"Once, I dreamt I was a butterfly. I forgot myself and knew only my happiness as a butterfly. Soon, I awoke, and I was myself again. Did I dream that I was a butterfly? Or do I now dream that I am a man? Yet there is a distinction between myself and the butterfly. This is a transformation of the physical."
Persona is the first title in the Persona JRPG franchise, a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei video game series by Atlus. It's known as Megami Ibunroku: Persona: Be Your True Mind in Japan, Revelations: Persona in its first North American release, and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona in its later North American PSP re-release. Why all the titles? Because the first release had... issues... with its localization.You are an Ordinary High-School Student, and the story begins with you and your friends in an empty classroom, taking up a dare to play the ritual-like children's game called "Persona". Suddenly, bolts of lightning strike you and your friends unconscious, and you experience a strange dream involving a golden butterfly.Even though you don't appear to have any serious injuries, you are sent to the hospital for a check-up and decide to visit Maki Sonomura* US: "Mary", a classmate who has been in the ICU for a year "for minor delusions". But Maki is suddenly rushed into the emergency room, and the hospital undergoes a transformation into a demon-infested labyrinth. Fortunately, you and the other players of the "Persona" ritual have been granted a mysterious power that you can use to defend yourselves against the demonic hordes: the inner-power known as "Persona".At the time, the Shin Megami Tensei series was known for its incredibly deep, yet Nintendo Hard gameplay. Persona was an attempt by Atlus to create a Shin Megami Tensei game that would appeal to the masses: a character-driven RPG that turned down the difficulty a few notches in order to be more accessible. And by and large it worked, creating a very successful series whose recent incarnations (starting with Persona 3) have eclipsed the main series in popularity. Many of the main characters from Persona would later go on to make cameo appearances in the Persona 2 duology. (Three even being playable characters in Persona 2.)The battle system is grid-based, which means that a character's position on the battle grid determines what they can attack. This makes melee fighting far more difficult than it has any right to be, and you often lose turns because your character isn't in range to attack anyone. While wandering in dungeons, you'll have a first-person viewpoint (a MegaTen mainstay at the time), but in certain rooms it switches to a third-person isometric view that lets you talk to your fellow party members. The conversation system that would be used in Persona 2 (and dropped in Persona 3) was first used here, and the bad localization makes it even more bizarre than it would normally be: in what other game could you convince demons to help you by dancing the hula? Likewise, in what other game can you be killed by an evil, hula-dancing toilet?The really awful localization tends to be the most well-remembered element of this game outside of Japan. One of the earliest titles released by Atlus USA, it has gone down in gaming history as a textbook case of how not to localize a title. You see, Atlus had got it into its head that they were going to localize the Megaten series as the "Revelations" series note although this actually makes some sense — every Megaten game features Revelations, but only the very first featured a true goddess reincarnating, and it didn't even have the word shin in the title, and turn all the spells and demons into generic RPG-sounding names and make the characters Americans. The problem was, most of the translation didn't make sense. Yet despite all of this, it still has a die-hard cult following to this day, and copies of the PS1 English version are still incredibly rare and sell for more than twice the original retail price.The sudden popularity of the franchise after the successful revival with Persona 3 led to a PSP Updated Re-release with brand new cel-shaded cutscenes (replaced the now-dated 90s era CG), a new interface, and numerous improvements to the game's balance, including a better mini-map and many more save points. This release came to America with much fanfare, especially from Atlus themselves, who were quick to point out the newer, more faithful script, restoration of original character designs, and inclusion of all content left out of the PS1 release.
Adaptation Expansion: The Manga adds some additional plot to the story, mainly regarding Naoya's backstory.
Adaptation Distillation: It also compresses some plot elements, such as removing the Shrine section and helping the nurse before Elly arrives (instead, she met Ms. Sonomura on the road and awakens her Persona offscreen), and Mark and Nanjou were the ones captured and taken to the SEBEC rather than Police Station, leaving Brown to inform the rest, and they included the early parts of Snow Queen Quest (Toro and the penis demon) before they try going to SEBEC, awakening Ayase's Persona. And lastly? It seems that everyone minus Yukino ARE tagging along rather than 'just pick one aside of Naoya, Maki, Mark, and Nanjo'.
