Saturday, October 10, 2015

Video Game Review: Persona Retrospective: Persona (PSP) Finale: One Year Later.

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One year, hard to believe it's been one whole year since I've started my look at this game, and we're not even done with the Persona series yet. But hey I'll only get better with time and things should go by somewhat faster when I get to Persona 2 Eternal Punishment but for now, its time to put this bitch on ice! With the mirror completely restored the gang frees Ms Saeko from the mask, but then Two Face shows up!
No but close enough, her name is actually Tomomi Fujimori, Ms Saeko's best friend when she was in school.
But hey at least she's better then that other female Two Face.
Stay classy DC, stay classy.
 Japanese Two Face is of course pissed off and possesses the mask transforming into a monster called Lady Masquerade.
 Said big giant head can use Bufudyne and Magrydyne which hits every party member with heavy ice and gravity damage respectively. She also has God Kandori's Panic Voice skill so keep an eye out for that too. After a very long and very tense battle the group manages to destroy the Snow Queen mask once and for all. Saeko recovers and explains that Tomomi was the one possessing the mask after falling under it's power like the three guardians. Saeko explains that in their last year at St Hermelin they both competed for the role of the Snow Queen and Tomomi won the part. However it was due to Saeko secretly withdrawing thinking she could give her friend one role she beat her over, Tomomi however thought the reason why was because Saeko was afraid of the curse. Tomomi did not take this well and when she tried the mask on it burned half of her face.

 After the group convinces Saeko that what happened wasn't her fault Elly notices that even though the Queen is dead and Saeko is saved the school is still frozen, and that's when the true mastermind appears, Nyx the Night Queen.
Nyx is the Goddess of the Night in Greek Mythology It was said that she was originally born from Chaos. She has given birth to many offspring including Light, Day, Death, Sleep, Doom and Fate.
She proclaims that while she failed as the Snow Queen, now that's she's free from Tomomi's human weakness and the mask; the Night Queen is now free to freeze the world in Eternal Night from the heights of the Ice Castle. The gang leave to confront the Queen but Tomomi shows up before they leave to apologize to Saeko for all the trouble she caused as the Snow Queen and suggests keeping the completed Demon Mirror as a shield against the Night Queen. So she transfigures the Demon Mirror into the Spiegel Shield, which only Naoya can equip. She also mentions that the hero's costume from the Snow Queen play is still in storage inside the Gym and that it could be useful. She then passes on and says that she'll be looking down with the previous queens so that nobody else would end up like them.

So once you've stocked up on recovery items, fused new Personas and did anything else you think you need to do head to the locked room behind the room leading to Nemesis Tower to find a portal. Nanjo is there observing it and gives the group a Phurba Dagger weapon for them to use, unless you already purchased one in which case you have a spare one to sell. Inside the room is a ball of plasma which can teleport the five party members to the second floor of the Ice Castle so they can chase down the Night Queen.

Now be forewarned, this place is hard but nowhere near as annoying as Thanatos Tower, but mostly since there's no time limit or losing Persona usage if a party member is knocked out. But the Ice Castle does contain some of the strongest enemies in the game and there are very little chances to come back to the first floor. The second floor is less of a challenge then it is a test of your patience. The main floor is split into a 6X6 grid with paths in-between the grids. The problem is that some of the intersections force you to move in a pre-guided direction. On top of that the encounter rate here is pretty high so if you take a wrong turn you'll have to run the risk of encountering several powerful demons. The only advice I can give you is to equip a Persona with Estoma, take your time and make sure you have plenty of Revival beads.

Once you make it to the third floor go left from the staircase you came from to find the gym storage room. Inside you'll indeed find the hero's costume which becomes the best armor for Naoya for the Snow Queen Quest. However for it to spawn you need to talk to Brown who will point out something shiny on the ground next to him in front of the frozen student, the shiny thing in question is a note telling you that the costume is next to the vaulting horse next to the ball cages. There's where you'll find the rest of the Spiegel armor and the Spiegel Blade. Continue on to the fourth floor where if you find a stair case you are close to obtaining the Totems for the Ultimate Personas for the Snow Queen Quest.

