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Let's Play: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment


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Oh god...




Real talk - I've been kind of apprehensive about this one. The original plan was just to do a thread on the original Persona, and then I warmed to the idea of covering both Persona 2 games, but this one may end up being the least accessible. You see, the two earlier games both had modern reworks on PSP that were localised for Europe. To my knowledge, EP never got that treatment... there was a PSP release for Japan, and an English-language release for North America on the PS1, but that's about it. Soooo there might be some old-fashioned clunkiness to get around!


As you might realise given my earlier LP threads, this game has now become one of the few remaining games in the series where I'm completely in the dark. I think I did a "curiosity emulation" thing months ago but didn't make it more than about 15-20 minutes in because the dated presentation hit me like a truck and I was scared to go on. I have set up the necessary stuff to get this playing well (although my "turbo-mode through the battles" tendencies may be limited here), and although there are probably fan-tran versions of the PSP game I'll be sticking with the PS1 version for the time being.


The same caveats as before apply - I'll be emulating for screenshot purposes, and discussion is welcome and encouraged, and people can play along, but keep spoiler etiquette in mind. I have no idea how this one's going to go, but I'll try and share the opening moments later on this evening...


If you missed my LP threads on the previous games, take a look at them here:


Author note: private backup of images stored on photobucket at https://beta.photobucket.com/u/qazimod - in case these imgur files vanish or something ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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The game begins with a flashback of the final scene of Innocent Sin, where "Senpai Kun" and Maya bumped into each other, then shows SK back at the shrine from the previous game. Memories of the fire fade in over the scene, but soon we're into the in-engine dialogue. An old woman approaches SK whilst he's at the shrine, asking why he's depressed, and explaining that it's hard to know whether to keep hold of memories of things lost, or discard them. SK walks away and talks to himself, wondering how one can atone for their sins, and the scene fades out.


We then see a scene located in "Somewhere - Conference Room" according to the game's narration. A group of adults are around some kind of burning altar, and one (named "Mysterious Old Man") says that it's time to begin the "Ritual of Kotodama". They move around and clap, and the camera pans around the altar, but the scene fades out before we can see any more. It fades back in to the offices of the magazine department Maya and Yuki (Yukino from the previous game) work for. Yuki is telling Maya that her latest work is good, but apparently Maya's also received a letter with no return address. Maya collects the letter from her desk and reads it - "yOu'rE nEXt... - JOKER" is the entirety of the letter. I guess anonymous threats were a thing even before P4? Before we can investigate further, a reporter approaches Maya and asks her to see the Chief in her office. Introduced as "Editor-in-Chief Mizuno", she rubbishes a recent piece of work Maya submitted, encouraging her to investigate more juicy material such as "the Joker rumor". We're ordered to go to Seven Sisters and get a scoop, so we leave the office...


On the way out we bump into Yuki who mentions that someone's here to meet us in the reception area. We go out and meet Maya's friend Ulala, who's introduced by the game as a lingerie seller who's obsessed with fortunes and has bad luck with men. As Maya, we tell her that we can't go anywhere because work, but Ulala offers to come with us to Seven Sisters. The game fades in to us arriving at the school, and we see the old teacher "Saeko Smith" being interviewed by Katsuya (a member of Innocent Sin's Detective Agency, and the brother of the protagonist from IS.) Once the interview is wrapped up, Saeko explains what's been going on - the agency is investigating "bizarre murders" that have been going on, and have been interviewing staff and students at Seven Sisters to gather information. She also gives players a recap of "Joker" - a mysterious figure who can kill someone you dislike... as long as your mobile phone is used to contact Joker. We leave this room and begin exploring Seven Sisters.


Firstly, I head downstairs and go to the courtyard. We catch the new principal in the middle of grilling Anna (another student, and a minor character in P2:IS) about these revenge murder incidents, but Anna explains that she doesn't know what he's on about. Ulala and Maya arrive on the scene as the principal gives up and leaves, but Anna's not in a talking mood, so we go to the principal's office on 3F. However, the principal is already found dead on the floor!




Pretty soon Ulala and Katsuya also arrive in the office - he quickly confirms that this is the work of the murderer they're after, and bombards Ulala and Maya with questions. Anna then shows up... and whilst Ulala is suspicious, Anna insists that she didn't do anything to the principal. Anna runs out of the room, Katsuya gives chase and we follow, but Katsuya is quickly stopped by a demon wandering around the halls. We know it's a demon because Joker arrives on the scene and tells us! Joker explains that he's here to honor a request to have Maya killed. Summoning a demon, he taunts us by sliding guns across the floor and encouraging us to call our Personas. Unfazed, Katsuya tries to arrest Joker, but as the demon strikes us, our personas awaken inside us: Katsuya summons Helios, Ulala summons Callisto, and Maya summons Maia. Each persona throws out an attack towards Joker's summoned demon, eventually defeating it. Joker is pleased with this result and tells us that he won't kill us now - instead he'll let "the demons" do it for him. He leaves the scene, and we fall unconscious.


We awaken before Philemon, who explains that he awoke the Personas within us. He tries to explain what he wants from us, but it's all fractured sentences about light within hearts and rumours becoming reality, so I'm not sure how much I should read into it all. After the scene, Katsuya calls his captain and explains that Joker was here. He explains that he'll try and find Anna and that we should follow, and we're back in control. Our next steps will be to go to the faculty room of 2F and get the clock tower key so that we can go to 4F and the clock tower, but before that I'd like to spend time levelling, negotiating, and exploring. And increasing persona ranks for extra skills (also I've already found one fusion spell via messing with elements, so that will be useful.)


Maya status: Lv6
Playtime: 2h23m (adjusted for grinding between updates to increase persona ranks etc)

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Between updates I discovered a few negotiations that made exploration easier - even though we don't have a Velvet Room or even a town map yet - and made my way to the Faculty Room. Here, we find Mr. Souka who begs for us to help him out - he seems a bit shaken, which is understandable when talk of murders is going around - and gives us the key for the Clock Tower on the 4th floor. He explains that he has to check a bunch of rooms around here, and we'd be doing him a favour if we checked the clock tower ourselves. If you remember in Persona 2: Innocent Sin, we had that big sequence at the start of the game where we had to run around smashing clocks and then go to the clock tower to fight one of the first bosses in the game. Understandably, I'm contemplating the chances of walking into another boss encounter at the clock tower in this game. As we reach the fourth floor, it's the same old short L-shape path we know from the previous game, so the walk to the clock tower doesn't take too long. An ominous heartbeat sound effect is layered over the BGM as we navigate this floor, and then we use the clock tower key to open the door. Ulala immediately spots Joker and Anna on a walkway above our current location. Joker calls Anna his "partner" and says that he'll always be with her, but Anna denies ever contacting Joker. Joker continues walking closer to Anna, but Katsuya shouts at him and demands that he move away from Anna. Obviously Joker doesn't listen - he demands that we stay out of his way and summons three enemies to stall us. Cue the first boss!


Here, Maya, Ulala and Katsuya face a boss named "Empusas" (Lv4) and two Lv3 adds named "Apep". As I mentioned earlier, I had already discovered a fusion spell that can be used here - we can change the turn order to "Maya, Katsuya, Ulala" and then change the tactics so that Maya casts Aqua, Katsuya casts Agi and Ulala casts Magna. The fusion spell takes out one of the Apep adds first time, and surprisingly Aqua deals with Empusas in one turn too! I don't worry too much about the rest of the battle since we have three turns for the remaining Apep's one, and the battle's over fairly quickly. We all level up, and then Joker commends us before summonning a demon of his own and using a powerful skill that inflicts sleep on Maya, Katsuya and Ulala. However, as the scene fades to black there's the sound of clashing steel and more dialogue - Joker says "Y-you're...?" in surprise, and then a familiar character shows up - it's unmistakably Senpai Kun from IS, but one of his official names as an NPC is "Deja Vu Boy". He tosses us the Seven Sisters "emblem" - a wearable badge of the high school's logo - and advises us to go to the Kuzunoha Detective Agency in Aoba and spread a rumour: the rumour will claim that we'll "be safe with that emblem, even from "him"..." SK doesn't elaborate on this much further, but he does advise us not to get involved in this Joker business any more.


The scene then cuts to Katsuya explaining recent events to his officers, but they kind of fob him off and tell him he's been too wrapped up in the Joker case. With no help from the officers, he walks over to Maya and Ulala, and they consider what to do next. Ulala suggests spreading Deja Vu Boy's rumour, but Katsuya still isn't sold on the idea of rumours becoming true. Back in control, I save the game, leave Seven Sisters and end up on the town map! Sadly, the Velvet Room is still locked for the time being, but I can go to the detective agency that Deja Vu Boy told us about. Inside, there are a few silent animations of our party getting the chief up to speed, but we eventually convince him to spread Deja Vu Boy's rumour. After this, Tammy - another worker at the detective agency - tells us that a popular means of spreading rumours is web page run by Baofu, a friend of the chief's. After passing a laptop to Maya, she's able to arrange a meetup with Baofu at the "Double Slash" internet café in Aoba. After checking the stores in Aoba, we go to the café and talk to Baofu. Weirdly, he already knows of our persona ability; and when we all act surprised, the camera pans around to show that Baofu is in the café with us, just a few workstations away! He lights a cigarette and guides us towards a nearby bar. Katsuya gets him up to speed with everything we know, then asks him to share whatever information he can. He tells us that the Joker rumours are taken from "some TV show" (singular) before they spread rapidly, and that few people knew about Joker with the exception of the information on "Tatsuzou Sudou"'s phone. Katsuya quickly explains that Tatsuzou Sudou is the current foreign minister, and asks Baofu how he would know about this information - Baofu belives that Tatsuzou Sudou's been in some shady shit in the past, and rumours about involvement with Joker had been going around.


Baofu asks us to take him with us, as he knows where Sudou's son lives. He also asks us to continue gathering information that we can use against Sudou. More importantly, he then pulls out his phone as he wants to test the theory about rumours becoming true - he calls a rumourmonger contact and asks them to spread a rumour abour the bar we're in being a secret weapons shop. One scene fade later, the barkeeper is at our table with a briefcase of weapons! Baofu asks Maya if she'll keep the emblem that Deja Vu Boy said would protect her, asking her to "think about why he gave that to you". It then transitions to a small FMV where Maya smiles and burns the emblem. As much as Deja Vu Boy wants us to stay out of trouble, Maya wants to dig deeper. Back on the town map, Baofu tells us that Sudou's son is at the Mt. Mifune sanitarium but also stresses that we should check out a place called the Velvet Room. We find it in the list of Aoba locations, and enter. Igor introduces Maya to the Velvet Room, and once I'm back in control I check out this game's summoning system. Sure enough, it looks like a copy of Innocent Sin's - gather tarot cards of a certain arcana to summon demons, as long as you're at the correct level. Unfortunately, it'll be a while before we can get a persona with Media, but it's something to keep in mind. As for Mt. Mifune, it looks like I can enter without being locked in, so I might use it for levelling and discovering negotiations. EDIT: I had a quick peek after posting this and it seems pretty linear - also Maya's default persona eventually learns Media, so yay!


