Persona (series)

Persona
Persona PSP logo.svg
The logo of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, the remake of the first game in the series. Each game uses its own font and styling.
Genre(s) Role-playing, social simulation
Developer(s) Atlus
Publisher(s)
Creator(s)
Composer(s) Shoji Meguro
Platform(s) PlayStation, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Arcade, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4
First release Revelations: Persona
September 20, 1996
Latest release Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth
November 29, 2018

Persona,[Jp. 1] also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona, is a video game franchise developed and primarily published by Atlus.[a] Focusing around a series of role-playing video games, Persona is a spin-off from Atlus' Megami Tensei franchise, and was originally based on the high school setting of Shin Megami Tensei If.... The first entry in the series, Revelations: Persona,[b] was released in 1996. There have since been five further main games, with the most recent, Persona 5, being released in 2016. Numerous spin-offs have also been developed. The series takes its title from beings summoned by characters in battle, manifesting from their psychological persona.

Persona began as a spin-off based on the positively-received setting of If.... Its trademark features include a high school setting, a group of students as the protagonists, a silent protagonist similar to the mainline Megami Tensei franchise, and combat using Personas. Since the release of Persona 3 in 2006, the main series has used a social simulation function called Social Links, which is directly linked to how Personas evolve. Central character designs are by series co-creator Kazuma Kaneko (Persona and the Persona 2 duology) and Shigenori Soejima (Persona 3 onwards). Its overall theme is exploration of the human psyche and how the characters find their true selves. The series' recurring concepts and design elements draw on Jungian psychology and archetypes, along with religion, mythology, and popular literature.

Revelations: Persona was the first role-playing Megami Tensei title to be released outside of Japan. Beginning with Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, the English localizations began to remain faithful to the Japanese versions at the insistence of Atlus. The series is highly popular internationally, becoming the best-known Megami Tensei spin-off and establishing Atlus and the Megami Tensei franchise in North America. Following the release of Persona 3 and 4, the series also established a strong following in Europe. The series has since gone on to sell a total of over nine million copies worldwide, outselling its parent franchise. There have been numerous adaptations, including anime television and theatrical series, novelizations, mangas, stage plays, radio dramas, and musical concerts.

Titles

Timeline of release years
1996 Revelations: Persona
1997
1998
1999 Persona 2: Innocent Sin
2000 Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006 Persona 3
2007
2008 Persona 4
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016 Persona 5

Main series

  • Revelations: Persona is the first entry in the series, was released in Japan and North America for the PlayStation in 1996.[1][2] A port to Microsoft Windows was released in Japan in 1999.[3] The game was later ported to the PlayStation Portable (PSP): it was published in 2009 in Japan and North America as physical and digital releases, and 2010 in Europe as a digital release.[4][5][6] Set in the town of Mikage-cho, it follows a group of high school students from St. Hermelin High, who are forced to confront an outbreak of demons in their hometown.[7]
  • Persona 2: Innocent Sin is the second entry in the series, released in Japan for the PlayStation in 1999.[1] After the success of Persona's PSP port, a port of Innocent Sin was greenlit. For this version, adjustments were made so that it played more like its sequel, along with added features and a new scenario.[8][9][10] The port was released in 2011 in all regions.[11][12][13] Set in the coastal city of Sumaru, the story follows Tatsuya Suou, a student of Seven Sisters High, as he confronts phenomena generated by reality-altering rumors.[14]
  • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is the third entry in the main series, released in Japan and North America for the PlayStation in 2000.[15][16] Like Innocent Sin, it was remade for PSP, and included a new scenario by the game's original writer.[17] The remake released in Japan in 2012, but did not reach the West. The original version was re-released worldwide on PlayStation Network (PSN) in 2013 in response to this.[17][18] Set shortly after the ending of Innocent Sin, the story follows Maya Amano, a supporting character from the previous game, as she confronts a similar rumor-created threat along with Tatsuya.[19]
  • Persona 3 is the fourth entry in the main series. Developed for PlayStation 2, it released in 2006 in Japan, 2007 in North America, and 2008 in Europe.[1][20][21] Persona 3 FES, a director's cut featuring new content and an epilogue, was released in 2007 in Japan and 2008 in North America and Europe.[22] The main portion of FES was later ported to the PSP as Persona 3 Portable: it featured a few enhancements such as a female playable character and the ability to control all characters in battle, and some content was adjusted or removed so it could fit on a portable platform.[23][24] The story takes place in the town of Iwatodai, following a group of students known as "SEES" who fight monsters that appear during a time known as the Dark Hour.[25]
  • Persona 4 is the fifth entry in the main series, released for the PlayStation 2 in 2008 in Japan and North America, and 2009 in Europe.[26] The success of Persona 3 Portable inspired the creation of a portable version of Persona 4. As using the PSP would result in cutting too much content, it was instead developed for PlayStation Vita, which allowed for new features and content. This version was titled Persona 4 Golden.[24] Persona 4 takes place in the rural town of Inaba, where a group of students investigate a series of killings related to a realm known as the Midnight Channel.[27]
  • Persona 5 is the sixth entry in the main series, released for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. It was released in 2016 in Japan, and in 2017 in North America and Europe.[1][28] Persona 5 is set in Tokyo and follows a group of students as they adopt the guises of thieves to tackle the city's corruption and attain freedom from imposed societal pressures.[29][30]

