The latest entry in the Persona series is (hopefully) launching April 4th! What better way to celebrate the release than a roundtable with the Dashing Nerds about their experiences with the series.
Let’s get the important question out of the way:
Who is everyone’s favorite character? Let’s keep it civil folks, no shaming.
Ryan: Easily my favorite character is Rise. She has a super neat character arc, a really cool backstory and design, and I felt was easily one of the more interesting characters in Persona 4. Her personal dungeon was one of the better designed and dealt a lot with how a person’s identity can be warped by outside influences. It went quite a bit deeper than some of the other characters in the series.
Darling Otaku: That’s a hard one. One of the beautiful things about the Persona series is that all the characters are well-rounded and developed. Personally, I’ve laughed my butt off at Kanji’s antics the most. But when it comes to lovable characters, I can’t resist Koro-chan!
Big Brother: Kanji is a favorite for just how damn entertaining he is in every move he makes, but the character who most grounded the games for me was probably Akihiko. He’s a focal point of Persona 3, and you can feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as things start to go wrong for the group. He’s further fleshed out through his playful (but deep) relationship with Mitsuru, which makes sense as she’s the Empress to his Emperor. We see in Persona 4 Arena that he’s continued to heed the call to fight the forces of evil after leaving school, and I respect him that much more for it.
Scott: I really enjoyed Junpei from P3. His lighthearted personality really helped balance some of the more dark and serious moments of the title. His crush on one of the enemies later on in the game really helped flesh out his character, and through it all, he was always someone the main character could count on. That, and I really like Vic M. as a voice actor.
What makes the Persona series special for you? What is it that drew you into the series, and what keeps you coming back for more?
R.: There is a lot of firsts for me with Persona. Going through this weird JRPG where you can also date the characters got me into dating sims and other heavy grinding games like Disgaea. Persona 3 was particularly important because of all the challenges it presents its angsty teenage protagonists, which at the time, resonated with angsty teenage me.
D.O.: Big Brother forced P4 upon me. I’m glad he did. It didn’t take much to get me hooked. I fell in love with the setting and anime art style of the series right away. Coupled with a compelling story and the JRPG dungeon fights, and you get one of the best series in the genre. I was delighted to find P3 shared those elements, and it’s why I’ll be playing Persona 5.
B.B.: The thing I liked most about the Persona games was the unfolding mystery present in both. They kept just enough out of view that I cared as much about what was going on as the characters did, and that’s no small feat. Granted, they didn’t do an amazing job of resolving those mysteries, but the journey itself was memorable.
S: My original foray was with the PlayStation release of Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. Its different approach on traditional RPG tropes and environment intrigued me. Good ol’ turn-based RPG style in a modern Japanese setting, the demon aspect, and the more mature narrative made me a fan of the series.
The Persona series has always done a fantastic job at developing characters, and without spoiling anything, which member of the new cast is your favorite?
R.: Futaba Sakura might be the greatest thing to happen to the series.
D.O.: Tuxedo Mask! Er, the main character looks like him a little, anyway.
B.B.: Uh, I’ll let you know when I play it.
S: Main Character, for sure. I love his design and there seems to be a good amount of mystery behind him and his past.
The mainline Persona games are often called flawless. But no game is perfect. What is the biggest piece of criticism you can offer up for a series that is universally loved?
R.: My biggest issue with the series is how Persona 4 handles Kanji’s character and his sexual identity. For a long while we, as players, are unsure as to what Kanji’s identity is and it was interesting to see how this character who is constantly being portrayed as a delinquent/masculine tough guy handled his internal struggles. After half the game, though, it boils down to some crappy jokes at Kanji’s expense. There is one scene in particular where the three main boys are camping and Yosuke asks Kanji something like “Are we going to be safe with you here?” As if Kanji being gay would have put the other two boys in danger. And yeah, we could just say that he was ignorant but Yosuke never apologizes or grows as a character. He just keeps making jabs at Kanji.