Not just Yukino, the manga also leaves Ayase behind. The party is composed by Naoya, Maki, Nanjo, Mark, Elly, Brown and Reiji. Igor and the Velvet Room only appear at the start of the third volume. The Snow Queen Quest is also briefly glossed over: after returning from Maki's dreamworld, the party finds themselves at school during the Snow Queen Quest instead of Deva Yuga. While Kumi's (the guardian of Hypnos Tower) backstory is completly explored, Nemesis Tower and its guardian are never shown and Yuriko (guardian of Thanatos Tower) only appears for one panel. Also some other minor things, such as Maki's awakening of her Persona, are never shown.
Alternate Universe: Early in the game, the Deva System ends up sending the party into a parallel world which is similar to how the real world was when Maki was first hospitalized, and indeed is practically a utopia for her. And as it turns out, the Maki traveling with you is from said parallel world. Disturbingly subverted much later, when it's revealed that the parallel world is actually the Deva System's projection of the real Maki's ideal vision of her world. The System is capable of replacing the real world with Maki's ideal world, which would enable the real Maki to live in it as her ideal self; however, Maki's inner conflict over whether to enforce the change or reject it manifested itself as the Strange Girls of the game, Aki and Mai.
Always Identical Twins: Two pairs in the manga, Naoya and Kazuya as well as Elly and her unnamed younger twin that's only mentioned in a single panel.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Your party is limited to five members. Once you have five, you can't recruit anyone else. While this makes sense gameplay-wise, and is explained plot-wise by having one of your party members pissing off a potential recruit so they leave, it's egregious because later events imply everyone worked to save the city together.
Although, considering how both the SEBEC and Snow Queen chapters are canon, and how different characters become mandatory and optional in each, it's possible to have been with one person each if you choose Elly and Brown in the Snow Queen chapter and Reiji in the SEBEC one.
Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: The series frequently displays this trope, having gun-wielding characters fighting alongside those with swords, spears, boxing gloves, fans, and folding chairs.
Awesome but Impractical: Stat buffs/debuffs from spells will stack, with no theoretical limit. This means you can spam spells like Makakajanote MAGUp until the damage hits the 4000 mark... except that it takes many turns to reach that kind of damage, in which time most enemies can be killed repeatedly. In fact, it's only useful for the last boss, which spams debuffs, forcing you to counter with buffs.
Another example is Reiji if you recruit him. He has the potential to have the highest physical damage output (even stronger than Mark) and has the option of using several unique Personas, such as Lucifer at level 99 and Beelzebub at level 77. What makes him awesome but impractical is that he can't equip Personas belonging to Arcanum of the other 8 members, which are generally the majority of the Personas of the game. In addition is the fact that both Lucifer and Beelzebub are two very high-level Personas well beyond the levels needed to complete the game (the gamer can generally finish around level 70 if not earlier), not to mention finding the demon (Alice) needed to drop Beelzebub's item (as well as her dropping the item), is about as rare as obtaining a pinktail. The only real bonus about obtaining Lucifer is that once he is maxed out, his 8th rank Judgment spell changes and he maxes all of Reiji's stats.
Also, this is the only game you can make Nyarlathotep into your Persona! How awesome it is when you are taking the ultimate Big Bad of the Persona-verse to do your bidding?? Except he's not taking the same form when Kandori uses it, he has a different, inferior skill set, and only Reiji can use him; the rest have Worst affinity with him. Yes, Foreshadowing aside, Nyarly has been trolling you since day one.
Axes at School: As soon as you look at Mark's equipment, you see that he indeed brought an axe to school.
Bilingual Bonus: The Drugstore song for international audiences, as it's left untranslated. The song lyrics are instructions on how to use the healing items it sells. Maybe that's why it's stuck in everyone's head?
There's also several other points where you have to make choices, and aside from a few events which decide whether you get the Downer Ending or go on to Earn Your Happy Ending, Thou Must.
