Fans worldwide are falling in love with the Persona series of games. This series, made by Altus, began as a collection of spin-offs to the series from Shin Megami Tensei (SMT), but have evolved into their own distinct phenomenon. The announcement of the continuation with Persona 5 next year has fans anxiously awaiting the release. One of the more popular features of the most recent games, 3 and 4 in particular, which represents a separation from the SMT format is the addition of social links to the game play.
The integration of the social links adds a different dimension, turning what is basically a turn-based JRPG into a different animal, with a sim game feel. Players alternate between fight scenarios within dungeons using personas and a mode where the character is a Japanese student who makes connections in the form of those links. These connections come into play within the fight scenarios by providing additional abilities to the characters based on the links made. The links are tied to the fighting side of the game play through the “Personas” of each character. Similar to “stands” from the popular Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure games, they are representations of the characters’ spirit which manifest during battle with multiple abilities. Characters play as part of teams, all with unique personas fighting together.
Players enter an environment called the “velvet room” by means of something called a “wild card” contract. The story identifies this place as belonging to those with a special destiny in order to facilitate that fate. Within this environment, players are able to utilize many different personas, merging them together to create separate individual per You have access to the “wild card” contract, which allows you to have full access to a place known as the velvet room, a place meant for those who have a special fate to push them toward their destiny. The room allows you to access multiple personas, and fuse personas together to make new and more powerful ones. Every social connection, as well as every persona, is represented by a tarot card. The better the social links, the higher the ranking on the tarot cards and the more powerful the new merged personas. This additional element is one of the factors which keeps fans of the games hooked.
In addition to the game play, one of the most commented on aspects of the games is the music. It has become hugely popular, both for the quality of the artistry and for the characteristic “Engrish” lyrics. This trend of having mispronounced english words within the lyrics has become very big in the Otaku community. The music of the game is immediately recognizable to anyone following the games at all.
The popular Persona 4 game has given birth to some sequel/spin-off titles of its own. A fighting game was released called “Arena” in 2012, as well as one named “Ultimax” after that. These were created by the company who produced other popular games, such as Blazblue and Guilty Gear, Arc System Works. Scheduled to be released this year for the 3DS is a crossover title named Persona Q: Shadow of the Labryinth. This will provide an amalgamation of characters from the series together with elements of the Etrian Odyssey series.
In addition to the fighting spin-offs, an incongruous member of the popular series is the “Dancing All Night” title, which involves a teen pop performer and having the characters dance. A real departure from a JRPG which revolves around a murder, but one which has already generated a lot of anticipation. This will be released next year for the PS Vita platform. With the Persona 5 being also released next year for the PS3 and PS4 platforms, there is no shortage of options for those wishing to continue to submerge themselves into the series. Those new to the series but wishing to get a taste of the earlier games can be downloaded at the PS store on PS3, or on the PS Vita to tide them over until next year’s release.
By Jim Malone