Spin-offs

Persona 3 received a Japan-exclusive spin-off online game titled Persona 3: The Night Before;[Jp. 2] it follows a similar cycle of daytime activities and night time combat as the original game, with one player being chosen as the party leader each night.[31] After its closure in 2008, a new free-to-play browser game titled Persona Ain Soph[Jp. 3] was released that year; the gameplay focused on players fusing Personas and confronting a threat known as the Qliphoth. Staying exclusive to Japan, it closed down in June 2010.[32][33] A fighting game sequel to Persona 4, Persona 4 Arena, was released in arcades in Japan in 2012.[34] Console versions were released in 2012 in Japan and North America, and 2013 in Europe.[35][36][37] A sequel, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, was similarly released in Japanese arcades in 2013, then released in 2014 in all regions for consoles.[38][39][40] A standalone spin-off for the Nintendo 3DS, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, was released worldwide in 2014;[1] it features the full casts of Persona 3 and 4, and is classed by Atlus as an official entry in the Persona canon.[41] A sequel featuring the Persona 5 cast is in production.[42] A rhythm game set after the events of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Persona 4: Dancing All Night, was released worldwide in 2015.[43][44][45] Two follow-ups to Dancing All Night, Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight and Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, were simultaneously released in Japan in May 2018.[46]

Several Persona mobile games have been made in partnership with other Japanese mobile companies such as Bbmf. Their first partnership was in 2006 with the development and release of Megami Ibunroku Persona: Chapter of the Foreign Tower of Emptiness,[Jp. 4] a 3D dungeon crawler set within the environments of the first Persona game.[47] The companies later collaborated on two mobile games based on the Persona 2 games: Persona 2: Innocent Sin - Lost Memories[Jp. 5] in 2007, and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment - Infinity Mask[Jp. 6] in 2009. Both games carried over the basic gameplay functions of the original games tailored for mobile phones.[48][49] Many mobile spin-offs are related to Persona 3: there is an RPG side-story titled Persona 3 Em,[Jp. 7] an action game prequel set ten years prior to Persona 3 titled Aegis: The First Mission,[Jp. 8] and an alternate version of Persona 3 featuring different characters titled Persona 3 Social.[Jp. 9] Multiple Persona 3-themed puzzle games have also been developed.[50][51][52][53][54][55] An online mobile RPG set around the high school featured in Persona 3, titled Persona Mobile Online,[Jp. 10] was released in 2009.[56] Persona 4 likewise received a mobile card game spin-off, titled Persona 4 The Card Battle.[Jp. 11][57]

Common elements

Gameplay

Screenshots featuring a battle against Shadows using a Persona (above) and the growth of Social Links (below). These images are taken from Persona 4 Golden. Persona 4 built upon mechanics introduced in Persona 3.

The gameplay of the Persona series revolves around combat against various enemy types: Demons, Shadows and Personas.[58][59][60][61] Main combat takes place during dungeon crawling segments within various locations. The way battles initiate varies between random encounters (Persona, Persona 2) or running into models representing enemy groups (Persona 3 onwards). Battles are governed by a turn-based system, where the player party and enemies each attack the opposing side. Actions in battle include standard physical attacks using short-range melee or long-range projectile weapons, magical attacks, using items, guarding, and under certain conditions escaping from battles. During battle, either side can strike an enemy's weakness, which deals more damage than other attacks.[14][27][62][63][64] Starting with Persona 3, landing a critical hit grants the character an extra turn. If all enemies are knocked down by critical hits, the party can perform an "All Out Attack", with all party members attacking at once and dealing high damage. Each party member is manually controlled by the player in all but one Persona title: in Persona 3, all the party apart from the main character are controlled by an AI-based command system. The general gameplay has remained consistent across all Persona games.[14][27][61][64][65][66]

