Persona 2 came out in a time where video games, as a medium, was starting to deliver more than just the gameplay through the game. Developers were putting more importance on plot, on presentation, and yes, on characters, among many other features aimed at delivering a deeper experience, at giving you something to enjoy beyond the mechanics. Perhaps the biggest advancement Persona 2: Innocent Sin made is how it handled its characters. Your cast was remarkably deep for its time. So what do you say we explore who exactly we’re dealing with, here?
THE RUMOR MILL
Your team, this time around, is a group of mostly high schoolers from all sorts of walks of life, brought together by circumstance and kept together by that one guy who just really, really hates you all for reasons you can’t understand. You’ve all got the power of persona, the ability to call on the manufactured personality you use to deal with the world to smite your enemies, but, aside from Revelations:Persona alumnus Yukino, none of you recall actually getting that skill. In fact, all of you bar Yukino have some very noticeable gaps in your memory. There’s reason for this.
As it turns out, most of you knew each other as kids. Quite good friends, in fact. You all played the persona game together and thus were given your godly superpowers, and a few of you even awakened your personae as children. All well and good, right? Except for one of your friends. Rather than a traditional personae, he got the embodiment of humanity’s capacity for self-destruction, who messed with your memories, corrupted your friend, and kicked off this whole game.
Most RPGs will give you a pretty sizeable cast for your main party, plenty of members to build an active party out of, switching in and out as you see fit. Not so, in Innocent Sin. Your party is almost entirely static, with only one member changing, and entirely dictated by the plot. You’ve got absolutely no input into your group, so you better enjoy the team you’ve been given.
Personality-wise, everyone’s very distinct. You’ve got the strong, silent type in your main, the genki girl Lisa, the manly bravado of Eikichi, the peppy optimism of Maya, the stoic Yukino, and the dour, reserved Jun. For the most part, they play along pretty well. Your group is a little dysfunctional, and it’s not unusual for spats or various ill-conceived activities to break out, but overall your team is pretty thick. They don’t start out that way, of course, but that is one of Innocent Sin’s strengths, in that you get to watch your team growing closer together as you all learn more about each other.
CUTTER “WARSHIP” KILLMAN/TATSUYA “TA-CHAN” SUOU
Again, you get the option to name this guy whatever you want. His canon name, and the one the next part of the duology uses, is Tatsuya Suou, but while you’re at it, you really should change his name to something more proper for a warrior of your stature.
Anyways, this is you, your avatar, the main player character, the guise you have to interact with the world of Innocent Sin. As with all Persona games, Arena aside, your lead is a silent protagonist, and its really up to you to impose whatever personality you like upon him. That doesn’t mean the game gives you nothing in the way of characterization, however. The Persona series constantly tries to give you’re silent protagonist a bit more of a voice than most games will, and that’s no different here. Although he doesn’t speak outside of battle, he does have two main means of communicating. The first is largely for the player’s benefit, using his character portraits to express whatever emotion he’s feeling at any given time. The game gets more use out of this than you expect for a silent protagonist, using these to help keep him a part of many conversations in the game, in spite of the fact that he never says anything. The second means of communication serves largely as a replacement for normal dialogue, that being his eyes. You’ll regularly see him communicating what would normally be told in dialogue via his eyes. He often shoots other characters gazes, stares, glares, and etc. bringing across just the message he’s intending to the rest of the cast. The other characters react just as if he was speaking to them, so he manages well enough with this.
He may be mostly quiet, but the young Killman still has something of an established personality. He does speak up in battle, and his quotes suggest he may be the most intense and aggressive member of your team, directly threatening your foes with death when most other members will stick to lighter statements. As shown by his demon contacts, he’s got a Michael Winslow-level skill with impressions, is passionate about manliness, is a reasonably adept negotiator, and plays the guitar. He’s a well known bad dude, and apparently skips school all the time. You ride a motorcycle, and are very skilled with machines, able to fix or drive most everything you come across. The end of the game reveals that’s just the result of everyone assuming you’re good with machines thanks to the whole motorcycle deal, as you end up in a rebooted world without all those skills once people don’t remember them. Everyone loves him for it, though. In fact, everyone seems to love him in general. Apparently he’s really hot, because all of the women and a lot of the men in Sumaru City want him. Which, honestly, hits a little too close to home. I like to play video games for the escapism, thank you very much, and that is just too much like my everyday life for my tastes. Anyways, he tends to be a bit aloof and will often just watch arguments amongst your party go down right in front of him, but he’ll step in and efficiently get everyone to get along when it really matters.