Maya status: Lv7
Playtime: 2h59m

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Entering Mt Mifune, we see ourselves walking through various paths with rows of trees acting as walls - the area is divided into smaller "rooms" where we have to find the "Ascending Slope" in each room to exit. Honestly, it feels a lot like Mt. Katatsumuri in P2: Innocent Sin. The one slight annoyance with this area is that because trees obscure paths to new rooms a little bit, you have to do a lot of manual camera rotation to find the path to the next area. As for battles, I've already looked into a few negotiations between updates so enemies needn't stall us for long... but I might end up battling anyway so that I can gain experience and persona ranks.


With the path being so linear, we eventually find our way to a short event - the team find a sanitarium facility and enter it to see two bodies on the floor. Ulala screams but Katsuya tells her to calm down, and then checks the bodies. He tells us that there people aren't Japanese but they were armed, and suffered a whole host of injuries - he believes the injuries weren't inflicted by humans, but probably by demons like the ones we've been battling. Baofu tells us that he recognises the face of one of the bodies; one of these people is part of "Tien Tao Lien", the Taiwanese Mafia. This group are "Tatsuzou Sudou's dogs" and do various deeds for him, but Katsuya doesn't know why they'd be here.




Back in control, we enter the sanitarium properly - I pass by a (currently) broken elevator, a Velvet Room and then a "Trish's Fountain" which will heal us for 6000 (and at this point battles earn us around 1800-2000, so getting the funds won't be hard.) I half-expect a miniboss encounter here, but instead it's just a new dungeon.  So I think I'll save here and then see what I can do with levelling and negotiation between updates.


EDIT: also I've accidentally discovered a few more fusion spells due to goofy turn orders and spamming elementals. These can be reviewed under "Analyse" and "Fusion Spell" in the game's menu. So far I have:


Cast wind, then earth, then fire attacks to unlock "Tower Inferno"

Cast earth, then wind, then water attacks to unlock "Hydro Boost"

Cast fire, then water, then wind attacks to unlock "Wind Cutter"

Cast water, then fire, then earth attacks to unlock "Stone Rise" (this was the one I mentioned on Saturday)




Maya status: Lv9
Playtime: 3h34m

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After battling through some fairly ordinary corridors we make it to some stairs and quickly find our way to the second floor of the sanitarium. The corridors around here are fairly linear, and although we pass a lot of doors whilst running down the halls, the doors are "greyed out" - we can't interact with them. I did do a little investigation (don’t worry, I just played ahead a little without saving) after my last update as it's easy to waste time going to locations you don't need to and being trapped in a random battle hell - the end goal of this sanitarium sequence involves getting to the third floor and room 303, so I skip a few of the optional rooms I can enter and head straight for the third floor. As I approach the door to the room, Katsuya stops me: "Wait, Miss Amano. "Tatsuya Sudou"... This must be Sudou's son's room. Let's investigate it." (As an aside, Tatsuya Sudou was the real name of "King Leo" from Innocent Sin, as mentioned here)


The scene fades in with Katsuya and Maya entering the room, and it's pretty empty - there's no-one inside and barely any furniture apart from a toilet, sink and bed. Papers are strewn across the floor and stuck to the walls, and messages are scrawled on every surface (those messages are in Japanese, so there's nothing we'll be able to find out from the ingame imagery at least.) Ulala and Baofu then catch up and join us, and Katsuya mentions that the pictures on the wall show victims of the serial murders that the detective agency has been investigating. Baofu turns to Maya and asks if she's okay; she seems to be studying some of the text on the wall - a poem, apparently - and Baofu notes that she "looks pale". They look at the poem themselves, and find that it's from the Oracle of Maia - this was a key part of Innocent Sin's story; it was a message left to mankind from the Maians and supposedly grant's one's ultimate dream - at a cost. Baofu reads part of the text aloud and doesn't understand what it's on about, and Katsuya wonders if it's some kind of prophecy. With Maya feeling light-headed and Baofu suitably creeped out, they move on. We get put back in control before we leave the room so I try talking to my party. One interesting line from Ulala is "W, what's with this big eye...Gross! Nyar...whatever is written on it... I can't read it..." Amongst the scrawlings on the walls is a drawing of an eye, and this line is likely a reference to Nyarlathotep, a key character in the previous two games.


Continuing down the corridor, there's another short dialogue - Katsuya says "I know you're here #501... Sudou! Everyone, be careful...", so I guess a boss encounter is coming up. We go up some stairs to the fourth floor, and it turns out to be one of the simplest maps, with a striaghtforward path to the "Director's Office". Inside, Sudou is there with some dog-like creature. Just as we begin to ask questions, Sudou tells us to be quiet as there's a call going on with the people "downstairs". We see a short scene of a few suited guys around a car outside, one of them on the phone. The dialogue doesn't give much away -  "...He is..." - and then it cuts back to the office. Baofu gives us the ellipses treatment and leaves, much to Ulala's surprise ("Where are you going?") - but Katsuya continues to ask Sudou what he aims to achieve with these killings, but Sudou says that he doesn't kill without meaning, only when he gets a call - i.e. his Taiwanese Mafia business. He then taunts us, telling us to come to the Sky Museum if we want to know more... and if we can survive the next boss.


This is a single enemy encounter against a red dog-like creature but it caused a lot of trouble for the first few attempts - it has party-wide elementals, it has poison attacks, and as Baofu's out of your party you're much more limited in terms of the fusion spells you have and the things you can do. I failed the first couple of times but eventually succeeded after being more careful with healing. After the battle, we hurry outside and catch Baofu leaving the area - Katsuya asks if Baofu knew Sudou or something, but Baofu gives us the ellipses treatment. Anyway, we have a lead in the form of the Sky Museum, and we're back on the town map, so I may see if there's any upgrading to be done.


Oh, and my party members are still damaged and suffering poison attacks after that battle, so I might need to find a hospital...


Maya status: Lv12
Playtime: 4h32m

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Exploring the town map, I hurry to Kaori in Rengedai and heal my party for 3000, optimise my gear at the weapons store Parabellum in Aoba, and then on my way through Kounan I notice that the Sky Museum is marked as one of the locations on the Kounan map - this was the location mentioned by Sudou so I decide to have a look. Inside, it looks pretty familiar - this place was formerly known as the Aerospace Museum in Innocent Sin, and it was where we had to evacuate a bunch of kids and get to the roof before a bomb went off. Here, the first bit of dialogue has Katsuya asking "what are all these children doing here? We have to get them out of here!" Hmm... The camera pans over to one individual who turns and approaches us, introducing himself as Jun Kashihara. The character portrait reveals that this is Jun from Innocent Sin - the individual who sort of turned out to be Joker in that game but also sort of joined our party - and even the ingame character intro text here says "I feel like I've met him before..." Sure enough, he asks Maya if they've met, and both of my dialogue options are variations of "yes" anyway... He then goes on about a letter he received, telling him to meet a "friend" in this museum, but we have nothing to do with that. Before we can find out any more, flames rise around the room and Sudou's voice comes in over the PA: "Hya----hahaha! I set some bombs to start a fire. First ones go off in the stairwell, other floors are timed to follow." Gah... are they just going to do Innocent Sin again? It sounds like it - Katsuya advises us to find all the kids in the museum and also get to the roof, and we're back in control. Again, you have to go through several floors of checking doors so that you find kids in rooms and tell them to get out. And again, there are random battles from the fourth floor upwards, but we still make it with time to spare.


On the roof, we see some familiar faces - Deja Vu Boy (Senpai Kun from IS), Sudou and Jun! Sudou is holding a weapon against Jun and Deja Vu Boy is asking Sudou to let go of Jun... Before anything more can happen, Maya and the party show up - of course Maya is the only one who really knew Jun and Senpai Kun, so the rest of my party don't know these people quite so well. Sudou asks Maya if she remembers this scene  - of course, my party from Innocent Sin faced him on this rooftop before - and starts counting from 5. Realising what's about to happen, Deja Vu Boy tells us to jump out of the way as the roof starts crumbling apart. With a massive hole in the middle of the roof, things are getting dicey - Sudou lunges at Maya, but Jun pushes him down the hole. Sudou's dealt with for the time being, but Katsuya has questions for Deja Vu Boy. Baofu tells him that these questions can wait until we've found a way out of this collapsing building. Luckily, Deja Vu Boy thinks he can get the model airship in the museum to fly with the power of rumours (and the whole "rumours becoming true" thing of P2)...


It then cuts to an FMV of the airship taking off from the burning remnants of the museum - again, like Innocent Sin. Back to the in-engine gameplay, Deja Vu Boy asks Jun to fly the airship to safety, but we don't get far before Sudou shows up and starts causing trouble. Deja Vu Boy asks us to stay back, and we end up having a boss battle against Sudou with Deja Vu Boy in our party! More interestingly, it seems as though Deja Vu Boy is pretty much able to take on Sudou by himself, even if Sudou's attacks KO the rest of my party - given the damage numbers he gives and takes, I almost feel like the battle's been designed so that nobody but Deja Vu Boy stands a chance against him. After the battle, Deja Vu Boy tells us all to bail from the sky museum before it crashes. After we land, we can't locate Deja Vu Boy, but we ask Jun how he knows him - Jun gives the "I don't know...just a feeling..." amnesiac spiel, and then we decide to split and gather info around town. Having given the map a quick check, it looks like our next plot-important location will be at Kismet Publishing, Aoba, but I'd like to do bits at other places between updates...


Maya status: Lv13
Playtime: 5h20m

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Whilst having the opportunity to explore the town map is nice, it's next to useless if we don't start spreading rumours. One of the key narrative themes of the Persona 2 games is that rumours can become true if enough people believe in them, and in Innocent Sin you could talk to people around the map, gather rumours and then go to the detective agency to spread them. In practical terms, this included things like spreading rumours about locations being fronts for item shops... which then led to item shops being available, and so on. So: there's a rumourmonger at Johnny Roger - he says that there's a magazine sweepstake contest called Battle Master that allows us to win accessories that we can use in battle. There's a rumourmonger at Sushi Gatten - he says that there's a store called Time Castle that sells Spell Cards. There's a bulletin board at the Double Slash internet café that claims Rosa Candida will start selling armour in the autumn, and also repeats the rumours about the sweepstakes and the weapons at Parabellum. I go back to the detective agency and spread all of these, get new gear for Maya (right now she's the only one in my party), then check out the spell cards at Time Castle. Unfortunately, there's nothing that I need right now, so I head to Kismet Publishing in Aoba.