Also, if you didn't fulfill the requirements to get Reiji, and don't have Brown or Elly when you enter the Factory, when Ayase wants to join you, Thou Must.
Butt Monkey: In gameplay terms, Mark. For some reason, most of his Personas have really crappy weakness setups, poor speed, and minimal multi-target abilities. Since experience is calculated by how much damage you do, and that's amplified by hitting multiple opponents, he'll lag behind the rest of the party very quickly. He also tends to take an assload more damage than the other characters. Still an okay party member, since his ability to dance crazy is surprisingly useful in negotiations, but he gets into a lot of trouble.
Not necessarily. While it's true that his Arcanum doesn't allow him to equip the speedy Justice Personas, he serves to sweep up the mess with the Chariot Arcana's powerful spells and high Offensive Magical Power. Like with the Priestess Arcana Personas, how much use you can make out of his initial arcana depends upon how skilled you are in fusion. In addition, one could remedy the fact by simply giving him another speedy Arcana like Magician or by simply letting everybody else defend with only him attacking to counteract this.
Calling Your Attacks: In the Playstation original, Queen Asura in the Snow Queen quest does this in somewhat contracted form. Rakukaja becomes Rakaja, Mahabufudyne become Mahabudyne, and so on.
Cherry Blossoms: All over the place in the the good ending in the SEBEC route. The emphasis is on the change, as this is the graduation day of the protagonists.
Continuity Nod: The Snow Queen Quest is rather similar to the plot of Shin Megami Tensei If. Similarly, it looks like Persona 3 took a few cues from this game. (Giant tower, Hypnos, Thanatos, Nemesis, and a "Night Queen" as plot-important beings.)
There's also the fact that both Shin Megami Tensei If and Persona have two secret characters: one of whom in each requires jumping through some extra hoops and going for a portion of the game without a full party and turn out to have ties to the Big Bad (the two even have similar names in kana and romaji, though not kanji: Reiko and Reiji), and another who's tied to an alternate storyline. (Yukino — who does briefly join the party in the normal game — and Akira.)
Cool Guns: You get to use all kinds of them, from pistols to rifles.
Covers Always Lie: The blurb on the back of the PSP remake states: "In the near future, mankind has conquered dimensional travel, but the opened door swings both ways. Demons have invaded..." This is quite different to the actual plot.
This description does actually hold water if you think about it. Kandori has managed to travel to another dimension, although he did create it, and demons are coming through. They didn't have to lie and say it took place Twenty Minutes into the Future, as the game was made in 1996 and remade in 2009 note although Persona 2 was set in 1999, and Persona took place three years ago, no matter how unrealistic it sounds, but if they said what was really going on with the first sentence, it would be a huge spoiler. So no, the plot is not about a devoted team of scientists or even a demon invasion, but if you took the first part of the plot at face value, you'd start to believe the blurb.
Creepy Child: Two of them. One of them is actually ostensibly on your side, the other... erm...
Mai is a little debatable on the "creepy" part. Very distrusting, yes. But out-and-out creepy? People find her to be quite cute in-game.
Cultural Translation: Nearly all references to Japan are gone in the PS1 localization, though the music in the Satomi Tadashi stores and what is obviously a Japanese Shinto shrine somehow made it through localization.
This also makes the economy of the game somewhat easier, thanks to changing yen/macca to dollars without adjusting for proper balance. As a result, many items are very cheap, and best of all, the healing spring that Trish (called Kelly in the US PS1 version) would've charged out the nose for is very cheap.
Cutting Off The Branches: In the original game, you could pick either the SEBEC route or the Snow Queen Quest, and for the SEBEC route, you had a choice of Brown, Elly, Ayase, or Reiji, while in the SQQ, you had a choice of two between Nanjo, Brown, and Elly. In Persona2, it is implied that the SQQ took place before SEBEC's first boss, and everyone was involved in the SEBEC portion of the plot (even Yukino, who you can't actually get in the SEBEC route in-game).
Die or Fly: The main characters all awaken their Personas when they're attacked by demons in pre-scripted battles.
