Shin Megami Tensei Persona 1
Platform: PSP (retail and via PSN)
Released: Setember 22, 2009
For fans of Japanese RPGs, the title Shin Megami Tensei carries with it a certain degree of expectation. A dark and scintillating plot, rich use of mythology interwoven with storytelling, and high production values just to name a few. Tack on the Persona name, and those fans come to expect the very best Shin Megami Tensei has to offer, especially in light of the critical acclaim Persona 3 and Persona 4 have garnered. The question is does Persona 1 live up to its successors and the Shin Megami Tensei name?
First off, it should be noted that the game is an updated edition of a 1996 title called Revelations: Persona. As such many of the games assets are pulled directly from the original. To Atlus' credit, there are still tons of tweaks made to game to make it look and run smooth on the PSP, as well as the addition of new material not included in the original release, making it far more than a direct port. For those of you who own the original, you may be wondering is the added content worth a second buy?
Story - 3/5
Compared to later installments of the series the story of Persona 1 is rather basic. One day, the unnamed protagonist decides to play a popular divination game, Persona, with his fellow classmates. The game is said to have mystical properties allowing players to catch a glimpse of their future selves. Sure enough something magical does happen, just not what the main characters were originally expecting. In a short span of time, a mysterious girl appears, lightning renders them unconscious, and they are introduced to the enigmatic Philemon who grants them the ability to summon persona (demonesque creatures that are actually reflections of a person's inner self).
After this opening, the plot becomes more or less irrelevant. You spend the remainder of the game chasing the main antagonist until you are finally strong enough to confront him. The game makes use of a few rather intriguing plot conventions along the way, such as traveling to alternate realities, and the multiple layers of character personalities, but never takes the time to flesh out any of these concepts fully. In addition, your party (especially Nanjo) has a knack for heavily foreshadowing future plot twists. So much so that by the time the game chooses to expose these revelations, they lose all of their shock value.
Despite the aforementioned pitfalls of its story, the dialogue in Persona 1 is flawless. In creating the PSP port of the game, Atlus has completely retranslated the text of the original. Gone are the numerous typos and mistranslations that plagued the Playstation version, and in their place quality dialogue that works well with the characters' personalities. While it will not be a driving force to continue playing after the story loses its propose, it most certainly will keep you entertained while reading it.
Gameplay - 3/5
At its core, Persona 1 is a typical first person dungeon crawler. The bulk of your time will be spent running through multi-leveled dungeons, fighting demons, and finding loot. When battling, view changes to 3rd person, and you will take direct control of your characters' actions. Fighting can best be described as a complex form of rock-paper-scissors. You can shot something, hit it with your weapon (not a gun), use a persona against it (which is virtually the same using a spell or comparable ability in other RPGs), and a host of other options that will be more or less effective depending an enemy's individual weaknesses.
At the beginning of the game knowing the weaknesses of your enemy is vitally important. You will likely be memorizing individual demon's weaknesses and strengths to different attack types in order to survive. The difficulty curve drops as the game progresses however, and personas end up out pacing other abilities to the point you will be using your personas even when a demon has a weakness to something else. The overpowered nature of personas ends up being the battle system's biggest downfall, as it minimizes strategic elements of the game.
When you are not battling or exploring, you will be conversing with either your party or an NPC. For the most part these discussions will be used to progress the story along and insert the occasional joke or two, however there is also a choice system that will affect how the game ends. While this system is not as in-depth as it successors, it presents a few interesting moral dilemmas for the player to overcome.
In one instance early on in the game, a villain is trapped inside a machine with the lead scientist that created it. The scientist wanted to use the machine for the betterment of mankind where as the villain wanted to use it for personal gain. Realizing the villain's intent, the scientist attempts to prevent the villain from using the machine and in the process gets both of them stuck just as you arrive. The scientist begs you to push the self-destruct button which will kill both himself and the villain. Doing so will kill the villain but also kill the innocent scientist. You also are given the choice of opening the machine releasing both people. Given the option, do you kill both men to thwart the villain or do you let both live not to get innocent blood on your hands? A moral quandary indeed!
Sadly, like other aspects of Persona 1, its charms end up backfiring down the line, as the game basically decides which course is the right one. Despite the situation being morally ambiguous, the game has a definitive right course for each choice based situation. Choosing the wrong choices will give you a premature bad ending.
