Review – Soul Hackers 2

It's like a Five Guys burger: pretty good, but I've had better.

Overview

Developer Atlus
Publisher Atlus, Sega
Genre Turn-based JRPG
Platforms PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S
Release Date August 24, 2022

Soul Hackers 2 is a solid, enjoyable game worthy of the Atlus name, and while it suffers from too much mediocrity to be a fantastic game, it does offer a fun, focused, and accessible entry point to the storied Atlus catalogue. While there might be minor critical quibbles for Soul Hackers 2, there may be major content concerns for the conscious gamer.

In a near-future Japan, the conglomeration of data on the Internet has massed into a consciousness known as Aion. Unknown to humanity, Aion monitors all activity in the world and has the ability to extrapolate future events based on its extremely advanced AI. Normally content to remain in the shadows of the dark web, watching and observing humanity, Aion discovers a potential world-ending event in the near future and realizes that it needs to act. It makes two synthetic bodies and imbues the bodies with itself, creating Ringo and Figue. You play as Ringo, an agent of Aion, and you’re here to save the world.

Content Guide

For Atlus veterans, nothing in this next section will be a surprise. This game has typical mature Atlus content. For those new to Atlus games, buckle up.

Sexual Content: There are lots of sexualized bodies—male and female—throughout the game. Some of them are barely clothed, and some are not clothed at all, with genitals/breasts being just barely covered by hair or strips of clothing. The main character wears booty shorts, and while controlling her (which is 90% of the game), the player gets a very full view of her bare legs and very tight backside. There is one flashback in which a character is understood to be very naked on a bed, but the nature of the flashbacks makes them very pixelated and blurred, so nothing is shown outside the general form of her body. Visuals aside, there is no mention of sexual activity in the story or in character dialogue.

Spiritual Content: This will be a long one, so I’ll give a TLDR first if you just want the highlights: there is lots of spiritual content in the game that would be objectionable to Christians, including demons, casual resurrections, and general butchery of Biblical concepts/events. Oh, and for those new to Atlus games, the running joke among Atlus fans is that you’re always killing “god” as the final boss.

Spirituality in Atlus games is pretty much always based on either warped views of orthodox Christianity or loose interpretations of the same, and Soul Hackers 2 is no different. There were many points in dialogue and exposition that made me scratch my head at the game’s terrible theology. For instance, the lore of the Soul Hackers 2 world is a very bad retelling of the Genesis story with a distinctly anime flair.

In the first few hours of the game, Ringo uses an Aion ability called “soul hacking” (hence the game’s title) to resurrect someone who has just died. This is done almost flippantly and without much consequence. I don’t think I need to explain how this would be objectionable content to people of many faiths.

 And finally, demons. The characters in the game make contracts with demons and then use the demons in combat. They are collectively called, as a profession, Devil Summoners. However, I always feel the need to point out the differences in understanding what a “demon” is between Eastern and Western cultures. This is a long topic for a whole other article, but to summarize, in Eastern cultures (i.e Japan), a “demon” is what we would consider a “spirit”, with no connotative predispositions toward good or evil. So, make of that what you will, and use your discretion.

In summary, don’t take your theology from Soul Hackers 2. Or from any game, for that matter. Go read the Bible and seek Truth.

Language: There is vulgar/irreverent language used throughout the game, and while it’s not heavy, every single curse word/phrase is used at some point.

Drug/Alcohol Usage: The main hangout spot in the game is a bar, so needless to say, there is lots of alcohol consumed by the cast of characters. You see alcohol lying around other places you visit, as well. There is no drug use or even mention of drugs.

Violence: There is quite a lot of blood in a few cutscenes, and you see a few bloodied bodies throughout the game. Multiple characters are run through with swords or other pointy objects. A character’s body is eaten off-screen. Combat in the game involves characters hitting enemies with swords and shooting them with guns, and involves demons loosing elemental blasts at enemies, but there is no blood or visual gore when an enemy takes damage or dies.

