What is a Megami Tensei and how exactly does it differ to a Shin Megami Tensei? What about Devil Summoner? That's something too, right? Fuck knows where Persona fits into all of this. I doubt even Atlus knows, whoever they are. Until recently, I assumed that メガテン was a type of burger and thought 女神異聞録 was a stop on the Sobu line. What on earth is a Megami Tensei and how exactly does it differ to a Shin Megami Tensei? My head hurts.
Thanks to the internet, I have found answers to some of these questions and have gained a basic understanding of MT, SMT, DS and more specifically, Persona. I had always made a point to avoid the series, something that required a great deal of effort when living in Japan, where it is hugely popular, but far easier back here in the UK. I continue to insist that Japanese animation is not my cup of tea, and Persona has always struck me as being interactive anime in style and narrative. Besides, I like my RPGs full of dragons, steam punks or Asari, and am rarely drawn to those with a contemporary setting. As ridiculous as it sounds, in the past I considered Persona to be too Japanese, like eating natto off a moe moe hug-pillow at a Monster Hunter convention. I pictured an amalgamation of some of the more unsavoury elements of otakudom, and deemed Persona a mystery not worth solving. For a while, we were happy apart; then along came Persona 4 Golden.
Persona 4 arrived at entirely the wrong time. I had already moved on from my PlayStation 2 and was far too invested in my PS3 to jump back for a series I knew precious little about. I was living the real-life Japanese life, in real life, where I was already enjoying things like short skirts, wanky J-Pop and getting inside the television, and didn't feel the need to double-up in a digital world. However, as I started to blog regularly and my interest in video games grew more in-depth, I became more aware of the critical adoration for Persona 4 and was able to appreciate its success, even if I didn't quite understand or wish to indulge in it.
Persona 4: Golden arrived at the perfect time, for the perfect platform. Its successful Japanese launch last summer piqued my interest, and it was hard to ignore all the praise coming from the American audience following its November release. Most importantly, this enhanced port arrived on the Vita. I have been waiting patiently for an RPG for Sony's latest, as it was the genre that made a star of my PSP, and a compelling reason to dust off my portable. With the European release still two months away, I decided to import for Christmas, and jumped in for the first time over the weekend.
At this early juncture, it is Persona's style and colour that has most impressed. It looks great on the Vita, as brilliant as even the brightest and most demented of my Paint Park creations. Despite rain and murder, I survived my difficult first day at school, where not a single student took the piss out of my character's name. Musashi Pliskin has done a little bit of exploring, inside and outside the telly, but so far everything has been very controlled and linear. I'm looking forward to things opening up in an hour or two, so that I can get a proper feel for the Persona experience.
The only bone I have to pick thus far is the voice acting, in particular that of Chie. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I prefer mute characters, but English voice acting in JRPGs has a tendency to do my head in. The whiny, high pitched and manic Chie is the main offender, but I have resisted turning off the voice-overs in the hope that I'll get used to it and/or Chie will soon be murdered. Otherwise, I'm really enjoying myself and am looking forward to sinking considerable time into P4G this winter.
Even if I don't fall in love with Persona 4 Golden, I somehow doubt this will be the last time I write about it. It's always good to try something different, to add a bit of variety to your diet and discover a series with a well-established history that you can delve into. If Persona wins me over, perhaps I'll look again at other Japanese franchises that I’ve lumped together and chosen to ignore over the years, such as Disgaea, Tales and Ys, or at the very least check their Wikipedia pages.