Usually, when a game’s bringing out the silent protagonist, they give you the bare minimum of backstory, just enough to properly place your character, then let you make up the rest. Not so with Innocent Sin. Your main character gets just as much background as the rest of your cast. I’d bet that’s largely because he’s not a silent protagonist next game, so you do need to know enough about him that he’s able to stand on his own without your imagination, excellent though it may be. In any case, you’re pretty much an orphan. Your mother’s never mentioned all game long, and your father, a former policeman, disappeared after being disgraced in some official case long before the game began. You’re being raised by your brother, a police detective, but there’s always been a distance between you to, and you don’t really get along with him. And you’re at least a bit sentimental, given that you always carry around and fiddle with a keepsake lighter, a memento that you traded with Jun when you were kids as a sign of how much you meant to each other. Then you promptly forgot about him. Good for you.
In combat, you’re… well, pretty much whatever you want to be. As the player character, you get to choose what your layout of stats are, and the Sun arcana is flexible enough with its affinities that you can pretty much choose your strengths and weaknesses at will. Your personae will likely build up your speed significantly, but overall, you can build yourself towards whatever role you want. If you stick with mostly Sun personae, expect to be throwing around a lot of fire spells, but they’ve got pretty decent physical boosts as well. You wield a two-handed sword in battle. Your beginning persona is Vulcanus, the Roman god of flame and forging, and your ultimate persona is Apollo, the demigod noted for his skill with the bow and his musical aptitude.
Ah, yes, miss Let’s Positive Thinking herself. Except when she’s at her worst, Maya’s always cheery and bubbly and keeps a smile plastered on her face. She’ll do whatever she can to keep the rest of you feeling that way, too. Must have missed her calling as a motivational speaker. She’s just so happy. All the time. Kind of alien to me, really. That seems to be how she learned to deal with the world, her own, literal persona. It wraps up a fair bit of trauma, some darkness in her past, though. Mostly dealing with her father. Her dear old dad was a war correspondent who never made it back from an assignment when she was a kid. She still blames herself for his death, and carries a memento of him everywhere. She’s also followed him in his career, although she’s taken the decidedly safer path of serving as a journalist for a teen magazine. Her eternal high spirit seems to be how she copes with things, how she deals with everything coming down the pipe. And hey, I wouldn’t take it away from her.
In any case, Maya is perhaps the member of your group the others respect the most. Everyone other than Yukino looks up to her as a big sister of sorts, and she’s responsible for keeping your group going more often than your protagonist does. She even holds a good amount of sway with the group’s leadership, although it all really comes down to you. She can be somewhat of a deep thinker, too, and has more than a few philosophical moments and times where she’s the first one to figure out a given puzzle
Maya may be a few years older than the rest of you, but the game does show a few signs that she’s really lacking in the maturity department. The fact that she’s crushing on a high schooler is only the tip of it. She still carries around the stuffed bunny she tried to give her father, and cries for her dad when she gets scared. She has absolutely no ability to keep herself organized, and I’d guess she’d have a lot of trouble getting along in life if it weren’t for the people around her. Most damningly, perhaps, she has absolutely no sense of her own limits and capabilities, and keeps trying to do things she just isn’t able to. Like drive. Really, don’t let her do that.
For much of the story, you’re stuck with a bit of an ominous sense about her. The characters rarely comment on it, but one of the big movers of the plot is the Oracle of Maia, a piece of prophecy that calls for the death of the “Maia Maiden” in order to properly doom the world. Given Maya’s name, and her starting persona, Maia, you know she ties into it somehow. It doesn’t pay off until the end of the game, when it does so in the worst way possible, but you just know that all this is hanging over her, even if the cast doesn’t acknowledge it. And indeed, she is at the center of all that trouble at the end of the game, the dour ending that requires resetting reality itself.
In battle, Maya’s largely focused towards casting. Her stats naturally leave her high in dexterity, the main factor going towards magic power, and the personae her Moon affinity gives her tends to have a really good variety of spells available. She’s among the best at taking hits from magic, and her personae tend to give her some really useful magical resistances. Her stats and personae don’t make her useful at anything except magic, but spells are your primary means of dealing damage in almost any situation anyways, so her specialization comes into play all the time. She is always going to be one of the biggest contributors to your party’s performance. She often ends up with the healing spells, too, so she’d be pretty indispensable even if the game did give you a choice. You’ll need to take some degree of care with her, as she doesn’t roll with the punches that well, but as part of a team she’s pretty deadly. She dual wields pistols, which don’t do nearly as much damage as you might expect. Her starting persona is Maia, the sometimes unwitting consort of Zeus and mother of several demigods, and the oldest sister of the Pleiades that show up so much in the Persona 2 lore. Her ultimate persona is Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and fertility. Light seems to be her element.
