Path to Persona 5: How the Series Lives its Message

The Wait For Persona 5 is Nearly Over

It is finally happening. After eight years, the highly anticipated title, Persona 5, will soon be available on Japanese shores and players will be welcomed to the Velvet Room once again.

There’s no better time than now to reflect on how the massively successful franchise lives its themes and messages.

The Persona series thrives on self-discovery. The characters all learn about their true selves and the importance of self-acceptance. Much of the official artwork for the series depicts characters with masks for a reason. The series discusses the struggles that people go through every day while wearing these metaphorical masks.

Atlus, the developer behind the Persona series, takes the idea of wearing masks and uses it for its marketing strategy. There is a product created for nearly every audience that could ever possibly conceive an interest for the franchise.

Persona 5 Mask
In Persona 5, characters activate their powers through the masks they wear.

A Mask for Every Occasion

The main titles in the series are traditional role-playing games that progressed into RPG/Social Simulator hybrids. The titles typically feature high school kids with inner demons known as Personas. The main characters use their Personas to save the world from cruelty and corruption. Personas are the physical manifestations of the characters’ personalities, and without self-acceptance, the inner demons can become deadly. This portion of the game’s story is paramount to the entire experience.

While the combat can be difficult, some games can be played on an easier difficulty. This allows folks who prefer to focus on the social aspects of the game to have a more enjoyable experience. Whenever the party isn’t out fighting monsters, the main character is either attending class, hanging out with friends, studying, or going to work. Every action leads to character development.

While the first two games certainly had their own success, it was not until the third title where the series found international appeal. Since then, the PlayStation Store made the series readily available for the consumer. The PS Store houses ports of nearly every game in the franchise with upgraded re-releases available for the portable consoles.

After the success of the main series, Atlus entered a variety of other markets to capitalize upon the characters, stories, and messages its franchise had to offer. Numerous anime and manga adaptations were created alongside drama CDs and novelizations. There is a piece of media for nearly any consumer wishing to be involved with the Persona phenomenon.

Persona 3 Cast
Shigenori Soejima is the art director of the Persona series. His art has created consistency for the series since Persona 3 released in 2006.

From RPG to Full-fledged Fighting Game, Persona Prevails

In 2012, Atlus made the biggest evolution of the franchise by collaborating with video game developer, Arc System Works. Arc System Works is known for the hardcore 2D fighting games Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. The partnership led to the creation of Persona 4 Arena, a 2D pixel fighter that takes place after the events of the fourth title in the main series. The title was a spinoff of both Persona 3 and 4 thanks to the inclusion of characters from both titles.

Incredibly, the two companies designed an expert fighting game experience while still retaining the story telling elements and style from the original RPG. The game was made with both styles of players in mind. As a result, nearly anyone could enjoy the incredible cast of characters.

The combat system only used four buttons in order to make the game more accessible. Two of the buttons were tied to the main character’s attacks while the other buttons were used to control the Persona. It was also possible to activate a quick combo by repeatedly hitting the primary attack button. These mechanics were implemented with hopes of making a game that was fun and accessible for both RPG fans and fighting game players. Persona 4 Arena garnered so much success that it was granted a sequel, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. In Japan, it has a more passionate title, Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold. This entry continued the storyline of Persona 3 and Persona 4 and brought a sense of closure to the two titles.

Persona 4 Arena Labrys
Persona 4 Arena also marks the first playable appearance of the android, Labrys, after she was previously mentioned within the Persona 3 Drama CD: Moonlight.

All’s Well That Ends…Well?

That sense of closure was short-lived however because Atlus wasn’t finished with the success of passed Personas quite yet. Atlus released two more games based on the characters from previous titles.

Atlus released the rhythm game, Persona 4: Dancing All Night on the PlayStation Vita. The game took the characters from Persona 4 beyond the events of the epilogue and forced them to dance as if their lives depended on it because their lives did depend on it. While the premise is certainly beyond zany, for the Persona series, it seemed to be the only direction it had left to go.

Not wanting to miss out on the 3DS market, Atlus released Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. The game had its own original story as well as characters from both Persona titles once again. The gameplay was more like a traditional RPG but was not a typical Persona party. The game was closely modeled after another Atlus’ franchise, Etrain Odyssey which was also seeing great success.

It almost felt like the Persona 4 train would never end. Some fans may have appreciated the time that was taken with Persona 4, while others were eagerly awaiting the next entry. It’s hard to imagine Atlus letting go of the characters that they have invested into so deeply. Especially when it comes to the Arena spin-offs. Fighting game assets are quite expensive and it would be a shame to let them go to waste. Maybe someday there will be a Persona 5 Arena with characters that go even further back in the Persona franchise. Another take on the Dancing All Night formula might not be too shabby either.

yu-and-rise-p4d
Persona 4’s main Character, Yu Narukami dances to the beat with the game’s teen idol sensation, Rise Kujikawa

Ceaselessly Into the Future

The Persona series has taken many twists and turns on its path to create an ever expanding universe. Whether someone is playing the game, reading the book, or watching the animation, there is a Persona for everyone. Atlus has taken a series about self-discovery and made it available and accessible in ways no other franchise has. The franchise itself is in a constant state of self-discovery because there is always more that it can be. This is a message Atlus hopes to leave with its audience. Success can be found no matter who the player is as long as they are true to who they really are.

Persona 5 releases on September 15 in Japan with a solid February 14, 2017 release for North America and Europe. An anime prologue has already been released in Japan and there are already reviews from Japanese magazine, Famitsu. One can expect the usual full-length anime, movie, and manga adaptations, but the full scale of genre-jumping entries will depend on the overall success of the long awaited sequel.

Austyn Roney
Austyn James Roney has been learning the ways of the keys as he journeys into becoming a true online journalist. He enjoys fighting and role playing games the most but appreciates all genres. Its all about the characters!!

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