Each Persona game also includes unique elements. In Persona, battles take place on a grid-based battlefield, with characters' and enemies' movements dictated by their placement on the battlefield.[59] This system was abandoned for the Persona 2 games: the party has free movement across the battlefield, and is assigned a set of moves which can be changed in the menu during and in between battles.[14][67] In Persona and Persona 3, there is a lunar phase tied to gameplay, time progression, and the plot. In Persona 4, this was changed to a weather-based system, where changes in the weather keyed to the story affected enemy behavior.[61][68][69] Persona 5 introduces elements such as platforming and stealth gameplay to dungeon exploration.[58][64][70] The All-Out Attack can be initiated in a "Hold-Up" session, triggered when all enemies are knocked down.[71]

A defining aspect of the series is the Personas, manifestations of a person's psyche.[72] Many Personas used up to Persona 3 are inspired by Graeco-Roman mythology. In Persona 4 they are based on Japanese deities; Persona 5 uses characters inspired by popular fictional and historical outlaws.[73][74][75] The summoning ritual for Personas in battle varies throughout the series: in early games, the party gains the ability to summon through a short ritual after playing a parlor game; in Persona 3, they fire a gun-like device called an Evoker at their head; in Persona 4, they summon their Personas using Tarot cards; in Persona 5, they are summoned through the characters' masks.[72][76]

Personas are used for types of physical attack and magical attacks, along with actions such as healing and curing or inflicting status effects.[14][27][59][63][72][77] For all Persona games, all playable characters start out with an initial Persona, which can evolve into other Personas through story-based events and use during battle.[14][66][77] In multiple Persona games, two or more Personas can be summoned at once to perform a powerful Fusion Spell.[14][66][67] In Persona 3, 4 and 5, only the main character can wield and change between multiple Personas; the other characters use a single Persona.[27][77] During the course of the game, the player acquires more Personas through a system of Skill Cards, represented by Major Arcana Tarot cards. Each skill card represents a different Persona family, which in turn hold their own abilities inherent to that family. Multiple Personas can be fused together to create a new Persona with improved and inherited abilities: these range from fusing two Personas in the Persona 2 duology, to fusing up to twelve in Persona 4.[14][27][59][63][77][78] Starting with Persona 3, the main protagonist of each game has an ability known as "Wild Card", an ability to summon multiple Personas represented by the Fool Arcana.[79]

"Social Links" is a system introduced in Persona 3 that is a form of character interaction tied to the growth of Personas. During their time outside battle, the main character can interact with and grow a particular Social Link, which acts as an independent character growth system tied to a Persona family or Arcanum. As the main character's relationship with the character representing a Social Link grows, its rank is raised and more powerful Personas related to the Social Link's assigned Arcanum can be summoned and fused.[27][62] Attributes related to the main character's social life can also be used to improve their Persona abilities, such as their academic abilities and social aptitude.[27][77] An enhanced version of the Social Link system, known as "Confidants", appeared in Persona 5.[58][80]

In Persona, the Persona 2 duology, and Persona 5, there is also a "Negotiation" mechanic carried over from the Megami Tensei series, in which player characters can talk with enemies and provoke certain actions depending on their dialogue choices. Some responses yield Skill Cards for use in creating new Personas.[14][59] Negotiation was removed from Persona 3 and Persona 4, although Atlus staff considered the Social Link system and aspects of Persona Fusion to be a "disguised" version of it.[81] In Persona 5, they can be initiated during a "Hold Up" session; Shadows can be persuaded to join the party as a new Persona if the Negotiation is successful, the player character has room in their roster, and the party is at an appropriate experience level.[71][82]

Setting and themes

The Persona series takes place in modern-day Japan and focuses on a group of high school students, with the exception to this being Eternal Punishment, which focused on a group of adults.[72][83] The setting has been described as urban fantasy, with extraordinary events happening in otherwise normal locations.[84] The typical setting used is a city, with a noted exception being the rural town setting of Persona 4.[83] Although they are typically stand-alone games that only share thematic elements, the Persona games share a continuity, with elements from previous games turning up in later ones.[72][83] Persona and the Persona 2 games shared narrative elements which were concluded with Eternal Punishment, so Persona 3 started out with a fresh setting and characters.[85] The first in the series is Persona, set in the year 1996. This is followed by the events of Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment in 1999. At the end of Innocent Sin, the main characters rewrite events to avert the destruction of Earth, creating the Eternal Punishment reality, with the original reality becoming an isolated Other Side. Persona 3 and subsequent games stem from Eternal Punishment.[7][86] Persona 3 is set from 2009 to 2010, and Persona 4 is set from 2011 to 2012. The Persona 4 Arena games and Dancing All Night take place in the months following Persona 4.[7][87][88] Persona Q takes place in a separate enclosed world in which the characters of Persona 3 and 4 are drawn into from their respective time periods.[89] In contrast, Persona 5 is set in a non-specific year referred to as "20XX".[90]

