For those of you who have been living under a rock, or have just been willfully ignorant of recent Castlevania news, there is a new game in the series being released next week. Capcom has saw fit to tease us with several trailers which I will be be linking here for your enjoyment and frustration. It comes out on the 5th of October, and I will definitely be picking it up day 1.
Atlus presented a second trailer at the TGS for the new Persona HD game, Catherine. While Persona has always had an emphasis on the psychology of the characters and how it applied to their interactions and the world, the new game promised to step it up a notch. Both graphically and gratuitously. And while I’ll probably still buy this (If by some miracle it makes it to NA), I will have to hold my head low with shame. Or order it online.
I am throughly under the impression that Atlas has brilliant marketing. Mostly because the alternative would mean that I was incredibly stupid. It took me less than a week to break down and buy the new(old) release of Persona 3 on the PSP. Once the feelings of bitter recrimination and self loathing had subsided, I booted the game up to check it out.
The first thing I noticed was the snazzy new opening, which seems now to be a given in every new rerelease of the game. I was pleased that they included the original opening as well. After actually starting the game, I was faced with a dilemma however. I had a choice between choosing a male and a female main character. The game was kind enough to assure me that picking the female option didn’t mean anything. Feeling reassured of my masculinity, I selected the female character. I had already played through the game as a male character and the goal was to see what was different after all. Upon making my selection, it immediately switched to an interface of hot pink. It also doesn’t help that the the female main character was especially feminine. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue, but the protagonists in Persona are supposed to be blank slates that you impress yourself on. So despite the games warnings, it made me feel incredibly gay.
As I played the game, I found myself with a vastly different perspective than I had originally envisioned. Rather than laying my personality over the main character like I did in previous versions, I instead became protective of my female main character. I was a lot more concerned with what friends Violet (my protagonist’s name) was making and in particular who she decided to date. As options became available, I thought about whether or not they were good enough for Violet. It was a sharp departure from my perspective in previous games, which was to date as many available ladies as possible (all for the social links I swear). I was mostly OK when she decided to date Akihiko, since he seems to be a fairly upstanding boy, but was concerned when she was becoming friends with Junpei (I didn’t want my character dating some deadbeat kid).
From a technical standpoint, I was fairly impressed with how well the port was done. To save space, they removed most of the cutscenes and used a series of still shots. In the actual game, the world is rendered as images with sprites rather than 3D models, with the exception of Tartarus (the main dungeon). This helps preserve the feel of the original game while keeping the visuals looking nice. It also gives off a stronger visual novel vibe than the previous versions of the game. This also apparently allowed them to save enough space to add extra vocal lines and new music, rather than remove them, which was a pleasant surprise.
The story also changed a lot more than I was anticipating. Aside from redoing all the references from him to her, they also added whole new dialogue paths and have redone many of the reactions and responses of characters to be more suitable to a female lead. For example, when Junpei’s complains about your character taking the lead, it takes on less of a resentment feel and moves more towards a display of insecurity, hidden behind a veil of light sexism. The mass amount of changes didn’t affect the core of the story, but gave a new, fresh perspective on the game that made playing it a 3rd time enjoyable, rather than tedious.
With the port comes a host of game play improvements as well. The battle system has been revamped to be more in line with the games successor, Persona 4. This includes the ability to control all party members and the guard command. One new limitation that was added is that the protagonist can no longer use any weapon, being restricted to swords swords (males), or certain pole arms (female). As well, the knockdown mechanic has been changed to be less punishing to both your party and the monsters. Some other changes include the removal of the fusion spells which were replaced with fusion cards. I found this to be both mixed advantage/disadvantage. On the one hand, you no longer need to carry persona simply to be able to use the fusion spells, but on the other hand, you are now much more limited in how often you can use them.
Overall, I found the game to be a solid release. Between the new mode and other tweaks, as well as the ability to be able to play an excellent RPG on the move, the game provides enough new content and features to justify purchasing it, especially if you’re a fan of the series.