title iconThose who enjoy Persona should consider Soul Hackers 2 as their SMT gateway

With the latest entry selling millions of copies worldwide, the Persona series has become arguably more popular than Shin Megami Tensei. Shin Megami Tensei is often referred to as a game like Persona by those who are looking for more. Although the series has developed a fan base, many people bounce off the game because it is not always accessible.

As the perfect bridge between the two series, Soul Hackers 2 is the latest in the franchise. The gameplay of Shin Megami Tensei and Persona is very similar on a fundamental level. Both games use what is essentially the same combat system, and both have similar art styles. With the ability to partner with supernatural creatures, both games draw heavily from Japanese culture, with a sprinkle of legends and myths from other nations.

The difference between the two lies in the execution. As the story unfolds in a post-apocalyptic Japan, Shin Megami Tensei games are often quite dark. Some choices allow the player to influence how the story plays out, but the characters aren't particularly well fleshed out or dynamic. Despite its intense punishing combat system, Shin Megami Tensei requires players to think carefully about every move they make.

Additionally, demons and other creatures can be recruited outside of battle to help the player's cause. Comparatively, Persona titles are generally lighter with darker tones. Despite games in the series containing dark themes and actions such as murder and abuse, Persona is set in a modern-day Japanese school setting. Those who emphasize relationships often bring a sense of levity and kindness to the situation.

The Persona series relies on people and relationships for players to change the world. Thus, the narrative emphasizes those relationships, which makes for more complex, interesting characters than in Shin Megami Tensei. Choosing a specific ending is less important in Persona than how players build relationships, though some decisions can result in missing certain endings. In addition, Persona's combat is generally more straightforward than Shin Megami Tensei's. Despite some fights being difficult, the general mechanics and strategies can often be mastered more easily.

Combat is less prominent in Persona than it is in Shin Megami Tensei, but a greater percentage of the games are set outside dungeons. It can be difficult to move from Persona to Shin Megami Tensei because of the disparity between the two series. Soul Hackers 2 fills that void. Taking on the role of Ringo, an agent of Aion, the game is set in a near-future Japan. Throughout the title, she recruits allies to her cause and fights alongside them to stop the Phantom Society.

Shin Megami Tensei and Persona are perfectly balanced in Soul Hackers 2. However, there are few characters to befriend in the title due to the relationships between Ringo and her friends. There is a deeper and more enjoyable friendship than in Shin Megami Tensei, but a narrower focus than in Persona.

Although the story is dark, there is an element of hope that helps to lighten it up. Fundamentally, Soul Hackers, 2 is about well-intentioned people grappling with what the right thing means. Also, Soul Hackers 2's combat is well balanced between the two Atlus games. Unprepared players can get wiped out pretty easily in Persona.

While fights are somewhat difficult, many mechanics make them a bit easier. Regardless of difficulty level, players are likely to get a good challenge on medium or low difficulties. Soul Hackers 2 is a good game on its own, but it can help players bridge the gap between Shin Megami Tensei and Persona.

In terms of storytelling and gameplay, it's somewhere in the middle, so even those who haven't been able to enjoy Shin Megami Tensei can enjoy it. Play Soul Hackers 2 if you have bounced off Shin Megami Tensei because it might just make all the things that didn't work make sense.