Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Guest Review 2 - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

Now, before I drive you onwards onto Persona's trial and execution, I'd just like to say a few words about the tragedy that is the gaming industry geared towards the PSP system. If we had to find an analogy to explain how this industry works, we could say that it's the tale of two lovers that, when together, live wondrous tales of passion and happiness, but during that time when they're apart, their entire purpose is to find different ways to backstab each other or new original ways of how to rape their loved one with a rake. You see, when Sony first released the Psp, they had a different set of ideas in motion to make huge loads of cash, but unfortunately for them, most of these were all foiled by the so called "homebrewing community" (a denomination adopted by 12 year old teen pirates to make them feel important), so, since then, Sony (together with every gaming company in the world, or so it seems) has been trying to find new ways to counter the console's huge piracy ratio, or in simpler words, to "buttfuck" you, the nice paying costumer, who doesn't give a shit about piracy and just wants to have fun with your games, in every way possible and still make a load of green with it.

When even 11 year olds have tutorials around the youtube to teach you how to crack your psp,
you know there's something very wrong with this console.

One of these new innovative methods that gaming companies found was to pick an old game from an older system, such as, I don't know, PERSONA from the original playstation, add some new "kawai ^____^ desu uguuu~" cutscenes to it, along with 1 or 2 new features that are meaningless, shove it down a brand new box, and there you go, A NEW RELEASE FOR PSP. How does this counter piracy you ask? Who cares about piracy? Piracy is just an excuse we use to support our lack of creativity and laziness. And while you're too stunned with the "OH BOY, A WORTHWHILE GAME ON PSP AFTER 5 MONTHS?" reaction, we'll be making huge margin profits, since the costs we had in "creating" this game were almost nonexistent, and we'll be pricing this baby as if it was a novelty. Hurrah for Capitalism! Oh right, this was supposed to be a review about Persona. Well, onto to it then.

I'll be honest with you; I had never played a Persona title before, but since everyone and their mother was hyping these games like it was sex in a bottle, I decided to give it a try. I knew I should have expected something like this, having seen some screenshots and already knowing how the universal laws that guide the psp work, but even so, I really never predicted it would be as bland and boring as this. I literally fell asleep while playing this game, I'm not joking. It's just unacceptable how they dedicated NONE of their time whatsoever in adjusting the gameplay mechanics to nowadays standards, I mean, did they even change anything at all, or was adding j-pop music to EVERY SINGLE MOMENT reason enough to justify paying 40 Euros for this crap? Well, anyway, here's how you're supposed to avoid falling asleep play in this horrible joke game.
There are 3 different perspectives of interaction and movement in this game, which I proudly denominated as "The good", "The bad", and "The Ugly":

The bad one features a semi 3rd person isometric perspective, which appears in plot related sections and it's usually where the characters dialog and important parts of the game occur. It's bad, because besides making my eyes bleed, it consists mostly of you bashing the x button for the dialog to advance quicker, and walking into a glowing tree in order to save the game.

The good one is based on how your characters move between different places, such as the school and hospital, featuring a beautiful map where you can choose your next location.

Now, the ugly one, it's where I just lost it. Remember those horrible first person mazes from old rpgs where every single wall was the same and you walked 5 minutes through a set of corridors hoping to stumble upon a treasure box at the end, just to find out you had reached a dead end and had to walk 5 minutes back to where you started? Well, for some reason, Atlus thought this was a perfect suitable option for a game being released in 2009 and decided to leave it like this. You know what else could probably be acceptable for Atlus? A kick in the groin. In fact, for the next persona, I suggest they just skip the whole game concept entirely and dive directly into kicking my balls several times until I'm left peeing blood, because I'd rather pay 40 Euros for that than have to endure another second of this horrible experience.

But my pain had just started unfortunately, because I still hadn't faced the combat in this game. However, fear not, because for those 5 minutes I spent walking around the first dungeon (the hospital), I must have faced around 20 random encounters (I wish I was joking), so I had plenty of time to enjoy the game's wonderful combat system. In fact, it's so wonderful and relaxing, that after 30 minutes of playing, I immediately fell asleep in an armchair. Not that it makes any difference whatsoever I guess, because even if I was playing this game with two huge boulders crushing my legs and 3 atlus fans screaming at my ears how good their horrible game is, I would've still fallen asleep during the combat.