Here, Maya sees the editor-in-chief, who asks why we took so long to get here and introduces us to the fortune teller Wang Long, who's been drafted in to do a bit for the magazine. After the editor-in-chief is done, we exit the room to find staff talking about Wang Long - it turns out that she may end up revealing the identity of Joker in a TV broadcast coming up! Turning our attention to the TV in the office, Wang Long explains that "the Joker is 'Joka', which denotes a human possesed by Kegare, a negative energy such as sin or jealousy. Joka is a dragon, filled with Kegare. The Guardian Dragons will absorb bad luck during this cycle... It is a much more powerful negative trend than that of "Tenchusatsu" or "Ankensatsu". Kegare calls forth more Kegare, causing Joker to perpetuate crime... As people commit crime, the Kegare escalates. Cause and effect... Do not be overpowered by jealousy and hatred, and do not do the Joka curse!!". Okay... so negative energy generates crime which creates negative energy - got it. I think. The scene then fades out, and fades back in to "Baofu's Lair"...


Baofu is in front of various screens and devices, and listening to voices on a remote radio-tapping style device: "It's me... I see... that thing..." "Don't bother... He's not even worth it...Hm... There are no changes in our plans...Hm... I leave the rest up to you." Baofu recognises one voice as belonging to Tatsuzou Sudou, but doesn't know who he's talking to. The mention of Tatsuzou Sudou brings some clarity to this scene - in my June 29 update Baofu told us that Tatsuzou Sudou is the foreign minister and holds information about Joker that few others know, so it's in Baofu's interests to gain information about Joker. The scene then cuts to the Kounan Police Department, and the Chief's Office. After finishing a call, Captain Shimazu (introduced as lead investigator in the Joker case and Katsuya's superior) invites Katsuya into the office. He tells Katsuya that, having seen the reports, Katsuya needs to go to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He doesn't believe Katsuya's report of events, even when Katsuya mentions things like the model blimp suddenly flying, and that the fire at the sanitarium was a gas explosion. But wait - I don't recall any fire, and as I advance the dialogue Katsuya echoes my thoughts with "What fire...!?" Shimazu doesn't want to divulge further, but then we're interrupted by a knock on the door as an officer explains that more homicides have been reported, with details similar to the Joker incidents. Shimazu orders the officer to start investigating the crime scenes, but after the officer leaves Katsuya explains that the officers should focus efforts on pursuing Joker. After Katsuya leaves, Shimazu turns to another individual named only as "Man with scar", and gives him a list of people who have called Joker. After Man with scar leaves, Shimazu says "The more pawns the better. We have them right where we want them... BOTH of them."


The game then cuts to the boxing gym at GOLD. While taking her frustrations out on a punchbag, Ulala overhears people talking about Wang Long's claims. The interpretation these people have is that by "doing the Joker curse" one can become Joker - or perhaps an equal to Joker? The scene then fades out and retruns to Maya's office, where the broadcast talks about an explosion at the sanitarium! Guiding Maya out of the office, we meet Baofu, and we come to the conclusion that Tatsuzou torched the sanitarium to destroy any evidence and that he might have plans for more evil deeds. We agree to meet up with Katsuya, and we're finally back in control, so I can save again.


Except... I can't. PCSX kind of crashed before that last paragraph - it gives me a black screen - and I looked up the next automatic event online so that I could complete this post. Sooo I may have to find a fix or try something like ePSXe and get back to this point. Wheeee!

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  • 2 weeks later...

And we're back. For now. Massive thanks to @gospvg for bringing my thread back. :wub:


After considering various means to continue, I settled on using Retroarch and the PCSX-ReARMed core... and since I removed the old files, I played all the way back up to where I previously had that crash. Since I had only put in a few hours there weren't many specific customisations I had set up, so I could more or less play by ear. My new status is more like


Maya status: Lv15
Playtime: 5h19m


and whilst the core I'm using can be kind of slow, the speed toggle that comes with it will be superb for grinding. Anyway, at the time of posting I'm just redoing the meetup with Baofu outside of the office, so we - again - agree to meet Katsuya at the police department. He tells us that something bad has happened, but before we can get more info, Ulala calls Maya and tells her to hurry before she "changes", It looks like the perpetuation of the Joker curse is spreading and threatening to turn people into Jokers themselves. Baofu and Katsuya ask if Maya knows anyone Ulala might want to take revenge on with the Joker curse, but I've got nothing.


It then fades to a flashback scene (well, sepia-toned scene) in the fitness club GOLD, where Lisa, Yukino, Maya, Deja Vu Boy and Eikichi are in front of a glowing figure. Ulala enters the room and the figure - identified by the game as "Handsome Man" says "Ah--- I missed you! I haven't forgotten about you for even a day!" Ulala then retorts with "Who do you think you are!? I'll show you what happens to someone who runs off with my money! Die!" So, this must be a flashback to the person she'd want to curse? The flashback ends with Ulala chasing him out of the room, and then fades back to the present. Maya tells Katsuya and Baofu that she might know who Ulala may want revenge on. We don't get a ton of detail in the dialogue, but Katsuya and Baofu head off to investigate. 


Baofu has a lead in the form of a bar in Hirasaka - the owner there tells us that being a "man-searcher" - one who takes vengeance on men in the way that Ulala may have - was part of her past, but not anymore. We ask where Ulala's mysterious conman might be, and she recommends going to the Parabellum bar in Aoba. Together with Katsuya and Baofu, Maya finds our conman - the game's "narrator" eventually identifies him as "Youchi Makimura: The con-artist who swindled Ulala of her savings. "Makimura" is the alias he used at the time." Katsuya asks Makimura to come with us under suspicion of fraud; however, Makimura is quick to claim that he doesn't know Ulala. In a cunning move, Katsuya explains that we were sent to protect someone who may have been targeted by the Joker curse, "but if you aren't the man we're looking for..." This causes him to panic and he becomes a bit more co-operative. Katsuya asks Maya where Ulala might be right now, and we know from the previous cutscene that she was at the GOLD fitness club in Yumezaki.


When we get there, we find a bunch of staff members out in the lobby. Katsuya asks what's happened, and we find that a female club member has locked everyone out, and barricaded herself in - it's got to be Ulala. Finding a way in, we end up at the next actual dungeon, so I'll do the usual levelling and negotiating between updates as I try to figure things out. I believe in this sequence we're going for the key in the women's locker room on 3F so that we can get into the boxing gym on 1F; however, we need to improve our levels and maybe get new personas before entering the boxing gym...


Maya status: Lv18
Playtime: 6h52m (adjusted for levelling between updates)

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For now, I decide that the best course of action is to go and get the key in the women's locker room and then find a nice, safe spot for levelling and negotiations. I had a little look at this dungeon between updates and I think there might even be a Trish's Fountain that can heal us - that said, the dungeon's quite small and we can probably retreat to the town map for healing as well.


Starting from the lobby, I head into 1F and start walking around. There are doors to things like the boxing gym but few of them can be interacted with, so instead I just head straight for the second floor and then make it to the third floor with no encounters! Sure, there's stuff on the second floor I may have missed, but right now I just need that key. I did accidentally find out that Maya's Interview interaction can be used to get spell cards from the Minotaur too, so yay. I find the women's locker room in the northwest corner of the map and we enter. After interacting with various lockers and things we find a "suspicious male staff member". He immediately protests and tells us that he's in here for, uh, staff reasons, but he has no problem with giving us the boxing gym key!


Objective complete! Sort of. I decide to leave the locker room, save here (despite being far from the entrance to GOLD) and take a look around. Sure enough, there's a Trish's Fountain in the southwest of this floor. This is actually our first time meeting Trish in this game, so she introduces herself: "I'm Trish. I protect this place of recovery. I heal your wounded bodies." The narrator then introduces Trish as well: "A stingy fairy who is obsessed with money. She's been banned from the fairy world and can't return until she does good, but..."




Trish continues: "Not for free, of course. This world is give and take! You can recover from anything, depending on your wallet!" The fee for recovery is 12'000 yen and we make close to 3'000 yen after each battle, so I'll use this opportunity to negotiate and level up a little, maybe do some Velvet Room stuff and then pursue Ulala...


Maya status: Lv22
Playtime: 11h01m (adjusted for levelling and negotiating between updates)

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Have you thought about putting these longplays up onto a wordpress blog @Qazimod? I've started doing so for Final Fantasy IX on my blog, posting updates each Thursday






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5 minutes ago, wev said:

Have you thought about putting these longplays up onto a wordpress blog @Qazimod? I've started doing so for Final Fantasy IX on my blog, posting updates each Thursday


I'd like to perhaps "backup" these threads (P1, IS, EP) in the future somehow - either in a document or a site or something - but it's something I'll think about after EP is completed.


Sticking these on the forum was my primary plan because we've had lots of cool retrospective threads, and these games are hard to get into so it's (hopefully!) a nice way of sharing the experience :D 

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Oh wait, a question from the readers... Why I'm glad you asked! Actually, I'm happy to explain the reason for that massive 4+ hour gap in the playtime stats of my previous two updates. :blush: Firstly, it's worth noting that the playtime stats are from the game's own clock, but since I'm using an emulator's turbo mode to skip battle animations the real time spent doing this is much less. However, even with that caveat I had to do a lot of work between updates. Put simply, now that we have the boxing gym key there's nothing stopping us from going back and facing Ulala, but for a while we were nowhere near ready to take her on. (I know this from failed attempts between updates...)


Before I get on to the details of the battle itself I'd like to provide a recap on some aspects of negotiation and fusion spells. Anyone who followed my Innocent Sin LP will know the basic rules of negotiation: by choosing to negotiate with a demon you get to pick party members to interact with the demon, and these interactions can make the demons angry, timid, happy or eager. The best outcome most of the time is to make them eager because you'll receive tarot cards of a certain arcana - collect enough of these and you'll be able to go to the Velvet Room and (if you're levelled-up enough) summon a Persona of that arcana. However, making them happy is also worthwhile... because happy demons will form a pact with you. If you then negotiate with a demon you made a pact with, you can make them eager and gain additional "free" tarot cards which can be exchanged for tarot cards of any arcana.