While not the most groundbreaking visual experience the PSP has to offer, the game certainly has its share of beauty. The new animated cut scenes look crisp and clean on the PSP's screen, and the updated menu and character portraits makes the game graphically fit in with current generation of titles. Many of the enemies you encounter are so beautiful and detailed you will have trouble believing they were created during the PS1 era. Still there is definitely some room for improvement. The dungeon environments are can be bland and uninspiring at times. Also some of the in-game effects look archaic compared to modern ones.
Replay Value - 5/5
For those looking for a long experience, Persona 1 certainly delivers. The main storyline is a good thirty to forty hours long, conceivably longer if you are attempting to create the best personas. In addition to the main game, one of the major draws of the PSP port is the inclusion of the Snow Queen chapter, a quest scrapped from the original. In this story, the player chooses to not pursue the main antagonist and instead stays and protects his high school. This drastically alters the progression of the narrative and is essentially a game onto itself (an additional 15 to 20 hours of gameplay). While the game does not have a newgame+ feature, completing either of the storylines unlocks new dungeon segments. Add on the multiple endings the game has offer and you are looking at loads of content to keep you preoccupied long after the main story is done.
Overall 3/5 (not an average)
While not a bad game by any means, Persona 1 fails to measure up to the standard Persona 3 and Persona 4 set. Artistically, the game can feel dated at times, and many of the innovated game play conventions tend to fall short of brilliant. Nevertheless the game has a great deal of content to offer, and is sure to please fans of the Persona series. This is a recommend buy for those who own the original and want some new content to explore and fans of Persona 3 and Persona 4 that are something similar, however if your new to the Persona franchise or just looking for an a really over the top RPG for your PSP, you are better off with something like Persona 3 Portable.
Another Short Blog: Freshmen Standard Edition (Results are in!)
If you had read my previous blog post (http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/chaos+oracle/short-blog-here-s-the-plan-suggestions-needed--181825.phtml) you would know that last time I requested some advice coming up with a topic for my weekly blog series. My hope was to have announced the results yesterday and also completed my inaugural first piece, but sadly this was not to be. Three days ago my summer as I knew it ended, and I began orientation leader training at my college to assist incoming students adjust to college life. I had originally anticipated writing during this period, but training has been so tiring that I often collapsed in bed before even looking at a computer. To make matters worse, when I did make it to a computer, sleep deprivation rendered my grammar to that of a two year old (apologizes if I'm still not yet cured of this).
Tomorrow, I have the day off technically, but I will be spending most of it helping a couple of friends move into my apartment for orientation. After that orientation officially kicks off, and I will be at the university from seven in the morning to twelve the next morning till Wednesday, the day I officially start classes. Needless to say not much writing will get done during this period, so it is imperative I break some ground here and now, lest those freshmen successfully prevent my writing.
So first things first, here are the results of the last post. I decided to go with Occam's electric toothbrush's idea as the basis of my blog. As a nods to his post the official name for the series will be called "RPG Minutia". Basically, every week (or two weeks) I will examine singular, often overlooked parts of RPGs that I really love. While I won't spoil what the first series piece will be about, I will give you a little clue. It revolves around a popular gaming convention that is also the name of my favorite song of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Have fun guessing!
As for additional writings, I'm also going to be doing reviews of relatively old RPGS from time to time. The first one will hopefully be completed in the next hour or so (it's been sitting in a word document for a while now).
*The picture is one of the first things that came up when I goggled world's shortest electric tooth brush.
Greetings and salutations! If you are reading this you probably wandered here by accident. I won't pretend you have heard of me or regularly read my drunken ramblings writings, as the chances of that are slim to none. I have only written a couple of blogs here at Destructoid and most were posted few and far between. This changes now....
This week, I have decided to devote some time to my blog and actually begin writing regularly for it. My current plan is to write an episodic series based on some aspect of my favorite game genre: RPGs (vague premise, I know). I considered doing a series on classic RPG troupes. Every week would be a new troupe, steadily working my way through some of RPG's most infamously common conventions. However, the longer I entertained that idea, the more it began to sound too basic to actually get people excited to read it every week.
Here is where you come in. I have decided to leave the fate of my episodic blog series in your hands - sad, lost, person who was probably looking for someone else's blog when they clicked this one. For the next week or so I'll be taking suggestions for the theme of my RPG related blog. My favorite idea out of those suggested will become the topic of the blog series. In addition, the winner will get a devotion to them in the first blog post for the series. Just think, a paragraph worth of ass-kissing from me, all because you took the time to write a few lines of suggestions for poor, uncreative me.