D.O.: There is a certain immoral implication that those who “play the game well” in Persona 4 can sneak around and date multiple characters at once. What kind of monster does that?
B.B.: Well, let’s see. They set the world and the main cast up brilliantly, the humor was great, and the battle and exploration systems were solid in both games I played. So I guess my biggest gripe is the difficulty/quality of the True Ending to Persona 4, which was a full on Guide Dang It and was poorly explained.
S: My biggest issue is more with the older games (Persona & Persona 2) and the ambiguity of the demon conversation system that was present. Unlike some of the negotiations that are in some of the mainline SMT games, in the early Persona titles, it was more about reaching a certain mixture of emotions with a particular demon. It was a system that I felt I never had a really strong grasp on, and it hindered my enjoyment of them. I’m glad they got rid of it in Persona 3 and forward.
In Persona 3 and 4, there are numerous branching storylines called Social Links that involve many of the minor characters in the game. Some of these Social Links are more important than others, sometimes even affecting what ending you can get. What Social Link resonated with you personally?
R.: Aigis’ Social Link from P3 has easily been my favorite storyline from the games. I really enjoy the whole “Experiencing the world for the first time” trope, and Aigis was such a neat character that I became invested in her Link much more than anyone else’s from P3.
D.O.: There were so many I loved. In P3, I found myself fascinated by all the main cast’s social links, especially Shinjiro’s. In terms of minor character links, the drunk ex-monk at the bar sticks with me. His backstory was so tragic and unexpected. P3 felt more flushed out than P4 in its social links with side characters, but I became quite attached to Naoto and Yukiko in P4’s main cast.
B.B.: In Persona 4, Ai Ebihara is a bratty rich girl who wants you to buy her things and is generally horrible. She offers her affection early on, but if you take it, she’ll never love you and you can only be friends with her. The cool thing is the way you’re able to unpack her insecurities and find out that she actually has hidden depths and can become a better person.
S: Sooooooo…I’ve never actually beaten Persona 3 or 4, or ever really focused too much on the social link aspect. I enjoyed the grinding aspect more than the social link portions, so I usually wouldn’t go out of my way to pursue the social links.
Share one memory you cherish involving the Persona series.
R.H.: I remember once me and my college roommate marathoned Persona 4 during a short break and we had two T.V.s set up with two PS2s and we spent the whole weekend powering through that game. I don’t think we finished but it was fun competing against him in a weird little pseudo-speed run of the game.
D.O.: I brought my PSP and P3 copy with me to Japan in 2013. Since I was traveling by myself, I found I had a lot of time on my own, especially with jet lag in full swing. Spending time with the social links made me feel less lonely. I’ll always remember the fantastic P3 setting and comparing Japan in that realm to walking the streets of Tokyo. I was so happy seeing Hachiko’s statue in Shibuya, especially after spending time with Koro-chan in-game.
B.B.: Before I had kids, I once spent an entire night playing Persona 4. My wife woke up for work in the morning and was horrified to see that I was still on the TV in the same place she’d left me the previous night. What can I say? I didn’t want to stop.
S: I will always remember the first time I rented Persona 3. I was sitting in my main room playing it on the TV. I was running around Tartarus, beginning of the game, and my mom walked in and sat down. She watched me play for a bit and the first time I used the Envoker, the following conversation happened:
Mom: “Did that person just shoot themselves in the head…?”
Me: “Well, kind of. It’s a device that lets them use magic and summon stuff.”
Mom: “So they shoot themselves?”
Me: “Kinda, but not really.”
And after that, she just got up and walked out. The look on her face was priceless!
We’ve all had some great times with the Persona series, and we want to hear from you guys as well! Let us know in the comments below what some of your experiences are with the series and what you’re looking forward to in Persona 5.
Hey guess what everyone, we have our very own Discord server! Come join the community and talk with us, make suggestions, and meet other nerds! https://discord.gg/BqaZNdq