Persona 1 Review
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 Tense
i 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
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.