If by some miracle the blog series ends up getting popular, I'm not opposed to creating some special events. As a lover of RPGs, I have lots of beaten, possibly rare RPGs sitting under my desk with no one to play them (they are so lonely *sad face*). I wouldn't mind giving a few away to some luck readers that will actually play them. So suggest some possible RPG games you would like to see as prizes as well.
In sum, I am looking for three things
1.) Blog series suggestion (must be RPG related)
2.) Contest Suggestion (what contests would you like to see and what prizes)
3.) Faps a-hoy!
It is two-thirty PM in New York City, or eight AM outside of Los Angeles. I am not really sure anymore, the game's world and my own are beginning to blur. As I leave the shady confines of Hotel Dusk behind, I take one final glance before hitting the open road. Though I may never return to this place again, I am certain the man that walked through its doorway just a day ago, and the man that transverses it now are not the same person. Some things are left behind, others taken, and everything has changed.
To call my experience with Hotel Dusk: Room 215 a fun distraction this past week, would be the understatement of the year. The game has been an experience, one that for better or worse changed my outlook on videogame narrative and storytelling in general. For those unfamiliar with this cult classic, let me offer a bit of an introduction.
The start of Hotel Dusk is a conventional one. The player takes the role of Kyle Hyde, a hard-liquor drinking ex-cop and Red Crown salesmen, whose life is consumed by a never ending quest to find his missing partner, Brian Bradley. On a client's request, he is sent to retrieve a few items from a rundown hotel on the outskirts of nowhere called Hotel Dusk. Along the way he meets an enigmatic cast of characters, the hotel's residents, who he must interact with (often against his own desires) to slowly but surely unravel the secrets of the hotel.
So far this seems like standard video game fare. Main character proceeds through linear storyline until all plotlines are resolved. Along the way he completes some puzzles, says a few witty lines, and gets roped into a few hair-raising situations. Premise aside though, the game reeks of originality, depth, and awesomeness.
Unlike most games that wow you with visual delights at every term, Hotel Dusk goes the route of Pleasantville. The characters are depicted in black and white with occasionally splashes of color used in conjunction with rotoscoping* to convey gestured movement. Even when color is added to a character, which is the case only about five present of the time, it is dull and monochromatic. On paper the visuals leave much to be desired, but the minimalist approach actually works well with the game's 1970s style noir writing, and it is certainly something unique to the DS platform.
The true strength of the art style is in its complementation of the characters themselves. No character seems over-the-top or archetypal, and it manages to add some initial dullness to some of the cast. This dullness not only makes the characters seem more human, but also makes the experience feel more human as well. You are not being asked by the game to instantly fall in love with its performers, but rather warm up to them in time as you would a normal person.
Where the art direction leaves off, the plot takes over. There is a natural, effortless progression in which you will begin to grow attached to the characters and the hotel itself, and at no point does the game ever feel like it is trying to make you do so. As Kyle and the player advance the narrative forward, things that once bother them become charming and quaint. The hotel that seems dreary and difficult to navigate, begins to feel homely. The characters that seem dull and uninspiring, become some of the deepest and well souls you will ever meet in a videogame. The fact Kyle begins warming up to the characters in an almost 1:1 ratio with the player is a testament to how much work the 29 man team at Cing put into the design of Hotel Dusk.
I digress however, I could go on all day about how well the game's elements manage to complement each other, but this is not a review of Hotel Dusk so much as it is a proper farewell. My biggest complaint has been that as great a job the game has done of sucking me in, it has done a poor job of letting me go. The more time that goes by since beating the game, the more I want to return to that world and continue playing. Luckily, I discovered Hotel Dusk late, and only have to wait another month before being able to import the sequel Last Window: The Secret of Cape West from the UK. Until then, thanks for the memories Hotel Dusk, I'll be sure to stay in 215 again.
*An technique common in 1990's animation. It involves animators drawing over live action sequences to depict a more realistic sense of movement. Hotel Dusk makes use of this technique when animating various character gestures.
As I'm assuming some of you Dragon Quest-aholics know, Nintendo decided to throw a pre-launch party for Dragon Quest IX today. The event featured a day early purchasing opportunity for the game, a chance to sample it with some other event-goers, and for the first thirty people, autographed copies of the game by Yuji Horii, the creator of the Dragon Quest series (and supervisor for Crono Trigger). While I can't say I am an avid DQ fan (probably preferring Dairy Queen to the series itself), I am a fan of free videogame related paraphernalia, and time wasters on a Saturday when I have nothing else planned. So I decided to check it out and see just what Nintendo had to offer at its prelaunch event. Below is a list of all the crazy and unexpected shenanigans that happened to me over the course of several hours at the event.