LISA “GINKO” SILVERMAN
Oh, Lisa. Ms. Silverman is a young lady who knows what she wants, and will stop at nothing to get it. And what she wants is you. Whether you reciprocate… well, that’s really up to you, now isn’t it? I’m not going to tell you what to do with your love life. Anyways, Lisa is considered one of the more popular and beautiful women in school, and doesn’t lack for attention. She was bullied pretty badly as a child, though. She’s very hot-blooded, and constantly butts heads with other people. Especially Eikichi, another member of your party that we’ll be getting to in just a moment, although she’s much more similar in personality to him than either would dare admit.
So, let’s talk about her parentage, a bit, as that’s going to come up with most every character here. Lisa’s dad is Steven Seagal.
Sure, they try to claim he’s in some sort of import/export business or something or other, but we all know the truth. Lisa’s parents are both western Japanophiles who dug the culture so moved to the country and took root, making her the only native caucasian PC in the entire persona series.
And she hates it. Everyone puts a lot of expectations on how she’s supposed to act because of it, which may be where a good part of the aforementioned hot-bloodedness comes from. She also deliberately stays away from learning any English, and gets worked up over any suggestion from her peers that she’s supposed to be good at it. It goes against her parents, too, who put her under a lot of pressure to just be a sweet, demure, traditional Japanese girl. She instead either embraces her outgoing nature or pushes herself to be outgoing, deftly ruining that fantasy. Lisa really hates having others tell her what to do, and what she’s supposed to be.
So, with everyone expecting her to be part of a specific culture, Lisa took a third option. She spites both groups by developing a passion for Chinese culture. She peppers her speech with gratuitous Cantonese, learned Kung Fu rather than her father’s Aikido, and absolutely loves Chinese martial arts movies. And you know what? It serves her well when she actually needs to start doing some fighting.
For all her outgoing, seemingly friendly nature, Lisa has some dark sides in her. The reason I think her outgoing nature may be a bit forced; she’s really dismissive of her current friends, and it seems that as soon as she has something else going on, she readily drops them entirely. She’s also openly distrustful and annoyed by her existing friends, in spite of them never showing anything but a genuine connection with her. And it seems that she goes on paid dates under really shady circumstances with older men, and may have played around with drugs. Moreover, some of her more extreme life choices seem to be made to pointedly rebel against her family, rather than because she actually enjoys them.
In a fight, Lisa is fast. Probably your fastest character, and she’ll almost always act first, if you let her. Beyond that, she’s kind of subpar. Her magic is stronger than her physical offense, but not nearly to the degree your main and Maya can reach. She can’t take hits well, and her physical attacks are weak. You’re stuck with her, the game won’t give you a replacement, but she probably contributes less to your fights than anyone else. Her starting persona is Eros, the god of love and desire, and her ultimate persona is Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Her personae are often aligned with the earth element. You might sense a theme there. She uses gloves in a fight, incorporating them into her Kung Fu strikes.
EIKICHI ‘MICHEL’ MISHINA
Look at him. Just look at him. He’s fabulous! Michel is a wannabe visual kei rock star, in spite of the fact that nobody in his band can actually play any instruments. He looks the part, too. He’s proud of looking the part. He’s so focused on his looks, you might expect him to be the traditional wilting violet prettyboy. Well, actually…
When he was a kid, Eikichi was the fat boy in class, and bullied mercilessly for it. You know the stuff he went through, social ostricization, kids pulling his pants down in public, the kind of stuff our next generation has to deal with because there is something seriously wrong with children. Eventually, he decided he had enough of that, so he lost all that weight, started thugging it up, and used his blasted persona to beat down all the normal-powered students and ruled his high school as the Death Boss. Seriously, what the hell? Bringing in your persona against random punks is like winning a chess match with the help of a sledgehammer. At the top of the bancho food chain, Eikichi’s very outgoing and hotblooded, and constantly surrounds himself with friends and allies.
So, Michel was bullied for being overweight. For the way he looked. And he took that to heart. Michel is all about appearances, in every aspect of the word. He is desperately concerned with what others think of him. Fitting, for a game that centers around personae. There’s the amount of effort and dialogue he puts into his looks that honestly leave even me and my massive ego in the dust. That may be understandable, given that he worked hard to get into the shape he’s in now, but I get the feeling that at least some of that is an effort to leave his bullied childhood self behind, to separate the man he is now from the boy so downtrodden by others then. He is also a very compassionate and moral young man, but he goes through great efforts to hide that from the general public, because that gets in the way of the badass image he’s trying to maintain. In truth, Eikichi has remarkably low self-esteem, and carefully crafts everything about his public personality, like his apparent ego, his hardcore nature, and the fear kids from other schools have of him, in order to protect his fragile self from others’ perceptions. The few times you see someone break through his shell, he seems just a few steps from falling apart completely. He’s particularly timid in front of his father, a gruff sushi chef who seems to browbeat him for making any choices in his own lifestyle.