In the GOLD fitness club dungeon, I got the feeling that one of the best enemies to negotiate with is Minotaur, not least because you encounter him quite frequently - I quickly found out that you can get him to form a pact by initiating a group negotiation with Katsuya and Maya, and then you can make him Eager by getting Maya to negotiate on her own. In doing all this I earned enough cards - and eventually, levels - for each party member to have a persona with a "tier 2" elemental - Agilao, Aques, Magnus. Specifically, Maya now has Nekomata (a Lv14 Hermit persona with Aques), Katsuya has Surya (a Lv13 Sun persona with Agilao), and Baofu has Tenhou Gensui (a Lv22 Hermit persona with Magnus - the requirements for this persona alone prompted much of the grinding). This also unlocks a more powerful fusion spell, which we'll need when we enter the boxing gym.


EDIT: one caveat to all of this is that we'll lose the party-wide healing skill Media, but I'm going for a "kill the enemy before party health becomes a problem" approach. Also keep in mind that without Ulala I’m one member down, so when I get a full party again I can swap personas around...


If you go back to my July 1 update, you'll see that I already discovered a few fusion spells, but the damage output of those spells is increased massively if we use the "tier 2" elemental attacks we now have. (I never thought about that much before but it makes sense: if the fusion spell damage output didn't improve you'd probably end up with scenarios where the fusion spell is less potent than the individual attacks!) Anyway, when we face Ulala we'll mostly be using the Stone Rise spell mentioned in my July 1 update. I'm not sure if I'll have time to try out the battle for realsies today, but I needed to post this update to get readers up-to-speed with my progress between updates...


Maya status: Lv22
Playtime: 11h01m

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Loading my last save, we find ourselves at 1F, so we don't have to go far to get to the boxing gym. I use the key to open the door, and the scene fades out. It then fades in to a scene where we find Ulala crouched on the floor with her back to us, head in hands, We try to speak to Ulala, telling her that we've handled Makimura and there's no need to pursue this crazy revenge plot. Still refusing to face us, Ulala asks if Maya is there, and we get two variations of "yes" as our dialogue options, so I pick whatever. Maya then approaches Ulala, but then stops - Ulala stands up and turns to face her. With the game now identifying her as "Joker Ulala", she says "You finally get it?... YOU'RE the one I want to kill, Ma-ya ♥ Ahahahaha...." (yes, the heart is in the dialogue.) Shortly after this, we're in the battle itself.


The battle sees Maya, Katsuya and Baofu fighting Joker Ulala, so naturally we have a reduced party size and fewer fusion spell options, but hopefully the stuff we picked up recently should help. I immediately open with Stone Rise and find that it generally does around 370-375 damage. Yay! Meanwhile, Joker Ulala has party-wide attacks and status ailments, but nothing we need to fret about for the first few rounds. Indeed, we only have to cast Stone Rise about three or four times and then the battle is over. I mentioned in an edit to my Friday update that one of my biggest fears with this persona setup was that I'd no longer have healing skills like Media and that I'd have to try and complete the battle before healing became an issue. Maybe I went too far? :P


Afterwards, Katsuya and Baofu level up and we see the post-battle scene. Ulala apologies to Maya and we get some background info - apparently Ulala got drunk once and used the Joker curse against Maya, not thinking that the Joker stuff was actually real. Ulala was envious of Maya's lifestyle and felt like a failure in comparison to her, so she used the Joker curse to vent her frustrations, or whatever. Makimura (the guy who conned Ulala out of her savings) is also in this scene, and protests that Ulala is "the evil one! You guys better finish her off before she hurts someone!" Naturally, our party tells him to GTFO - Baofu knows that if we "finish off" Ulala, her evidence against Makimura disappears. After some gentle persuasion (Baofu clocks him in the face), Makimura agrees to return any money and put an end to his con jobs. He flees the scene, and Katsuya suggests taking Ulala to a hospital. Baofu tells us that a hospital won't be able to help - the "Joker" form of Joker Ulala is like a persona - a demon inside her - and Baofu knows where we can "yank that demon out of her" - the Velvet Room.


The scene then fades out, and fades back to a scene of our whole party in the Velvet Room. As Ulala lays on the ground, Igor begins a ritual and we see a red pillar of light emerge from her body as the demon is pulled out of her. Igor tells us that a Joker is "the heart's shadow", and that a heart cannot exist without light and dark. The ritual has sent it to "the sea of unconscious for now, but it will rise whenever it can. That is up to (Ulala.)" Ulala then wakes up, and it seems like she heard some of this - she knows she can't change what's she's done but can be a better friend for Maya.


Maya then gets a call from Anna (the student girl from the start of the game) - she tells Maya that one of her student friends, Noriko Katayama, has "suddenly (become) a Joker... And someone kidnapped her...She must have used the Joker curse on someone..." Katsuya concludes that Noriko was responsible for some of the revenge murder stuff at the start of the game - including the murder of the principal - but he doesn't know why someone would kidnap people who use the curse. Baofu suggests that we can find out more info if we head to Club Zodiac, and then we're dumped back on the town map. After saving my game, I go to the Velvet Room, assign the Nekomata persona to Ulala (so that we still have our useful fusion spells), and reassign Maia to Maya. I'll probably change this again shortly, but going into the last battle without a persona that had Media was pretty risky! Anyway, with all of this done I go around the town map and find some new rumours (spell card duplication at Time Castle in Rengedai, special armour sold at Toa Armory in Hirasaka, items for sale at Tony's shop in Yumezaki) look for new stuff to buy (I get everyone a "protector" accessory that increases their defence), and next time I'll check out Club Zodiac.


Maya status: Lv22
Playtime: 11h41m (adjusted for shopping etc between updates)

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When I reload, I'm still in town so I quickly head into Bikini Line, Yumezaki - which will heal my party for a small fee - and then proceed to Club Zodiac. There's no pre-dungeon cutscene here and we're just dropped straight into the dungeon, so I find the nearest door or anything that looks like progress. As we enter the main area of the club we find Anna. She thanks us for saving her at the clock tower (as in my June 29th update), and we ask about Tatsuya. She's not sure where he could be at present, and tells us that "lately, he's been acting up, and not been around..." Baofu asks about the kidnapping victims, and Anna tells us that they're "In the back... This club was bought by the Taiwanese Mafia. The kidnappers spoke Chinese..." Ulala tells Anna that we'll handle Tatsuya and Noriko, and eventually I'm in control, so I head to the back door and into the dungeon itself.


The battles are fairly straightforward with the fusion spells we have; however, since Ulala's been out of our party for a while she's quite underlevelled and runs out of MP faster than the rest of us, so fusion spell use could be tricky. We do find a "Staff Room" on 3F but we're told to GTFO, and after mapping out much of 3F and not finding any more stairs or doors, it seems like I'll have to map out more of the lower floors. I go back to 2F and eventually find another staircase in the southeast, so I reach 3F from there. Near the north of 3F is a location identified on the map as "Secret Casino" - trying to interact with the door here leads to a voice on the other side refusing to let us in unless we know the password. It then throws up a text entry screen for the player. Um...wow. Never mind then. :lol: I continue exploring 3F but in all this exploration I'm finding a lot of dead ends and my party are low on SP, so once I run out of options on 3F I battle my way back down to 1F, get out of the club and go into town to replenish the party's HP and SP.


I head back in and map out what I can of the club. I get the feeling that the main notable areas are the Secret Casino and the Staff Room, and I'm wondering if I needed to trigger the "event" at the Secret Casino - being asked for the password - before I could get any information from the Staff Room. And I did! When I return to the Staff Room a scene automatically plays out - Baofu tells us to wait here, heads out of sight, and beats the password out of the guys who previously told us to go away. Baofu tells us that the password is "Panther" (obviously without the quotes, but I probably need the upper-case P!) This seems like a good place to save, so next time I can go straight to the Secret Casino. (Except I won't because I've spent all of my time mapping the area and none of it levelling up or negotiating...)


Maya status: Lv25
Playtime: 14h26m  (adjusted for levelling and negotiating between updates)

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The Secret Casino will have to wait for a little while – I have to go and find out what I can get hold of in the Velvet Room now that my levels are a little higher, and then once I'm done there I need to start figuring out negotiations to make demons happy and eager so that I can (hopefully) get more materials. The Staff Room is at 3F so we have to go downstairs and get out of here. Upon loading my last save I find myself on the Yumezaki town map, just outside GOLD, so I make my way to Central Avenue and the Velvet Room. I walk up to Igor and interact with him, expecting the usual menu options. Surprisingly, I get a unique dialogue instead!

Igor is intrigued by something Maya has: "Hmm? It seems that there is a Persona trying to be reborn into a new form. I forgot to explain, but… You are familiar with Fusion Spells, correct? When you use it, there is a chance it will cause a Persona to mutate. There are Personas that increase in ability, and others that gain new spells, but there are ones that become a different Persona. But to do so they may need my help, so if such a change occurs, please come to me. Of course, it is not necessary that you mutate your Persona. After mutation, a Persona returns to Rank 1, so please decide on your own whether or not to mutate it. Also, if you have the same post-mutated Persona, it might not let the mutation happen, so be warned." (Note: "ranks" are another measure of a persona's growth and a persona's rank increases as you use their abilities. Increasing ranks is how you unlock a persona's full skill set.) With the dialogue over, the usual Velvet Room menu appears, with a new option, Mutation.

The Mutation menu opens up, and I have one persona I can mutate: Maia, the initial persona of Maya. When I select it, the game shows me the persona it will mutate to, "Maia Custom" – it has a stronger Aqua spell, a physical attack skill, Hama and some other stuff… but most importantly, it has "Medirama". This is the game's equivalent of "Mediarama"; it's the "second-tier" party-wide healing skill and usually the strongest one I need in most Persona games (aside from in P4G where I went nuts with that game's unique ultimate personas and gained things like Mediarahan and Salvation.) The only problem is that you can't perform this mutation whilst Maia is assigned to Maya, so I have to put Maia back in the "pool" of resources and assign Maya something else. But that's fine.

However, I wasn't satisfied with just getting this done – I wanted to find out how I met the requirements for Maia Custom in the first place. I'm trying to do these playthroughs "blind" and make my own choices, but I think I can be excused when I want extra info on something that's already happened. So according to the internet, if Maya is played as a "compassionate" character (in terms of dialogue choices etc) after the events at GOLD, Maia Custom can be obtained. Sooo... don't pick the dialogue that makes you look like a dick; got it. With Maia Custom equipped, I can go and continue grinding and negotiating so that I unlock its full skill set. 

Maya status: Lv26
Playtime: 15h33m

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With my save loaded, we find ourselves on the 3rd floor of Zodiac with the Secret Casino just around the corner. HP and SP levels are decent, so I go to the door, use the password we picked up on Tuesday, and go in...


