The Genesis – Persona 4

Listen to the end. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

This is such a fascinating song that I had to write an entire article about it. Maybe not a long article, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this song and why it’s personally one of my favorite tracks in the whole Persona 4 soundtrack. People talk about it being boring, and while they’re allowed to have their own opinions, I couldn’t agree less than I already do.

Maybe it’s because of this following fact. I’m not the biggest fan of Persona 4‘s soundtrack in general, at least, in comparison to the other games’ soundtracks. (My personal favorites are the soundtrack of P1, both the PSP and PS1 versions, P2: Eternal Punishment, P3, and P5.) People talk about it being too slow for the “true final battle” theme, and yes, it is a little slow, but it’s incredible. This track just stands out to me more than most songs in the P4 soundtrack do because of its intimidating and ominous nature. The true final boss is most certainly a formidable foe, and this song is probably the most fitting song Shoji Meguro could have composed for it.

In a game with music that gives off a pop/rock vibe, a song like this, with a classical orchestra feeling, really just provides that atmosphere change that really shows you you’re in the endgame now. Even The Mist, another one of my favorite tracks from P4, doesn’t scream “final boss” like this song does. At least to me, anyway. All of this is my own opinion, and I can absolutely see why people would disagree with me. But I’m coming from the perspective of a former choir/music theory major. In the years I performed in choir and have studied music theory, I learned to be able to feel what music was saying through the timbre of the instruments, the way the time signature is utilized, the cadence of the melody as it combines with the background harmonies, the list goes on.

My point is that just about every song out there tells a story, and it doesn’t need lyrics to tell that story. You can understand what it’s saying through close listening and truly immersing yourself in the song. This song gives off the perfect foreboding aura such an intimidating final boss deserves. It sort of reminds me of the song “Transient Butterfly” from the PS1 version of the first Persona game, at least in its structure and what sort of feeling it’s giving off. Except unlike that song, “The Genesis” has that bit of hope at the end of the game where it brings things back full circle with the melody of “Reach Out to the Truth”, another one of my favorite tracks from this game. That ending always gives me chills.

Long rant short, I personally think this song is absolutely incredible, and it’s the perfect track for the true final battle. Also, the instruments give off very heavy Strange Journey vibes. I know that both games’ soundtracks were composed by Shoji Meguro, but still. Strange Journey is one of my favorite games of all time, and I absolutely love that Meguro threw some of that game’s music style into a Persona game. Goes to show it’s true that every Persona game’s final battle theme has some Shin Megami Tensei inspiration.

Persona Q2 – First Impressions (No spoilers)

I cannot express my love for this game enough, guys. Just play it when it comes out.

Ever since Atlus announced that they’d be making a sequel to the original Persona Q, which remains one of my favorite 3DS titles to this day, I’ve been hyped from day one. To make a long story short, I got into the original PQ because of the franchise’s predecessor, Shin Megami Tensei. The fact that there existed a first person dungeon-crawler featuring the Persona characters I’ve come to know and love over the past few years made me happy.

(I know Persona 1 was a first persona dungeon-crawler, but I never saw them doing this again.)

And then this beautiful gem of a game was announced.

I watched every trailer, every character overview, and basked in the amazingness of the music. I was ready. Of course, it came out in Japan long before its release here in the US, which is pretty standard for Atlus titles, but then we received unfortunate news that the game didn’t sell all that well in Japan. If I recall correctly, anyway. I’m not necessarily the go-to source for info like this. I just heard about it before localization of the game happened. As a result of the game’s poor sales, they made the decision to just keep the game’s Japanese voice acting in, and, possibly, if enough people in the US show interest in the game, they may consider adding English voice acting later down the road as DLC, like the Japanese voice patch in Persona 5.