Anyhow, the combat plays like any generic turn based Jrpg; you choose how you want your characters to act, followed by their consequential action, ranging from regular attacks, to borrowing the powers of your own Persona (an inner being inhabiting their conscience that somehow manages to give them supernatural abilities, such as 2 framed spells and bad animated attacks), the enemies then makes their own counter attacks, rinse and repeat till the battle finishes. The concept itself is boring if you don't know how to implement it, but this game somehow manages to make it even blander and unappealing, since besides having a combat screen that consists of both your characters and enemies immobile, facing each other like a bad game of "statues", the attacks have almost no animations at all. Either the characters simply point out their own weapons at the enemies or a demon ghost of a bad pokemon reject floats above their heads for 10 seconds, then numbers pop up from above an enemy's head, along with 3 different pyrotechnic effects. They couldn't have made it more boring if they tried, seriously. Oh right, you can also dialog with monsters as well (in order to convince them to flee, for example), which results approximately 5% of the time, whoop-di-doo.

Oh boy! Isn't this exciting?! I guess I'll attack this one, and then I'll use my pers- zzzzzzzzzzz.

I don't usually have a "sound" section in my reviews, because, so far, both the music and sounds managed to fit perfectly in the games I've reviewed, so I really didn't feel any necessity in approaching this field. But I was forced to in this game. Why, you ask? Because, if you're not a fan of j-rock, j-pop or any other kind of Japanese related musical content where men dressed like women enjoy raping your earlobes with their bad English and distorted guitars, then you're better off leaving the sound muted, because you won't be missing much. EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THIS GAME is accompanied by what I can only guess as the developers own playlist of top 100 worst songs regurgitated from Japan, and the character's "Whoooo" and "Ohhhh" while attacking during combat don't really compensate over this, so if you REALLY must play this game with the sound on, then at least do it with the volume on minimum, so people around a 10 meter radius of you don't get urges of going on a rampage the next day, murdering all their co-workers.

Once again, this is a section I never dedicate my time to, because I feel that graphics don't really define a game's worth. I'm a also huge nostalgia fan, so most of my favorite games have outdated graphics, but I had to make a rant here, not really about how this game's graphics have aged terribly (which they have), but because the developers made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER in improving them since this game's release in the original playstation. Maybe instead of compiling a "fabulous" new soundtrack and creating 5 seconds animated cutscenes (which I might add, aren't that extravagant), they should've simply updated the graphical department in order to make it appealing for the eye, or, I don't know, actually CREATED a new graphical engine instead of recycling a 12 year old one. It's like someone suddenly decided to promote this new awesome drink, packing it in an awesome bottle, and marketing it with a great campaign and memorable publicity, then when you finally buy it and put the bottle in your mouth, it tastes like regular water. It's just utter and pure bullshit, and I find it unacceptable.

The only redeeming factor, I guess. The game's own plot is as exciting as your most common Jrpg (a group of teens find themselves involved in a campaign against a more powerful foe whose intentions are regarded as somewhat "evil"), but this tale is accompanied by an interesting philosophical reflection about the nature of man and its different behavioral transformations and reasons involved (hinted immediately at the beginning by the butterfly's manifestation metaphor) which actually makes it a bit interesting if that's your cup of tea. There's also a special "quest" entitled the "Snow Queen" that follows a different path from the original and is activated by a specific series of choices, which you'll eventually end up seeing from a walkthrough on the Internet, because you'll have no idea what these are on your first, or even second playthrough (not that I know why would anyone play this game a second time, but, oh well).

Another aspect which I absolutely adore is how they immediately set profiles for each character the moment you meet them. I remember a time where game developers actually thought the player was an intelligent human being, and left the characters behavioral assertion to us, simply hinting the character's personality based on what the they said or how they acted when a certain situation occurred. But no, now they regard gamers as monkeys holding a controller, who see dialog cutscenes as nothing but an opportunity to see how many times we can bash the "skip" button before the console short-circuits. Then again, most of the dialogs I read are simply laughable, so I guess their initial deduction that we were just going to skip them was the correct one in the end.

Three lines is more than enough character development I guess, wouldn't want players sympathizing with our main cast.
Yeah, that would be pretty dumb, who cares about these guys anyway.
I wanted to end this review with a list of good reasons for you to actually buy this game, but I just can't see any. If you want an entertaining title for your handled that will take hours away from you, there are countless better ones than this. If you want it to be a Jrpg, that can be arranged as well, just dig through all the crap blasted away from glorious Nippon, and you can actually find plenty of decent games. So yeah, the only plausible reasons I can find for you to shove down money for this is either because you're a diehard fan of the other Personas, and you want to try the first one on your psp (nevertheless, get ready to be disappointed), or you're one of those clueless parents who roam around Gamestop searching for your kin's next birthday present, and think the box is pretty enough to settle down your child's hormones for the next couple of months. Other than that, stay away from this game for your own health.

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