Soul Hackers 2 Hands-On PS5 Preview. The Shin Megami Tensei franchise has taken a form of its own. Thanks to the series’ most popular spin-off, Persona, Atlus has successfully brought over and translated all their titles from this massive franchise. Soul Hackers 2 is yet another spin-off to the popular series that takes a digital and scientific approach mixed with religion to bring a simplified Shin Megami Tensei game to the PS4 & PS5.
Soul Hackers 2 Hands-On PS5 Preview
Another Spin-off, Another Fun Time
Soul Hackers 2 tells the story of Ringo and Figue, constructs created by an advance AI named Aion. Aion can foresee human behaviour using data it has collected on them for years and has calculated that the world will end if two specific people die. Aion creates Ringo and Figue to save these two people and prevent armageddon.
There is much more to the story, but I can’t go into detail due to the NDA. However, one of the most satisfying aspects of the narrative is how it blends supernatural and science elements. Your party consists of Devil Summoners; people with the unique ability to see, interact and negotiate contracts with demons. This pact allows them to harness their powers and even summon them to help them in combat.
Those familiar with the Shin Megami Tensei franchise will recognize these demons. From Jack Frost to Pixi, all the demons return in Soul Hackers 2. As you progress through the story, you can recruit more demons through negotiation, but it’s not as complex as other games in the franchise.
Recruiting And Fusing Demons Is A Returning Staple In Soul Hackers 2
To recruit new demons, you can encounter them in dungeons, and they ask you to give them something in return for their services. None of this is demanding, and most of the time, they ask for a basic item or some of your HP or MP.
Another way to recruit demons is to fuse two other demons to gain a new demon. This is the best and most effective way to get some of the more powerful companions in the game. The system is very user-friendly and provides you with all the necessary information.
It not only provides a preview of what demon you’ll get from fusion, but if you don’t have a specific demon, it will give you a hint and a silhouette of what the demon looks like to provide you with a clue at what demon you need to find or fuse to get your demon of choice.
Your party can equip whatever demons they want, but each member has a higher affinity to specific elemental demons. Arrow, for example, has a higher affinity to Ice and equipping demons who specialize in ice abilities gives him an advantage.
This advantage comes in Mystique; an item you can equip that increases your damage with specific elements, although some characters can’t equip specific Mystique.
While you can equip whatever demon you want on each character, there are specific advantages to equipping demons that provide the best benefits for each party member.
Simple Yet Rewarding Combat Can Get Repetitive
Combat is turn-based, and the key to combat is finding each enemy’s weakness. The game provides seven weaknesses for each enemy and party member. Slashing, Piercing, Fire, Ice, Lighting, Force, and Ruin. Each encounter is a mystery; you must try out different attacks to find the enemy’s weakness, which can be one or multiple of the seven. Enemies will also resist some attacks, while specific attacks can heal others.
Each time you strike an enemy weakness, you’ll do extra damage to the enemy and gain a stack. Hit the enemy with enough weak point attacks you’ll gain more stacks. At the end of all your party’s turns, those stacks will turn into a group attack performed by your summoned demons to strike all the enemies on the field for massive damage.
It’s a simple system, but it gets repetitive, especially when you fight many of the same enemies in a dungeon. Speaking of dungeons, this is where the game hurts the most. The dungeons are entirely bland and uninspired. You’ll explore real-world areas like an abandoned subway, but there is nothing to see. Most of the time, you’ll run through hallways and enter rooms with nothing inside them.
Uninspired Dungeons And Boring Exploration
The other major location is the Axis, a virtual world you can explore to unlock your party’s memories and unique passive abilities. The Axis is a space full of code that you explore. It’s hard to describe but believe me when I say, it’s as bland as a location can get. The abilities you can unlock in the Axis range from adding extra stacks from hitting enemy weak points and gaining additional items from your demons.
Ringo sends all the demons in your inventory into the dungeon when you enter one. You can find them scattered throughout the dungeon, giving you multiple gifts. This includes items, money, heal you in the dungeon, and unique items that unlock hangout events for your party members, and most importantly, find new demons to recruit.
Your demons act as treasure chests, eliminating any need to explore a dungeon. This also adds randomness to the dungeons, which I wasn’t a fan of. You can go through an entire dungeon without finding any new demons to recruit, or you can get five of them in the first ten minutes. You also have to go through a dungeon for a while to find a demon that gives you the unique item you need to progress. It’s all random.
Great Aesthetic And Fun Soundtrack
I love the visual style of Soul Hackers 2. Its anime character design mixed with a neon Tokyo makes it look snappy, while Ringo herself walks around with a light-up jacket, which looks great. The few locations you can visit in the city have a solid aesthetic, and once again, the demon designs are imaginative.
The soundtrack isn’t as pop-oriented as Persona, but I enjoyed the mix of jazz and classical music the game provides. I thought I would get more techno and electronic music, but I was pleasantly surprised by the different directions.
So far, there is a lot to enjoy about Soul Hackers 2. It’s a simplified Shin Megami Tensei title that may be more for the fans that may not have enjoyed the school segments of Persona or the extreme difficulty of the core Shin Megami Tensei franchise.
I hope the dungeons improve the more I play, but so far, it’s the only thing holding the game back from being another grand entry in the franchise.
Soul Hackers 2 launches on PS4 & PS5 on August 25, 2022.