Over the years, I’ve closely followed the evolution of most console role playing games. From 1989’s Dragon Warrior on the NES, and the release of Final Fantasy the following year, I’ve seen several humble releases develop into gargantuan, sequeled franchises. One RPG sequence I didn’t follow from commencement was the Shin Megami Tensei series and its subsequent spinoffs, which caught my attention with the release of its two critically-acclaimed entries, Persona 3 and 4. The popularity of the series has created a large demand for the game’s original North American entry- Revelations: Persona. I’ve watched the 1996 Playstation title skyrocket in price, as newcomers to the series were anxious to explore the game’s roots.
While most players would be happy with a port of the celebrated game to PSP screens, developer Atlus has taken several arduous, additional steps to reinvigorate the celebrated title. CG cutscenes have been added, and the game’s soundtrack has been skillfully reimagined under the supervision of series composer, Shoji Meguro. More importantly, the title’s localization has been revamped in an effort to make sure Shin Megami Tensei: Persona is faithful to its Japanese roots.
Gamers fatigued from role-playing games’ reliance upon the medieval, Dungeon and Dragons archetype will likely adore Persona’s contemporary setting, where players explore metropolitan schools and offices, instead of the customary caves and cellars. At the game begins, a persistent rumor circulates around the St. Hermelin School stating that those who engage in the ‘Persona’ game have the ability to foresee the future. As expected, a group of impetuous teens tests the legend, and inherits the ability to summon personae- spirits, monsters, and mythological gods. Simultaneously, a Pandora’s Box of demons begins proliferating around the neighboring metropolis, requiring the group to cleanse the city of its malevolency.
The game employs a variety of perspectives to showcase the proceedings, and to prevent the onset of any visual fatigue. The game’s overworld map shows highrises, parks, and other destinations of interest from an elevated outlook. Once the player enters a structure, the game displays in the interiors in a first-person perspective, as the group explores the building’s labyrinthine hallways. Finally, individual rooms and battles are shown in an isometric perspective.
Persona’s most interesting contribution is its ability to communicate with a group of foes, before charging into a fracas. Each team member of the player’s party has several unique ways of expressing themselves, all succinctly illustrated in the title’s Contact menu. If gamers are successful in charming a foe, the antagonist may stand entranced, attack his brethren, or even relinquish a card, which can be used to synthesize new Personae. Soothing the title’s savage beasts isn’t easy, and the imprudent player may infuriate a monster, adding to the opponent’s offensive stats.
When that happens, the game opts for some old-fashioned, grid-based combat, where your team confronts the maladjusted monsters. Players may use melee weapons, firearms, or their newly acquired Personas to battle the beasts. Players must carefully plan their attacks, as some foes may be beyond the span of a team member’s melee attack range. Combat is plentiful along the demon-plagued corridors of the game, but the title rewards the player accordingly.
Although some of Persona’s visuals have been devotedly renovated- from the efficient menus to the game’s support for the PSP’s widescreen display, the title still shows its Clinton-era roots. Gamers accustomed to ostentatious battle animations may be slightly disappointed by the lack of fluidity and detail of Persona’s sprites. For many players, the game’s vibrant J-Pop soundtrack should compensate for any graphical grievances. No such fix has been made for the game’s quirky isometric controls; aligning your avatar with a NPC can be slightly troubling.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona will be available on September 22nd, at both retailers and via the Playstation Store. We recommend that RPG aficionados grab the game through brick-and-mortar outlets, so they can revive the game’s well-crafted soundtrack as a free bonus. Either way, series fans will appreciate the amount of care that went into the restoration and enhancement of this landmark RPG. Hopefully, the title will be successful enough to warrant a equally accomplished revival of the two Persona 2 titles.