Once you make it past the puzzle you'll be dropped back to the third floor cut off from the rest with only a classroom and a pit fall at the end of a small hallway, go inside and you'll find two Jack Frosts named Raiho and Reiho, who've meet previously if you've been exploring the rooms on the 1st floor. They'll trade you the Totem cards for the Ultimate Personas in exchange for Ambrosia. And now is the time to talk about the Ambrosia and how Thanatos Tower is even more evil then how I described it last time. See the Ambrosia you get depends on the order of the towers you've conquered. In order to get all five pieces of Ambrosia, you have to beat Thanatos Tower first; the hardest tower filled with Demons that could squash a low level party like a bug. Fortunately here's a link to a page where you'll get tips on how to survive the Tower.

But for the purposes of this review we'll assume that the party has all five Ambrosia pieces and can now get their Ultimate Persona. Naoya's is Amon Ra as it was the main game. Yukino gets Durga of the Empress Arcana.
In Hinduism Durga is a Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having ten arms, riding a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons and a lotus flower, maintaining a meditative smile, and practicing mudras, or symbolic hand gestures and is an embodiment of creative feminine force.
Ayase's Ultimate Persona is Freyr of the Magician Arcana.
One of the most important gods of Norse Paganism, associated with farming, weather and as a phallic fertility god.
Elly's Ultimate Persona is Michael of the Judgement Arcana.
An Archangel Michael is one of the 50 principal angels in Christianity and one of the 10 Archangels of Islamic tradition. In Christianity, he is viewed as the field commander of the Army of God and led it in the war against Satan and the fallen angels. In Islam, Mikail serves as one who delivered bounty and sustenance to all living things as commanded by God.
Brown's Persona is Tyr of the Justice Arcana.
Tyr is the god of single combat, victory and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as a one-handed man.
I hope you're psyched abut these new Personas, because the pit fall drops you all the way back to the second floor.
Once you make it to the end of the fourth floor you'll run into Raiho and Reiho again who will take you to the fifth floor of the castle. The fifth though eighth floors are more of a interconnected maze so if you feel like you're going the wrong way, you're not just look at the map and you should be fine. But make sure that you check inside every room you come across. Like for example on the seventh floor Aki is inside the classroom looking for dear old dad though she oddly says that he's wearing their uniform and a black mask. But she teleports away when it's clear to her that they haven't seen Kandori.

In a classroom on the fifth floor you'll run into Mai who's looking for "her" in a white mask. But second verse same as the first and so like Aki Mai warps out. Later on the sixth floor we find Kandori in the Student Council Room.
Or at least something that looks like Kandori because last time I checked Kandori stopped wearing his old school uniform at least two decades ago.
Whether it is the real Kandori or not he asks if you've seen "her" already. He tells you she's painting away on the floor below "keeping the gate to paradise shut with the blackness of despair". So the group finds the girl in the art room below.
Doesn't she remind you of someone? Nah probably just me
She apparently went a little crazy as she says that she's "painting over their future in blackness" and is going on about what we already know of her from the main game about how she's alone and can only observe the happiness of others. Before she warps away she proclaims that she's sick of being alone and will destroy the entire school. So now on the eighth floor the group finally encounters the Night Queen on the stage. She's more then ready to fight however Maki and Kandori show up to offer assistance to the Night Queen and Kandori tells the group that if they want to fight the trio to come to the very top of the Castle before warping the five to the ninth floor. Thankfully he'll offer you the chance to go back to the first floor, but he forgets to tell you that it's a one way trip!
Besides outside of the room there's not only a save point but also a Velvet Room so you shouldn't really need to go back to the first floor unless you're in desperate need of items. So two more floors and the group finally corners the Night Queen who's fused with the masked Maki and Kandori to become Queen Asura.
And don't even dare to figure out how the hell this thing's anatomy works in a real sense because you'd just go insane.
 Queen Asura may have three heads but thankfully its 15000 HP is shared between them, however it can swap between the tree active heads and thus alternate its weakness' and strengths. As it is the final boss of the Snow Queen Quest it's not going to be easy. The center head can cast four different types of elemental spells. The Green Head (Kandori) can deal status effects while the yellow head (Maki) can not only heal itself but also has the All Guard and Symphony of Lament skills that Pandora has, and like Pandora if Naoya has Amon Ra at it's highest lever unleash Hieroglyphein on them and keep on it. Though here's a free tip, while Maki is the white mage of the creature she is vulnerable to elemental attacks so if the Queen has her head active go to town.