A central concept for the series is the collective unconscious, a place generated by the hearts of humanity and from which Personas are born.[7][86] According to the official Persona Club P3 book, the collective unconscious was generated by the primitive life on Earth as a means of containing the spiritual essence of Nyx, a space-born being whose presence would cause the death of all life on Earth. Her body was damaged by the impact and became the moon, while her psyche was left on the surface and locked away at the heart of the collective unconscious. The fragments of Nyx's psyche, known as "Shadows", are both a threat and a crucial part of humanity's existence. To further help defend against hostile Shadows, people generated the deities that exist within the collective unconscious, many of which manifest as Personas. Nyx appears in Persona 3 as the antagonist.[91] The major dungeon locations in each game, such as Tartarus in Persona 3 and Palaces in Persona 5, are generated by the latent wishes and desires of humans, and are generally used by another force for their own ends.[92] A recurring location appearing in most of the games is the "Velvet Room", a place between reality and unconsciousness created by Philemon that changes form depending on the psyche of its current guest. Its inhabitants, led by an enigmatic old man called Igor, aid the main characters by helping them hone their Persona abilities. While normally inaccessible and invisible to all except those who forged a contract with the room, others can be summoned alongside the guest, intentionally or otherwise.[93][94][79][95]

The main character of each Persona game is a silent protagonist representing the player, with a manner described by the series' director as "silent and cool".[96] When the writer for new story content in Eternal Punishment's PSP version wished for the main character to have spoken dialogue, this was vetoed as it went against the series tradition.[97] Two recurring characters generated by the collective unconscious are Philemon and Nyarlathotep, the respective representatives of the positive and negative traits of humanity.[7] In Innocent Sin, the two reveal that they are engaged in a proxy contest as to whether humanity can embrace its contradictory feelings and find a higher purpose before destroying itself.[86] Philemon makes appearances in later Persona games as a blue butterfly.[73][79] Many of the major antagonists in the series are personifications of death generated by the human subconscious.[79] The central theme of the Persona series is exploration of the human psyche and the main characters discovering their true selves.[98] The stories generally focus on the main cast's interpersonal relationships and psychologies.[99] There is also an underlying focus on "the human soul".[100]

Many of the concepts and characters within the series (Personas, Shadows, Philemon) use Jungian psychology and archetypes.[94] A recurring motif are the "masks" people wear during everyday life, which ties back to their Personas. This motif was more overtly expressed in Persona 5 through the main casts' use of masks in their thief guises.[96][101] The dual lives of the main casts are directly inspired by these themes.[92] Each game also includes specific themes and motifs. Persona 2 focuses on the effect of rumors on the fabric of reality (referred to by the developers as "the power of Kotodama"); Persona 3 employs themes involving depression and the darkness within people; Persona 4 focuses on how gossip and the media influences people's views of others; and Persona 5 shows how the main characters pursue personal freedom in a restrictive modern society.[73][84][102] A recurring element in the earlier entries is "The Butterfly Dream", a famous story by the Chinese philosopher Zhuang Zhou. It ties in with the series' themes, and also with Philemon's frequent appearances as a butterfly.[7] Philemon's original appearance was based on Zhuang Zhou.[94] The character Nyarlathotep is based on the character of the same name from H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and the Mythos as a whole is frequently referenced in Persona 2.[73][103] The Velvet Room was based on the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks.[94] Igor and the other assistants of the Velvet Room are all named after characters from the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.[79]

Development

The Persona series was first conceived after the release of Shin Megami Tensei If... for the Super Famicom. As the high school setting of If... had been positively received, Atlus decided to create a dedicated subseries focusing on the inner struggles of young adults.[100] The focus on high school life was also decided upon due to the experiences of the series' creators, Kouji Okada and Kazuma Kaneko: according to them, as nearly everyone experiences being a student at some point in their lives, it was something everyone could relate to, representing a time of both learning and personal freedom. In their view, this approach helped players accept the series' themes and the variety of ideas included in each title. Kaneko in particular tried to recreate his experiences and the impact it had on him during his time with the series.[104] The main concept behind the first game was a Megami Tensei title that was more approachable for new and casual players than the main series. The abundance of casual games on the PlayStation reinforced this decision.[94][105] The game's title, Megami Ibunroku,[Jp. 12] represented the game's status as a direct spin-off from the series.[106] It was later dropped to further define Persona as a standalone series.[103] After the success of Persona, Innocent Sin began development, retaining many of the original staff. During the writing of Innocent Sin, it was decided that the world of Persona 2 needed a different perspective than that of the current protagonist. This decision laid the groundwork for Eternal Punishment.[103][107] Following this, the Persona series entered a hiatus while focus turned to other projects, including Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.[108]