Disc One Nuke: The Phaleg Persona, which learns Tarunda, Mediarama, and Crimson Sublation (in a game where stat buffs from spells stack), and it blocks most spells. Its level? 18. Granted, you can only use Twin Slash at first, leaving him at Magikarp Power as well.
Gozu-Tennoh is another example, giving you Megido and Megidola at level 18. Equip him on the main character and you're pretty much unstoppable, although you'll have to switch him out occasionally so others can get experience.
Returning Janus, a level 22 persona, earns Masao the Mandau Spoon, which jumps his weapon attack power from about 65 or 92 to 181. He can't find another excellent weapon until the player returns a max rank Varuna for his ultimate weapon.
He's later replaced by Pandora, who not only provides much more of a challenge, but goes on to be The StarscreamandFinal Boss.
Dramatic Unmask: Philemon during the ending. The significance for this is that the five students have discovered themselves.
Dream Land: Hypnos Tower has the ability to put people in one.
Dummied Out: The room that contains the Snow Queen's Mask (needed to trigger the Snow Queen Quest path) ejects you in the US version of the game; it's still possible to trigger the Quest by placing the Mask in the inventory with a cheat device. The Snow Queen Quest itself was never actually translated until recently; the reason for this has been the subject of quite a few Epileptic Trees among fans.
Exposition Cut: Happens periodically. Then again, "There are really two different worlds, persons W, X, Y and Z, note Nao, Nanjo, Masao, and the fifth part member are from that world 1, person A is from world 2 note Maki, Big Bad is from world 1, etc." would be quite a mouthful to read every time the players chat up an NPC.
Foreshadowing: The PSP opening, if not a straight up Spoiler Opening, at least contains some clues to the Alternate Universe being a ideal Dream Land of Maki's, notably the way a giant Maki looms over the town and the lines "don't wanna wake up, 'cause I'm happy here" in the intro song.
Generation Xerox: There are multiple Satomi Tadashis around town, and all of them look the same. One of them is even implied to be a ghost, and looks just like the rest of them. Even the youngest of them, in the same high school that you're in, has a striking similarity to his relatives.
Glass Cannon: It can be anybody depending upon your persona setup. The character equipped with Gozu-Tennoh, for example, while possessing the power needed to sweep en masse, he is frighteningly fragile, and if any demon gets first shot at him, his host is toast. Same can be said for a persona of a holy element facing a Mudo spell and vice versa.
Good Bad Translation: "Mark danced crazy!" is the only thing kept from the horrid translation in the remake. Truly the Spoony Bard phenomenon of the 21st century.
And the silly password Elly recites to get back inside the school ("Roses are red, zombies are blue, but my face is white, so you know I'm true"), which has been improved greatly by changing the third line to "...but I don't want brains...", since Mark wasn't white in Revelations.
Brown: "You can make a tofu taco, a tofu burger, but you can't make a tofu cow!" What?
The Greatest Story Never Told: The SEBEC route true end. SEBEC and Takahisa's name gain media attention, but not the students who were involved, which is the heroes. Only they know the true story behind it.
Gratuitous English: The battle theme in the PSP port is sung in such mangled, poorly spoken English that only a line or two is readily understood by native speakers. The boss theme and school theme are only slightly better.
Guide Dang It: Recruiting Reiji is notoriusly difficult and requires one to take many steps that are literally counter-intuitive to any person who has ever played a game of this type before. Would you think to refuse every person to join you and go through entire dungeons with only four characters, when you have a Five-Man Band?
Getting on the Snow Queen Quest also requires a guide or obsessive exploration, since you need to pursue an odd chain of events for no real reason at a time you really have better things to do plot-wise. Once you've found the first step, it follows a fairly logical chain from there, though.
For that matter, the entire game is pretty much one big Guide Dang It. You are either spending hours poking around trying to find items or experimenting with demons to try and get items and spell cards, or are spending a couple minutes with a strategy guide or online FAQ. Having a guide is practically REQUIRED for this game!
Karma Meter: Sort of. In the SEBEC route, which Ultimate Personas you can fuse depends on making "good" moral choices at several points.
