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Thoughts on Atlus’ Four New Persona Game Announcements

Posted on November 25, 2013 AT 01:52pm

Over the weekend, a three-day event held by Atlus in Japan came to a close early Sunday morning with a show promising the reveal of something Persona related. Saturday night, I went to bed hoping that I’d wake up to some sort of announcement of Persona 5. What I go was much, much more.

Having decided that sleep would be a good thing, and that I could catch up on any news over breakfast on Sunday morning, I passed on the idea of staying up to watch the two-hour announcement event as it happened. I was, however, able to see how reactions from Persona fans played out in real time via message forums such as NeoGAF, where Atlus devotees went through emotions such as shock, bewilderment, rage, hopelessness, and then joy.

In the words of today’s youth, Atlus trolled us all. Oh, but what glorious trolling it was.

So, here are the four games that they announced—including the Japanese trailers for them—along with my thoughts. And, before you ask, there’s no word on any of these games getting English-language release just yet. But, in this day and age, given the popularity of Persona around the world, I’m not worried about the fate of any of these titles.

Persona 4: The Ultimate Ultra Suplex Hold
Japanese Release: Nov 28 2013 (Arcade), Summer 2014 (PS3)

Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayokana Arena—known as Persona 4 Arena here in the States—was a dream come true of sorts for me. I had long imaged the idea of a Shin Megami Tensei-focues 2D fighting game coming from Atlus, but of course it would never happen. And then it happened!

Well, sort of. P4A was Persona-specific, which—given my love for Persona—wasn’t something I was going to get upset over. Sure, I would have loved to have seen the game feature more characters from across the entire history of Persona, but it was still a great start—especially given that Atlus made a fantastic choice in teaming up with Guilty Gear/BlazBlue creator Arc System Works for the project.

A fighting game is truly only a fighting game if it gets some sort of sequel, upgrade, revision, or extension, however, and that’s what Ultra Suplex Hold is for. In addition to the always-expected serving of character balancing and fighting engine tweaks, we’ll be getting at least three new characters: Yukari and Junpei from Persona 3, and original face Sho Minazuki. All characters will also be getting alternate shadow versions of themselves—well, save Elizabeth and Shadow Labrys, who, well, you know.

I’m definitely excited for Ultra Suplex Hold, except for one big problem: it’s a reminder of how long it’s been since I’ve sat down and properly played P4A. I can’t imagine how rusty I must be at this point.

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Japanese Release: June 5th, 2014 (3DS)

Now, normally, I’d be sitting here saying something to the effect of, “This was by far the most surprising announcement Atlus made.” But, well—we’ve still got a ways to go folks.

Persona Q is surprising, but it’s also completely fascinating. When we start talking about the games Atlus is currently know for beyond any MegaTen-related, easily one of the top choices would be their fantastic dungeon-crawling series Etrian Odyssey.

So, what does Atlus do? They grab Daisuke Kaneda—the director of Etrian Odyssey 4—and have him help work on an Etrian-style Persona game! While the game will still very much be Persona, it’ll also build upon some of the core tenants that fans have loved about the Etrian Odyssey series.

And, really, this idea isn’t as big of a stretch as one might imagine. Up until the release of Persona 3, the series was centered around the idea of navigating first-person-perspective dungeons. So, in a way, Persona Q could almost be seen as a mix of the old and the new. It’ll also be a mix of characters and canons, as the casts of Persona 3 and Persona 4 will come together in a cross-over that sees favorites from both sides chibi-fied. Like Etrian Odyssey, however, I expect that the cuteness of the visuals will hide some decadently hardcore dungeon surviving.

There’s also an extremely huge aspect of Persona Q that shouldn’t be forgotten: this is the first time a Persona title has ever been released for a Nintendo platform. Plenty of MegaTen titles have been released alongside Mario and Zelda, but never Persona. (If you remember, even as long ago as mid-2010, there had been mention of a Persona game coming to the 3DS. This may very well be that game.)

Persona 4: Dancing All Night
Japanese Release: Fall 2014 (PS Vita)

Well, here we go: the game that made Persona Q look like the most expected announcement since Microsoft told us that there’s going to be a new Halo game for the Xbox One.

Before I go any further, however, let me say one say. HELL. YES.

I love Persona. I love Japanese music/rhythm games. I love the Vita. Put them all together, and we’ve got the chance for magicDancing All Night is, indeed, a Persona 4-focused rhythm game. And not just a rhythm game, but a rhythm game being worked on, in part, by some of the team from one of my favorite rhythm game franchises out there: Sega’s Project Diva.