As is normal on the internet these days, people got all up in arms about it, but personally, I don’t see the point. Yes, I had come to know and love the English VAs over the years, but English voice acting or not, the game still got an English translation, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Backstory aside, I got my copy quite early. It just arrived yesterday, despite not actually being released to the public until June 4th, so I figured I’d give a little first impressions treatment to what is my new favorite title on the 3DS.

Honestly, all I can say is that this game is as amazing as I expected and then some. It’s not just another Etrian Odyssey game with the skin of a Persona game. (I’m over-simplifying things, but still.) It doesn’t feel like they just copied the assets from the first game and brought them to this one. Everything feels almost redone from the ground up, save for, perhaps, the engine itself, but that doesn’t matter.

The writing is incredibly solid, like in the rest of the Persona series. Every character remains faithful to their original selves from their respective games. The music, as is to be expected of a Persona game, is absolutely incredible, even more than I expected, to tell you the truth. Prior to the game coming out, I only heard the battle themes and the incredible intro theme, but after having gotten to start the game, it all sounds amazing and fits well. The animation and art style are both absolutely gorgeous. The chibi models look even better than they did in the original Persona Q.

And of course, there’s the gameplay. Honestly, when I was playing it, it gave off heavy old school Shin Megami Tensei vibes to me in the best way. It could also be because it reminds me of Strange Journey, another favorite title of mine on the 3DS, but still. I’m playing the game on Normal mode, and even the tutorial battle showed that, yes, you are playing an Atlus RPG, and yes, you will get your ass handed to you time and time again, and I absolutely love it.

To make a long rant short, I’m glad I pre-ordered this game back in February. It was worth every penny and then some. June 4th is its release date, so if you didn’t get the chance to pre-order it, I highly suggest purchasing it. Let’s show Atlus some love, and show them that the Persona series has a legit fanbase internationally. To end things off, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite songs from the game, so here we go.

My Mistake – Tokyo Mirage Sessions’s Difficulty

Allow me to show you the song of my people.

Well, I’ve been playing a lot of this game recently; I don’t have much time to play it with my current schedule, but basically, I’ll play it for a couple hours each evening before turning in so I can wake up early enough to go to work. I will say that I absolutely love it still, don’t worry. Despite what the title says, this game is still one of my favorite RPGs. I just want to discuss something I said in my last article about this game and redact that statement.

First off, I’m still on chapter one, which I suppose I should have expected. It’s an Atlus game; they can usually be pretty long. I think I keep forgetting that, since I get all caught up in the fact that it’s a Nintendo home console RPG, and the only one of those I’m familiar with these days are the Xenoblade games, so I keep forgetting it’s a Shin Megami Tensei game, ultimately.

I finally just started getting into the actual dungeon-crawling of the game last night and had a lot of fun with it! I’m starting to see its similarities to games like Shin Megami Tensei IV and the fact that it uses the classic Weapon Triangle from Fire Emblem. (For those who don’t know, almost all Fire Emblem games have one common rule: swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords, and these rules also apply to this game.)

In this game, you can encounter Savage Enemies, which might as well be like encountering the Reaper in a Persona game. Unlike the Reaper, you still sort of stand a chance against them, but if it’s a team of four when you only have three party members at this point in the game, not an ice cube’s chance in hell. I’ve been attempting to level grind, but once you’re up to level 10, it takes quite a while when you’re still fighting enemies between levels 2 and 7. With that in mind, I start actively seeking out Savage Enemies since they give a ton of EXP if you beat them.

That was my mistake.

I’m pretty sure the Savage Enemy encounters change based on where your own level is at, because once I hit level 10, I started encountering one particularly savage group that consisted of two sword-wielders and two axe-wielders, all of which are level 16. To get an idea of how terrible this really is, keep the Weapon Triangle in mind and the fact that I only have three party members six level below these enemies. The main protagonist, Itsuki, is a sword-wielder, and his friends Tsubasa and Touma are both spear/lance-wielders, so no matter what, unless you destroy one of each type of enemy so they can’t use combos on you, you’re as good as dead.