Inside the Secret Casino we find "Man with scar", the unidentified individual from our July 7th update who has been digging into the Joker calls with investigator Shimazu. Baofu and Katsuya are surprised to see Shimazu, and as Baofu walks further up the room he finds another face that's familiar to him: "Yung Pao...a lowlife assassin." The game's narrator gives us a little more, but not really: "Yung Pao - Assassin from Tien Tao Lien. He seems to have some connection with Baofu..." (Tien Tao Lien being the name given to the Taiwanese Mafia, as established a while back.) Yung Pao starts shit-talking but Bafou quickly shuts him down and asks about the foreign minister's involvement with Joker - "Tell me what you know before you die... What is Tatsuzou planning...? Come clean and I'll kill you painlessly..." Yung Pao insists on keeping quiet, but will tell us that he works with the government and police, claiming that "Joker hunting is good for "our" relations." Katsuya isn't interested, and asks about the people who have disappeared. Yung Pao tells us that he doesn't know what we're on about, but he is willing to call (a drugged and hazy) Noriko into the room. Baofu is nervous about this whole situation and tells Ulala and Maya to stay away from her - we know that the Joker curse is capable of turning people into Jokers - but it's not long before we're thrown into a battle against Joker Noriko and some mafia goons.


My plan for this battle is to have everyone but Maya spending their SP on the most powerful attacks they have - ideally multi-hit attacks so that the goons are KO'd and then there are less enemy actions for each round of turns. Meanwhile, Maya will concentrate on healing the party. Once the two goons are gone the battle doesn't cause too much trouble - one of our party members got hit with a charm status ailment but it wore off before anything bad could happen. We win first time - Ulala, Katsuya and Baofu level up, but not Maya - and we return to the Secret Casino scene. Katsuya asks Baofu if the thing about Yung Pao's "Joker hunting" is true - Baofu doesn't know why it should matter; "people should be grateful." Katsuya is suspicious about Baofu's knowledge and his ties to these kind of people, but Ulala interrupts and insists that we take Noriko to the Velvet Room. The scene then transitions to show everyone in the Velvet Room - Anna tells Noriko that she's "no longer a Joker - these people saved you." Anna asks Katsuya if he'll arrest Noriko, and Katsuya replies with "everyone is innocent until proven guilty" and agrees to keep Noriko under protective custody.


Suddenly, Katsuya gets a call. The "Voice of a Man" (according to the dialogue box) gets straight to the point: "Katsuya Suou, right? I want to offer you information on your case... Meet me at Aoba Park..." Katsuya instantly asks who this is, and the voice replies: "...Sneak. Remember that." After a bit more chat, Katsuya tells Maya that he wants to go through with the meeting - any potential information on the case is valuable - so it looks like we're going to Aoba Park next. Although I'll be checking the shops for new gear and seeing if there are new rumours before I go there...




Maya status: Lv26
Playtime: 16h17m

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A lot of the rumours I find around the town map are about prizes offered in the Miracle magazine you can buy from one of the stores, and I'm not interested in any of that right now. However, whilst mashing through dialogue trying to find useful rumours I found one guy on the Aoba map who had something useful to say: "Did you know the flowers at Aoba Park can speak? I see the manager speaking to them, but I can't hear what he's saying." This is pretty much the rumour I was expecting to find, because during the Innocent Sin LP we talked to the flowers in Aoba Park and they gave us riddles - answering these correctly resulted in rewards being dropped. Whether that's still the case here remains to be seen... After spreading the rumour, I shop around and find that there's better armour at Rosa Candida, Aoba, so I get this, heal my party, and go to the park.


As we enter the park, we find an "old man" character who has already started talking to the flowers - he warns us that the "purple flower" will poison us if we can't answer its questions. Erk. It doesn't take long before we find conversation with flowers, such as:


Blue Flower: "I'm a Blue Dragon, born in February. I'm compatible with Navy Blue Dragon, born in June. There are as many dragons as months."

Yellow-Green Flower: "I'm a Gold Dragon born in May. I'm compatible with a Black Dragon, born in September. Dragons depend on what month you were born."


And so on. The only one I found that gives you a riddle is the Dignified Purple Flower - asking you who they're compatible with - and even if you don't discover that the answer is the Red Dragon, it's a multiple-choice thing and the question is the same each time... For answering correctly, the Dignified Purple Flower gives us an Akashic Ring - weirdly, this is an item rather than gear, and the description only reads "Peculiar, ring-shaped object." Maybe it's a material that we'll use for something later?


Aoba Park is pretty huge and as we start running low on resources I start fleeing battles because Maya is having fewer opportunities to heal the party. Luckily, we find a Trish's Spring and eventually come to a "Rest Area" which initiates a cutscene. As the scene fades in, our party are standing around an open area of the park when a shady guy in a long coat enters the scene - it's Sneak! He hides out of view behind some shrubs and begins talking: "There's no time...Just listen. I cannot reveal my identity now... As you know... the Police and Mafia are essentially being controlled by Tatsuzou's organization. Not just the Police... The media, and even the giant companies, have the roots of the "New World Order" spread around them..." Katsuya asks what the goal of Tatsuzou's "New World Order" is, but Sneak can't help us there. He wants us to "find hard evidence of a conspiracy and exploit Tatsuzou". He also tells us that other people are investigating the New World Order - he slips us a photo of a group who may be able to help us, and leaves the scene. We wonder how we can get anywhere with a photo of a group we don't know, but Ulala comes up with a plan to go to the agency and spread a rumour to help us. And we're back on the town map.


Sooo... that was the whole dungeon? Hopefully it's the last time we'll be solving riddles set by flowers... ;) 


Maya status: Lv27
Playtime: 17h37m

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After shopping around I find that the only stuff worth buying at the moment is in Aoba - we can get better armour for everyone at Rosa Candida and a few more weapons at Parabellum, but it gets kind of pricey so later on I need to make some more cash (about 129'000?) for the other weapons at Parabellum. For now, I go to the detective agency.


Ulala tells everyone her plan of "luring out" the people investigating the New World Order by starting a rumour, but Katsuya is doubtful - it's dangerous to spread rumours about people we don't even know. The chief is also present (as always), and tells us that we need a rumour that's interesting otherwise it won't catch on. Ulala's already considered this, and proposes a rumour that claims "a man or woman who has key information to the case will appear at Parabellum". It seems a bit risky but we don't really have much say in this bit, so I speak to the chief. As I've mentioned previously in my P2 threads, rumours are like "keys" that unlock things like events or locations, and they have modifiers - for instance, you can spread a rumour about Rosa Candida selling armour, and add a modifier so that the armour is pricey but high quality, or cheap but with worse stats. In this instance, our rumour mentions an individual at Parabellum, and the modifiers let us specify if it's a man or a woman. Now, deciding the identity of a key individual in the game sounds like something that might have repercussions, so I'm tempted to create a new save after making my choice. I choose to make her a woman for now, leave the agency, save in slot 2, then go to Parabellum.


Inside, Ulala and Baofu are at the bar waiting for our lady to turn up and chatting to one another, whilst Katsuya and Maya are just outside seeing if she arrives. After a bit of chatter they look across to the front door of Parabellum and see a woman with short dark hair approaching the building. It then cuts to the inside of the bar where a group of "Media people" are looking out the window... it seems that this is one of the risks Katsuya was talking about; by spreading a rumour about someone with key information to the case being at Parabellum, the media people have turned up in an attempt to get to her first. Thinking quickly, Ulala causes a scene by acting out a quarrel with Baofu whilst also obstructing the way out. With this done, our party regroup to some rented accomodation where they'll meet the individual. As Katsuya explains: "This is Nate Nanjo, he is renting this room, and his friend, Ellen Kirishima. I've told them our story." If these names weren't familar to me at first, the portraits and narrator descriptions are revealing; Nate Nanjo is Nanjo from P1 - "a persona user who "awakened" as a result of the Sebec Scandal" - and Ellen Kirishima is Elly from P1 - "like Nate, she was "awakened" by a past incident..."


Yay, P1 peeps in a P2 game! Even though I barely used Elly in P1! Anyway, Baofu asks why they're investigating the New World Order: Nate asks us if we know the name "Guy Shinjo" - Baofu tells us that Guy is Tatsuzou Sudou's secretary, but there's barely a trace of information about his work history or other details. We then find that Guy Shinjo might actually be "Kandori, aka Guido Sardenia, the president of the Sebec Corp." Kandori was the main antagonist of P1, and it seems that the different names are a result of differences between PSX/PSP versions of Persona...? Anyway, we find that Nate and Ellen encountered Tatsuzou Sudou while pursuing Guy - Ellen and Nate are convinced that the New World Order needs these Jokers that are being created, and they know about Wang Long's claims (from our July 7th update), but we still need to reach the New World Order itself to find out why they're doing this.


Nate continues: those who were kidnapped and turned into Jokers were supposedly taken to a nearby science lab that Guy Shinjo often visits. Furthermore, Ellen's found out that Wang Long will be on another TV show later, so we have to split up, with Nate investigating the lab and Ellen visiting the TV studio. (I imagine that the rumour we spread earlier determines who our party will be following.) Before I leave I talk to everyone, and then Ellen tells us to hurry to Aoba, so I save outside the TV station and then enter. Here, Ellen sees some more old faces in the form of Yukino and "Brad" (Brown from P1) - we find out that Wang Long is currently in the dressing room,  so that's our next destination. By going to the elevator at the east of the TV studio we enter the dungeon itself, but we can back out to the town map at any time, so it's a good opportunity to do some levelling and negotiating. Oh, and make cash for that gear I couldn't afford at Parabellum. Ahem.


Maya status: Lv28
Playtime: 18h28m
Save slot: 2 (slot 1 is a safety save at the Nate/Ellen decision)

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Welcome to part 1 of "micro-updates while we improve Elly and grind cash for equipment". :blush:


So yeah... to recap: I don't have optimal gear (based on what I could get from the stores if I could afford it), I can't afford optimal gear, and I don't want to go deep into the next dungeon when Ellen hasn't increased her persona's rank. This update might end up being a little short as I'll need time between posts to get some of this done, but hopefully I can find out more about what Ellen's persona can do. I don't think it's worth negotiating for the time being so I'll just try and complete whatever battles I can. Right now Ellen seems quite frail and takes a lot of damage when I see the numbers from party-wide attacks, but I imagine that might be because she's wearing her default gear (and I don't think I have any old gear I can give her as I sell a lot of it for money like an idiot.) Then again, having realised how low her total HP is in comparison to everyone else, I can see that she's at level 23 whilst everyone else is at level 28. Sooo she's got some catching up to do.


