Nothing but Playstation remakes. The PSP seems to be relegated to the unusual role of a “Remake system”. Nearly all the RPGs (which are, of course, the only real games out there) on the system are remakes, or generally reputed to be bad. And Persona is falls neatly in the first category, as you might expect.
But as I’ve written before – the Persona we received back when it was among the first in its genre for the Playstation wasn’t quite the same game they saw in Japan. Set in the sleepy US town of Lunarvale (which still managed to house a several-storied corporate office), the American students (who all wear school uniforms and are taught in a traditional Japanese concrete-block school) face an invasion of demons from an unknown source. Whereas much of the story itself is intact, some of the characters were… err… modified. Add this to the removal of the “bonus” branch of the story (which replaces the last 4/5 of the adventure with a few hefty dungeon crawls and a completely different plot), and Persona PSP seems like a remake with bonuses. Not only does it give us a new translation, it restores the original setting, adds a few FMVs, and gives us the Snow Queen Quest for the first time.
“That sounds good,” you might say, “but is the game actually fun?” The learning curve may get in the way here. While Persona does have a Beginner mode, the game is unintuitive at best. A single battle tutorial gives vague directions, but flipping open the manual reveals there are four broad classes of magic, with a total of around a dozen subtypes. Not only is that hard to keep track of, but there is also gun-type damage, area effects, formations which affect those areas, and the Contact system (which allows you to get more Personas). It’s not just a complicated game – it is, by a wide margin, the most complicated game I can think of.
Once you get to the point of understanding how things work, the game isn’t actually that hard on Normal difficulty. With a little bit of work, beating every boss in the normal story is fairly simple (hint: guns are your best friend for bosses). When I played through, I did have to spend some time grinding – the awful g-word – in the final dungeon. Given the game only runs about 25 hours, comparatively short to its epic-length sequels, this really isn’t too bad. The Snow Queen Quest is somewhat more difficult. You can’t save (except suspend save, of course) in the three towers that make up the bulk of the quest, so I would recommend waiting until you finish the main storyline.
Speaking of the storyline, it’s the same as the first US release except for translation improvements. The upgrade does make the latter half of Persona much easier to understand. While it’s not the largest scale story ever – you don’t get the impression you’re saving the world so much as saving your hometown – it is certainly an interesting one. It was unusual in several ways when we first saw it on the PSX; now, after Atlus has expanded much more on the base ideas of the game, it seems a little less impressive.
Persona was the first game for which Shoji Meguro composed a soundtrack. He did a bang-up job and he reworked most of the music this time around. Other remakes that have redone music (such as Wild Arms Alter Code: F) have come off as overdone, but this isn’t the case for Persona PSP. Some good tracks were cut, and others were reassigned, but the core feel of the game is still there and the new tracks are as good as the dropped ones.
Although it might not be as polished as more recent games, Persona PSP is still a good game in its own right. If you’re looking for a decent RPG for your PSP, and you either didn’t check Persona out the first time around or want to see what it could have been, this is the game for you.