Why Fans Might Want to Skip Straight to Persona 3
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, or otherwise known as Revelations: Persona, initially released for the first PlayStation way back in 1996. However, in the U.S. version, the game was overhauled in questionable ways through an extraordinary localization process. As a result, the PSP remake of the first Persona game is arguably the best way to play, and even then, the game is still very dated to play compared to any entry released after Persona 3. The first Persona game is set up like any other; high schoolers attain magical powers via the manifestation of their psyche to fight demons, though it’s missing any of the work/life balance mechanics found in later games.
The first Persona game is largely responsible for establishing the overarching elements of the series as a whole. Contextualizing themes of Carl Jung’s philosophy of the “persona” into a metaphysical world of humanity’s true nature, battling the inner demons of society in the “ideal” world is all there in the first game. However, everything about the gameplay and story plays out in a fairly different manner.
There are no social simulator-like elements other than walking around areas (from an uncomfortably close first-person perspective) outside of dungeons. Battles function on a strategic grid that involves positioning and setting up attacks all in one turn, rather than the Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest-style battle system. Pair that with a story that, despite having genuinely interesting character moments in the latter half, has a plodding and uninteresting start that demands hardcore investment. Going back to the first Persona game’s remake, and especially so with the original release, it should really only be reserved for hardcore fans curious about the series’ history.
The Insane Worlds Of Persona 2: Innocent Sin And Eternal Punishment
A similar notion applies to the Persona 2 duology, Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. These two games aren’t necessarily prequels and sequels of one another but are rather more subtly connected as one cohesive story. Playing through the most modern take of the Persona 2 duology already puts players at a disadvantage; Persona 2: Innocent Sin‘s PSP remake was released in the U.S., but the Eternal Punishment PSP remake was never localized due to “unusual circumstances,” according to Atlus’ Nick Maragos. As a result, playing the duology is hard enough, forcing players to play the second game’s original 2000 release version.
The Persona 2 duology is notable narratively but is just as flawed as the first Persona game in other aspects. Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment truly hone in on the specific character development of shadows and true selves, story elements evident in more modern games like Persona 4 Golden. However, that comes at a steep price of the overarching narrative, which is frankly insane by modern standards.
The world of personas and the “collective unconscious” is introduced in its most obscene form in Persona 2, shepherded by a Kefka-like villain who’s ironically named Joker. The idea behind Persona 2‘s strange world is the concept of rumors becoming “true,” manifesting in chaos with enemies ranging from lunatic Nazis and the “Fuhrer” to aliens invading from outer space. In short, the main plot is crazy. Other than the story, the game also modernizes the first game’s battle system in some regards, like fusion spells and the removal of grid-based battle mechanics. Despite all of that, both Persona 2 games are very old-school JRPGs with some really strange streaks.