Saturday, 5 February 2011

That Persona Post I Keep Mentioning

Hello people. This post has been a bit delayed, due to such factors as losing my job and then losing the internet connection in our flat. The latter problem should be fixed sometime next week.

Anyway, in a few of my previous posts, I've mentioned Persona 3 and Persona 4 quite a bit, with the intent to make a blog post about them. Since I'm currently sat in the university library waiting for my friend from Dundee to finish her fencing competition thingy, I thought I might as well get on with Persona 3, as there is a lot to talk about. So here we are. Spoilers ahoy!

The Persona games are a spin-off from the Shin Megami Tensei (True Goddess Reincarnation) series, which were never released outside of Japan. They were first person RPGs, featuring human characters exploring dungeons, combatting and recruiting demons ('demon' here meaning various figures from different mythologies, including angels and gods) to use in future battles. The Persona games later took this concept and built on it.

There is a Persona anime and several games currently on the market. The first game, Revelations: Persona, has been remade for the PSP, while Persona 2: Innocent Sin is finally seeing an American localisation and release, as before only Persona 2: Eternal Punishment was released for the Playstation in North America.

Persona 3 was first released in Europe on February 29th 2008, with an updated rerelease and epilogue (Persona 3 FES, as shown above) released in the October of the same year. Both games are for the Playstation 2, although now another remake, Persona 3 Portable, has been released for the PSP, although it has only recently been announced for European release.

I first came across Persona 3 when I was staying at a friend's place. She had recently got the game, and made me play through the first section of it, and that was it. I have never been so desperate to own a game in my life. Since Anna wouldn't let me borrow it, I went home and I ordered my own copy off Amazon. When it arrived, I spent a solid month just playing the game, and I loved every second of it.

The storyline of Persona 3 is complex and extremely detailed, and I'm not ashamed to admit that this game reduced me to tears on six seperate occasions, with many other moments that came extremely close. On the surface, it may seem like your standard turn-based RPG fare, and I suppose it is in some ways. You take control of a nameless protagonist (that guy with headphones up there), guide him through his school life and also help him to realise his role as the messiah. No. Really. This guy is basically Jesus.

The game starts off with the player character moving into a new dorm building. Sounds fine, but then all of this happens:

 Confused? Yep, that's not going to go away for a while, and I don't mean that in a bad way. The game explains a lot of what's going on pretty early on, but the story is a bunch of mysteries wrapped up in a lot of plot twists, so much so that the characters are just as lost as you are.

Combat is, as mentioned previously, turn-based. There is a final total of seven playable characters, and you can have three party members besides the main character. While the protagonist can use any weapon class except guns, the rest of the party members are limited to one weapon type each. As well as using their weapons in combat, characters also have access to their unique persona. The protagonist is unique here as well, as he can use more than one persona. Combat is limited to certain times, but level-grinding is not necessary, as the goal of most combat areas is to climb a tower (this will make more sense if you plan to play the game, rather than me trying to explain everything here).

This is where the combat happens. It is also the school during the day.

Combat aside, my favourite aspect of the game is the huge and varied cast of characters. Aside from the main group, who I grew to love dearly, there is a massive cast of extras, as one of the game mechanics is the Social Link function. Basically, Social Links are friendships that the protagonist can form with various people around the town, and through this, he can gain access to more personas. If anyone is determined and crazy enough to max out all of the social links to level 10, there's an ultimate persona to be unlocked.

This may sound like a tedious and pointless exercise, but Persona has this uncanny ability to make you care about the cast of extras. None of them even have voice actors, but you still feel like these 'people' are your friends. It probably helps that the protagonist is apparently one of those people who everyone opens up to instantly, as all of the Social Link characters practically trip over themselves to pour their hearts out to this guy. So whether it was the awkward girl with the fear of boys or the flamboyant French transfer student, or the loud drunken monk who hangs out in a nightclub, it didn't matter; you end up emotionally invested in them whether you wanted to be or not.

What I will say though, is that this game is not one for the faint-hearted. Death is a heavy feature of the game, and there's a lot of betrayal and tragedy to go along with it. Also, the summoning mechanic involves the characters shooting themselves in the head. The characters including a ten-year-old kid and a dog. There are no bullets involved, but the first time you see it, it's a little... unsettling.


Anyway, I believe I have rambled enough. Naturally, I have not conveyed the true awesome of this game, but I unfortunately cannot do that without giving a synopsis of the plot, which would take hours. So instead, I will stop here. If I follow this up with a post on Persona 4, I have it on good authority that I sound thoroughly drunk when I talk about that game, so that should be entertaining.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry to hear about your job... maybe I can pop over and watch you play one day, though, it looks intriguing.