Atlus’ hugely popular Persona games have erupted in related spinoffs: sequels, remakes, an anime and now a fighting game. Let’s take a look at the series that has changed the world of RPGs forever.
This game is an amalgamation of turn-based RPG and dating sim, and it works really, really well. It has action and emotion with fascinating characters. What’s more, making friends is a requirement to strengthen the personas used in battle.
The protagonist is far from silent: in nearly every scene, the player is given the option to respond to the situation how he/she sees fit. The player is typically provided with three options per response, and you would think the options were “nice, mean and abrupt,” but often times you don’t get the result you were anticipating. Sometimes being silent or too simplistic upsets the other person more than a smart-ass response. Sometimes being too kind makes the other person suspect you of being a fake.
There are so many chances for interactions that the game has to be played more than one time through. Chances are you’ll hit the bad ending first, so you have to play again to get to the good ending. Good replay value, or evil schemes? You tell me.
Fans expressed dissatisfaction for Persona 3’s sudden ending, so Atlus re-released it as Persona 3: FES.This offered Elizabeth’s requests, the chance of completing the Death Arcana, and a bonus epilogue chapter.
A few years later, Persona 3 got a PSP remake where you could play through the game as a female protagonist. Many of the social interactions (called “Social Links,” which are a vital part of gameplay) were changed to suit a female leader. The love interests, of course, were changed and more goodies were added in.
Atlus released a game that was a mild sequel to Persona 3. It takes place in the same universe, in a town not far away. There are similar themes of monsters, midnight, and persona. However, the Jungeon archetype behind a “persona” is more deeply explored as the mask that we put up in defense against the real world. It embodies all of our deep-seated and suppressed negativity and in order to defeat it, we must accept it as part of ourselves. Apparently, Atlus thinks that we have to beat the crap out of it first.
Despite the psychological aspects, this game is presented with a veneer of bright yellow shining over the grey and gritty feel of the previous game. While presented as a lighter sequel, the cheeriness of the game spirals slowly into darkness and offers several bad endings that test our moral compasses.
Compared to Persona 3, the characters have more likeable aspects and the dark quirks serve to make them more human. This isn’t like the “Tales of…” series where the characters have one twist that makes them likeable – the characters in Persona are littered with complexities that make them an asshole one minute, and your best friend the next, like in real life.
The rich characterization and rather bipolar mood of the game offered people more fascinating opportunities with the familiar warmth of a JRPG until it slowly spirals into darkness. It was one of the last titles to grace the Playstation 2 system, and utilized every inch of the technology.
Persona 4 Anime
The enormous popularity of Persona 4 resulted in an anime spinoff and an animated film, which pleased existing fans and converted new viewers to the series. Sentai Filmworks is set to release the anime, with a dubbed English track that includes the whole original cast, in a few short weeks from the date of this article’s publication.
While I have not seen the anime yet, I look forward to how the characters and quiet protagonist are presented and fleshed-out.
Persona 4 Arena
Satisfied with the popularity of the RPG, Atlus has produced a sequel in the style of a fighting game. It takes a lot of back story to explain why the characters in Persona 4 are trying to kick the crap out of each other. And by a “lot” of back story, I mean that I watched dialog and cut scenes for two hours before I was treated to a 30-second fight.
That was fine, though, because I got a glimpse inside the minds of the characters. I played Yosuke’s back story and got to see the state of his bedroom: chicks in bikinis on posters on the wall, the closet open showing a futon that Teddy sleeps on.
Also, I got to hear his views on the other characters and some of what he said surprised me. He wasn’t the least bit judgmental over the fact that Kanji started carrying knitting needles and a bag of yarn at all times, and he seemed to think Yukiko was totally vapid.
The fighting was thoroughly enjoyable, with over a dozen moves that were throwbacks to the game. Also, the tutorial was helpful, even if I never did figure out how to use “Zio.” I especially enjoyed how the tutorial seemed to tease with a hearty dose of sarcasm when it taught the player how to walk and why walking is important to this game. I’m not sure if the snark was intentional, but it was highly amusing.
The problem is, the game is strictly linear. What made its predecessors so amazing were the choices given to us, the players. Though we didn’t control the plot outcome directly until the end, the interactions were made special by allowing us to be as flawed as the other characters.
Persona 4 Arena is a fabulous experience for gamers who want an in-depth look to characters they already know and love. However, the experience is like sitting down to a movie that lets the viewer handle the fight scenes.
Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 is also getting a remake that offers a bonus ending and alternate options for one of the good endings. It’s being released for the Playstation Vita in America in November 2012. Since its release in Japan, some of the scenes have been leaked to rave reviews.
Do you agree/disagree? Do you have something to say? Comment below and recommend this to a friend.