Persona – Geek Out

In a case of true serendipity I found that one of my most favorite, and obscure, series of video games is coming to PS3!

Japan has ten times more video games than any other country. Some of these games are really fantastic and developers immediately localize them for American and European markets. Other games take a while before someone convinces enough people to snatch up the rights and import them. Guitar Freaks and Beat Mania, for example, were originally released into the Japanese market in 1998; but weren’t brought to American audiences until RedOctane and Harmonix produced Guitar Hero in 2005 and Rockband in 2007.

Sometimes other titles, often deemed too Japanese for western audiences, amazingly get a green-light for English localization.

In 2009, Red Entertainment licensed Sakura Wars V (a Sega developed, Nippon Ichi Software title); releasing it in North America as Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. The game can best be described as a tactical role-playing game that’s also a dating simulator. It’s set in an alternate, steam-punk, reality of 1920’s New York City. You play as a Japanese naval officer who fights alongside (and attempts to woo) beautiful American female warriors who also pilot giant robots but disguise themselves as a musical troupe. It was actually a lot of fun! It was short, for an RPG, but it had a lot of replay-ability due to how building different relationships changed the story.

Atlus USA is an American company that specializes in importing and localizing these niche Japanese games – obscure games that larger (read: safer) game companies steer clear of (read: avoid). In 2007 they released a one-year old Japanese RPG titled Persona 3 – which received generally favorable reviews. The story involves a group of students investigating something called the Dark Hour; which turns out to be the brief period of time between one day and the next. During the Dark Hour, one can enter a parallel universe which is populated with creatures that feed on the minds of humans. In order to defeat the creatures the player is able to summon a manifestation of their inner self (a Persona) by firing a gun-like object (called an Evoker) at their head. How Atlus convinced the ESRB that this particular Japanese title would be safe for the fragile American teenager… I’ll never know.

In 2009, Atlus released the critically acclaimed Persona 4which was actually the first Persona title that I played. This game centers around a student who moves to the small town of Inaba for one year. During this time he becomes involved in investigating mysterious murders that involve people getting sucked into their television sets via the Midnight Chanel – but only on foggy nights. I don’t want to give too much away… but through some clever twists and turns the story ends up being about a Japanese folklore, mythological goddess, attempting to obliterate the world.

The Persona games had well designed characters that were both fun and powerful… and now they’re going head-to-head in something called Persona 4 Arena.

As if the concept of this fighting game wasn’t cool enough I found out the game is being co-developed by Atlus and Arc Systems (the team behind the spectacular Guilty Gear series).

Total. Geek. Moment.

With the singular exception of Tecmo’s DOA games, I’ve never been very good at this genre – and that’s putting it mildly. Either I can’t master or memorize all the move combinations or I can’t keep up with the lightning-fast game play. Regardless, I would buy this game. In a heartbeat.

August 7 is when this comes out. Anybody else as excited as me?

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