When I was younger, my father brought home a PlayStation from Game Factor. With it, he brought several titles, including Duke Nukem and others I had fixed my gaze on ever since the demos I tried at Target or encountered in various magazines. Then, there was one solitary title that I hadn’t yet heard of that piqued my interest: Revelations: Persona. Having never heard of the Shin Megami Tensei series prior, it’s needless to say I was quite ignorant as to what to expect, though after popping the silver-toned disc into the PlayStation for the first time, I know I never looked back. I became a MegaTen fan for life.
Revelations: Persona begins simply enough. Something is rotten in the town of Lunarvale, and you take up the guise of a popular (unnamed, as is the tradition of the Persona titles) protagonist who just happens to be a popular student at St. Hermelin, the high school that takes center stage throughout the game. During the game’s opening, you and a group of friends are toying with the idea of a game that everyone seems to be talking about – Persona. Much like what we love to do with Ouija boards, Persona is all about summoning the dead to communicate with them. Though it’s been attempted many times by your peers, it’s never actually come to fruition. Today, however, is a fateful day, as a crying little girl is summoned by your circle who begs you for help.
Startled that the circle has actually pulled forth something this palpable, you and your friends are stunned, but before anyone can step back and analyze the situation, the lot of you black out, with the protagonist waking up in St. Hermelin’s infirmary after that of a strange dream. With this you enter the twisted world of Persona. That little girl was just the beginning, as you soon begin to delve into a dark and twisted world revealing monsters who would act as your allies, the forces of evil, and a darkness that threatens to swallow humanity whole.
Primarily a strategy RPG at its core, Persona forced you to work alongside strange beasts in order to combat the evils that would threaten your way of life. Combining a stellar first-person view of explorable areas and the MegaTen style of “pegboard” world maps in which you would get a mover to cruise around a game board-like map in order to advance, it combined so many new and unique elements that I had never seen before, and I was instantly hooked from the opening scenes.
That’s why, though I was only old enough to be surviving late elementary/early middle school at that time, Persona reached out and grabbed me with an unwavering grip. With an unforgettable cast of characters that seemed to fit every real archetype I was being faced with in my real school life, though unlike the real world I was forced to live in, these characters yearned to move outside the boxes in which they had been compartmentalized into different beings that begged respect and understanding from you rather than a scoff at how stereotypical they really were, and that was absolutely something I could respect. While it was an aspect of RPGs I was currently enjoying at the time, Persona made a statement that seemed very cutthroat and authentic, very real, and it seemed to speak my language.
The game’s clean, sharp visuals in the 2D perspective, not so much the curious yet repetitive “3D” environments, gave it much of its charm as well. Character models were painstakingly detailed in battle as well as story sequences that presented a character’s portrait along with simple animations of the sprite corresponding to what was going on, and that kind of smart aesthetic drew me in since it set itself apart from cutesy 3D, blocky character models or the rounded designs in other adventures I had been wading through at the time.
It was all a decidedly different experience for me at the time, and it has since cemented a deep love for all things MegaTen and Persona. I’m eager to see what’s in store for Persona 5, though my first brush with the series will always be the most memorable one.