Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona (PSP)September 3rd, 2009 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
The PSP has been a nice home to RPGs, especially a decent amount of RPG’s from the original PlayStation. Atlus decided to right the wrong of the bad localization that the original Shin Megami Tensei Persona received when it came out 13 years ago on the PlayStation with this new remake for the PSP. Persona fans and rookies alike can get a decently-priced chance to see where the series started and appreciate the advances it has made since then with its recent resurgence in popularity.
Persona revolves around a group of teenagers that end up gaining the power to summon Persona, which are basically gothic Pokemon. The cause of their powers and the demons that started taking over the town is a man running a powerful but secretive business, which you end up chasing throughout the game in the hopes of saving the town from destruction. The localization here is a great improvement over the original, so Mark is no longer an African-American kid with a ball cap, but the Japanese kid with a beanie that he originally wore. Characters can pop in and out of your party due to certain decision you could make, but we ended up with the same group for the vast majority of the game without much effort. Those same types of dialog decisions can cause the ending to change, though good choices are fairly easy to decipher from the others.
Persona itself is more of a monster-collecting RPG than anything else when you’re not fighting, though that doesn’t mean that the game goes overboard with that aspect. The process of getting new Persona is overly complex, but you’re not required to be constantly upgrading your arsenal of Persona to get through. The main issue is that you need to be about five levels ahead of enemies when you ask for their card, but for a majority of the last half of the game, the enemies scale up with you so that that opportunity rarely happens unless you decide to grind in an old dungeon to make that entire process even longer. The experience system is a bit uneven, as damage done is the biggest factor to how much experience each party member gets, so making new Persona is likely to unbalance that system and let one or two people stay ahead of the group for most of the game if you’re not careful.
The Persona battle system is a bit of a simple turn-based system, but with an added strategy RPG element in the formations you can set-up for your party to affect their range. Along with your Persona’s spells, you have a melee and gun options for enemies that are immune to spells. The major part of the battle system are the strengths and weaknesses that each enemy has, though you need to beat them once to see what your plan of attack should be the next time you face them. Having good persona with useful strengths like being immune to the major spell types or even repelling them back at the enemy. Dungeons evolve from being simple mazes to more complex mazes with different hooks like traps, one-way alleys, and dark rooms that keep it from getting stale as you progress through the game.
Persona definitely does look like it was made for the PS1, as its visuals are fairly simple and not that impressive at this point from the many other RPG’s on the PSP. The main story portions of the game are presented with sprites that do look a bit sharper now compared to the original game, though there are new cutscenes that look really good and encompass all of the voice-acting that the game will ever have. The dungeons are all done in 3D with a first-person view, reminiscent of older RPGs, though you go back to sprite-based visuals for the random battles that you will constantly run into. The game runs fairly well most of the time, but when you gain access to the more advanced spells, they will cause some noticeable slowdown for the length of their animation that you will run into more frequently in the last half of the game. The music is very much reminiscent of Persona 3 and 4 in style and use, so it can get annoying quickly since you will hear the same song played over and over again in certain scenarios for the fifty hours that the game lasts.
Shin Megami Tensei Persona provides a very good experience for Persona fans to see the series’ origins, which are a bit rough around the edges. New players will find a somewhat simpler experience than either of the recent sequels, which makes it a decent introduction to the series with an announced Persona 3 port and the possibility of others coming if this game does well, too. This game is definitely worth the $40 on value alone, as it took us over 50 hours to beat and could probably be beaten in 40 hours if you know what you’re doing right away. If you find yourself in need of a good RPG to play before the big fall rush, Persona on the PSP should suit your needs when it is out on September 22.