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It Came From Japan #2 – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

Submitted by on Saturday, 25 July 2009One Comment

PersonaA spin-off from the equally popular Shin Megami Tensei (True Goddess Reincarnation), the Persona flavour is especially popular among Japanese youth.

Where Persona fits in this wider RPG mosaic is not necessarily complicated, but it does at least require some explanation.

Persona is in fact a spin-off of a spin-off, and though we could have chosen to focus on just the primary off-shoot (Shin Megami Tensei – we do hope you’re keeping up), we decided to highlight Persona purely because it has a better chance of seeing a Western release on the PS3.

Legend told of a warrior from the east …

Produced by Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei (and by association Persona) is just one of many facets of the larger Megami Tensei or MegaTen family. Considering the first game came out way back in 1987 (the groundbreaking Digital Devil Story, named after the first of Aya Nishitani’s novels and from which the entire series takes its inspiration), it can be a tad tricky to keep tabs on each game and their many spin-offs. It’s therefore best to think of the multitude of incestuous titles as a loose collection of RPG games that share similar themes. Subjects such as the occult, religion, teenage heroism and, of course, demons all feature prominently in each of the many MegaTen games. So, in other words, this is not Final Fantasy.

Bue hair is big in Japan - get used to it.

Bue hair is big in Japan - get used to it.

In fact, the most obvious difference between the Megami Tensei series and – undoubtedly the more popular of the two – the Final Fantasy anthology, is the latter’s embracing of the fantastical while Megami Tensei games tend to prefer the more edgier of topics. That’s not to say there aren’t weird and wonderful elements in Persona of course. They just tend to take themselves a little more seriously.

Your technique is magnificent …

Persona games predominantly take place in modern day Japan or in the not so distant future. The heroes are often a motley crew of teenagers all possessing fantastical powers and access to “Personas” – magical creatures who band together with the misfits to defend their city or school against the incessant onslaught of demon-kind. Battles originally took place on a grid system with the ability to not only fight adversaries but also attempt to “contact” them, converse and possibly entice the summoning of a new Persona. Gripping stuff. Things have changed over the numerous iterations of the series with non-melee aspects of the games comprising of such variations as first person dungeon crawling and overhead 3D maps.

The Persona series resonates with Japanese youth because of its more mature motifs and situations. The game characters are also usually more relatable to young people growing up in Japan than in some other games as the players share similar issues with the fictional casts. From relationship trouble, overbearing parents and, obviously, what to do when your school has just been attacked by Shadows during the “Dark Hour”, Persona is extremely popular in its homeland for being relevant and “hip” to the gaming public. This success has also spilled over to other regions with translated versions of the game continuing to sell well outside of Japan even up to this year.

Just like in real life in Japan, dating can be tricky.

Just like in real life in Japan, dating can be tricky.

You must choose the ball, or the sword – I can not make this choice for you …

The big question is not “When is a Persona game coming for the PS3?” but more: “Why hasn’t there been one already?” The original Persona was remade for the PSP and released as Persona Ibunroku in Japan and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona in the West. Persona 2 (which was actually released as two chapters – told you it was a bit complicated), Persona 3 and Persona 4 were all released for the PS2 outside of Japan with each title equating to somewhat of a cult hit.

In fact, the last episode in the Persona anthology was only released in North America and Europe in March of this year and was one of the few PS2 games that we here at PS3 Attitude were exceptionally eager to get our hands on.

!! - Metal Gear is not the only Japanese game that likes exclamation points

!! - Metal Gear is not the only Japanese game that likes its exclamation points

Rumours of Persona 5’s imminent announcement have been doing the rounds on the internet for months now with one site (we won’t link to it here as the site in question seems to have a fixation with hentai) suggesting that the game was accidently revealed in Japan in connection to a new pachinko machine. (Think vertical pin-ball used for amusement and gambling. Very big in Japan).

Either way, we’re confident that Person 5 will see a release in the West – we’re just not sure if it will be another PS2-only game like the last episode (P4) or if Atlus have decided to take the plunge and elevate the Persona franchise to the next level by releasing it on the PS3.

It Came From Japan is a weekly column discussing past games from Japan that have enjoyed a release in the west on the PS1, PS2, PSN or PSP but have yet to see a PS3 outing. We discuss the title from three separate perspectives: its pedigree and how it performed upon its original release, the game in general with a view towards game-play and plot and, finally, the probability of the game finally making a PS3 appearance outside of Japan. The column covers all genres with games of varying quality and popularity given equal standing.