 Eventually Queen Asura goes down and the Night Queen swears she'll return so long as people try to turn hope into despair, so unless a certain bread of evil bunny cats show up in this world and girls from the ages of 4 to 16 start gaining magical powers I'm sure she'll neeeeever bother anyone again. As for Maki and Kandori, the two retreat saying that improvising wasn't enough and they'll meet Naoya again soon. But we already know what happened with that. With the Night Queen gone the school is returned to normal and everyone is safe again. But there's no time to rest as with this distraction done with the five head out to find Maki and Mark and help them stop Kandori.

Outside the school they find Mark who was overwhelmed by the demons at SEBEC HQ and asks for help saving Maki. The five agree to help and the Snow Queen Quest ends with the six making their way to SEBEC HQ to stop the true cause of the demon invasion of Mikage-Cho.

With that we end our look at Shin Megami Tensai: Persona. My thoughts are as follows, it definitely helped to lay the ground work for the series and what would come after; unlike the rest of the Megaten series which primarily focused on playing with differing morality, the demons and fighting apocalyptic threats, this game established the strength of the Persona series; which is the characters, personal story lines and a more human element. The characters were distinct and slowly but surely we saw arks for them and their development, from how Nanjo started as a Proto-Kaiba but slowly developed into a open minded person, to Reiji learning to move past his hatred for his father and Kandori, to Maki where the team helps her ideal self overcome her massive amounts of self-loathing. We see that the human mind is capable of creating great beauty and true horror given the right circumstances, and through the bonds shared between those close to you one can overcome most obstacles life throws at you and by staying true to yourself one can strive for greatness.

 The game play however is where this game suffers. While it did set up the ground work for the game play for future installments, the first run was shaky for me, though mostly due me having played the far more refined Persona 4 first. I found the demon contracts to be more then a chore without a guide and the parts where I had to go through dungeons a second time after I already made it to the end was more then a tad annoying and just felt like extending the game play.  The Personas as well were vary limited, though again I preferred to stick to the Personas that were most compatible with the characters. The music for the PSP re-release is really damn good, once again Megaten composer Shoji Meguro knocked it right out of the park especially with the battle music, giving the right mix of tension and epic in their uses. Every score fit the mood it was trying to depict and that for me is a great sign for a game score where you can't imagine any other music in the background, even the song played in the school before the demons show up is catchy as hell.

Overall I wouldn't recommend this game to someone who wants to get into the Persona/ Megaten franchise. But I would highly recommend this game to people who've only played Personas 3 and 4 to see where the series started from, though if you don't want to try watching a let's play. Persona 1 is available on the PSN at the time of this article for about $20 for your PSP or PS Vita. Next time we come back to the Persona retrospective we take a look at one of the more underrated games in the Megaten franchise, Persona 2 Innocent Sin where we see the developers have refined and improved on Persona 1 in every respect, till then, keep the voice in you loud and proud.

Shin Megami Tensai Persona is owned by Atlus and Sega.
Catwoman Guardian of Gotham is owned by Doug Moench, Jim Balent and DC Comics.
Dragon Ball, Dragonball Z and Dragonball GT is owned by Funnimation, Toei animation, Fuji TV and Akira Toriyama.
Dragonball Z abridged is owned by Team Four Star. 
50 First Dates is owned by, Adam Sandler, Happy Madison, Flower Films and Columbia Pictures.