I say this from experience because until just now as I’m writing this article, I didn’t realize that killing one of each type prevented that. You just need to figure out a strategy to do it fast enough before they can start using their awful combos on you, since enemies can also use Session attacks if there’s more than one enemy in a single type. I died so many times that I unlocked “Friendly” mode, which is the easiest difficulty, so I temporarily changed it to that just to at least make some sort of progress.

Fortunately, I did make it to the mid-boss of the first dungeon, but I’m still frustrated at myself more than anything for underestimating this game’s difficulty. However, now I know what I’m getting into. I just need to remember that it really is a Shin Megami Tensei game, and it will most certainly be difficult. I’ll be changing the difficulty back to Normal when I go back to play it tonight, so here’s to hoping it doesn’t end in failure.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – First Impressions

I love this game and its music so much, and I’m only an hour and a half in.

Let me give you a bit of background regarding this game. I first heard of it back before I was even into the Shin Megami Tensei series. Hell, it was before I even played Persona 3, so I wasn’t quite familiar with Atlus back then like I am now. All I knew was that it was some crossover between Fire Emblem, a series I had become well-acquainted with over the years thanks to my co-author, and Shin Megami Tensei, a series I’d only heard of, and I was interested in seeing what it was like.

I bought the game digitally when I had just gotten my Wii U and gave it a try. From what I can recall, I enjoyed it. Like most modern Fire Emblem games, it’s full of fan service, but when you set that fact aside, it’s a pretty solid RPG. The music is great, the dialogue is well-written, the visual style is very vibrant and unique, the gameplay is rather reminiscent of Persona 3 Portable‘s system.

Instead of using the “1 More” system or “press-turn” combat from its parent games, it uses a fun “Session” battle system. Attacking an enemy’s weakness will allow your allies to use special Session skills as long as your attack meets the criteria required for their skill to activate. It’s simpler than it sounds, but it’s a great and very unique system!

Well, I ended up needing to delete the game due to storage issues, but whenever I tried to reinstall it, it would give me an error and wouldn’t work. I finally just invested in a physical copy, and totally forgot I ordered it until it arrived today, as a matter of fact. I wanted to wait until a little later in the evening to play it, since I usually like to spend time with my family when I’m off work.

I excitedly put the game in and when I started it, I was thoroughly impressed with its overall presentation. Some people may find it cheesy, but I love that about it. It does not at all feel out of place. Even though it’s technically a Shin Megami Tensei game, it feels like it would totally fit as a mainline Persona entry. Atlus really did an incredible job on this sorely underrated game. Even though I hear the US release was heavily censored in comparison to the original Japanese version, I honestly don’t care that much about that. The game is just sheer fun.

Like any other Shin Megami Tensei game, the difficulty is, well, I wouldn’t say too difficult, but when playing on Normal mode like I am, it feels well-balanced. It provides just enough of a challenge to not feel unfair, but to where it feels like you actually need to provide thought and strategy into what you use your turns for. Like I mentioned before, buffs and debuffs are your friend, especially in the first boss fight. Even though I had all my party members up to level 5 by the boss fight in the Prologue, it proved to be quite a challenging fight. Fortunately, two of the protagonists both learn buffs to boost offense and defense for the whole party by the time they reach level 5, so that helped quite a lot.

All this rambling aside, I just want to say that even though I just started this game, it was well worth the money, and listening to “Reincarnation” just makes me so happy. I can’t wait to play more of this game. I’d highly recommend picking it up if you can if you like RPGs in general, especially if you enjoy Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, or preferably, all three.

The Use of Strategy in Persona and Shin Megami Tensei

The anthem of my demise.

One thing that the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games do is that they make you rethink everything you know about turn-based RPGs. A very clear example of this is that in the Final Fantasy series, you don’t really worry about increasing evasion or attack, but when you’re wandering about the ruins of Tokyo and you suddenly encounter Matador in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, you’d better learn how to use buffs and debuffs, because that guy is no joke.

