-by Dylan DiBona
Hello my friends and readers, welcome to a new blog series titled So You Want to Get Into. This series is for people interested in trying out specific video game franchises, but want a little bit more knowledge and guidance on if and where they should start. Now I don’t consider myself an expert on many series, but I think I’m knowledgeable enough to guide a beginner. I thought it would be appropriate to start with one of my favorite gaming series ever made, Persona.
What is Persona?
Persona is a spin-off of the mega JRPG franchise Shin Megami Tensei. After getting popular enough, the Shin Megami Tensei was dropped from the games’ titles and the Persona series is now considered even more popular than the original series it sprung from. The first two entries were simple JRPGs that crafted the idea of Personas, a beast like spirit within you that can fight other evil spirits. Persona 1 isn’t really beloved too much; Persona 2 is fondly remembered today for its story (I have yet to experience the game myself though). It’s Persona 3 that really brought the games into the mainstream spotlight; the game changed its focuses and added in the option to hang out with friends to strengthen bonds, which would unlock new abilities in battle. Today, Persona 3, 4 and 5 are acclaimed for interesting stories, great characters and an aesthetic present nowhere else. I can luckily tell you that there are no narrative ties between the three games.
What Game Should You Start With?
Most fans would’ve said Persona 4 is the best place to begin playing the series, but with 5 being absolutely amazing I wouldn’t doubt people recommending it for newcomers.
I’d stick with Persona 4.
It was my personal entry into the series and it introduced the millions of concepts used in Persona absolutely perfectly. It can be a little grindy at times, but the small world, story and characters are top notch. It can be funny, sad, and scary but there’s nothing quite like the murder-mystery of Persona 4.
After P4 I highly recommend Persona 3 Portable on PSP, and not the original on PlayStation 2 simply for one big flaw: you cannot control any party members in battle except yourself. This would leave you with about one forth of the gameplay you’re used to from P4, and it’s simply not a good design choice. Luckily Persona 3 Portable fixes this, but I will warn you: the style of the game is different to match the lesser power of the PSP. The battles and main dungeon look similar to the console version, but the cinematics are told in virtual novel style. Just remember that P3P uses a different presentation, and not the normal structure for the series. If you don’t mind having only control of yourself in battle, then by all means go to the Persona 3 FES edition on PS2, which adds a thirty hour epilogue, as if these games weren’t long enough (I’ll get to that).
After those two games are beaten then it’s time to finally reward yourself with the crisp, dazzling Persona 5. By far my favorite game in the series, and one of my favorite games ever made, P5 is a technical and mechanical masterpiece; the director of the Persona series left after completing 5, and if this game happens to be his magnum opus, that’s fine with me.
Do NOT start with Persona 5 because it improves so many concepts that I’d find it hard to go back to older games. For example, in 3 and 4 the dungeons are just simple hallways, much like a Mystery Dungeon game. But in Persona 5 dungeons are fully fleshed out environments that are much more exciting.
What Should You Expect?
These games are insanely long – The time it took my to finish Persona 4 may be considered fast for some, and that was sixty-five hours. Persona 5 took me essentially double that time to see the credits roll. It’s of course daunting at first, but what I like is how the series can be enjoyed with people of all lifestyles and varying amounts of free time. I played 5 when I was unemployed, so I would sit on the couch and play for an unhealthy six to eight hours everyday. If you’re a normal person and do not have that much free time, a Persona game is split up into days on a calendar; completing a couple of days or a week can take maybe twenty minutes to an hour in real time. It’s like watching an episode or two of your favorite show after work.
It’s basically video game anime – If you have an avid dislike for anime, this series isn’t for you, just the artwork and character designs alone scream of its animation influences. There are anime tropes everywhere, but something about being able to control the protagonist and which side stories you want to see makes these games like the best anime you could ever watch (or in this case, play).
It’s half JRPG, half Life-Sim – I’m sure the more dedicated fans would hate me for that claim. But in Persona (especially 5) you can decorate your bedroom, study for school, go out to restaurants and get a girlfriend; do any of those gameplay aspects really apply when I say “JRPG”? Not really. Sure it’s not infinite like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, but the Persona games may just have the most accurate life-sim aspects because nothing in life does last forever.
You can’t do everything in your first try – I believe in my heart of hearts that the Persona games are not meant to be experienced with a walkthrough. Just live, make a couple of mistakes and come back to the game for a second playthrough a few months down the road. This series has great New Game + modes, because certain things like “social stats” transfer, allowing you to save hours upon hours of time and experience more side stories.
I’ll Sum it Up For You
The Persona series of video games are very Japanese, anime-like JRPG’s that will last you at least sixty hours. They rely heavily on story and characters, and each entry vastly improves over the last. If this sounds interesting, then what are you waiting for?
Go get into Persona.
So guys what do you think of this new blog series? Did this help anybody with a desire to get into Persona? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply!
This article is a part of JRPG JULY, a celebratory month where I post JRPG themed articles every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.