The conceptual Persona 3 was submitted to Atlus in 2003 by Katsura Hashino, who had worked as a designer for multiple Megami Tensei games and had been the director for Nocturne. Gaining Atlus' approval of the concept, development started in the same year, after the completion of Nocturne and the Digital Devil Saga duology.[109][110][111] Persona 3 was part of Atlus' push to expand their player base outside of Japan.[108] Ideas were being passed around about Persona 4, but the game did not begin official development until after the release of Persona 3.[100] Preparations for Persona 5's development began in 2010. The team decided to shift towards more challenging story themes, saying that the shift would be more drastic than that experienced with Persona 3.[112][113] Persona 4 Arena and its sequel were the first non-RPG collaborative project in the series: its success inspired the creation of both Persona Q and Dancing All Night.[114][115]

The first three Persona games were developed by Atlus' internal R&D1 studio, the studio responsible for the mainline Megami Tensei games.[116] Beginning with Persona 3, a dedicated team originally referred to as the 2nd Creative Production Department began handling development for the series. The team was later renamed P-Studio in 2012.[117][118][119] Hashino remained in charge of the studio until the Japanese release of Persona 5 in 2016, when he moved to found a new department, Studio Zero, and work on a new project.[120][121] Aside from Atlus, other developers have helped develop entries in the Persona series. During the pre-production stage of Persona 4 Arena, Hashino approached Arc System Works after being impressed by their work on the BlazBlue series.[24] For Dancing All Night, development was initially handled by Dingo, but were later dropped from the project entirely due to quality concerns, with Atlus taking over full development of the game.[122]

Art design

Advertising artwork for Persona 3 showing the main protagonist, two of the main cast, and a Persona. It was created by Shigenori Soejima, whose work has become strongly linked with the Persona series. [123] [124]

The two character artists for the Persona series are Kazuma Kaneko, a central artist in the main Megami Tensei series who designed characters for the first three Persona games, and Shigenori Soejima, who worked in a secondary capacity alongside Kaneko and took Kaneko's place as the character designer from Persona 3 onwards.[94][125][126][127] While designing the characters for Persona, Kaneko was inspired by multiple notable celebrities and fictional characters of the time, along with members of Atlus staff. In Persona and Innocent Sin, the main characters all wore the same school uniforms, so Kaneko differentiated them using accessories.[94][125] For Eternal Punishment, the main cast were adults, so Kaneko needed to rethink his design procedure. Eventually, he adopted the concept of ordinary adults, and gave them designs that would stand out in-game.[104]

Soejima's first major work for the series was working on side characters for Persona 2 alongside Kaneko.[128] Kaneko put Soejima in charge of the series' art direction after Persona 2 as Kaneko did not want to imprint his drawing style on the Persona series, and also wanted Soejima to gain experience.[126] Soejima felt a degree of pressure when he was given his new role, as the series had accumulated a substantial following during Kaneko's tenure.[123] In a later interview, Soejima said that although he respected and admired Kaneko, he never consciously imitated the latter's work, and eventually settled into the role of pleasing the fans of the Persona series, approaching character designs with the idea of creating something new rather than referring back to Kaneko's work.[69] For his character designs, Soejima uses real people he has met or seen, looking at what their appearance says about their personality. If his designs come too close to the people he has seen, he does a rough sketch while keeping the personality of the person in mind.[127] For his work on Persona Q, his first time working with a deformed Chibi style due to its links with the Etrian Odyssey series, Soejima took into account what fans felt about the characters. A crucial part of his design technique was looking at what made a character stand out, then adjusting those features so they remained recognizable even with the redesign.[127][129]

Starting with Persona 3, each Persona game has been defined by a different aesthetic and key color. It is one of the first artistic decisions made by the team: Persona 3 has a dark atmosphere and serious characters, so the primary color was chosen as blue to reflect these and the urban setting. In contrast, Persona 4 has a lighter tone and characters but also sports a murder-mystery plot, so the color yellow was chosen to represent both the lighter tones and to evoke a "warning" signal.[127] According to Soejima, blue was the "color of adolescence", and yellow was the "color of happiness".[69] For Persona 5, the color chosen was red, to convey a harsh feeling in contrast to the previous Persona games and tie in with the game's story themes. Its art style was described as a natural evolution from where Persona 4 left off.[101][130]