As I said, Eikichi seems really mean, but he’s honestly a very good guy. He’s a man of great passion, and is incredibly loyal to his friends and allies. Even as the chief thug of his high school, he seems to target other bullies and those who make life worse for the innocent kids. He’ll even go to great personal risk to save the students he really doesn’t get along with, because he believes it’s his duty. He loves talking about manly ideals and what it means to be a man, as well as justice, beauty, and all sorts of lofty ideals. And he is surprisingly sharp. When one of his enemies, the ‘chief’ of his school, spread the rumor that the chief is stronger than the boss, he immediately figures out that if he casts aside his Death Boss title, he can beat down his rival with impunity.
So, in Innocent Sin, spells are almost always more powerful than physical attacks. Except for Michel’s. Dude hits like a freight train. His stat growth prioritizes physical attacks to such a high degree that his strength stat is likely to be the first, if any, attribute you max out. I’m not sure how strength helps him, exactly, given that his weapon of choice is a machine gun hidden inside a string bass case, but it does. I guess he can pull the trigger super hard. As overpowered as magic is in this game, it is very notable that Eikichi is able to keep pace with its damage output through his physical attacks, which become more useful the later you get in the game, as it becomes harder and harder to spam magic without running out of juice. He can take hits pretty decently. He’s slow, though, probably the slowest on your team, and his magic power leaves a lot to be desired. His starting persona is Rhadamanthus, one of the judges of the dead, and his ultimate persona is Hades, the ruler of the underworld. His main element is that of water, although thanks to his weak magic, you won’t get that much punch out of it.
Hey, an old face in our new ranks! This is the very same Yukino Mayuzumi that ended up as the most underutilized party member of Revelations: Persona. Being condemned to the secondary questline that offered little in the way of characterization, we didn’t see too much of who exactly Yukino was last time around, but the more character-driven Innocent Sin does its best to make up for it.
Just like last time around, Yukino serves as a mentor to the rest of the characters, watching over them, keeping everyone safe, and trying to guide everyone along the proper paths in life. She’s gotten a little high in the social chain to quite fit the big sister role, but she still tries to lead those she cares about to better lives. This extends even beyond your party, as she tries to make herself a mentor to anyone who seems like she might be able to help. As it turns out, she was so touched by what Ms. Saeko did for her, turning her away from her troubled roots, that she’s really driven to do the same for others.
Like always, Yukino is very tough, stern when she needs to be, and totally, completely reliable, up to near the end of the game. Before she breaks, she will never let those who count on her down. She works alongside Maya as a photographer for a teen magazine, in spite of her total lack of skills when it comes to technology, and is dragged into the plot in much the same way as Maya. The conflict is never as personal for her as it is for your other party members, but she still fights, because you need her help, and she’s one of the few who can stand against this enemy.
For that matter, Yukino never feels like she fits into this game’s plot quite as much as your other party members. Even if you came into this game with absolutely no knowledge of the previous one, you’d probably still be able to tell something is off about her. Joker seems irrationally pissed off at most of your PCs, but he never has anything personal against her. Yukino not only already has her persona awakened, you know exactly where she got it from, cleanly circumventing the mystery the rest of your characters are under. Yukino’s not missing any memories, and when the rest of your cast unlock theirs, it turns out she was never part of your childhood group of friends. She doesn’t have any readily apparent issues with her father. Her ultimate persona doesn’t come from a Roman background. She’s missing nearly all of the commonalities that stick your characters together.
Rather, Yukino’s arc is all about struggling, usually with no happy ending. Being a professional photographer is her dream, something she’s really passionate about, but she has great difficulty picking up the technical skills required by that craft. She sees herself in one of your adversaries and devotes herself to trying to save her, but if she manages to do so, it’s not until after she’s lost just about everything herself. She has herself a very obvious love interest, but she can’t bring herself to do anything about it, and as strong as she is, no matter how powerful she may be, she can do nothing to save him from the foes you’re facing. Her tale ends either with her succumbing to despair over his death and the big bad guy taking her ego back into the collective unconscious, leaving her an empty shell, or with her unable to shoulder the costs of holding the front line against her foes, and dropping from your party entirely. Either way, she passes her power onto your next party member, awakening his personae at the cost of her own, unable to take the fight anymore.
