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What Happens When Good Games Go Ignored
By: Jeff Walker
Before Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross, the PlayStation had very few great RPGs under it's belt. After the monster flop known as Beyond the Beyond a new game hit the scene and changed the way the USA thought of the storytelling fantasy. The Shin Megami Tensei series, known for its dark storytelling and mature undertones reached the shores of the US with Revelations: Persona. Sequel to many great games in Japan, Revelations: Persona not only rewrote the book on darker storylines, it burned the old book and danced with glee as the flames jumped higher and higher. This was the beginning of the great PlayStation RPG.
With a firm idea of a darker, more modern video game Revelations: Persona uses this idea most liberally and as Martha would say, "It's a good thing." When you encounter your first battles you are given many menu choices, all laid out before you easily and straight to the point. The most important part of any RPG battle system is undoubtedly the attack controls and Persona has it in spades. You can attack them with your normal equipped weapon like a rapier, throwing knives, or punching gloves; you can also attack them in a gun that can even attack all monsters for less damage which is useful when you are 4 against 6; and you can also attack with your Persona, or spirit. These Persona come with a set of 6-8 powerful spells ranging from healing Cures to the monster-destroying BlazeAll which can, as the name says, attack all enemies with a blaze of fire. Giving the players these tools, you have to make something unknown and that was how you fight. You will enter the battles as surprised, or attacked from behind; or you will do what is known as a "Blitz Attack", which will give you and your party the upper hand and a round of free attacks. As you finish the battles, you are in for a sweet (or bitter) surprise as experience isn't given out to you if you are alive. Oh no...you had to work for your experience! Those who do the most fighting getting the most experience and those who defend get less. Rounding out the battle area are the Persona-Change command to change your Persona in a round, Item Command to use an item, and Defend which preserves your hit-points from huge damages but also costs you a turn. There is another command; however that will be discussed later, as it is one of the most original battle commands.
Next up in the game would be its music. It's been said by many that as long as you have a fitting score, you have a good score. This game has a fitting score. Composed by Hidehito Aoki, Kenichi Tsuchiya, Shoji Meguro, and Misaki Okibe the score has many haunting numbers including "Yuki's Theme", "Snow Queen Theme", and the beautifully done "Velvet Room" which haunts me with its beauty to this day. Without a doubt this soundtrack fits this game in and out, and due to that it is a great score. However, some of the graphics bring this score down for this game. The tunnel view of the dungeons, as seen in(and as annoying as) Phantasy Star series. The tunnel view, though possibly haunting, just ends up being confusing trying to navigate huge dungeons like the Deva Yuga. I ended up trying to make myself little route markers to tell me if I had been there. Behold, I spent 40 minutes trying to navigate one dungeon. Even with the great dialogue art, I couldn't shake the absolute horror I had when I knew I would have to walk into another dungeon. However, the nicely done cutscenes and dialogue art with multiple expressions, the inventive designs to the Personas, and the nicely done battle art easily make the graphics of the game less a pain and more a tolerable prick in the arm.
While navigating the dungeons can be a pain, it has to be the most difficult part of the game. With the right levels and the right Persona equipped, any monster can be easily beaten within a matter of a few turns. Using a weak Persona could be the difference between death and even quicker death. Even though the game isn't super difficult, it does have tons of replay value. With three unique secret characters, the game opens itself up to three different types of viewpoints with your main party. Also lending to more replay value are the 60 original Persona as well as 40 hidden Persona giving you 100 Persona to choose from, and with 6 characters the combinations are almost endless but watch out, not everyone can equip some Persona. As if that wasn't enough to boost your play time, there are even multiple endings which depend on what you say at a certain conversation in the game. Still don't think it has replay value? Then try the casino where you can win unique items, everyone loves to gamble for items!
With all these features, you would think the interface would be confusing. Absolutely not, the menus are clean and to the point. With each menu being almost exactly as it's named. Item is for items, Persona is to check out your persona, and Status? It's for status! The only possible confusion could be found in the Velvet Room menu. If you choose Self-Service in making your Persona, that is. With a multitude of symbols, it could be a problem for a novice gamer which is why Atlus was kind enough to put in a Full-Service screen which gives you just the Persona you can make. It couldn't be easier. However, this is the game's biggest weakness: localization. The team that handled Revelations: Persona did not do a great job making the characters flow. Some character descriptions even list their names, their job, and a useless fact. For one nurse it listed cooking was not her specialty. It's absolutely useless information. The dialogue can be even choppier, sometimes making it near impossible to tolerate. With stop and start dialogue, one can find themselves wishing they had just imported the foreign version instead of dealing with the halfhearted attempt at English.
Now for the good stuff, which has to be the most original concept I have seen in a game. Atlus decided somewhere down the line to put in what is known as the "Contact" command. What it did, I did not know until I got into battle. Clicking on it, the cursor quickly flew over to the enemies and then it hit. This was a way to actually contact the monsters! With each character having its own approach, and each monster having its own affinities, there is almost a feeling of excitement as something new has finally been added to a game. Once you finish contact, the monster reacts to whoever just contacted him or her. The monsters have eight different personality types: Strong, Surly, Smart, Happy, Stupid, Grumpy, Weak, and Snobby. Some traits appear in a monster, such as one monster could be Strong and Smart while another is Happy, Stupid, and Weak. There are countless combinations and you have to find out how to crack them using the character's 4 personal ways of contact which are: Persuade, Provoke, Recruit, Sing, Tease, Preach, Scold, Ignore, Ask, Flatter, Waste time, shudder, Bribe, Yell, Speech, Sarcasm, Story, Sing, Spoil, Tempt, Pickup, Tell jokes, Gossip, Surprise, Dance, Provoke, Stare, Lie, Put down, Beg, Threaten, Scream, and Magic! Depending on which action you choose you could anger them and be attacked, make them feel joy or fear which causes them to leave or be affected by status, or Interest them which can get you a card or items. You can even make them feel a combination of the two such as Anger/Interest or Joy/Fear. If you interest them and choose to take their contact/spell card you can then go to the Velvet Room and see how many more you need and make yourself new, more powerful Persona. This is certainly one of the most complex and most innovative ideas in RPG games.
Then there is the story. The story is set in a decidedly dark tone, but begins at an upbeat high school. After discussing things with many students you visit your old friend, Mary, in a hospital. After talking to her for a few minutes, Mary is whisked away to the emergency room after feeling immense pain and the hospital begins to shake violently, and the story truly begins to take shape at this moment. Though the story lulls for a good deal of the game, near the end you find yourself being assaulted with a rich, dark, well-thought plot which involves not only your characters, but also their Persona. The unlikely characters become main characters, and by the end you are left with such an awesome plot you almost wish that more of this series was released in the US.
With so many plot twists and features, this game is a sure winner in my opinion. In it's time it was a classic, it completely changed the direction of the RPG from a lighthearted fantasy tale to a story of conflict, pain, and surprise. Though it may be six years old, I would suggest anyone who is tired of the cliché game to give this one a shot. You will be surprised just how much you find yourself enjoying it.
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