Reviews: Persona

Be Your True Mind

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona is a game where you take control of a party of High Schoolers who use manifestations of the different aspects of their self, according to Jungian psychology, to do battle with literal demons. It's a very character-focused story, which is a big part of what drew me in. There are two separate fifty hour campaigns, one of which is cumbersome to activate, and both of which have exclusive party members.

The dungeon crawling and battling takes getting used to. It's in the style of late-80s Shin Megami Tensei games, which means it's first person corridor traversal. Personally, it makes my eyes hurt because the walls are too close, so I had to stare at the minimap to get anywhere, which isn't too bad. It wouldn't be so bad if dungeon-ing wasn't such a big part of the game, but I just dealt with it. The battles, which were probably mind blowing at the time, are an isometric side view where the position of your characters determine who they can physically attack. Mostly, you'll have them summoning their Personas to cast magic, though.

And herein is where the draw of the game comes from. Remastered with a modern gray-purple GUI and soft CGI cutscenes, the aesthetic is amazing. But what I love is the characters. Each one of them has their personality based on a Tarot card, and in gameplay terms this dictates which Personas they can equip. In some of the dungeon rooms, the isometric view returns and your characters will comment on the situation. The main character, in grand SMT tradition, is a blank slate, but upbeat Maki, ladylike Elly, sisterly Yukino, and immature Ayase form the female cast while loudmouth Mark, pretentious Nanjo, arrogant Brown and mysterious Reiji round out the male cast. With a party of five at max, and your character remaining unchanged throughout whichever story you pick, a ton of development is packed into all of them, none of the nine characters feel flat at all. Which is a herculean accomplishment for a game this old. Mark is the best character in all of Mega Ten, hands down.

The old music is gone, which rubs some the wrong way. Personally, I like the decision, they had to find some kinds of ways to modernize it, and the old music, while amazing and atmospheric, wouldn't pull in the current crowd.

If you're still on the fence, you may dream of a butterfly. Then you'll know.