Skip to main content

Soul Hackers 2 doesn’t have much ‘soul’ so far

Soul Hackers 2 cuts straight to the stakes, and then drops them. Despite the end of the world and two “deaths” in the first hour and a half of the game, I didn’t even feel a drop of adrenaline in my blood.

Aion, the supercomputer version of God, predicts an upcoming apocalypse related to Demon Summoner turf wars. It creates two humanoid agents, Ringo and Figue, to prevent the deaths of two people who trigger the end of the world: genius scientist Ichiro Onda and Demon Summoner Arrow. You play as Ringo, the more outgoing and snarky of the two agents. Unfortunately, she and Figue arrive too late to save their targets. Ringo finds Arrow already dead, bleeding out on the pavement. Figue reports an equally grim situation on her end with Onda. Ringo “soul hacks” Arrow to bring him back to life, thus the name of this game.

However, dire circumstances and innovative gameplay can only do so much without a hook.

The Shin Megami Tensei formula

Ringo soul hacking Arrow
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Soul Hackers 2 recycles the combat system used in Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games, so that part is still seamless as ever. In fact, it riffs on some of these features, which freshens the game for me as someone who’s already used to SMT and its spinoffs. It’s also more accessible to beginners as the devs said they intended in an interview with Digital Trends.  

Turn-based combat and elemental affinities still play a major role in the title — like the original game. Negotiating with and fusing demons works similarly to past titles with some tweaks. For example, all demons level up with you regardless of if you have them equipped or not. The demons can also scout dungeons for you, appearing at checkpoints with demon recruits, items, and healing. They even give you gifts after learning their full moveset. There’s always some progression to keep the player invested and leveling up lower-level demons is as easy as ever.

Dungeon crawling works similarly to how it does in other SMT spinoffs, too: Smack the monster with your weapon and then either attack or run away from them. They spawn out of nowhere instead of appearing as stable figures in hallways, though, which keeps you on your toes. I got stuck in one of the first dungeons because it seemed like I was locked out when I actually had enough Soul Level with a character, though it’s too early to tell if it’s just a fluke on my part or if unclear instructions will be a recurring theme in Soul Hackers 2.

The character development (or lack of)

Ringo stands with Soul Hackers 2 party.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Each party member has a “Soul Level” with Ringo, representing their relationship with her. There are a few ways to raise the levels, like replying to prompts with responses that cater more toward particular characters’ personalities. You can also raise them with “Hangout Events,” where Ringo drinks with her comrades at the local bar. I’ve only had one Hangout Event each with the characters, but none of them have been memorable. All the first hangouts are surface-level interactions where Ringo tries to get a read on each of her new allies.

Overall, I’m not impressed with the story so far. Soul Hackers 2 has an interesting premise but doesn’t pace it well enough for me to feel the stakes. The shock value of finding a dead body wears off when it happens too often in the first few hours of the game.

The Soul Hackers team consists of Ringo, Arrow, Milady, and Saizo. We meet all of them within the first few hours in a similar fashion. I appreciate how all of them have their own unique motivations to join, which makes them distinct characters in my head. Still, I felt like their introductions could’ve been improved had we dived into their inner dungeons and witnessed their memories in more detail.

Soul Hackers 2 somewhat fulfills that with “Soul Matrices,” which are dungeons manifested from each party member’s mind. It’s also where the majority of the dungeon crawling takes place so far. However, the characters’ actual introductory moments just involve Ringo passing through their memories as quickly as she entered.

Ringo dialogue
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The first villains are gimmicky. I cringed through the first boss battle and fast-forwarded through the dialogue, and the cutscenes I watched afterward gave me bad Disney villain vibes. I’m getting the impression that this title is supposed to be goofier than SMT and Persona, but still, it would be nice to see a little more depth in a world that critiques our declining society.

Soul Hackers 2 emphasizes character relationships with Soul Levels and Soul Matrices. Ringo and her party members are also all connected through their souls. So why am I not feeling any “soul” so far? I’m happy to see the Soul Hackers IP revived in a stylistic, modern JRPG with slick gameplay. I just hope the story impresses me soon.

Editors' Recommendations

Jess Reyes
Jessica Reyes is a freelance writer who specializes in anime-centric and trending topics. Her work can be found in Looper…
Soul Hackers 2 could have been the perfect Game Pass RPG
Soul Hackers 2 cast

Atlus created quite a bit of fanfare earlier this year when it announced that the Persona series would arrive on Xbox in October. But that isn’t the only JRPG the publisher had in store for Xbox owners this year. Soul Hackers 2 was a big get for Microsoft, bringing the Shin Megami Tensei style of gameplay to its systems with a fresh release. It launched at the end of August without nearly as much excitement as Persona — Persona 5’s Xbox release date announcement seemed to overshadow Soul Hackers 2’s entire existence.

According to Famitsu, Soul Hackers 2 sold an estimated 51,861 physical copies in Japan during its launch week across both PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. While this doesn’t include digital download numbers, this is still well below Shin Megami Tensei V’s launch week numbers of 143,247 physical copies sold in Japan.

Read more
Soul Hackers 2 devs took design inspiration from Nier: Automata and John Wick
Ringo posing in Soul Hackers 2.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers is one of the many Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs that takes the series in a different direction. While the Persona games put the SMT formula into a contemporary school setting, Soul Hackers 2 takes place in a more technological era. The original Soul Hackers put technology, the occult, cyberpunk, and The Goonies into a mixing pot full of demon essence and birthed a loving cult following.

Soul Hackers 2 — Twisted Fates Trailer | PS5 & PS4 Games

Read more
Soul Hackers 2: Release date, trailers, gameplay, and more
Ringo reaches out to a digital ghost in Soul Hackers 2.

Atlus has arguably taken the crown as the fan-favorite JRPG developer in the modern era. Though slow to gain popularity at first, Persona 5 cemented that series as essential playing for fans of the genre thanks to the intuitive and rewarding combat system, a great mix of dungeon crawling and social elements, and a healthy dose of style you can't get anywhere else. However, Persona is just one branch of JRPG that Atlus has been making for years, including the series that one was spun off of, Shin Megami Tensei, and also Soul Hackers.

One of the other SMT spinoffs, Soul Hackers only had one entry back in 1997, leaving a 25-year gap before a sequel was announced in 2022.  There's plenty to be excited about if you've enjoyed this studio's recent releases, so here's a full breakdown of everything we know about Soul Hackers 2.

Read more