Other Thoughts: On a personal note, the content in the game frustrates me, because the game could easily be rated T. The story and the gameplay don’t have much objectionable material at all; everything that makes this game rated “M” is not core to the game itself. The objectionable content was a conscious choice addition by the game’s designers, and I personally cannot condone this. I would not blame anyone for avoiding this game for the content alone.

Comfort Food, not a Five-Course Steak Dinner

While sketching this review and listing my dislikes, I wrote, tongue-in-cheek, “It’s not Persona 5 Royal.” As much as I enjoyed Soul Hackers 2, it didn’t compare to Atlus’ pièce de resistance in many areas. It’s a good, fun game, but it’s not going to make anyone’s Game of the Year. The story was decent, with two or three twists, most of which I saw coming. The combat was basically identical to any other Atlus game, and, while it provides solid turn-based combat, it didn’t really do anything different or unique. The music was always fitting to what was happening on-screen, but it was never attention-grabbing, unlike P5R’s OST, which has some absolutely banger tracks. To me, the most outstanding parts of Soul Hackers 2 were its character design and its pacing. Everything else was good, but not amazing.

A More Focused, Bite-Sized Game

One of the most surprising things about Soul Hackers 2 is its length and pacing. Whereas most Atlus games are 60-70 hour games, with Persona 5 Royal being a monster 100 hours, the HTLB average for Soul Hackers 2 is currently sitting at 30 hours for story completion. Everything about Soul Hackers 2 feels like a conscious effort to make it a shorter, more streamlined experience that you can optionally dump as much time into as you want. The “tutorial” portion of the game lasts a mere two or three hours (yes, that’s short for an Atlus game). There is only one social hangout spot. There are only three vendors, one of which requires crafting materials, so I didn’t go there much. There is one place to upgrade your team’s abilities. There is one place to go to pick up side quests. The laser focus of this game was quite refreshing to me, after coming off a string of larger, heavier RPGs over the last couple of months.

Haters of side content rejoice, because Soul Hackers 2 lets you completely ignore side content! At no point is story progress gated by a side quest or an optional dungeon; if you want to rush the story, the game says “have at it.” In fact, after realizing this, I wondered if people were speedrunning the game; after a quick google search, I found a couple of videos of people any% finishing the game in 1:30:00. It’s that streamlined.

I quite enjoyed the faster pacing of Soul Hackers 2, but the game does suffer somewhat from the shorter game length, mainly in the writing department. There were a couple of themes the game tried to explore that I wish they had given more time to germinate and bloom, and a couple of the characters needed more time to develop. I was left wanting more from the writing.

Another benefit of the pacing in Soul Hackers 2 is that the game never felt like it dragged, and it never felt like a chore to play. The developers even kept the optional dungeons from going stale. I didn’t find a need to hard grind up until very late-game, but I also did all the side content, so your mileage may vary in that regard.

Conclusion: A Taste Test for Newcomers

Everything about Soul Hackers 2 makes it a perfect choice for someone’s first Atlus game, and I highly recommend it as such. The game gives you a taste of what Atlus games are like, but without the commitment to a 60+ hour slog. However, veteran JRPG fans or Atlus fans might find Soul Hackers 2 lacking in areas. Did Soul Hackers 2 make my Top-10 All-Time Favorite Games List? No. Did I enjoy Soul Hackers 2? Yes, I had a lot of fun with it. At the end of the day, however, I was left wishing it had been more. As long as you’re aware of the content concerns with the game, I recommend it for a good time.

Gallery

The Bottom Line

 

A great beginning point for Atlus newcomers, but veterans might be disappointed.

 

7.5

Jamie Rice

1 Comment

  1. Mike on October 13, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    I have a slight question when it comes to “other thoughts” section, if the objectionable contents bothers you to that point, why play the game at all? Going by the review, you knew what you were getting into with an Atlus Smt game, so why complain at all?

    Also please forgive me if this comes off as stand offish or rude

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