Mark Danced Crazy - Let's Play Shin Megami Tensei: Persona

If you look back, it’s kind of a miracle that we ever got any of the good Shin Megami Tensei games localized in the West, let alone the later Persona games.

Up until the release of Persona 1, Atlus had been making the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series, known for being a Wizardry clone that was just as hard and dickish as Wizardry itself: the early SMT games hated you for playing them and would do anything in their power to make you stop. Somewhere along the line, Atlus realized that this was a problem. No one wanted to play a game that effectively required a guide (or hours upon hours of trial and error gameplay) to finish.

Megami Ibunroku Persona (the original title for Persona 1) was supposed to be a way of fixing that: a spinoff with lower difficulty that more people were likely to finish and that could largely be played without needing a guide every step of the way. In a lot of ways, Persona 1 is a direct successor to Shin Megami Tensei: If… which takes a single mechanic from SMT If (namely the “guardian spirit” mechanic) and turns it into an entire game… though actually it’s more like three games.

The first was the original Japanese release, known as Megami Ibunroku Persona: Be Your Own Mind, which was later re-released on the PSP as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. SMT: Persona is the real localization of the game, with an accurate translation and very few changes made from the original Japanese script (and most of those changes are references to other SMT games that were added in for the PSP version).

Then you have what Atlus decided to localize as the debut for Shin Megami Tensei in America, which was released as Revelations: Persona. It was… not great.

For some reason, Atlus decided that this was the game they wanted to bring to the West as Shin Megami Tensei’s debut. It went… less than great.

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Apart from giving all of the characters western names, Revelations: Persona (as the original PSX release was called) was heavily censored and had half the game stripped out for no apparent reason. This is also the version that Sony decided to release on the PS1 Classic, which is part of the reason the PS1 Classic flopped as hard as it did. We will not be talking about or acknowledging the existence of Revelations: Persona in this LP, apart from a few of the memes that made it into the PSP re-release.

A side note: this LP is going to be done on an actual PSP Go, with no savestates or rewinding or any of that other bullshit. This is to keep the LP as genuine as possible, and also to avoid shit like that SMT 1 LP on the archive where the LPer abused savestates to do things that would be difficult to impossible to pull off on real hardware.

If this goes well, I’ll also probably do Persona 2 Innocent Sin, which also does not have an LP on the archive.

(Excuse the fingerprints, I only use this PSP in composite output mode with a wireless controller).

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9_2iVBrO_400x400: Welcome to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona. The game has its own background art on the PSP’s home screen and everything.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: The PSP version has a new intro movie that plays at the title screen, and oh look I actually got it into the first update the first time for once.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: They also added a “movie mode” to view the new cutscenes once you unlock them.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: There are technically two game modes in Persona 1: the main game and a side game called the Snow Queen Quest that is only questionably canon. As we’re doing the main game first (which I haven’t done before so I have that much more motivation to do it) we’ll be playing on Normal. I highly, highly recommend doing the Snow Queen Quest on Beginner and also not doing what I did and doing it first.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: My dreams are still haunted by memories of YIIK, so at this point being a butterfly would be an improvement.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: If you know anything about Persona 2, you’d know that the butterfly is an important symbol in both Persona 1 and the Persona 2 duology. Zhuangzi is a book about Daoism from ancient China.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Welcome to an empty classroom. While the blue-haired figure in the center may look a bit like the protagonist from Persona 3, that’s actually who we’re playing as.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Pretty much everyone who is going to be in our party at any point in this game is in this room right now.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Every character in this game has a nickname, which I think is something that was in the original Japanese release. The game will refer to them by their nicknames from here on out. Mark is one of the only characters not to have his name changed for Revelations: Persona.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Brown here was nicknamed “Brad” in Revelations: Persona, and really the only Brad in any RPG should be Brad from LISA.

Mark: “Alright… you’re on. I’ll bet you an all-you-can-eat dinner at the Peace Diner on Joy Street.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Ayase is the sole reason I’m playing an undub version of this game rather than the standard US release. Her voice is godawful, though the only real voiceacting in this game is in battle.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Elly is the Mitsuru or Yukiko of Persona 1, though definitely not capturing the “best girl” status that Yukiko enjoys.

Mark: “Are you guys serious? Yo Kei, Yukino! Who’re you guys going to side with?”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Yukino is the only character in this room we won’t be seeing for a long time. She’s a central part of the Snow Queen quest, but barely shows up in the main game.

