Opinion: Persona Games

Lemme get something out of the way quickly: I’m not a fan of JRPGs. Aside from every Mario-based RPG, I’ve rarely paid much attention to any role-playing game made by the guys who codified such games. Don’t get me wrong though: I’ve got a few bones to pick about WRPGs as well. For now, I’ll dedicate my first opinion article on a series of games that as far as I know, are immensely popular.

Persona.

Every otaku who read that word on this blog post will probably connect the dots together and determine that this is more or less a rant about one of the most beloved JRPGs this side of the video game world.

Far from it. The truth about this post is that it raises a lot of questions about how the story in the game unfolds.

I’ve watched some of my own otaku friends play Persona 3, and I’ve checked out Let’s Plays of any of the games. It’s taught me two lessons about said games.

-JRPGs are so bloody boring to watch.
-I just don’t get it.

I don’t get it, alright? I fancy myself a guy who can understand the reasoning behind why most things were put in, left in, maybe any content that was deleted from the final game. I fancy myself a filmmaker, where everything in a scene is in there for a reason.

That mindset is especially true for video games- where every single texture, no matter how small, is there on purpose. Every word, every particle effect. It’s designed and programmed in for a reason.

I also have a fair understanding of most Eastern cultures- Japan included. I just want to get all this out of the way before I ask the big doozy.

What in the world is with the imagery of these games? Everyone points a bloody gun to their head, and I don’t get how the whole system is supposed to work.

Okay, before you get off about the names of everything, yes. I know it’s an evoker, designed to summon the titular personas that comprise the combat system of the game. I get that more than anyone would ever think.

My problem with it is how does it even work? From what I’ve heard, the guns don’t actually shoot bullets, and basically invoke terror or something? You know, something physically and fantastically impossible. I heard the Japanese variant has the guns be actual guns that shoot actual bullets. I’ll get back to that later.

For now, I’m going to basically describe what exactly the Evokers really do. To help explain it, I’ll call upon a system in one of my favorite RPGs: Bowser’s Inside Story.

To get into the Giant Bowser battles, you need to be in a situation where Bowser basically dies, and it’s up to Mario and Luigi to super-charge the turtle bastard with adrenaline. The spike of adrenaline is what grants Bowser Godzilla powers. I can get behind that on a mental level, even if the sudden growth and shrinking defies the most basic fundamentals of the physical world. After all, You’re expecting yourselves to believe that shooting your own face summons super-powers from your mind in Persona. I can get behind that for a few reasons.

  • Giant Bowser Battles are a real treat, where throughout the whole game you only take on about four of them- each with their own unique gimmick that makes each battle fresh, interesting, and challenging.
  • Godzilla remains a very important part in Japan’s modern culture- for the very same reasons as to why Akira is often called on of the most insightful animes ever conceived by a human being.
  • It’s flippin’ badass.

Persona, on the other hand, has its combat system centered around what I can’t help but determine is adrenaline-super-charging stuff. After even ten battles where you shoot yourself in the head, there’s no way you can’t not get used to it. Once you get used to it, your adrenaline doesn’t spike whenever you shoot yourself in the head. The effect is lost.

It’s especially bad if the Evokers don’t actually shoot bullets (At least, that’s how it was explained locally) where the only thing to cause the adrenaline spike are the gun shot sounds.

Human beings get used to loud sounds. It’s called going deaf. After a few fights, you get used to the sounds, and the effect is therefore lost. After all, we can adapt surprisingly easily to our surroundings. Why else do you think we’ve conquered the world?

The only way for the evokers to work effectively for longer is if the evokers were actual guns that fired actual bullets that caused very real pain that forced the personas out to conduct battle. That’s an easy system that I’m pretty sure is how the evoker and persona things work. After all, every time Bowser becomes Giant Bowser, he had to be crushed by freakin’ buildings every time.

Now then, on to the problem I’ve got with it.

How come the characters don’t get scars on their heads?

Think about it: There’s nothing but symbolic gain to have by having each character gradually grow scars on the side of his or her head. To use such an incredible power, sacrifices must be made. That’s only the tip of the iceberg of storytelling potential. What would the girls and dudes think of each other getting their initial perfection destroyed bit by bit?

How would the relationships go? They could go one way where the characters aren’t scarred so much, or a significantly different way where they’ve got a spiderweb of scars across the scalp. It could very well make most characters look badass in a way… and isn’t that what the storytellers want to do in those crazy Japanese things? FUBAR badassery?

That’s only the first problem I had. The second problem is how the heck can the robot use an evoker? She’s a robot. Sure she can manage to emote, but she’s still a computer with circuitry instead of natural bodily chemicals. She doesn’t have adrenal glands, or even anything that could contain a persona.

You can say I think too much into things, but here’s the facts:

  • It’s what I do: Ask questions and find answers to make sense of the world- be it reality, fiction, or alternate realities.
  • I wasn’t even trying to think about something like this. It’s such an obvious error and disregard toward the fiction that I noticed it when I first saw the opening cutscene for P3- the first time I’ve ever seen or even heard of Persona. I had one second seeing a bunch of characters pointing guns to their heads, and I automatically had the questions in mind.

Oh yeah, here’s my third problem about the Persona games.

What’s supposed to be the central theme behind it? Given the combat system and the titular personas apparently being the lead aspects in the world of Persona, I figured the central symbol of the entire story is the gun pointed at a head.

It’s a symbol of losing spirit, of self-destruction, suicide- Heck, my point earlier about the characters being scarred from repeated usage of the evokers would certainly fit with the symbolism of self-destruction.

You can’t say that isn’t an interesting idea for the story. That’s what you foolish otaku dudes and dudettes seemed to like in your animes and mangas about angsty twats who lack any real sensibility in the world they live in. You can’t say it’s not a fun idea.

I’ve heard this one other argument by a Persona fanboy when I rose these very same concerns. You know what he said in response?”

“I don’t want the characters to get scarred. They’d look ugly.”

Um… dude… It’s anime. Anime characters always look ugly in their own right- especially in the hands of really bad character designers.

Also, this is a video game- with a story with conflict. You can’t go out on a jog for three hours without breaking a sweat- even if you brag that you didn’t break a sweat- let alone fight the forces of evil in forty plus hours.

My point in all this is that I think Persona would be an incredibly more interesting experience if scarring oneself with the evokers was a central theme and mechanic alongside the combat and character arcs.

On another note: Catherine’s kinda weak. I’ve drawn up more FUBAR stuff every time I close my eyes, and the main dude’s such a bloody tool.

-HolyJunkie

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