The PSP remake of Persona 1 is out and about, and as expected both Chris and I are playing it. Since Chris will most likely review it before I even finish (I have yet to finish an SMT game), I wanted to share some quick observations.
I knew that P1 would be different in many ways to its PS2 sequels, which were my first experiences with anything Megaten related. This didn’t really bother me; while I have few hardcore, 1st person dungeon based RPGs under my belt, I am at the point in my gaming life where I can cope with most foreign genre conventions without feeling confused or overwhelmed.
Sure enough, P1 is a bit confusing at first. There are many parameters involved in any given battle, and the game does little to hold your hand along the way. For example, by the time you finish the Police Station early on a lot of other areas will open up, yet the game will never tell you. So far, my solution to these challenges is to play cautiously.
The game isn’t overbearingly hard in the beginning, which gives you the opportunity to experiment and slowly explore. With a bit of time, the world map comes together and the slew of combat options begin to make a lot of sense. Persona is the type of RPG in which one can learn a lot from taking risks and trying things early on, when salvation from a party wipe is only a save away.
Persona’s cast, or at least what I have seen of it, have so far shed some light on the series as a whole. Most of the characters either have ties to teenage gangs, or are successful, beautiful people with warped world views. In other words, of the three Persona games I have played, this group is the biggest bunch of pricks in the lot.
I do not say this as a bad thing, as it works within the context of the game. P1 tries to show us what would happen if a high school’s upper crust and problem children were forced to work together while their town goes to hell in a hand basket, and I am eager to see how their faults and insecurities cause them to screw up along the way. P1 also made me realize that Atlus is somewhat averse to putting average, everyday students into the fold. Sure, these types exist, but the games also have a habit of placing party members into both extremes of the high school social ladder.
On one hand, you could argue that this makes the series less groundbreaking than it is made out to be, since these characters are simply analogues to extreme stereotypes in other games, only in another setting. On the other hand, “average” characters are not necessarily interesting, and must be written with great care if they are used. On a third hand, Persona is still very realistic in the sense that it reminds us that in real life we often have to deal with people we may not like.
My final observation is in regards to the quality of the remake – since Atlus is the kind of developer that relies on creativity rather than budget, Persona only puts a facelift on parts of the game that need it. Other parts, such as the dungeons, story and game mechanics are still straight out of the Playstation era, for better or worse. You need to come into this game with an understanding that it is not a 2009 game. P3 and 4 spoiled newcomers in this regard, and it will take some give on our part in order to see this remake for what it is.
According to Chris, Persona is fairly short game, so I expect to finally finish a Megaten experience for once, even if it still might take me months. For now, I am just glad I can see it eye to eye.