Mark: “Ugh! You guys are so cold, y’know? Hey, who’re you with? It’s gotta be me, right?”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: And here we have our protagonist. Unlike the other Persona games, the protagonist in Persona 1 does not have a single canon name. In the game manual for the PS1, he’s referred to simply as “Boy with an Earring”. The manga used “Naoya Toudou / Naorin” and the official novelization refers to him as “Jihei Suzakin / Jay”. The most common fan nickname I’ve seen for him is Donnie Darko.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: It doesn’t really matter what we pick here. A lot of the later dialogue options do make a difference, up to and including who winds up coming with us later on. For reference, I just hit “Bet on Mark”.

Ayase: “Aww! Just wait… you’ll be sorry!”

Brown: “Heeheehee… this’ll be fun! Awright, let’s get started!”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Who do you think you are, Jack Frost? Get the hee-hell out, ho.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: It’s hard to tell without seeing it in motion, but they’re basically doing the equivalent of the “stand in front of the mirror and say Bloody Mary” thing. Ayase, Mark, Brown and Elly are in the corners, and walk counterclockwise to the corner opposite them.

Ayase: “Umm… Persona, Persona! Please come here!”

Brown: “Hurry it up! All-you-can-eat! All-you-can-eat!”

Mark: “Okay, okay… Persona, Persona, c’mere… I guess.”

Ayase: “Hidehiko! You jerk! Now I look like a total idiot!”

Mark: “See? A fat load o’ nothin’. Hehe… looks like I win.”

Brown: “W-wait! Hold up! One more time! Please!? Mark screwed it up! C’mon, you gotta take it seriously when you do it!”

Mark: “Oh, you little…! What a sore loser.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: All of a sudden, there’s… what looks like a little girl standing in the front of the room. Nanjo is the only one who notices.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: You can’t see it, but there’s lightning arcing out of the lights on the ceiling.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Well, shit. We got hit by lightning before we could even name our protagonist, and now we’re seeing… yellow butterflies. Surely, that’s not a symbol or anything.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: I’m going to do an entire update on who Philemon is immediately after this one. Persona 4 Golden has an excellent primer on him, but I can’t capture video off my Vita and that primer takes like an hour to watch.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: So, what’s our name? We need a last name, a first name, and a nickname. You can use any of the canon ones, or make up your own.

Naoya Toudou / Naoyin
Jihei Suzakin / Jay
Yuuya Narumi / ???

I’ll take votes until tomorrow, and if I don’t get any I’m absolutely naming him Donnie Darko.

I’ll try to avoid the usual John Persona joke by suggesting you go with Jay.

The first time I played through Persona 1 (well, the Snow Queen quest at least) I thought Philemon was something that the writers for Persona had made up. As it turns out, I was wrong, mostly because I didn’t know about Jungian psychology.

Persona is heavily based on the works of Carl Jung, who invented “analytical psychology”, which is basically what happens when you combine one part science with six parts mysticism, pseudoscience, and also probably schizophrenia.

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The concept of Philemon probably came from Jung reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which has a story in it called Baucis and Philemon about an old couple who take a disguised Zeus and Hermes into their home when none of their neighbors would and are rewarded by watching all of their neighbors die for the crime of not letting the gods in for dinner.

Anyway, back to Jung. Carl Jung was very into recording his dreams, to the point where he kept a number of journals chronicling them. One night in 1913, he has a dream about an old man with bird wings and bull horns who flies around with keys in his hand. Carl Jung immediately decides that he needs to draw this so that everyone can see it.

Honestly, flying around with a handful of keys sounds like something you’d see Danny DeVito doing in an episode of Always Sunny.

[Image Credit: Philemon Foundation]

Jung names this guy Philemon, and from this point on spends the next several years writing down every single thing that happens to him in something called the Red Book, which Wikipedia tells me was not actually published until 2008 due to interference by Jung’s estate (probably because it makes him look fucking crazy). This is when Jung develops his entire theory of analytical psychology, at a point where even he was pretty sure that he was schizophrenic.

Philemon kind of evolved from a strange dream figure to what Jung called an archetype of the collective unconsciousness: if you’ve ever played any of the Zero Escape games, that’s basically what the “morphogenetic field” that makes everyone psychic is. Jung’s theory on the collective unconsciousness is something along the lines of there being these archetypes that guide the development of the self, and that can’t be seen or understood except through imagery and metaphors and shit.

Among the archetypes is something called the “Wise Old Man”, which is basically what Jung assumed Philemon was - the archetype appearing to him in a dream through imagery. A lot of movies and other media have kind of latched onto the whole archetype thing: there are charts out there showing how Star Wars (at least, the original ones) and Harry Potter are largely based off Jung’s archetypes.

