Persona: Revelations

If you love JRPGS, it’d be a shock if you hadn’t heard of the series “Persona” the wildly popular series made Atlus. It’s a spinoff of the series Megami Tensei but has since gone on to produce numerous games and sequels. It all started in 1996 when Atlus developed and produced “Persona: Revelations” for the original PlayStation. The game follows a group of high schoolers as they get sucked into a parallel dimension and must make their way back to their own. Today, the Persona series is one of the most popular, but I wanted to see what started it all. Surprisingly, I didn’t care for the first entry.

The story begins as teens from a high school in Japan start summoning personas in a weird ritual game. I’m not sure they were expecting to actually open a portal or invite real spirits into their bodies but they succeeded and receive “personas” which are parts of their personality hidden deep within themselves.

Let’s take a look at the characters:

Silent Protagonist – You play as him, which means you don’t speak!

Take a good luck at yourself in the mirror.

Mary – She has been sick most of her life and is considered delicate. It’s not uncommon for her to be in the hospital. She enjoys painting and is quiet.

Bi-Polar at best.

Mark – He was changed to African-American in the North American release to make the cast more diverse. When Persona was re-released on the PSP, they decided to keep him white. Since he is black in the PS1 version, that’s the character I’ll show. He is a loudmouth who has a crush on Mary. He is a talented graffiti artist.

This is “black” Mark, “white” Mark is much different.

Nate – He’s the most level-headed member of the group and likes to keep his thinking logical. He might seem uptight and doesn’t have time for nonsense.

Looks like he has a stick up his ass.

Brad – He makes jokes and is considered the class-clown. He likes attention and seeks it in various ways but is a skilled fighter.

I kinda dig Brad’s red boots.

Ellen – She enjoys summoning practices and is interested in magic.

Please enjoy your flight on American-Airlines.

Alana – She is selfish and doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings besides herself. Her grades suffer in school and she doesn’t seem to care.

Big fan of the Seattle Seahawks.

Chris – He’s a loner student that has transferred in from another school.

Lead singing for some cult rock band.

Yuki – She was a trouble-maker as a child but has reformed and become one of the more mature members of the group.

What is she hiding under that skirt?

As I mentioned earlier, the group is playing the summoning game persona when lightning strikes a few of them are knocked unconscious. During this time a strange phantom from within their conscious tells them he is giving them the powers of personas and that they will need them soon. After recovering in the nurse’s office at their school, they decide to visit their friend Mary who has been sick and bedridden in the local hospital for some time.

After making their way to the hospital they are told Mary has become very ill. The hospital suddenly comes under attack by demons that come from people’s inner dark thoughts. Using their personas, they defeat the demons and escape from the hospital. They visit Mary’s mother who informs them that the demons are on the loose because of SEBEC, a company she worked for. SEBEC was inventing a reality-altering machine called the Deva System. The group decides to fight SEBEC and bring reality back to normal.

As they set off to fight SEBEC they are joined by Mary, who has apparently recovered from her illness. They make their way to SEBEC and confront the leader, a man named Guido Sardenia. Before they can fight him, a small child in black appears and renders everyone unconscious. They awaken to a new world that is the perfect ideal place. The group continues to try and find Guido who reveals that he is trying to become a god through the Deva System.

They eventually defeat Guido but as he is dying reveals that Mary has been splintered throughout the realms and that the one they are traveling with is not the real Mary but an “ideal” version of her, hence her not being sick anymore. The little girl that appeared earlier is another version of Mary from her subconscious. To heal Mary they travel to the Sea of Souls and destroy the evil aspect of Mary who wants to destroy life on Earth. With the evil version of Mary destroyed, the other pieces of her form together to create the real Mary making her whole again and reversing the realms and different realities restoring everything to normal again.

I’m fairly good at JRPGs and RPGs but Persona was very tough to get into. It doesn’t go out of its way to explain what the heck you are doing or why. There are many submenus and elements that go into battles that you just need to discover or learn for yourself which is why I actually didn’t beat this game. I made it to a boss about 80% into the game in the Castle Mana and just couldn’t beat him. My levels are plenty high, but I simply don’t know how to enhance my personas or get new ones to improve my stats. I have the best equipment and weapons available but not understanding the depth of demon cards or changing personas stopped my progress. I’ll get into more of that later.

For a game released in 1996, Persona: Revelations looks solid. You’ll get an overhead view of the battles which look fine, but you’ll also play in first-person when you are navigating the dungeons, and believe me you’ll go through plenty of dungeons. Some you can figure out relatively easy, but others will take sheer luck to find your way out of. Often times, it’s too much work and makes Persona a chore to play sucking the fun out of the battles or story when you have to spend an hour and a half figuring out how to escape the dungeons.

Dungeons are an annoying part of the gameplay but so are the sound effects. In every battle, you’ll hear your personas crying out whenever they attack. It got so annoying that I turned the volume down so low I could barely hear anything. It seems that every action has some dumb sound, even the menu sounds make my ears bleed. Speaking of menus, this is where the game gets very complicated. Persona is very much a strategy RPG meaning you need to constantly play around with the weapons and equipment you are wearing. That’s fine, I can do that but then you need to constantly upgrade your persona or change them which I had no idea how to do. You can earn other personas (I think) during battles with random demons. Not every encounter with a demon will end in battle, but you can talk to them to do other things. Each demon has a different personality with joy, anger, fear, and interest leading the way. You need to figure out which action each of your characters can do to keep the demon from attacking you or even better helping you out. You can do things like telling a joke, dance, give a speech, flatter, and tons of other actions. It felt overwhelming especially when I didn’t know how to earn a demon card which is used to make a new persona. I’d ask the demons for a card every now and then and they’d all tell me that I wasn’t strong enough to be given a card yet. I would understand that if I hadn’t made my way through 80 percent of the game.

Demons can be anything, some of really cool like the typical demons you’d see from hell while others are really stupid like toilets. Each demon has a weakness and it’s up to you to find out whether you should physically attack, shoot them with your guns, use your personas, or type of magic. A lot goes into Persona and as I’ve mentioned it’s overwhelming at many points because it doesn’t feel like there’s a rhyme or reason to it.

When you aren’t fighting demons or crawling through dungeons you’ll be exploring the world map. It’s very simple and basic but the fact that there are three different aspects to the game is impressive. I won’t knock the game for adding different elements to it. Overall, I thought the presentation was above-average, I loved reading all the descriptions of things and seeing the characters. Their dialogue made me giggle numerous times mainly from how un-politically correct they are in their conversations. The word “retard” and “retarded” gets thrown around a lot and it made me wonder how this version that I played on the PS Classic didn’t get censored or changed due to the whiny gaming journalists of today.

I never saw this game in stores but I do remember seeing tons of ads for Persona 2. This was a frustrating playthrough most of the time and I struggled to have “fun” playing it.

Persona: Revelations is the first step in a massively successful series. It’s a rough first step as it has many ideas but doesn’t present them in a friendly way to the player for them to experience an understanding of them. Persona does a few things well like the character development, conversations, and interesting exploration of buildings but the overall experience is hurt by the overly-complicated battle system and persona combinations that are needed to beat this game. I really hope future Persona games aren’t like the first because I want to love this series but the first game isn’t very inviting.

Persona: Revelations scores a 6.9 out of 10.

Do you remember when Persona: Revelations first came out? What was the first Persona game you played? Did you find it as frustrating as I did? Were there any dungeons that you were lost in? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.

If you’d like to own a copy of Persona: Revelations, you can purchase a used copy of it for the PS1 for over $300 on eBay.

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