There's not much to say about the opening area of Sumaru TV where I'm levelling up - the enemies don't seem too difficult or too easy; there's just the occassional danger of Ellen being wiped out. One of the more threatening demons is named Hel, and is of the Death arcana - he has nuclear, earth and death skills, and also the skill "Acid Rain" - a moderate party-wide water attack that's still dangerous enough to knock 150 HP off Katsuya and 100 HP off Ellen. After surviving a few battles against this demon, I dropped into Ellen's stats and had a better look at her persona, Nike. According to the elemental affinities, fire and holy attacks do nothing against her, but she's weak to water, ice and dark attacks. Eep. However, I'll continue improving her persona rank just in case she unlocks some decent skills (in later Persona games certain party members earn skills where their persona gives them a high % chance of evading an element they'd otherwise be weak to), and it's not like the demons used by the other party members don't have one or two weaknesses of their own.


Even if Ellen's persona is ill-equipped to deal with these kinds of enemies, I was still keen to see if I could get anywhere with negotiation. Whilst trying out the various interactions I found out that Katsuya's "Interrogation" option safely ends an encounter with Hel, so if it causes trouble again I can talk my way out of the battle. However, I'd rather give Ellen a different persona than work out negotiations every time this happens. I waited until I had maxed out Nike's rank before doing anything - just in case I found that Nike might be useful... Looking at the skills after it had reached the maximum rank, I fount that Nike ended up gaining multi-target wind attacks, a defence buff, a mute skill, a heal and a Holy attack. Not bad, but there's probably better stuff I can find in the Velvet Room. One potential replacement I'm thinking of is Umayado No Ouji of the Heirophant arcana; in playing with fusion and improving its rank, I found that it has single-target sleep and confusion skills, single-target healing, Trafuri (guaranteed escape from most battles) and Estoma (lower encounter rate against weak enemies) as well as no weaknesses, so this could be a great support persona. We'll see.


EDIT: as an aside - that scene in Nate's room from Wednesday actually opened up a new district on the town map ("Narumi") but there's nothing to actually do there just yet...


Maya status: Lv29
Playtime: 19h56m (adjusted for levelling up Nike)
Save slot: 2 (slot 1 is a safety save at the Nate/Ellen decision)

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In between updates I took a look at some of the negotiations in Sumaru TV but I never committed to picking up Umayado No Ouji, so I'll have to do that at a later date. For now, I want to talk about the Sumaru TV dungeon itself, as it can take a while to explore. There are dressing rooms you can explore for a little more story detail, but Dressing Room 3 is one of the more interesting. Here, Ellen bangs on the locked door and calls to Wang Long, asking if they can talk, but after my party bust in the door they realise that Wang Long isn't there - there's only a small cat in the corner of the room. The cat looks at Ulala and purrs, and the screen goes white - when the scene fades back in, the room is in monochrome... The cat vanishes through the closed door, and Ellen deducts that "we've been trapped in a Kimon Tonkou formation - it's an illusion spell that branches from Feng Shui. If you don't pass through 8 gates with talismans in order, you can't escape."


So I'll break down how this works - in the Sumaru TV dungeon there are eight rooms with talismans by the door and each has its own symbol. Each symbol is a series of three lines, but certain lines are solid and others are split in two. For the sake of this post I'll use "I" for a solid line and "i" for a split line. Ellen actually gives us the eight symbols during this dialogue -

1 = III

2 = iII

3 = IiI

4 = iiI

5 = IIi

6 = iIi

7 = Iii

8 = iii.


As Ellen continues talking, she passes a mirror in the room, and Katsuya notes she has no reflection; Ellen believes that this might be because in this illusion a mirror can be used to contact people outside of the illusion - so we may be able to reach Brad or someone - but for now we have to pass through the 8 gates in order, which means finding the first symbol, "III". For anyone playing along at home, I seriously recommend working out as much of this dungeon's enemy negotiation stuff as you can, because it makes exploring the dungeon and finding the symbols much easier. I actually got a little bit of this done before doing this update so I know the first few locations:


III/Studio 1 is on 2F
iII/Studio 2 is on 2F
IiI/Studio 3 is on 3F
iiI/Studio 4 is on 3F
IIi/Studio 5 is on 4F


As we enter Studio 1, we find the cat; Ellen approaches it and tells it that we know what it's doing, but the cat talks back, taunting us and asking if we can really escape. It then vanishes, and Ellen tells us to go and find the second gate. We leave this room and head to Studio 2, negotiating through enemy encounters along the way. When we enter; Ellen is surprised - she tells us that this isn't the second gate after all but doesn't know why, and advises us to find Brad's dressing room and try to contact him through the mirror. As with everything here you have to work out the room locations on your own (whilst dealing with random battles) but I've found that we need to get to Dressing Room 4 on 3F. When we get there, it fades to a scene of Brad checking himself in the mirror whilst Yukino's patience ebbs away, but then Brad freaks out when Ellen shows up on the other side of the mirror. Ellen explains the situation and Brad tells us that he saw the symbol iII on the door of Studio 5. This actually contradicts what Ellen said when she explained the eight symbols (see above), and she considers what this means: "5 is 2...IIi is iII...". They agree that they can't go on without figuring this out, but the dialogue ends so that the player has to work things out.


My take from the "5 is 2...IIi is iII..." line is that because it's a mirror world, one has to "reverse" the symbol in each case to find the equivalent talisman in the real world, so: 

IIi = iII
iII = IIi
Iii = iiI


With this established, we head to Studio 5 on 4F, and after finding nothing in there, Katsuya prompts us to move on to IiI -  which is simple enough as it's the same symbol reversed. Here, Ulala calls out to the cat but gets nowhere, when suddenly we hear a camera click behind us - there's someone else here! Identified as "Creepy Man" - but later named by the narrator as "Makoto Kuwahara" - we find that this person has been stalking Ellen, even going so far as to break into her home. Naturally, we tell him to GTFO, and a miniboss battle initialises! We beat him first time, and Katsuya tells us to move on and find iiI - but reversed this would be Iii; the seventh gate. After a little more exploration I discover that we can find this on 5F. When we enter, "Creepy Man" shows up again so we have another boss battle - we win this first time, and afterwards Katsuya cuffs him to part of the wall and we leave the room in an attempt to stop him bothering us. After we speak to Ulala she advises us to check iIi, which I think is in the northwest of 5F, but we're low on SP for now so I might work on that before going in...


Maya status: Lv31
Playtime: 21h06m

Save slot: 2 (slot 1 is a safety save at the Nate/Ellen decision)

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At the moment we have a recommended destination to go to, which is useful with all of these studios, floors, and symbols, but I'm anticipating yet more run-ins with "Creepy Man" since we already had multiple encounters with him in the previous update alone. Here, I head into Studio 6, which I think had the symbol "iIi" that we were looking for. Our party enter and we begin looking around in case our "Creepy Man" Makoto shows up. Ulala tries to reassure Ellen and tell her that it's alright - there's nobody here - but then Makoto emerges behind some kind of board (or screen, or something) that was propped up in the corner. Ellen is done with this guy's shit ("No...No...no-No-NO!! I'm fed up!! Your obsession disturbs me!!") but he remains defiant ("Even though I love you soooo much...?" "Even though I think about you this much...?")


Anyway... The only real danger in the subsequent boss battle comes from "Furi" (enrage) ailments that stop me from picking commands to enraged party members who will just attack the target - it would be a problem if my party were at low health and our healer Maya was enraged - but the battle ends before that can happen. Katsuya, Baofu and Elly level up, and in the post-battle scene Baofu tells us "His neck is broken... It would be impossible for him to move..." Katsuya notes that it's weird how this stalker showed up to wherever we were heading even though "we had no idea where to go" (at least the game admits that this dungeon is confusing to navigate!) and thinks that it might be part of the whole Kimon Tonkou illusion thing. The scene then fades out and we're back on the map. I heal and save here, then talk to my party: Baofu tells us that "Next is Iii... "7"." but actually this probably means "iiI" - studio 4 on 3F. I might as well stop at the Trish's Fountain while I'm there as some of us are low on SP - once we're healed, we get to the studio.


In the scene that plays out, Katsuya enters first with his gun ready so that the others are safe from potential stalkers. He tells us that "the cat and the maniac aren't here..." and the rest of our party enter. There's no boss battle in this room, so we leave and get to "Studio 8". This shouldn't be too hard to find, partly because we've mapped out most of the dungeon and also because there's no more three-character combinations left after 8, so it's whatever's left. I book it to 6F as it's the one floor available on the elevator that I haven't been to yet, and sure enough we find it in the south-east(ish) corner.


Unfortunately, the emulator kind of bugs out here - every time I try and enter the studio, everything fades out (as if initiating a scene), and then fades back to us still on the map, outside the door... as if it can't load the scene that's supposed to happen. (Although I'm avoiding spoilers I did do a quick YouTube check to confirm that, yes, something's broken on my end...) Retroarch's memory card files work with other emulators, but I tried again in ePSXe and pSX and the same thing happened. Sooo I'm stuffed. Or I would be if I didn't have that other save in slot 1. Time to check out Nate's path?

EDIT: I've since gone back and seen the rest of Elly's dungeon - see here


Maya status: Lv27
Playtime: 17h37m

Save slot: 1 (slot 2 was Ellen's path but it bugged out)

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In a way I'm glad that happened – I may have lost between three and four hours of progress, but now I have a legitimate reason for picking one path over the other. Anyway, reloading the first save puts me on the town map where I can head to the detective agency and – this time – spread a rumour about our person at Parabellum being a man. Everything from this point more-or-less plays out like before - media show up, Ulala and Baofu cause a scene, Nate and Ellen tell us their backstory - that is, until the part where Nate investigates the lab whilst Ellen checks out Sumaru TV. Back in control, I speak to Nate; he tells us that we can't just burst in through the front door of the lab – we have to infiltrate via the sewers in south-east Narumi.

Nate tells us that the sewage plant is dedicated to the lab, but security is light. However – "A distinctive feature is the maze setting. On top of that, at each block, a flood of water comes through at timed intervals. There are two routes connecting the blocks. If we don't take the shorter way, we have a higher chance of getting washed away. We must control the locks for the 2 paths by the 1st and 2nd Control Rooms respectively. Thus, 2 people must stay…"

Baofu asks what I'm already thinking – who's staying – but then we hear a voice say "Leave it to me", and the camera pans around to show "Chris Kido: A Persona user who fought alongside Nate. Known as "The Legendary Six-Pack Leader". He is the step-brother of Kandori." A girl next to him says "Yoohoo♥ I'm here too" – this is "Mary Sonomura: The key figure in the Sebec incident. A Persona user who, like the others, has a connection with Kandori". At this point I'm freaking out and couldn't care less about Ellen's path; "Chris Kido" is this localisation's name for Reiji, the guy who got bodied in the Mana Castle in Persona 1 (although he never became a party member in my LP), and "Mary" is Maki from P1 – possibly the most important character in that game's story, as she was at the centre of so much split-personality madness. Nate asks why Chris and Mary are here, and Mary explains that Ellen didn't think Nate could get anywhere on his own (oof), so they decided to show up. Anyway, Chris and Mary tell us to get going, and I'm back in control.

