Atlus’ announcement on Twitter yesterday that the long-dormant Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series Soul Hackers was being revived came as quite a shock to fans. However, the surprises didn’t stop there, as the trailer for the poppy, hacker-centric sequel also revealed that the game has a female protagonist, something the SMT series has shied away from for over a decade.
In Soul Hackers 2, you play as Ringo, a “cyber lifeform” in the not-too-distant future tasked with assembling a group of supernatural-entity-harnessing “Devil Summoners” to prevent a being known as the Great One from causing the apocalypse. To avoid the end of days, Ringo and her crew will have to utilize an all-knowing AI named Aion, who basically peers into the future like precogs in Minority Report to protect key figures from being killed.
Soul Hackers 2 is the sequel to the colon-heavy 1997 Sega Saturn game Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, a side story in the greater SMT series. Ringo’s fashion sense and the quirky way she eats burgers are certainly making an impression, but some SMT fans are also thrilled by the simple fact that Soul Hackers 2 will be the first SMT game with a female protagonist to come along in many years.
“Did Atlus just reveal a game with a femc that is also able to speak???” wrote a redditor from the r/Megaten subreddit.
“Day 1 PC and a female protagonist, Atlus ticking all my boxes that they never tick,” wrote another Reddit user.
“Atlus game with a female protagonist ... BRUH,” wrote one Twitter user.
They’re right to regard this as significant. In the nearly two decades of Persona and SMT games which span over 60 titles, only four games give you the option to play as a female protagonist: Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Persona 3 Portable, Shin Megami Tensei: Nine, and Shin Megami Tensei: If…. Of this small lineup, the most recent release was Persona 3 Portable which came out in 2010 on the PSP, though the 1994 Super Famicom release SMT: If… received a Japan-exclusive Nintendo Switch port last year.
Eiji Ishida and Mitsuru Hirata, Soul Hackers 2's producer and director, discussed the game’s development and how it will differ from its predecessor during a livestream on the official Japanese Atlus YouTube channel. Japanese websites 4Gamer and Famitsu conducted a shared interview with Hirata and Ishida following the livestream, which was translated by Persona Central. While Ishida served as the art director for the first Soul Hackers game, this will mark his second collaboration with Hirata on an SMT game, the first being the pop idol spin-off Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE. The pair told 4Gamer they decided to join forces once again for a Soul Hackers sequel because of the technological advancements in gaming consoles since the Saturn original debuted, as well as their shared desire to revisit the series.
“The reason I actually thought about planning it was because the first game, with its science fiction elements, was quite sharp even among the Shin Megami Tensei related games at that time,” Ishida told Famitsu. “I thought it would be possible to make use of the technology, people, and occult elements of the first game, as well as the relationship between those elements, to create a new game with a modern feel.”
While in the first game, players fought against people abusing technology for evil ends, Ishida told 4Gamer that the sequel will focus on observing its characters from “the perspective of technology” and get at what it means to be human.
Naturally, one might expect a new game in a series whose last entry was 20 years ago to feature improvements to its gameplay. Hirata told 4Gamer that Soul Hackers 2 will have an improved battle system that lowers the barrier of entry for new players while sticking to the core turn-based gameplay fans are familiar with.
“If you’ve played Shin Megami Tensei or Persona, you’ll be able to easily get into the game,” Hirata told 4Gamer.
Alongside breaking SMT’s 12-year streak of not having a female protagonist, Soul Hackers 2 also bears the distinction of being a JRPG that reaches across the console aisle. While the most recent mainline SMT game, Shin Megami Tensei V, was a Nintendo Switch exclusive, Soul Hackers 2 will be the first instance of an SMT game being playable on the Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. (Sorry, Switch owners.)
Soul Hackers 2 comes out on August 26 for the Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.