As difficult as it may seem, it’s quite a smart battle system. I know that when many of my friends think of turn-based RPGs, they associate it with hours of level grinding, like the stuff you’d find in the Dragon Quest games. While there is definitely grinding involved with Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, it’s not for the same purpose.

In other RPGs, generally you’ll play the game, enjoy the story, and eventually you run into a boss that’s way stronger than you. What time is it? Time to grind until you’re about 10 levels higher and can summon Neo Bahamut or something like that so you can just annihilate the boss in one fell swoop. Well, the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series changed that formula up a bit, and here, I’ll be talking more about Persona 4 in general, since that’s the game where I ran into this roadblock.

I won’t give out any major story spoilers for people who haven’t played it yet, but there’s this boss at what I assume is near the end of the game that gave me trouble. I’ve been playing Persona 4 Golden on Easy mode since I just want to experience the story before playing it again on a higher difficulty, and until now, I haven’t had much trouble. A couple enemies here and there would throw a curveball, but nothing too tricky.

And then this boss shows up and turns out to be way more difficult than I expected.

At this point, I thought I was over-leveled. I have the protagonist almost up to level 60 and most enemies are pushovers as soon as I know what their weaknesses are, but then this boss shows me that I am far from over-leveled. Or rather that I was unprepared.

There’s one move the boss uses where he possesses the minds of your party members and turns them against you. The first time he does it, he only does it to one person, but during the second time, he turns all three of them on you. It was at that moment I knew I was screwed from over-leveling, because my party members were too strong. I died before all three of them could attack me and got a game over for the first time since I’ve owned the game.

I haven’t played it since, but afterwards, I was reflecting on what could have been done to prevent that. Level grinding wouldn’t help unless I went in solo, and I didn’t want to risk that. Then I remembered that each Persona you equip has particular strengths and weaknesses to different types of attacks. It was then that I realized having a Persona to entirely block or absorb physical attacks would be the best way to go.

Until then, I completely forgot that was an option. When I use Personas, I only really focus on their skills and elemental strengths and weaknesses rather than how they react to physical attacks. When I play the game next, I’m going to do some Persona experimentation and see if I can find something that works. Perhaps I’ll even write a follow-up entry to this one afterward.

Either way, my whole point is that Shin Megami Tensei and Persona are amazing in the way that you aren’t required to level grind when you hit a roadblock like this. And instead, you can figure out which of your Personas can entirely negate that damage, or fuse one if you don’t have one already. I love this series, and I’ll certainly be writing about it quite a bit in the future. Hopefully I can convince those who haven’t played the games yet to give them a try. They’re not everyone’s cup of coffee, but I certainly love them.

Persona 3 Portable – First Impressions

Look at Yukari way out there; got Mike Wazowskied by the ESRB rating

First thing you should know about me is that I absolutely love all things relating to the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games. The music, the characters, the gameplay, the spinoffs, I love it all. Like many fans of the series, Persona 3 was my introduction to the series, my introduction to the incredible company Atlus in general.

My background of the game is a little interesting. I’d first heard of Persona 3 when I was about 12 years old, so a couple years after it came out. It’s not so much the game itself I heard of, but the music. I’ve been writing novels most of my life, and I always enjoyed listening to video game music to fuel my creativity.

For video game music aficionados like myself, you may have heard of SupraDarky’s Best VGM List on YouTube. It’s a series that’s been going on for over a decade and is still going. Well, I was randomly listening to music on a somewhat old music-sharing site called Grooveshark, and when scanning through the lists of video game music on there, one came up called Best VGM 21 – Persona 3 – The Battle For Everybody’s Souls, and I quickly fell in love with the rock/opera combination. It remained one of my favorite video game songs of all time for many years after.