Anyway, that’s my explanation of where the name comes from. Whether the Philemon in Persona has anything to do with Carl Jung’s crazy old dream man will have to be seen.

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I think I’ll go with Naoyin.

Neat. I own this game on PSP, but I kinda find it hard to play. Maybe if it’d come out in its unaltered form back when I was in high school I might have gotten more into it. Or not, I had more tolerance for grinding but was extremely bad at actually beating games back then. I read a bit about Revelations: Persona in an old gaming magazine (I want to say GamePro) back when it first came out, but could never actually find the game, which was probably for the best.

As for naming, let’s go with Jay, just so he doesn’t overlap with the antagonist of the original Devil Survivor, which I played long before this game.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Well, it looks like Jihei Suzakin / Jay won the poll, so let’s go with that.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Honestly, I feel like Atlus’s choice of white subtitle text in a cutscene with a character whose clothes are also white was a bad one.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: What Philemon here is doing is referencing the first three Shin Megami Tensei games, all of which had an alignment system that was utter bullshit at best and an afterthought at worst. None of the Persona games have an alignment system.


I can’t help but wonder if this cutscene, which uses a lot of the same poses and shots as the opening cutscene to Pokemon, was a dig by Atlus at Nintendo.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Wait, what? What does her cooking ability have anything to do with… you know, I’m not even going to bother. I honestly don’t even know why they bother introducing the nurse. Unlike the later games, Persona 1 doesn’t have the whole “life sim” element and this is probably the last time we’ll ever see her.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Saeko here is a character who seemed like a throwaway in the PS1 release, but in fact is very important in the Snow Queen quest. This is going to be a recurring thing with the first playthrough, where we run into stuff that isn’t important until then.

Saeko: “I’m sorry you had to deal with my students, Natsumi.”

Mark: “C’mon, taking care of students is her whole job! What’s so bad about us…?”

Saeko: “Now, now, Masao! I want you to think about what you’ve done!”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: School rules strictly forbid the summoning of Lucifer, or any kind of mental duplicate thereof, on school grounds.

Saeko: “Anyway, Eriko and Ayase told me what happened. No helping out for you today!”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: This game shares a lot of plot beats with Shin Megami Tensei 1. SMT1 had a very similar beginning in that the first place you wind up in after the demons invade is a hospital.

Yukino: “So you think there’s something wrong with us, too?”

Saeko: “Oh, not like that. I can tell by looking at you that you’re perfectly sane. But I’m worried you might have gotten hurt while collapsing, so go see the doc.”

Yukino: “So there is something that can faze you, Ms. Saeko. Alright, we’ll go.”

Mark: “You mean Maki, right?”

Saeko: “Yes, that’s right. You should visit her while you’re there. She’s been laid up there for over a year now… I’m sure she’s lonesome.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: We’re now in “walk around” mode, which is mostly only used in rooms where you could potentially talk to people. The controls for this are… rather strange in that they’re isometric but also don’t really correspond to the directions the way you’d think they would. It’s kind of like Jay here has the same disease as the QWOP guy.

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9_2iVBrO_400x400: By the way, the music that plays in the school at this point is a track that Atlus added for the PSP re-release. It sounds like something you’d hear in Persona 4, and that’s probably no coincidence.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: The box has a single Medicine in it, which in SMT would be immediately tossed for taking up precious inventory space that could be used on an incense or life stone. One of the really nice changes Atlus made here was giving you an unlimited inventory.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: There’s also this weird glowing pink plant in the corner.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: The plant is a save point, which I took here only because there’s no earlier opportunity to save. Weirdly enough, the Agastya is an actual species of tree, but it has red flowers and not pink ones. We can also talk to everyone, but Mark is really the only person with anything to say that doesn’t relate to Snow Queen.