Music

The music of the Persona series has been handled by multiple composers. The one most associated with the series is Shoji Meguro, who began working on Persona shortly after he joined Atlus in 1995. His very first composition for the game was "Aria of the Soul", the theme for the velvet room that became a recurring track throughout the series.[131][132][133] During his initial work on the series, Meguro felt restricted by the limited storage space of the PlayStation's disc system, and so when he began composing for Persona 3, which allowed for sound streaming due to increased hardware capacity, he was able to fully express his musical style. His main worry for his music in Persona 3 and 4 was the singers' pronunciation of the English lyrics.[69] He was unable to work on the Persona 2 games as he was tied up with other projects, including Maken X.[134] Meguro also served as the lead composer in Persona 5, using elements of acid jazz and the game's themes for inspiration to achieve the right mood.[135] The music for Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment was handled by Toshiko Tasaki, Kenichi Tsuchiya, and Masaki Kurokawa. Tsuchiya had originally done minor work on Persona, and found composing for the games a strenuous experience.[136][137][138] Spin-offs, such as the Persona Q and Dancing subseries, are usually handled by other Atlus composers such as Atsushi Kitajoh, Toshiki Konishi, and Ryota Kozuka.[139]

Release

The series consists of thirteen games, not counting re-releases and mobile games.[1] Persona was the first role-playing entry in the Megami Tensei franchise to be released outside of Japan, as previous entries had been considered ineligible due to possibly controversial content. As examples of this content were in a milder form for Persona, the restrictions did not apply.[140][141] According to Atlus, Persona and its sequel were to test player reactions to the Megami Tensei series outside of Japan.[116] The greater majority of Persona games were either first released on or exclusive to PlayStation platforms. This trend was broken with the release of Persona Q for the 3DS in 2014.[142] All the Persona games have been published by Atlus in Japan and North America.[116] An exception in Japan was the Windows port of Persona, which was published by ASCII Corporation.[3] After 2016, due to Atlus USA's merger with Sega of America, Sega took over North American publishing duties, although the Atlus brand remained intact.[143]

Due to the company not having a European branch, Atlus has generally given publishing duties to other third-party publishers with branches in Europe. This frequently results in a gap between North American and European release dates ranging from a few months to a year or more.[40][144][145] For Persona 3, Atlus gave publishing duties to Koei.[21] For Persona 4, European publishing was handled by Square Enix.[146] Persona 4 Arena was originally published in Europe by Zen United after a long delay, but the digital rights were eventually returned to Atlus, resulting in the game being removed from PSN.[144] Atlus ended up re-publishing the digital PlayStation version in Europe.[147] They had previously digitally published the PSP port of Persona in Europe and Australia.[6] Arena Ultimax was published in Europe by Sega, who had recently purchased Atlus' parent company. It was speculated that this could lead to a new trend that would shorten the release gap between North America and Europe.[40] A regular publishing partner was Ghostlight, whose relations with Atlus went back to the European release of Nocturne.[148][149] A more recent partner was NIS America, which published Persona 4 Golden, Persona Q, and Dancing All Night.[45][150][151] Atlus' partnership with NIS America ended in 2016, with NIS America citing difficulties with the company since its acquisition by Sega as reasons for the split. As part of their statement, NIS America said that Atlus had become "very picky" about European partners, selecting those which could offer the highest minimal sales guarantee on their products.[152] Sega of America and Atlus USA eventually entered into a partnership with European publishing company Deep Silver to publish multiple games in the region, including Persona 5.[153]

Localization

The localizations for the Persona series are generally handled by translator Yu Namba of Atlus USA, who also handles localization for multiple other Megami Tensei games.[81][154] Another prominent staff member was Nich Maragos, who worked with Namba on multiple Persona games until moving to Nintendo of America prior to 2015.[154][155] The localization of Persona was handled by a small team, which put a lot of pressure on them as they needed to adjust the game for Western audiences: the changes implemented included altering names, changing the appearance of characters, and removing numerous cultural references. An entire alternate main quest was also removed.[140][154][156] After Persona, it was decided that future Persona games should be as faithful as possible to their original releases.[154] Namba's first localization project for the series was Eternal Punishment.[157] For the release of Innocent Sin, there was a debate over whether to release it, as it contained potentially controversial content including allusions to Nazism.[154] In the end, due to staff and resource shortages, Innocent Sin was passed over for localization in favor of its sequel Eternal Punishment.[140] Later, when the company developed the PSP ports, the team released the ports of Persona and Innocent Sin overseas so fans attracted by Persona 3 and 4 would be able to easily catch up with the rest of the series. The localization for Persona was completely redone, reverting all the previous altered content and restoring all previously cut content.[140][156][158] The port of Eternal Punishment was not localized due to "unusual circumstances", so the company released the original version on PSN instead.[18]