I arrived at the Nintendo store a little before ten. While I wasn't particularly hopeful I'd be one of the first thirty people on line, I figured my chances would be significantly improved by arriving earlier than the one o'clock start time. At the very least, I would be assuring myself a copy of the game, which is what ended up happening. When I finally found the place I was surprised by the degree to which the crowd of people lived up to the gamer stereotype. About eighty-five percent of the line was composed of men in their thirties, and for a long while the only two woman aside from the event staff was some girl with a Pokemon themed backpack and her grandmother. It wasn't until much later that the "Ohhh, what's going on here crowd" joined the line and helped improve the gender and age ratio a bit. Despite this, not living up to the stereotype was the amount of people playing their DS systems. Most of the people in line where busy socializing with complete strangers about RPGs, MMOs, FPS, and general videogame awesomeness. Sure there were a few people reading or playing games and generally keeping to themselves, but the vast majority of gamers were showing off that they can indeed socialize with other people. Even I couldn't help getting wrapped into a discussion about the Shin Megami Tensei Series, which ended up concluding with an interruption by a Nintendo Store photographer to "whip out" (his words not mine) our DS systems so he could take pictures. Yes, Nintendo actually had to ask us to look more like gamers for their photos.
By ten-thirty the line started to fill up even more. The famed Dragon Quest IXice-cream truck pulled up and Nintendo started to give out wristbands for the games and free shirts. Aside from the ice cream truck it wasn't too exciting an hour. In fact, when it eventually came time to sample the ice cream after the event had ended, it was more of a disappointment than anything else. Instead of the expected slime shaped Jello or themed character bar (with gumball eyes and an oddly shaped smile), the truck gave out blue Sno-cones carelessly sloshed into a cup. It seemed like a cheap and unneeded add-on for what was otherwise a quality Nintendo event.
By far some of the most exciting line waiting I have ever done in my life. By now the people in line where starting to get a bit antsy. There was a lot of questioning of the event coordinators, and additional barricades were put up as the line grew ever larger. Two people held up NES copies of the original Dragon Warrior and the event coordinators attempted to get people to cheer, as film crews for the Nintendo Wii channel began filming the people waiting for the game. This ended up backfiring, as people began to shout, "Sonic 4" and "Final Fantasy" instead the expected "Dragon Quest IX". I'm not sure who the joker was near the front of the line that got people to follow suit, but whoever he or she is, I tip my hat to them. Nothing was funnier than watching the Nintendo film crew nervously scramble to cut the feed to its cameras.
At some point Yuji Horii must have snuck into the Nintendo building. While I didn't see him enter, I did see him from the second floor window of the Nintendo store, filming people down below. He kept popping near and away from the window, and between that and the glint of the pane separating him, it made taking a picture really hard to do. Luckily, I was able to snag a photo of his hand before he departed from the window one last time. In that moment, I knew many an Art Director had been bitch-slapped by that hand, all for betterment of the game and its art style. I was a bit disappointed he did not sign anything for people who came latter than the first thirty, but I'm sure that hand still had much more bitch-slappin' to do before the day was done. The next Dragon Quest for the Wii isn't out yet.
Nintendo started letting people in for the event. I was the last person of a small group of five allowed to go in after a much larger second group. Immediately everyone flocked to the checkout counter to get their copy of the Dragon Quest IX, but I wasn't exactly sold on the idea yet. Truth be told I haven't played an actual Dragon Quest game since Dragon Warrior III for the Gameboy Color, and my reasons for coming to the event were as much about trying as buying (and killing time, lots of killing time). So instead, I decided go to a try out table where Nintendo store staffers and some toddlers were engaging in a rigorous trial of the game (WTF! I don't remember toddlers on the line...). The game played like a traditional turned based RPG of yesteryear, and graphically it appeared nearly identical to the remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV for the DS. While I preferred the beautiful hand drawn designs of Dragon Warrior III, and more recently something like Bowser's Inside Story, the uniqueness of character equipment differentiated it from the Final Fantasy titles the game takes its graphical cues from. Every piece of player equipment, from your sword to your sandals changes the appearance of your in game persona when equipped. It was a nice touch, that gave a certain life to the characters. Though I knew nothing story-wise about the people in my party, aside from the fact they had Japanese sounding names (like Enix and Nintendo), I still got the sense my character was unique. That the weapons and armor I had were not just a random assortment of the high stat gear or some preassembled garb that looked nice in a concept drawing, but rather an intrinsic part of who my character is.
