For even those who are somehow not Persona fans, there comes a point where you just have to sit back and look at the massive phenomenon that has/is occurring around Persona 3 and Persona 4 specifically. The multiple iterations of the two games on various multiple platforms are just the tip of the iceberg. Throw in some spin off, cross-genre games, manga, anime, and movies and you got yourself one successful brand. Where does Persona 5 fit into this equation though? Will the game’s release next year be the end to this P3 & P4 era that Persona fans have fallen in comfortable-love with?
This ‘era’ started back in 2006 with the Japanese release of Persona 3 on Sony’s PlayStation 2. While only Persona 3 FES and Persona: Trinity Soul (anime) came out between P3 and P4’s release, it was the release of Persona 4 and the ability to port Persona titles onto handheld devices that opened the floodgates. The first wave came with P4 (PS2) in 2008 and P3 Portable (PSP) in 2009. After 2010 being an off year, 2011 lead to Persona 4: The Animation to get the brand refreshed in your head. This was the perfect transition into the PlayStation Vita’s release and Persona 4 Golden in 2012. Suddenly the newest console could play an updated version of a beloved PS2 title.
Why stick to RPG-social simulators model though? At this point, the Persona fan knows and loves the P3 and P4 characters. My coworker, who originally got me to play these games, told me I was going to be sad once I finish them because I’ll miss the characters. He was absolutely right. How many players instantly start NG+ the moment they beat it for the first time? Why not branch out? Well, the developers did just that. While P4 Golden came out in 2012 so did Persona 4 Arena – a fighting game considered cannon. Despite the name, this game blends both P3 and P4 characters exclusively. Suddenly fans are getting more story, more gameplay, more of what they love in a completely new genre that works.
P4A was just the first of these off-branching P3 and P4 combo titles. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax came out in the arcade the following year and is even out in North America on consoles later this month. Not only are these fighting games considered canon, P4AU is a direct sequel to P4A – continuing where the story left off. Persona Q (Nintendo 3DS) is another crossover dungeon crawler using P3 and P4 characters in an Etrian Odyssey type game. But wait, there’s more! While it’s not a crossover, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a rhythm game using a slew of P4 characters that takes place a half year after P4’s ending. And yes, in this game you beat shadows through dance battles. #YouShadowsGotServed
Those are all just the video games though. There have also been manga, anime, and anime movies. Persona: Trinity Soul is a P3 spinoff series that takes place ten years after the game with Akihiko Sanada and Igor as returning characters. A series of P3 movies have also been being created; Spring of Birth (2013), Midsummer Knight’s Dream (2014), and Falling Down (TBA). After the Persona 4: The Animation and Persona 4: The Animation –The Factor of Hope- were successful, Persona 4: The Golden Animation is currently in production and focuses around Golden’s new character Marie.
Let’s look at the media break down:
- Persona 3 (2006, PS2)
- Persona 3 FES (2007, PS2)
- Persona: Trinity Soul (2008, anime)
- Persona 3 Drama CD: A Certain Day of Summer (2008, radio drama)
- Persona 3 Portable (2009 PSP)
- Persona 3 (2012, manga)
- Persona 3 The Movie: No 1, Spring of Birth (2013, anime film)
- Persona 3 The Movie: No 2, Midsummer Knight’s Dream (2014, anime film)
- Persona 3 The Movie: No 3, Falling Down (TBA, anime film)
- Persona 4 (2008, PS2)
- Persona 4 (2008, manga)
- Persona 4: The Animation (2011, anime)
- Persona 4: The Animation –The Factor of Hope- (2012, anime film)
- Persona 4 Golden (2012, Vita)
- Persona x Detective Naoto (2012, light novel)
- Persona 4: The Magician (2012, manga)
- VisualLIve: Persona 4 (2012, stage production)
- Persona 4: The Golden Animation (2014, anime)
- Persona 4: Dancing All Night (2014, Vita)
- Persona 4 Arena (2012, Arcade, PS3, Xbox 360)
- Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (2013, Arcade, PS3, Xbox 360)
- Persona Q (2014, 3DS)
What I’m getting at here is that in an eight year span, between P3 and P4, there have been at least twenty-two forms of media revolving around these two games. This is an absurdly huge number. As the third and fourth games in a franchise, this is a different phenomenon as say Super Mario. It’s this unique nature of this brand that makes me bring into question where Persona 5 will fit in? Will there be references to P3 and P4? Has Marie replaced Igor? Who knows?
While the fans generally love the P3 and P4 characters, it’s time to move on. It’s not the plot of the Persona games that draws players in, it is the character writing. While the branching games are considered canon and use the same voice actors, you can tell that the writing just isn’t the same. Characters are reduced to singular character traits and never grown past that. For example, in P4A Chie is a single-minded meat eating machine – as much as we like to poke fun of her for that, there is WAY more to her character than that.
So the question comes down to if we are happy with just more of what we love or is it time for a change? Is Persona Q exactly what we want or is it completely overkill at this point? Regardless of your answer, P5 is coming 2015. Will Persona 5 close the floodgate on this P3 and P4 era, get swept under it, or get swept up in it? The answer really comes down to how powerful, engaging, and memorable Persona 5 ends up being. The game is coming at a time where the community wants something new. As long as the devs keep a somewhat similar recipe, the fans should be happy. Keep in mind that Persona 5 is both the first PS3 and PS4 core Persona title.
Where does this leave the wave of P3 and P4 then? Will the P5 characters be added to the next Arena title, will Q-2 take on these folk, will these characters be able to boogie with the shadows? With twenty-two plus pieces of media, it may be a proper stopping place for our beloved heroes. Perhaps a break while P5 shines will be enough time to let the oversaturation to mellow? It’s like how you feel after a long relationship, you don’t know if you miss that person or just miss being with someone? It’s way too early to know but it’s something that should be on your radar.
With Persona Q, Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and Persona 4: The Golden Animation (currently showing) all going on this year and Persona 3 The Movie: No 3. Falling Down coming out in some future time – the P3 and P4 era still has some life yet. The fact that the second P3 movie JUST came out and that the third one is TBA means that the era will continue at least into 2015. As a powerful franchise, I can’t see Atlus making the decision to stop milking it anytime soon. If P5 releases late next year, they could easily slip another game, manga, or anime in before the release date OR to hype the release date of P5. In the case of Persona though, is there such a thing as too much milk? Saying goodbye to beloved characters and being ready to say goodbye to them are two completely separate things.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