I am that immature person who laughs at the phallic demons seen across the Shin Megami Tensei universe. It’s all fun and games until you turn a corner and bump into a towering penis-headed monstrosity prepared to take you on the ride of your life. That’s the downside of Soul Hackers 2’s Demon Recon feature, which has your demons appear randomly in dungeons instead of being personally curated. The upside is they can give you items, money, HP/MP boosts, or help you to recruit a new demon buddy into your ranks, but that’s not always worth coming face to face with Penis Head.
Soul Hackers 2 is a branch of the extensive Shin Megami Tensei family tree we never expected to grow, with the series less well-known than the more fruit bearing stems like SMT and Persona. Instead of throwing you into the hustle and bustle of life as a student or a post-apocalyptic world where demons roam free, you’re strutting your stuff in neon gear amidst a beautiful cyberpunk future. As Ringo, one of two AI created by Aion — a digital hivemind intelligence — you’re tasked with saving the world. Along the way, you’ll get caught up in the affairs of devil summoners and get stuck in with the usual demon battling, summoning, fusing… you know the drill.
It’s difficult not to compare Soul Hackers 2 to the broader SMT series as they share so many similar mechanics and themes. You know what you’re walking into, and for fans who love the basic gameplay attributed to these titles, you will find Soul Hackers 2 enjoyable. It offers a decent middle ground between Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, borrowing elements from both to create a familiar experience that still manages to carve out its own path in the process.
I touched upon this in my preview, but being able to build your team as you want them was a godsend. Your companions aren’t locked into certain demons forever, and rather than swap out character weapons, you just upgrade everyone’s COMPs with new stats or features. This allows you to fine tune your party, and once you unlock the Conversion skill, you can change any party member’s demon in battle on the fly, giving you even more options on how to approach combat and craft a team that best fits your playstyle. Fewer restrictions are so welcome.
Soul Hackers 2 is a more approachable JRPG for new players who might be put off by the difficulty and grind associated with SMT. Equally so for those who don’t have the time or energy for the more in-depth Persona playthrough that requires you to plan your decisions carefully as each day counts towards something more. That, and it isn’t 100+ hours long.
So many elements make gameplay more forgiving. Additional lives on easy mode ensure anyone can beat the game and enjoy the storyline, regardless of whether they have a decent team or any interest in learning deeper combat strategies. Continues revive your party over and over while enemies retain their dented HP bars. Of course, you don’t have to take the easy route. You’ve got the more balanced normal difficulty, while hard mode is for SMT fans who want the more punishing playthrough other games in the series are more than happy to provide.
Demon Recon makes farming a little less tiresome, regardless of whether your aim is items, money, or new demons. The possibility of Demon Recon replenishing your HP/MP makes each dungeon less of a grueling challenge than Persona or SMT, especially with the added benefit of hopping in and out to your Safehouse at leisure to heal up whenever you need.
I’m a sucker for side content and collections. So beyond my usual love of wanting to obtain or fuse every demon in the game, I also enjoyed chasing down all the requests. Even more so because they helped slightly flesh out the world I desperately wanted to dive into further. The hangouts weren’t as thrilling as I wanted them to be, just conversations at the bar with your chosen buddy, but at least these too added a few crumbs of worldbuilding and character backstory.
Soul Hackers 2 has a great cast of characters, and the cyberpunk world it creates is so intriguing, but regrettably, it’s held back from being truly remarkable. Overall, the world-building feels disappointingly two-dimensional. While I can forgive the blander dungeons — par for the course in many RPGs — the city areas were just small slices of a potentially larger area, leaving players missing out on a fully explorable city hub. If this had been expanded upon and the social aspects ramped up further, such as a wider variety of hangout events, possibly even romantic relationships, it would have added much more depth. The game has plenty of hacking, but it needs a little more soul.
The storyline was extremely predictable, especially as a fan of the wider series, but some of the twists will be easily guessed by complete newcomers too. The plot doesn’t live up to the more layered or emotional stories told with Persona, though it arguably offers more than SMT. Once again, it felt like this was a part of the game that fell short of something that could have easily been much greater with a little more attention.
Soul Hackers 2, at its core, is enjoyable if you like rattling through dungeons, playing with demons, and building a kick-ass party. It ticks many boxes for fans with its familiar gameplay, while offering a great entry point for newcomers with its more laid back approach. It’s good, but it could have easily been great with the right touches. I adore Ringo and Figue, and I think the cyberpunk aesthetic with these two at the helm is one of the most vital selling points of the game that make it stand out from the Megami Tensei crowd, so it’s a shame it feels quite surface-level at times. I want to see more from the Soul Hackers series in the future, but it needs to build upon the ideas in this title and push the content further.
Score: 4/5. A PlayStation review code was provided by the publisher.
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