For the localizations of Persona 3 and 4, the team incorporated as much of the original content as possible, such as using Japanese honorifics and keeping the game's currency as yen rather than changing it. As a general rule, they incorporate cultural elements from the original versions unless they would not be understood by the player, such as with certain jokes.[81] Nevertheless, some changes had to be made. In one instance, the character Mitsuru Kirijo was originally an English speaker, but her second language for the localized version was changed to French due to her cultured appearance. School tests also needed to be changed due to similar language-based issues.[154] The Social Links were originally called "Community",[Jp. 13] but this was changed as the word "Community" had a very specific meaning in English. The new name was inspired by the way the character Igor made reference to the concept using words such as "society" and "bonds".[159] Some in-game Easter egg references were also changed: in Persona 3 references to Shin Megami Tensei by a character in an in-game MMORPG were changed to reference earlier Persona games, while mentions of a fictional detective in Persona 4 were altered to reference the Kuzunoha family from Eternal Punishment and the Devil Summoner series.[159] Character names have also needed adjustment, such as the stage name of Persona 4 character Rise Kujikawa, and the way characters referred to each other was adjusted to appeal more to a western audience.[159][160] Persona 5 was also localized in this fashion.[157]

The games of games have also been altered. The banner title for Persona was changed from Megami Ibunroku to Revelations, principally because the team thought the latter title sounded "cool". The Revelations title was removed for Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment.[140] After the successful release of Nocturne, the "Shin Megami Tensei" moniker was added to the series title to help with Western marketing.[140] This has not been the case for some games: Persona 4 Arena's original title, Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena, was shortened as it sounded "awkward", and the "Shin Megami Tensei" moniker was dropped as it would have made the title too long, which has been applied to every game in the series since.[28] The same change was made for Persona 4 Golden, with the team also dropping "The" that was in the Japanese title because it would have sounded "odd" in English-speaking regions.[159]

Reception

Aggregate review scores
Game Metacritic
Revelations: Persona 78/100 (PS)[161]
78/100 (PSP)[162]
Persona 2: Innocent Sin 75/100 (PSP)[163]
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment 83/100 (PS)[164]
Persona 3 86/100[165]
89/100 (FES)[166]
89/100 (Portable)[167]
Persona 4 90/100[168]
93/100 (Golden)[169]
Persona 5 93/100 (PS4)[170]

By October 2018, the series had sold about 9.3 million copies worldwide.[171] The first Persona was referred to at the time as a sleeper hit, and the success of it and Eternal Punishment helped establish both Atlus and Megami Tensei in North America. In Europe, the series did not become established prior to the release of Persona 3 and 4, both of which were highly successful in the region.[140][142][172] According to Atlus CEO Naoto Hiraoka, the main turning point for the franchise was the release of Persona 3, which was a commercial success and brought the series to the attention of the mainstream gaming community. Persona 4 received an even better reception. The Persona series' success has allowed Atlus to build a strong player base outside of Japan, contributing to the success of other games such as Catherine.[142][c]

The Persona series has been referred to as the most popular spin-off from the Megami Tensei franchise, gaining notoriety and success in its own right.[72][84][173] Io9's James Whitbrook commented that while "here in the west, we've got plenty of awesome urban fantasy, especially from a YA perspective. But what makes Persona interesting is that it's the familiar concept of Urban fantasy, the balance of the mundane "normal" life of the protagonists and the problems they have there with the fantastical nature of the supernatural world that lies beneath all that, from a Japanese perspective. Over here, that's much less common, and the way the series portrays urban fantasy through that lens is what makes it so different, especially from what you would normally expect from Japanese RPGs.".[84] Nintendo Power, in an article concerning the Megami Tensei series, cited the Persona series' "modern-day horror stories" and "teams of Japanese high-school kids" as the perfect example of the franchise.[174] Persona was mentioned in 1999 by GameSpot's Andrew Vestal as a game that deserved attention despite not aging well, saying "Examining Persona reveals three of the traits that make the series so popular - and unique - amongst RPG fans: demonology, negotiation, and psychology".[175] The game has been named as a cult classic.[140] Persona 3 was named by RPGamer as the greatest RPG of the past decade in 2009, and RPGFan listed Persona 3 and 4 in second and fourth place respectively in their similar 2011 list.[176][177] Persona 3 was listed by Gamasutra as one of the 20 essential RPGs for players of the genre.[178] Persona 4 was also listed by Famitsu as one of the greatest games of all time in a 2010 list.[179]

