Soul Hackers 2 is, as the name implies, technically a sequel to the original Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers from 1997 that was published by Atlus on the Sega Saturn before getting ported to the PlayStation and, most recently, the Nintendo 3DS in 2012. While Atlus has published plenty of titles in the larger Shin Megami Tensei universe since this, it's been 25 years since the greater franchise revisited this one specifically. Despite the lengthy gap, and the fact that the original doesn't seem to be necessary to experience to understand the sequel, Soul Hackers 2 doesn't miss a beat based on the first few hours of the upcoming video game.
If you've ever played any of the Shin Megami Tensei video games, Persona games included, Soul Hackers 2 is clearly cut from the same cloth with a few specific tweaks and quirks unique to it. You explore twisting and turning dungeons in the third person, encounter parties of devils to fight in turn-based battles, and can summon and fuse devils of your own with specific equipment providing different bonuses. It also deals with serious topics like death and so on, but that's about where the similarities end.
Betrayed by the ties that bound them in life, can Ringo help her human companions fight back against their twisted fates?— Official ATLUS West (@Atlus_West) August 4, 2022
Decrypt destiny and stop the apocalypse in Soul Hackers 2, coming soon to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. pic.twitter.com/mEsxTkMgrH
Soul Hackers 2 is infused with much more science fiction, for example, as the main character Ringo is an agent and avatar of a giant, sentient collection of data called Aion. She and her fellow agent Figue are created and sent out into the physical realm in order to stop the end of the world that Aion predicts is currently unavoidable without intervention.
In order to do that, however, Ringo and Figue must intervene and stop the deaths of people that Aion predicts ultimately lead to the end of the world. Unfortunately, despite splitting up they are too late, but Ringo goes all out and uses the mysterious "soul hacking" ability to tap into the memories of her subject to resurrect them – which is just the first of several times she does this. Doing this has consequences, however, and essentially intertwines Ringo with those she has soul hacked.
Functionally, this serves to make Ringo the party leader of sorts with the ability to dictate which devils can be summoned by whom and so on and so forth. It's basically a narrative justification for the player being able to call the shots for the full party. This also eventually opens up a maze-like dungeon of memories for each playable character which can be explored and unlocked over time for character-specific benefits.
Despite her best efforts, the end of the world has seemingly not been avoided through this, and Ringo discovers that there's a greater mystery at play with two organizations of devil summoners working towards opposite goals. After gathering the full party of Arrow, a member of the Yatagarasu devil summoner faction, Milady, a member of the opposing Phantom Society faction, and Saizo, a freelance devil summoner, Soul Hackers 2 moves on to the meat of the title: investigating what exactly is going on and why it would bring about the end of the world.
Through the course of investigating and hanging out with these characters, different dialogue choices will sometimes result in specific increases to "Soul Levels" for each. The three playable characters beyond Ringo have distinct personalities and desires that do not always mesh, and each choice seems to raise one of them more than the others, or some of them not at all. These Soul Levels, at least in the early hours, are specifically tied to exploring the aforementioned memory labyrinth and unlocking further levels, but it also seems like there might be something deeper at play.
As with any Shin Megami Tensei video game, it's hard to get a good feel for what exactly is happening in Soul Hackers 2 from its early hours. There are plenty of intriguing twists and turns that have only just begun to open up, but Atlus notoriously creates video games that are designed to be played for dozens and dozens of hours. What is clear already, however, is that Soul Hackers 2 has enough of its predecessors' DNA combined with its own unique themes to hold my attention.
Soul Hackers 2 is set to release for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and PC on August 26th. This preview is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the video game with digital code provided by the publisher.