an integral part of the experience. However, there are some gross translation errors, such as the descriptions of some skills and objects, which distort the understanding of their real effect in battle. Errors are gross but not very numerous and, above all, absolutely solvable with a simple patch.
The Soul Hackers 2 gameplay loop
As written in the preview phase, Soul Hackers 2 presents the classic home shift system Atluswith the Tregende (or Sabbath in the original) as a peculiar mechanic, which will allow players to unleash a powerful attack at the end of the turn using the demons that have hit enemies’ weaknesses. A formula that for many players today is experienced as dated, but which is still highly appreciated by many others who can read the strategic level in this system.
And this system fits in real gameplay loop which needs to be talked about in depth. The progression structure in the title is really strongly delineated. Exploring the plot dungeons, almost always ending with one main boss fight, always follow two side activities. The classic side missions, which will simply ask us to talk to someone or to defeat some specific enemy. The stories behind these “errands” are at least quite interesting in several cases, making it less tedious.
The second activity is i Matrix of the soul, physical projections of the souls of our three party mates. In this case we are not really talking about a secondary element, as their exploration it will allow us to deeply investigate the past of our comrades. In addition, they are also the most effective way to level up our party. If you want, you could also ignore them and, with a little more effort, still be strong enough to advance in the main storyline.
There are three in the game Matrix of the soul to be explored, one for each companion, and are structured on several floors. Inside they are simply dungeons, with the addition of portals and teleporters that make exploration a little more complex and puzzle-like. In addition, we will be able to deal with boss fight challengewhich will put us in front of limitations in the fight, such as having to use only two party members.
Progression in these dungeons is linked to the harmony with our companionswhich will grow by participating in the social events of the Heidrun Bar and with certain dialogue choices during the adventure.
At this point, to close our loop it will be sufficient to go to create new, more powerful demons through fusion and we will be ready to throw ourselves into the action of the next dungeon.
Described in this way, perhaps this gameplay loop can also appear captivating and functional. The reality of the facts, however, is that, Soul Hackers 2 is a decidedly diluted title with a very uninspired level design. Diluted because the soul matrix turns out to be really too big and long for what they have to offer. That is, infinite corridors of white floors in an ethereal space, with only demons and some boss fights that challenge to interrupt the monotony. The time it will take us to fully explore them leads to that feeling of dilution we mentioned when talking about fiction.
And unfortunately, the situation is not improving when it comes to the design of the main dungeons. Only the final area and another are able to stand out for a less linear and inspired map in the setting.
The rest of our adventures will take place entirely in abandoned subways or in city ports, along large straight corridors made up of previously seen and revised assets.
The title, fortunately at this point, has a shorter duration than the average of the classic JRPG. It will take between 30 and 50 hours of gameplay to complete the game. This depending on how much you decide to dedicate yourself to the completism of Matrix and side missions. Once supported entirely by the fun that the combat system can offer, the search for the perfect demon through mergers and, as already mentioned, the narrative. Unfortunately, we feel like saying that Soul Hackers 2 can only be enjoyed by fans of the genre. Hardly anyone not in love with the turn-based combat system will find the incentives to complete the title.
A city with two faces
One area where the title performs very well is the technical one. In the version PS5 tested by us, Soul Hackers 2 proves very solid both in the framerate and in the graphic quality, not presenting any kind of bugs. Players will be able to choose between two graphics modes. The former aims for performance (1080p and 60 FPS), while the other will offer higher graphics quality (4K and 30 FPS). In the latter mode, we noticed a somewhat less timely response to the commands, but given the type of game, this does not really create a problem for the player.
Speaking of the artistic sector, however, we are faced with a reality with two faces. While on the one hand we have all the same dungeons and, with one exception, not at all artistically inspired, on the other we have some really interesting views of the city. A very particular city, as it appears in many of its areas as a normal city of our world. But in others, it offers decidedly futuristic and captivating constructions and aesthetics. A contrast that works and creates a special atmosphere. Too bad we didn’t see the same creativity in the dungeons to explore.
Note of merit for the game UI. By now it’s almost becoming commonplace when it comes to Atlusbut also this time the aesthetics of the interface and menus are really captivating and intuitive, giving uniqueness and character to the title.
Finally, the soundtrack is absolutely successful. Although there are no particular qualitative peaks or traces capable of printing themselves in the player’s mind, the music pleasantly accompanies every setting and phase of the adventure, without ever being intrusive or absent.
Soul Hackers 2 it is a partially successful title. If on the one hand the narrative and the combat system are of an excellent level and entertain the player, on the other hand the very limited level design and the consequent expansion of the duration represent problems that should not be underestimated.
If we are sure the game will still be appreciated by all lovers of the genre and in particular by those who appreciate housework Atlus, it is unlikely the game will be able to convince someone who is not a lover of the genre. The feeling is that it is a passage titlea sweet waiting for what will be the next major projects of the Japanese software house.
Rating – 7.5
Soul Hackers 2 is the latest title from Atlus, certainly capable of being appreciated by fans of the genre, but which brings with it some important problems