So it’s a good thing the end of the game hits a reset button and the whole thing, and she never has to actually deal with all that, right?
In a fight, Yukino can take a punch like no one else. She prioritizes defense over offense, and is often your last man standing should you ever find yourselves over your head. She has roughly average offensive capabilities, although her magic’s more useful that her physical attacks. She won’t deal much significant damage compared to Maya and Eikichi, but her stability makes her really reliable in those tough battles. Just like the first game, her starting persona is Vesta, the goddess of health and sexuality, and her ultimate persona is Durga, the Hindu redeemer Devi. She wields two knives, and doesn’t really have a main element. Yeah, a lot of her combat traits have been grandfathered in.
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Jun is the Joker, the genie that’s pissed off at you because he remembers bad things that never actually happened. When the rest of you played the persona game as kids and got your psychology-based superpowers, Nyarlathotep, the embodiment of the destructive traits of humanity, slipped through the collective unconscious and took the place of Jun’s persona. He then proceeded to mess everything up, screwing with your memories, kickstarting the magical power of rumors, and set the wheels in motion for this entire game to take place.
It takes most of the game, but you’re eventually able to break Nyarlathotep’s hold on Jun. It helps that Maya, who Jun remembers getting killed by the rest of you, is very clearly alive, which Jun would have known if he bothered to look into things even the slightest bit. Anyways, once Nyarly doesn’t need him and the Joker’s not strong enough to overcome you anymore, you’re able to bring him back to the side of the angels. He still doesn’t have his memories back, which certainly makes things more than a bit awkward, but at least he realizes he can’t trust his memories. After Yukino sacrifices her persona ability to awaken his, he takes her place on your squad.
Jun’s kind of morose, shy, and quiet. However, he does seem to care about people as a whole, even if he’s willing to make a whole lot of sacrifices for what he considers their own good. He seems to have trouble valuing the individual, but is still concerned with the well-being of the group. When he was a kid, he was really embarrassed of his father, for no adequately explained reason, given the other kids thought his dad was really cool. His mother is incredibly selfish and had a very troubled relationship with his dad, who ended up dying in a bizarre accident. Nyarlathotep began posing as his father afterwards, taking on all the traits Jun thought an ideal father should have. No wonder the kid’s so messed up. His first use on receiving his ‘persona’ was to use it to beat down his bullies, which is problematic for all the same reasons as Eikichi’s case. While he was a very active force in his Joker guise, after Nyarlathotep stops guiding him, he ends up really passive, mostly following the lead of the rest of your group. I’d have to guess that he’s gotten so used to following someone else’s plan, dancing to a master’s strings, he just doesn’t know what to do without it. He does seem to have a taste for culture, though. He is very well-versed in the language of flowers, bringing it up constantly in both his guises. He’s also quite into astrology, which is quite useful given how often that comes up in the game.
Also, Jun’s gay. This is never a big deal. And that’s how you write sexuality, at least in works where their sexuality isn’t at the core of the plot. Too many stories try to make their gay characters GAY!!!!, having their sexuality at the forefront to the exclusion of all else, and it really does their stories a disservice. Trying to make an issue of a character’s choice of sexual partners when it’s not relative to the plot just leads to bad writing. Jun’s sexuality is readily apparent, but there’s so much more important about the character. The game comes off treating it with a lot more subtlety and grace than you see with a lot of gay characters because it never makes a bigger deal about it than it needs to be, and Jun feels like a more fully-fleshed out and realized character because of it.
Whether as the Joker or as Jun, he spends almost all the game at the center of the plot. He’s your leading antagonist through most of the early acts, and heads up the Masked Circle that you’ve been running wild trying to stop. After he’s jumped to your side, the plot focuses largely on two things. The impeding destruction of the world, and working out Jun’s personal issues. With how late he joins there’s not much time for him to be developed, and he does have more backstory than any other character in the game, so to some degree this is understandable, but still, it’s a little odd how completely he steals the spotlight.
Jun’s stat growth heavily prioritizes luck. Luck sucks. Luckily, his other stats do pick up the slack. He ends up being really similar to Lisa, having some considerable magic power to keep him relevant in a fight, although he doesn’t have quite the speed she does. He’s never going to be your most powerful character, but he is good enough to ensure that you’re not actually weaker after losing Yukino. His starting persona is Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and is sufficiently stronger than the rest of your starting persona to reflect how late in the game you get him. His ultimate persona is Chronos, the primordial personification of time itself. He fights by throwing flowers. Laugh if you will, but they hit harder than Maya’s pistols. His prime element is wind.