As well as gaining critical acclaim, the series has been the subject of controversy over its content. This controversy began with the localized banner title of the original Persona, which raised concerns due to its religious implications.[140] Kurt Katala, writing for 1UP.com in 2006 about the controversial content of the Megami Tensei franchise as a whole, mentioned Innocent Sin's references to homosexuality, schoolyard violence, and Nazism, considering them possible reasons why the game was not originally released outside of Japan.[180] In 1UP.com's 2007 game awards, which ran in the March 2008 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Persona 3 was given the "Most controversial game that created no controversy" award: the writers said "Rockstar's Hot Coffee sex scandal and Bully's boy-on-boy kissing's got nothing on this PS2 role-player's suicide-initiated battles or subplot involving student-teacher dating".[181] Persona 4 has in turn been examined by multiple sites over its portrayal of character sexuality and gender identity.[182][183][184]

Related media

The first anime adaptation of the Persona series, a television series titled Persona: Trinity Soul, aired in 2008. It was animated by A-1 Pictures, directed by Jun Matsumoto, written by a team that included Yasuyuki Muto, Shogo Yasukawa, and Shinsuke Onishi, and composed for by Taku Iwasaki. Its characters were designed by Soejima and Yuriko Ishii, while Persona designs were done by Nobuhiko Genma.[185][186] It was distributed internationally by NIS America.[187] Trinity Soul takes place in an alternate setting ten years after Persona 3, making it a non-canon entry in the franchise.[186][188] An anime adaptation of the original Persona 4, Persona 4: The Animation, aired in 2011. The 25-episode series was produced by AIC ASTA and directed by Seiji Kishi.[189][190] In 2014, a series based on Persona 4 Golden, titled Persona 4: The Golden Animation, was produced by A-1 Pictures. This series, which retains the cast of the original adaptation, dramatizes the new material included in Persona 4 Golden, focusing on the protagonist's encounters with new character Marie.[191][192] A standalone prequel anime created by A-1 Pictures, Persona 5 The Animation: The Day Breakers, was released in September 2016 prior to the Japanese release of the game.[193] A full anime series based on Persona 5, Persona 5: The Animation, aired in 2018.[194]

The original Persona 4 anime series was made into a condensed film adaptation titled Persona 4: The Animation - The Factor of Hope; it was released in Japanese cinemas in 2012.[195] Persona 3 has also been adapted into a series of anime films produced by AIC ASTA and featuring staff from Persona 4: The Animation, released in cinemas in Japan and licensed for release overseas by Aniplex.[196][197] The four films are titled #1 Spring of Birth, #2 Midsummer Knight's Dream, #3 Falling Down, and #4 Winter of Rebirth. They were released from 2013–2016.[198][199][200][201] For both Persona 4: The Animation and the Persona 3 film series, one of the main concerns was the portrayal of the lead characters, which were originally dictated by player actions.[202][203]

Persona was adapted into an eight-issue manga series titled Megami Ibunroku Persona, originally serialized in 1996 and later reissued in 2009.[204] A second spin-off manga, Persona: Tsumi to Batsu,[Jp. 14] was released to tie in with the release of the Persona 2 games. Set within the same setting of the Persona 2 games, it follows a separate story. In its 2011 reissue, new material was added that connected the manga to the events of Innocent Sin.[205] Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5 have all received their own manga adaptations.[206][207][208][209] Another manga based on Persona Q was also serialized: two separate manga storylines, based on the two storylines featured in the game, were written and dubbed Side:P3 and Side:P4.[208][210] Multiple novels based on Persona 3 and 4 have also been released.[185][211][212]

Three stage plays based on Persona 3 have been produced under the banner Persona 3 the Weird Masquerade. They received limited runs and featured separate performances for the male and female versions of the game's protagonists. The three plays are titled Ao no Kakusei, Gunjō no Meikyū, and Sōen Kesshō.[213] Persona 4 was also adapted into two stage plays, both produced by Marvelous AQL and receiving limited runs in 2012: Visualive and Visualive the Evolution.[214][215] A stage play based on Persona 4 Arena was likewise given a limited run in December 2014,[216] and one based on Persona 4 Arena Ultimax ran in July 2016.[217]

Atlus has created or hosted media dedicated to the Persona series. A dedicated magazine originally ran for ten issues between 2011 and 2012, and has been irregularly revived since then.[218][219] An official talk show released on the official Persona website and Niconico, Persona Stalkers Club, began in February 2014. Hosted by freelance writer Mafia Kajita and actress Tomomi Isomura, it was designed to deepen the connection between Atlus and the Persona fanbase.[220] Concerts featuring music from the Persona series have also been performed, and some have received commercial releases on home media in Japan.[221][222] Action figures and merchandise such as clothing related to Persona 3 and 4 have also been produced.[223][224][225]

See also