Another pervasive element of the gameplay was its multiplayer. I was surprised how effortlessly one can join and exit a battle. All players are given their own character to move about the dungeon wherever and however they please. When an onscreen enemy touches a character, it and all other players around that character get sucked into battle. At any point in time your character can leave the battle, and go off further exploring the dungeon or battling another enemy. Just like with leaving, a character can also enter a battle at any time by pressing a button when near a monster engaging another player(s) in battle. The game handles this so fluidly that most of the time, I didn't even notice other party members coming in to assist me in battle.
I finally stopped playing the game and went outside to where the non-technical portion of the event was being held. Supposedly, upstairs there was a photo booth area where you could take pictures of yourself with various Dragon Quest related backgrounds, but the thought of schlepping my pretty, though sweaty little self all the way upstairs to take photos I would be embarrassed to hang on my wall, was enough to make me skip it. Outside was a giant inflated slime and a booth giving out free tee-shirts to those with the Nintendo wristbands from earlier. I got my tee-shirt and after some salutations with the people I met on line earlier in the day, I left the event for a late lunch.
Surprisingly enough, I ended up not buying the game today. I opted instead to treat myself to a hearty lunch instead after the event. Ultimately, it was not the game itself that turned me away from buying it, but rather the fact I couldn't justify taking a chance to get the game away from someone who waited on line just as I had, and would play it far more frequently and voraciously than I would in its opening days. I still have Final Fantasy III, Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess, Persona 3: FES (when I eventually get around to purchasing it) and a host of other games asking for me to beat them before I move on to Dragon Quest IX. The thought of having it sit alongside my other unfinished games while some person is at home sad and gameless, was enough to get me to rethink my purchasing decision.
First a bit of an introduction, if you are not at all interested in this I advocate skipping to the bottom titled “Media Go Woes”. I’m what you might call a True Sony Fanboy (variants accepted: Sony fanboi, tru Sony fanboi, Twusonifenboi and omigoshPSP!!!). I own a Play Station, PS1, PS2, PS3, PSP-1000 and PSP go (getting to that in a minute) and even a Sony made TV. I acknowledge the Sony Style store (though I have never been there) as the closest thing to a Mecca that I will ever have in life. So it’s no surprised that when Sony released its little sex-bitch all DLC style handheld, I was all on board to upgrade from my old PSP to the Go, despite still having a few UMDs in need of finishing.
For the month I’ve had the system, I’ve been more than happy with its offerings. It met all the needs I demanded from it: an mp3 player with enough space to hold all my favorite workout tunes, a gaming system that I could use to play some of my favorite old ps1 games (that are no longer findable in shops) as well as some new ones, and most importantly being small and round enough that I could pass it off as a phone when in situations where gaming was not at all appropriate. That is until recently, when I came upon a handicap of sorts with the system that I’ve yet to see mentioned in any tech/product review of it to date.
Media Go Woes
To put it quite bluntly Media Go is crud. This isn’t so much an aesthetic thing or problem with interface, so much as it is a problem with Media Go being unable to properly do one of its most basic functions; tag music. Just like iTunes and I assume other mainstream music portals, Media Go uses the internet to find the name of the CD, music artist, record label, etc. Only in Media Go’s case the system is anything but perfect. Sure it will work with all your popular radio superstars like Queen, Metallica, Van Halen and Lady Gaga, but as soon as you put something remotely interesting in Media Go fails in the worse way.
The other night I decided to upload the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona soundtrack so I could gain some familiarity with the scores before playing the game. Instead of the clean crisp English translated titles on the album cover, I was treated with a flurry of half Japanese and half poorly translated English titles. Fair enough I guess, if it really bugs me I’ll manually change the titles (as soon as I figure out how).
My next album upload was even worse. This morning, I decided to upload some music from an indie band I saw play in concert last night. Instead of tagging the album with their band and song names or even the typical “Unknown” listing that most of my indie bands tends to receive, Media Go decided my album was actually a demo tape from some obscure scremo band in the UK. Despite the genres and obviously sound being completely different, Media Go was dead sure that it’s tagging was correct. I checked with a friend who used Itunes to upload this same indie band’s CD to her iPod and unsurprisingly her listing was correctly labeled “Unknown”. I find such mistakes by a mainstream music portal inexcusable and with an inability to bypass Media Go all together, this only serves to add one more flaw to an already highly criticized system. Sony why have you forsaken me?[img]