Speak to the little girl at Peace Diner. If she says that you've made the wrong choice somewhere, you probably have.
Lampshade Hanging: Mark does this a few times, at least. The most prominent is when you run into Reiji in the second floor classroom. Considering it's Reiji's best contact (and the best contact in the whole game), it's hilarious.
Mark: What a gloomy Gus! But hey, for all we know... Maybe he's the kinda guy who secretly practices magic tricks at home.
Yukino also gets her share, for example, wondering why the shop clerks all look the same.
Last Disc Magic: The 'ultimate' Personas, which aren't unlocked until the last dungeon. They demand a very high level to summon, so you may find it easier to just muscle through with your current Persona.
Leitmotif: Maki, and the rest of the characters Brown, Elly, Ayase and Reiji have their own. Unfortunately, except for Maki, Nanjo, Reiji and Masao's, the leitmotifs are removed in the PSP remake.
Lotus-Eater Machine: Originally, the Deva System was this, as it made Maki's dream world a reality. However, Kandori adapted it to warp reality to his desire to destruction, a desire Maki shares.
Mana: How did the demons capture Masao? Simple — he ran out of SP.
Mister Exposition: Kei is this in the SEBEC route, explaining every plot twist that he already figured out. He can also be one of these in the Snow Queen quest but is optional and if not him, it will be Eriko.
Magic Mirror: The Harem Queen uses one to grant her every wish, at the cost of losing her beauty.
Also, the Demon Mirror can break the curse of the Snow Queen mask. Which is broken. You need to get eight shards in order to avoid the bad ending.
The Mall: Location of all the shops, expect for those that are generously there in the dungeons.
Black Market: A location and a dungeon. While there's nothing to make it different than the others, it's the fact that you are trapped there if you enter that makes it dangerous.
Non-Elemental: Averted in the remake. Everything, even axes and uzi automatics, have strengths and weaknesses against demons. Apparently, Angels can take shotgun fire, but certainly hate getting peppered in the face by an uzi automatic. Upheld only on one noticeable attack: Butterfly Storm.
Now, Where Was I Going Again?: Averted. Since Peace Diner serves no other purpose, it's hinted early on that it acts as a place where you can get hints from your party members, and in that sense is like the hint stand from EarthBound.
The ending of the Snow Queen Quest puts it right before the first boss of the SEBEC quest, ending with the gang going to SEBEC to save Maki (who was left there when Mark panicked after being overwhelmed by the demons). After reuniting with Maki, things apparently went as they did in the main game, only with Yukino there, as confirmed in Persona2.
Also, the manga apparently follows the SEBEC chapter, yet also has the fight with Toro from the Snow Queen chapter.
Schrödinger's Player Character: Variation: There are five possible party members — Brown, Ayase, Yukino, Elly, and (if you jump through the right hoops) Reiji. You get to recruit one of them. (Possibly two if you take the Snow Queen path, if you replace Ayase with Nanjo, the latter of which is the prerequisite for the SEBEC story.) The rest? Well, who knows what happens to them? It's worth noting that everyone was involved in canon, including the one who you can't bring on the SEBEC route.
Skippable Boss: The mutant teddy bear and Hariti. In fact, skipping Mutant Teddy Bear is the only way to get the Good Ending. You can still get the Good Ending by fighting Hariti, but it bars you from getting some Ultimate Personas.
It may be all the more wiser to avoid that fight anyway. Hariti can actually put the hurt on a given party, especially if the player was foolish enough to leave Maki as the sole healer since she steps out of that battle.
Stealth Sequel: To Shin Megami Tensei If, due to the presence of that game's female protagonist, Tamaki Uchida (who's even noted in-game to be a recent transfer who's surprisingly knowledgeable about demons).
Story Branching: There are two mutually exclusive routes; the SEBEC path (the main one) and the Snow Queen Quest (which leads back into SEBEC in its ending).
Taken for Granite: The Harem Queen casts a spell that causes every party member expect for yourself and Maki to turn into this. You are given the option to turn them back, but it's not preferred, AND the queen will actually be weaker for the boss fight if you refuse.