The name Persona 3 didn’t come back to me for a long time. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school back in 2015. I already started working full time and saving enough money to buy the games I couldn’t get as a kid, and the first console I dropped money on was the PlayStation 3. It was initially for the Kingdom Hearts remastered editions that were released on it at the time, but eventually, I saw a familiar title when scrolling through the PlayStation Network store.

This isn’t the original version, of course, but it was the one I got.

I decided to download the game on a whim and give it a try. At the time, I was working a swing shift, which always made me nervous when I tried new RPGs before work, since I never knew how long it would take before I could save. To make a long story short as this isn’t the version of the game I intend to discuss in length, I fell in love with this series all because of this game. The music, the characters, the writing, the unique gameplay, it was all amazing.

Now, let’s fast forward to a more recent day. I’ve known that there’s a female version of the protagonist in Persona 3 Portable for quite a while now, especially since I’m way into this whole series too much for it to be a healthy obsession. I got a PS Vita in early 2018 so I could play Persona 4 Golden, among other games, and one of them was Persona 3 Portable. Unfortunately, the digital version of that game liked to crash, and it eventually bothered me so much that I just stopped playing it.

Fast forward again to last week. I recently got my PSP back from a very good friend of mine who was borrowing it to play a game I recommended to her, so I decided to check out how much it would cost to get a physical copy of Persona 3 Portable. It was a little more than I expected, but after getting more accustomed to saving money, I figured I could afford it at the time. I got the game and I’ve been enjoying it since.

The addition of a female protagonist, in my opinion, is a genius idea on Atlus’s part. Seeing the game through the eyes of a female protagonist, whom I’ve named Minako Arisato, is a breath of fresh air. She has such incredible personality for being a silent protagonist, and the music in her version of the game is, well, arguably better than in the male protagonist’s version.

My favorite out of the numerous Persona 3 intro themes. It’s just so good.

Songs like Soul Phase, A Way of Life, and Wiping All Out are what made this game worth the purchase for me. Ever since I was a kid, the music was always my favorite aspects of video games, and it still is. If I could, I’d talk all day about how much I adore these songs, but of course, I want to discuss Persona 3 Portable as a whole rather than just rant about the music. Though I may eventually write a separate entry all about that.

I only have two criticisms about the game: one of them is simply preference-based, and another is just a technical thing. The first is that when you’re anywhere other than a dungeon, instead of moving about the maps like you do in the original game, you have a cursor and you’re moving it through an image, like a visual novel in a way. I don’t at all consider this bad, though. In fact, the more I play the game, the more I enjoy it. I’ve been discovering more things in the game than I did with the standard method used in the original version.

The second criticism is just a nitpick of mine, and that’s the load times. I’m used to PSP games, but the load times in Persona 3 Portable are a little awkward at times. Mainly, going from dungeon-crawling into a battle screen is usually a little weird, and sometimes during voiced cutscenes, it takes a second for the voice clip to play alongside the accompanying text. Speaking of which, there’s an entire line that was messed up slightly. When the character Junpei is speaking about the main protagonist, even though the text uses female pronouns, the voice clip is the same one from the original version of the game, having the clip refer to the protagonist as “he” instead of “she.” It’s not anything that turns me away from the game or anything. In fact, I find it more funny than annoying. Yet another thing Vic Mignogna messed up. (Yes, I’m one of those people who are against him.)

Those criticisms aside, this is a very solid remake, and dare I say even improves upon the game as a whole. I know it doesn’t feature The Answer storyline from Persona 3 FES, but the fact that so much of the game changes simply by having a female protagonist, including the social links, makes me so happy that they went the extra mile to do so. I’m personally very excited to see the female protagonist again when Persona Q2 comes out in the US. I even pre-ordered the Showtime edition and everything.

All that aside, I just want to say that I appreciate what this game does and what it is. While Atlus is known for playing it safe with how they make these games, I hope they consider giving the option to play as either a male or female protagonist again in a future installment.