Panning the camera around I see two doors, a red one labelled "A" and a blue one labelled "B". These are the two routes Nate told us about, but we have no way of knowing which one will be shorter. Since I have a redundant second save slot now, I'm thinking that I should overwrite both saves now, use one to check out A… and if it's a rough time, I'll load the other and investigate B.

Maya status: Lv27
Playtime: 17h53m
Save slot 1: "A" route | Save slot 2: backup in case I want to check "B"

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As soon as you enter one of the two doors, a countdown timer begins and gives you ten minutes to reach a "relay point", which acts as a checkpoint between these timed segments. Failure isn't too punishing in these sequences - it seems as though you're just whisked back to the start, but the map details you've uncovered from exploring remain, so you can keep failing until you map out the correct route. I pick door A at first and manage to make it to the first "relay point" in time. Here, the player gets a little breather and can talk to their party or whatever without a countdown timer or any random battles. However, the relay point contains two more doors - again, A and B - so you have to make a choice. I stick with A for now, and although I run out of time once, the consequences are as nonthreatening as I mentioned. On the second attempt I find the next relay point - again, reaching this location gives you a chance to talk to party members and do any healing or other adjustments... but again, you need to pick another door - either A or B. I seem to be doing fine when picking the "A" doors, so I go through the next "A" door here. When I interact with it, character dialogue tells me that "this is the last door", so it sounds like you only have to go through three of these timed challenges.


This third one is a bit more taxing, as there are a lot of hazards on the ground which deplete the party's HP/SP... and you're still going to be running into some dead ends, which means backtracking over those traps and triggering them again. I do eventually find the "Parking Lot" in the south-west of the third room, but interacting with it only tells me that it's locked. There are more "Parking Lot" doors near the north of this room - trying two of those, I find that they're locked, but the third door opens up and we get a scene. Here, Nate points out the door to the lab's security room, and we make our way in. In the first room, the camera pans across to show some guards harrassing Eikichi, who seems to have found his way in here! We approach the guards and find ourselves in a boss encounter, but happily they're defeated fairly easily. We catch up with Eikichi - who tells us that his friend was kidnapped and sent here, which is why he ended up investigating this place - and in the meantime Nate disables security in the lab.


Katsuya tells Eikichi that we'll find his friend and that he should go home, but he insists on coming with us. Here, I get a chance to save in an area that's kind of free from traps or hostile encounters, so I do so. From here, we can go straight into another dungeon - the science lab - but this one doesn't have any timed sequences (uh...yet) and one of the first areas has a Trish's Fountain and Velvet Room, so the party can recover from that whole sewage plant sequence we've just done...


Maya status: Lv27
Playtime: 19h07m
Save slot 1: "A" route | Save slot 2: backup in case I want to check "B"

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Entering the science lab, we find ourselves in the security room of 1F; there's an elevator right in front of us but the power's cut, so that's not an option. In addition to there being a Velvet Room and Trish's Fountain on 1F, there's a stairway which goes down to B1, a sealed off route named "Shutter A" and a few new enemies we haven't seen before. First, I heal everyone for 17'000 at Trish's Fountain (because this is a continuation from the last dungeon and we had no chance to visit a town between the two dungeons) and then I look into negotiation and exploration. There are one or two "human" enemies here that you can't negotiate with, but there are also a lot of regular foes too. Moving around B1, we find a "Lv.1 Shutter" which only authorises entry to people with a Lv.1 card, so this is going to be a key hunt. Moving around B1 a little more, we find an NPC we can talk to - an employee at the lab - and we're able to ask for his Lv.1 card! I go back and open the shutter, but before going through I note an area in the southwest I haven't explored. Here, we find the door to a "confinement area"; opening this leads to a short scene where the people who are kidnapped and "turned into Jokers" are taken. Eikichi knows someone who was taken here, a friend named "Sugimoto", but we search all of the cells in this room and can't locate him. Nate tells Eikichi to get the other captive people out of here while we find Sugimoto, and then I'm dropped back on the dungeon map.




I map out the rest of the floor, go back through the shutter and find an exit that serves as another entrance to 1F, as there are bits of 1F here that I couldn't get to before. I find a switch that can change the "administrative mode" between "A" and "B" but right now I have no idea what that does. I flip it anyway. Checking the map, I notice that flipping the switch opens some gates but closes others... however, there are more A routes I hadn't even seen yet, so I flip it back to A for now. I map out what I can but then end up finding another stairway that goes to 2F, so I decide to press on. This has more switches, traps and gates, but our negotiation notes are already making battles easy to skip, so I quickly find the stairs to 3F. I don't have to walk around here much before finding another way down to an unexplored area of 2F, so I take the opportunity to do more mapping down there. Along the way I find a scientist who offers to help, and gives us a "Lv.2 Card", which we can use to enter a lab in the back. This doesn't get us anywhere just yet, but I'd still like to map out more of 2F and 3F before doing too much backtracking...


Maya status: Lv28
Playtime: 20h03m
Save slot 1: "A" route | Save slot 2: backup in case I want to check "B"

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When I reload, I find myself in the southeast corner of 2F. Going east and a little bit south takes us to a large open area with the aforementioned traps (floor tiles that deplete HP or SP) and switches that open certain gates and close others, as well as a staircase that leads to 3F. There's still a lot of 3F that hasn't been mapped out here, but the current switch configuration allows us to pass through some shutters at the east. We then go around a kind of C-shaped corridor, battling foes along the way, and find a Lv.2 shutter that we can open with the Lv.2 card we gained from the scientist in the previous update. This leads to an open room with a few pillars around it and a door to the laboratory on 3F. From my brief exploration between updates I know that an event happens when I open that door so I'm going to do a few things before I go through. Firstly, I'm going to save in front of this door, and then I'll see how far I can backtrack... or if my switch-flicking has sealed off my original path to Trish's Fountain and the Velvet Room. I head back down to 1F, and at first glance it looks like the gates have sealed off my paths to Trish and Igor, but if I take a staircase at the south and go down to B1F, I can go east a little and take a staircase back up that leaves me in front of the Velvet Room and Trish's Spring.


So my notes are sort of like:

To Trish/Igor: South->East->South->Staircase(3F)->North a lot->Staircase(2F)->South a lot->Staircase(1F)->North->East->Staircase(B1F)->Northeast

Back to the boss door: Southwest->Staircase(B1F)->West->South->Staircase(1F)->North a lot->Staircase(2F)->South a lot->Staircase(3F)->North->West->North


(Whilst dungeons in Persona games do have minimaps, the one here doesn't show everything and can be a bit unclear when it comes to open and closed doors!)


Now, a lot happens as soon as I open that laboratory door on 3F - there are a few plot bits and ultimately a boss encounter, but that boss is something like Lv35 so I'm not nearly as prepared to take him on as I'd like - what's more, I know it uses a lot of "furi" ailments - forcing party members to attack whilst the player has no control over actions (this also ruins any fusion spell setups you have planned, as fusion spells always involve specific elemental attacks being cast in a certain order), so I either have to find skills that counteract that or level up so much that I eliminate everything before it becomes a problem. (I suppose I could also see if Sukukaja could be used to increase hit/evade chance... although I don't know if that works for ailments?) Whatever; I'll do a bunch of levelling (after all I have mainly been negotiating my way through the lab so far) and use my route notes to hurry back to Trish when necessary, then try the boss when I find something that works.

E: I also found one or two more fusion spells in between updates, such as Tidal Wave (water skill, wind skill, Maha Aques) - I'm still more-or-less using the personae I had in my July 19 update with the exception of Maia Custom and Nate's starting persona, but this was a fusion spell they were able to do for a while and I never knew. If Nekomata casts Aques, Surya casts Garula and Maia Custom casts Maha Aques, we get Tidal Wave...


Maya status: Lv32
Playtime: 22h35m (adjusted for levelling between updates)
Save slot 1: "A" route | Save slot 2: backup in case I want to check "B"

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As per the edits in my last update, I found another fusion spell so I might check this out when I attempt the boss. But first, a scene occurs when we open the door. We're in the main lab, and Nate wonders if we can get at the data to see what's being researched... With a bit of computer wizardry, Baofu finds that experiments are being conducted to separate a Joker from its user. Baofu then finds a research piece named "Research and theory on artificially creating Persona users", penned by one Guido Kandori. We've no time to read it right now but Baofu saves the information to a hard drive. Ulala then spots something else in another corner of the lab - big pods labelled "JOKER" that contain vials of dark liquid. Before we can investigate further, the lights are switched on and someone approaches our party. Flanked by grunts that point guns at our party, Kandori enters the room. Nate asks how he's even still alive, but Kandori claims that people have great interest in this research of his, and that he was "summoned (...) back from Hades." Whatever the reason, we're in a bit of a jam, but suddenly a door bursts open and someone takes out a guard and turns to face Kandori - it's Deja Vu Boy/Senpai Kun! He tells us to get out of here, and then he turns his attention to Kandori, so our party flee amidst gunfire and stuff... and the scene fades out.


We're trying to make a break for freedom in the next scene but we only get as far as the lab's car park before a demon bursts in after us. This demon is actually a named character - "Sugimoto" - and an old face from Innocent Sin... In the first P2 game Sugimoto had his goons beat up Eikichi in club Zodiac whilst holding Kozy hostage (see my Jan 13 update in the Innocent Sin thread), but it seems like he's been caught up in this effort to capture people and perform experiments on them, because his appearance is far from human. For now, however, this means that we have a miniboss to deal with. Sugimoto actually caused quite a bit of trouble when I was attempting the encounter between updates: he has a lot of HP, he has two adds that also have a lot of HP, he has party-wide elementals and single-target swipes, but worst of all he inflicts some annoying status ailments on party members. Since fusion spells require party members to use elemental skills in a certain order as a prerequisite, Sugimoto can ruin your plans by freezing party members (making them unable to perform an action) or enraging them (forcing them to use their default attack.) The effects do wear off eventually but generally I have to prepare the fusion spell I want (Tidal Wave is actually pretty good for damage here), see who gets enraged on Sugimoto's turn, then see which fusion spells are available with the party members who aren't enraged. (And if Maya gets enraged then everything gets worse because she's my main healer.) The ailments do make this a battle that may require retries, but with our levelling and Tidal Wave it's over pretty soon.


