After finally getting to hit the show floor, following the stellar announcements at the press conferences, I made my way to the Atlus block. Feeling my inner excitement for one of my favorite publishers/developers I dove right into one of their highly-anticipated remakes.
Persona PSP is slated to release in Fall 2009 (I pestered, but no official date yet), and its a going to be a refurbished version of the original with cinematics, voice acting, and a graphical upgrade. Dated gameplay, however, keeps the game from being anything but a fan service.
The demo started up with the main character (named MMMMMMMMMM), and his cohorts, discussing their situation in a hospital. I was told this was an early English build – which explained the terrible dialogue – but, regardless of this, the game looks better than the original, and plays just as well. I was also informed that I couldn’t take any pictures of the game unless the main character was the person doing the talking. It didn’t really make sense… you know, since it’s a remake, but I am guessing they don’t want any spoilers of known information. Which is completely understandable.
Fans will be glad to know that the old school first-person dungeon perspective is making a triumphant return and it moves at a much quicker pace than the original. It makes navigating difficult, even though you have a map, because the speed is disorienting. Thankfully, after spending a few moments moving around it wasn’t a problem.
I managed to work my way out of the hospital and into the standard Persona floating room, and I was quickly reminded at how much text Atlus RPGs like to throw at the players. After talking for a few minutes, my characters and I delved out into the outer world map in search of one of our missing members. Utilizing the same overhead map, with the cute little character icon, I ventured forth to engage in my first battle.
The combat system stays true to the original. It’s a lot clearer and a little more user friendly, but the gameplay is exactly the same as the original. You can choose to attack with melee weapons, ranged weapons (don’t forget bullets), access your persona’s powers, talk to the demon’s, or run away. A couple of battles into the game, and about 20 damage later, I felt like the game had been scaled down to make it a little more accessible. I asked the Atlus tech guy if this was true and he replied that it was just as hard as the original game. It’s possible that the monsters I fought were some of the weaker ones, but I remember being annihilated at a younger age and earlier in the game.
After finishing the demo I can say that the game holds true to being a shiny port, but the best part, which wasn’t playable, is an alternate campaign that is debuting in North America for the first time. The Snow Queen story arc is a different take on the main storyline and will be 30+ hours long. So the title is promising, like most Atlus RPGs – an immensely epic storyline that will explore human conditions through personas and schoolchildren.
However, the game hasn’t aged well since its debut on the original PlayStation. New age RPGers will have difficulty tolerating the slow combat (even though its been sped up) and old fashioned exploration techniques. Its apparent that the title is a throwback for the older fans and Atlus has ultimately succeeded at bringing them exactly what they wanted.