Fighting shadows by calling out Persona to unleash fantastical attacks? Pshaw. The real way to beat them is with dancing! So far, we’ve been given a peek at three characters: Rise (returning to her pop-idol roots), Yu (aka the main character of P4), and Kanami (a fellow idol of Rise’s who was mentioned briefly in P4). The trailer also mentioned Yosuke, Chie, and Kanji joining in on the fun, but I have to expect the rest of the gang will also be there. (Of course, that brings up a super-huge question: will we be getting mascot Teddie, cross dressing Teddie, or both?)

Had Atlus ended their string of announcements with Dancing All Night, it could have been one of the biggest Internet meltdowns in history. But, thankfully, we’ve got one more game to go—and because that certain other game did show up, I’m free to bask in the glory of watching the Persona 4 crew bust some moves in glee.

Is it milking the Persona brand. Unquestionably. Am I going to support that milking without even a second though. Absolutely!

Persona 5
Japanese Release: Winter 2014 (PS3)

The late Steve Jobs was an absolute master of the “one more thing” maneuver. Going in, you’d know exactly what you were expecting from an Apple press event, but then the focus would end up being on other products, and you’d come to the sad realization that what you’d been hoping to see simply didn’t exist. And then, bam—there it was, as a final, big surprise.

However, I have to give some definite props to Atlus for their “one more thing” efforts. Before the event, people were certain the Persona announcement could be nothing but Persona 5. When we got the previous three games, those same people were then certain there couldn’t be four new games revealed for the series all in one day. Oh, but there were.

Of course, for now, Persona 5 is little more than a teaser—though there are certainly things we can infer from the above video. First, the trademark color this time around look to be red (versus blue for P3 and yellow for P4). We’re shown classroom chairs, hinting that we’ll once again be focusing on school students. There’s something of a heavy feeling to what little we seen, with talk (and visual elements) referencing some type of slavery. Completely conjecture here, but given the themes both Persona and the Shin Megami Tensei franchise have tackled in the past, I can imagine this being about mental/emotional “slavery”, and how we exist in a world where it can be hard to feel as if you’re able to break out and be who you truly want to be. (A theme especially relevant to Japan and Japanese society).

And then there’s the elephant in the room: the announcement of Persona 5 being on the PlayStation 3. With a late 2014 release, that means the best we can hope for in terms of an English-language version is early 2015.

Before I get into my personal thoughts on this, a quick bit of perspective. With the PS3 having launched in November 2006 in Japan, the means that P5 will be released for the console eight years after said launch, and a little under a year after the coming of its successor, the PlayStation 4. In contrast, the first Persona title released on the PlayStation 2—Persona 3—came in 2006, six years after the system’s debut, and in the same year as the launch of the PS3. Persona 4, meanwhile, hit in 2008, eight years after the debut of the PS2, and two years after the PS3 came to market.

So, on one hand, Persona 5 coming to the PS3 isn’t as strange of a situation as when Persona 4 was announced for the PS2. The new system (PS4) won’t have been around at this point for as long as the new system (PS3) had been at that point, and in both cases, the game was released for the console that had—by far—the bigger install base. As much as we want all games to come to our shiny new systems the moment we get them, for at least the first few years of their lives, that doesn’t always make the best business sense.

On the other hand, there’s a question that can’t help but be asked: what has Atlus Japan been doing this entire time? Atlus’ first game for the current generation of consoles didn’t come until 2011′s Catherine, a game released 5~6 years into the lifespan of the PS3 and Xbox 360. That point in time has often been when a platform was getting ready to be replaced—and it was only then that Atlus released their first game. And, as of now, their only game for the current console generation.

Meanwhile, from my quick count, Atlus released almost 20 in-house developed games (not counting titles they simply published) for the PS2, which included seven original MegaTen/Persona games (original as in leaving off reworkings or expansions of previously-released titles such as P3 FES).

If the PlayStation 2 was a bountiful feast of Atlus goodness, the PlayStation 3 (and Xbox 360) has been a barren desert filled with flocks of vultures who continually assure you that you’d just be better off if you gave up hope and let them feast upon you. I’m excited beyond belief for Persona 5, but also worried that—after such a long dry spell of console-focused released—my hopes, wants, and expectations for it may now be too big for what it can deliver.

Then again, I also felt that after Persona 3, and Persona 4 turned out to be not too shabby.

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got his start via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as he can convince them to fit in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk him on Twitter: @pikoeri. Meet the rest of the crew.

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