Eikichi's more than a bit upset by seeing the defeated Sugimoto on the ground - despite what happened in IS they were part of the same "group" - but in true JRPG fashion he's not dead, just KO'd. We can't hang around, however, as guards are approaching, so we bundle into a nearby truck and get back to that rented accommodation from the July 31 update. Ellen is here too (and I think this is probably where Nate and Ellen's routes converge again after breaking away), but there are a few bodies on the ground - Baofu thinks that we were tailed during our original visit here, and that it's no longer safe to hang around here, so Maya, Katsuya, Baofu, and Nate head back to Baofu's place whilst Ulala stays with Ellen. As the next scene fades in we're watching a news report about homicides in the city whilst Baofu checks his hard drive - there's information on it relating to "JSM", and detailing a machine that can separate a Joker from a possessed individual - a process known as "Kegare". However, the "separated Joker" seems to have a physical form - Baofu tells us that, once separated, it goes in a tank... so that must relate to some of the stuff seen in the lab. There's more on the hard drive too - a list of phone records relating to Joker calls; people had information on who was going to "become the next Joker", and it all seems to be the work of Kandori.


Suddenly, Ulala and Ellen enter the scene, eager to share what they found out at Sumaru TV; Ellen tells us that the fortune teller Wang Long is linked to the New World Order - rather than preventing the process, she was artificially creating Jokers - and Katsuya deduces that this was done so that the Jokers would be hunted down and separated with the "JSM" process, before the whole thing then gets covered up by the authorities. We need more evidence of these theories though (and why they'd be doing this in the first place), and it's here that we overhear a news report of a meeting between a Muses member and Wang Long happening at Smile Mall, Hirasaka. So I guess that's our next destination...?


(EDIT: I also checked most of the stores around the map - as it's been a while since we were on the map - but the only good stuff's at Parabellum, Aoba. However, Johnny Rogers has a rumour about affinity readings at Sumaru Genie (these are like personality tests which result in her "matching" you with another character, and certain matches result in gameplay bonuses. Good luck figuring out the correct answers though...), and Shiraishi has a rumour about armour available at Clair de Lune (although we haven't unlocked a Clair de Lune yet!))


Maya status: Lv33
Playtime: 23h02m

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With nothing new at the stores and any rumours I could find updated, I move on to Smile Mall in Hirasaka. I try and battle the enemies I encounter for the moment so that I get some experience, but I may negotiate between updates. The first floor is pretty large, and there's an elevator in the north-west but there's still a lot to map out on this floor, so I won't use it yet. There are also stairs going up and down at the west of 1F, and after mapping out most of 1F I feel like these are our only way forward, so I go to B1 first, find some "Gem" items (description: "restores a character's HP fully"), and nothing else but a locked door to a "warehouse". A bit of a waste of time, then, but we got some experience out of it. After finding the elevator again we make our way up to 2F - again, the area is huge and there's a lot of map to uncover before I feel happy moving on, but the encounters aren't causing too much trouble right now so I can afford to mill around until I decide to continue up to 3F. That said, 3F isn't an option right now on the elevator (although B1, 1F, 2F and 4F are fine) so I have to run back and take the stairs up. Whilst on 3F I quickly save, as the lack of a quick elevator trip to 3F might indicate some kind of event on this floor, but when I find the stairs there we just continue exploring. However, I do find a Trish's Fountain whilst I'm here, so it's a nice place to save.


So far this dungeon has been fairly free from gimmicks - there's no floor traps or weird teleporting shenanigans just yet, and there haven't been any dialogue events (there weren't even any when we entered the dungeon for the first time)... but we have only made it up to the third floor. Maybe the gimmick is that the floors are so massive and it'll take players a lot of time to map out where they're supposed to go? :P As I'm thinking this and exploring more of 3F, I find another staircase in the north-east of 3F, so I can see this is going to be one of those "go up a staircase to find another staircase down that leads to a previously-inaccessible part of the floor you were on" things. In any case, I explore up to 3F for now, battling as much as I can so that I gain experience, and then I save near the Trish's Fountain. Next time around I'll have to continue exploring a few areas - particularly the subsequent floors above 3F, and that extra staircase in the north-east of 3F that leads to a new area of 2F...


I got a lot of mapping done in this update, but as mentioned I haven't done any negotiations. Even so, the encounters here are bearable with our current levels, equipment and personae - there's just the occasional status ailment that might be a pain now and then. Oh, and there's the little thing where I get conscious about negotiating too much and not levelling enough, then getting bodied when I find a forced encounter that's actually challenging. So for the moment I'd rather do a little bit of levelling as I explore unless the encounters just start feeling like a chore. I played a little bit more (without saving) after posting this, and found that the mapping might not be as necessary as I first thought despite the large areas to cover - there's an event that happens in an area of 4F involving the seminar hall and one of the restrooms in the southeast, but I'll cover this next time (also I may have to see if I can negotiate my way there to avoid going in with status ailments.)


(also, Nate's persona ranked up and learned Sonic Punch, which then led to us learning the new fusion spell "Ryusei Rekken". Yay!)


Maya status: Lv34
Playtime: 24h34m

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~Deliberate Ally KOs~


As I reload my save, we're stood outside Trish's Fountain with one or more party members suffering status ailments. Nice. I pay to get healed, head up to 4F, and flee any battles until I find a door to a room labelled "Seminar Hall". Checking the door, we find that it's locked, but Katsuya tells us that we can see what's happening inside if we can get to an air duct - that said, we'd need to know where an air duct would be. In a cool nod to Innocent Sin, we get a sepia flashback to our first time at Smile (see my Jan 31 update in that thread), where the party went to a restroom and Maya borrowed a lighter from Senpai Kun/Deja Vu Boy to set off an alarm... and then we're back in control. So now we know that we should find the restrooms because they have air ducts - I continue fleeing battles and book it to the women's restroom near the northeast of 4F, then interact with the door. There's a short scene here where Ulala and Maya (being the only girls in our party) enter on their own, but then find that they need one of the guys to help remove the air duct cover, so the rest of the party is called in and eventually we're able to move on.


It then cuts to the seminar hall in Smile where people are gathered to watch a man give a speech whilst stood in front of what looks like the "Kegare" machines (that seperate a Joker from its body and stores it in a tank.) The game's narrator introduces this man as "Ginji Sasaki: The young producer of the group "Muses"..." We kind of ran into him before in IS, but right now he's giving a speech about how mankind needs to avoid sin, and how sinners can "be reborn into innocence" if they let the machine "absorb" their sin. It sounds sketchy as fuck, but we can't intervene with a crowd of innocent people around, so - just like in Innocent Sin - Maya decides to use a lighter (or cigarette or something) to send smoke through the vent to the crowd of people whilst other party members set off the alarm to evacuate the building. We get no choice in who goes where - in the next scene, the camera stays on Maya, Ulala and Nate as Maya sends smoke through the vent... meanwhile (offscreen) Katsuya and Baofu set off an alarm. Back in control, we (as Maya) have to make it to the seminar hall - there will be random battles along the way, but the number of enemies in each battle is reduced to help our smaller party. When we get there, Ginji protests in front of our party, insisting that his actions are just, but Katsuya thinks that he's spouting crazy superstition. Eventually, it feels like words aren't getting us anywhere, so Maya walks up to the "Kegare" machine, pulls out a firearm and shoots the glass containers holding the separated Joker matter. It spills onto the floor, but then rises up and floods into Ginji's body! Oops.


So we've learned that the separated Joker "Kegare" matter has its own will and can just find a host if it's not restrained, but now we have a boss battle against "Joker Ginji". This battle has the party facing JG and four "Shoggoth" adds that, once defeated, can be respawned by JG after a few turns. The Shoggoths can self-destruct and cast status ailments, whilst JG has party-wide elementals and can self-heal. So you really want skills that can damage the entire group of Shoggoths at once. Nate's "Holy Light" skill is particularly potent here, dealing 120-130 damage to each Shoggoth. Meanwhile, the water skills of Maia Custom are good for dealing damage to Joker Ginji (as are water-based fusion spells)...but Maya also needs to use Medirama and Recarm for support, and we occasionally end up using healing and revival items so that Maya has less to do. The only other annoying thing is the "possession" ailment (a possessed character will sometimes attack the party); I have nothing to cure this right now so I often just let a possessed character get KO'd and bring them back with Maya's Recarm skill! Anyway, I have enough healing and revival things to drag this out, and things go in our favour towards the end as I get JG on his own and get a few fusion spells in.


Eventually it's over - we all level up and there's a short scene where Nate explains that we can't keep seeking each Kegare-possessed individual and should instead "expose the New World Order publicly." He calls Ellen and asks her to give our intel on NWO to Nate's butler, Matsuoka. Katsuya also makes a call to Sneak to try and get intel about what's been going on; Sneak tells us to meet him at the concert hall in Aoba Park... And with that, we're back on the town map.


Maya status: Lv35
Playtime: 25h14m

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If there's one thing the last update showed me, it's that I need a persona that can cure possession, as it made our party members waste turns, throw away money and generally create more problems. Having played the other games I know that there's a skill named Kotoludi that cures possession, so I go to the Velvet Room and see if there's a decent persona that will learn this skill. I think my best bet for the moment is Seiten Taisei of the Chariot arcana; it learns Kotoludi but will also learn things like Megido and Maragion (the latter being useful for fusion spells!) I'll probably give this to Ulala since she still has Nekomata after my changes in my July 21st update.


Moving on, I need to check out new gear - I quickly find out that all of the best stuff is at Aoba (in Parabellum and Rosa Candida) and I can't afford it (due to possession ailments draining our money); I'd need around 600'000+ for all of it, so that's going to have to wait. Since the only way I'm going to hang on to money is to have Kotoludi, I'm going to summon Seiten Taisei for Ulala and then do my best to start grinding in our next destination, Aoba Park. Luckily, this isn't our first time in the park and a lot of it is already mapped out for us - we merely have to get to the concert hall. This means going through one map of the "South Side" and then entering the "North Side" and getting to the concert hall at the north of that map. The battles here don't cause too much of a problem (and Kotoludi is already helping us a lot), and as we near the end of the North Side map Baofu says "Looks like (Katsuya) is just ahead of us... Man, that guy... You can't handle being a gumshoe, believing people that easily..." Beyond this is a Lv42 miniboss that I'm nowhere near ready for (I still need the better gear, new skills etc), but I also know that there's a Trish's Fountain just ahead, so I'm going to get there for now and save, then I can work on unlocking the rest of Seiten Taisei's skills and hopefully gaining more money for that Aoba gear...


Maya status: Lv38
Playtime: 26h49m (adjusted for levelling, grinding money for the Aoba gear)

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