Mark: “It’s way to the northeast. You leave the school, head north… and go all the way to the 3rd ward, then take a right at the Mikage Ruins. Eh, if we just wander around we’ll get there sooner or later.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Welcome to first person mode, which is the meat of Persona 1. Right now, we’re on the first floor of St. Hermelin High School located in the (fictional) city of Mikage-cho. This is a major departure from the SMT series, which tends to use locations named after actual places in Japan.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: You’ll notice that we have a minimap in the bottom-left that’s already filled in to boot. This is an absolute godsend compared to the early SMT games. The map even shows you where you’ve already been.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Now, in true Atlus style, most of St. Hermelin is completely empty. We could just walk out the front door, pictured here, and make our way to the hospital. However… we don’t want to do that.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Just past the main entrance to the school, heading North, is the teacher’s lounge. This is the start of a very specific and kind of arcane series of events that will lead us to a secret party member.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: I think of my problems with this game is that entering an empty room will cause your party members to spread out around it, which can make finding NPCs a bit difficult. In this case, we want to talk to the guy in the brown suit in the bottom-left.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: We’re not, but this gives us a very important clue: there’s an open room on the second floor.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: The one thing I think the early SMT games did better is that they’d tell you what a room was before you entered it. Granted, they HAD to do this because the hallways were usually a single color and there were a thousand identical doorways, but still. This is the empty classroom, located on the far western end of the 2nd floor.

Mark: “Huh? Reiji…? You’re Reiji Kido! What’re you doin’ here?”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Meet Reiji Kido, local JoJo reject and the secret party member of the main route in Persona 1. Getting him to join is a gigantic pain in the ass.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Reiji then just kinda fucks off without a word. I apologize for the blur, but that’s what happens when you’re taking screenshots off real hardware. I swear you don’t notice it when you’re playing.

Nanjo: “Hmpf. The standoffish sort, I see.”

Mark: “Look who’s talking.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Now, you would think that the logical thing to do would be to find where Reiji went, but no. What we need to do instead is walk to the other side of the second floor and enter clasroom 2-1. Thankfully, the classrooms are marked by signs.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Here, we want to talk to the only NPC in the room.

Mark: “Haha! ‘Hooligans’? Seriously? What a poindexter!”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Cue laugh track. I get that Mark is sort of meant to be the mouthpiece for the protagonist, but it feels like he’s in a permanent state of auditioning for a role in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s still not my least favorite party member though. That’d be Ayase.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Now we can finally leave the school.

Nanjo: “There’s a reason it’s said that one’s youth passes quickly.”

Mark: “That Nanjo pisses me off so bad… I’ll find a chink in his armor someday.”

Yukino: “Masao and Kei are both such children.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: You’d think we’d be done with the cutscenes, but…

Nanjo: “Y… Yamaoka…!”

P1-Yamaoka: “Oh, my! Master Kei is leaving the premises with a crowd of friends! I’m… I’m so happy to see this…!”

Mark: “Master… Kei?”

Nanjo: "Y-Yamaoka! I’ve told you time and time again never to call me that! You dummy!’

Mark: “Did you just call him “dummy”? Hahaha!”

Nanjo: “N-No, I, ah… Oh, be silent, Masao! Look, Yamaoka, I dont need a ride today! Just… go back without me!”

P1-Yamaoka: “Oh, my! Will you be going out on the town with your chums, young master?”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: I should mention that in Revelations: Persona, Yamaoka is named Alfred. Because of course he is. This actually causes a really strange translation error that I can’t talk about without spoiling stuff.

Yukino: “Snrk… Ahahahahah!”

Nanjo: “Enough! Let’s be on our way, Jihei! Yamaoka… do NOT follow us!”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Finally, we’re on the world map. There’s other locations we could visit in this section of Mikage-cho, but there’s not much of a reason to right now.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: On the next screen to the East is the Mikage Sun Mall. Like the early SMT games, Persona has way more shopping areas than it ever really needs. The Mikage mall is somewhere you’ll get very acquainted with during the Snow Queen quest.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Going east again brings us to another mall - this one is the Joy Street Mall. We need to make a stop here on the way to the hospital.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Just inside the entrance is Judgment 1999, which is a casino. This is VERY, VERY important to the Snow Queen quest, but we don’t have any real business here on the main route.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: There’s also a very mysterious store that anyone who has played a Persona game before would recognize. Unfortunately, it’s locked right now.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Our actual reason to come here is for this place: the Yin & Yan convenience store. There’s at least three of these in Mikage-cho: a standalone near the school, one in the Mikage Sun Mall, and one here.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Inside is Reiji’s mom, who we need to talk to in order to continue finding him.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: We need to answer yes to both of her questions.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: North of the Joy Street Mall is our actual destination: Mikage Hospital.

Nanjo: “Best not to be idle, after all.”

Mark: “Heh… cold, man. By the way, Maki’s in Room 302.”

Yukino: “You’re pretty well-informed, Masao.”

Mark: “Uh… shut up! A friend of mine told me! Yo, Jihei, let’s just go already.”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Before we go up to visit Maki, there’s a few NPCs we can talk to in here. The only one with anything interesting to say is this guy.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Wait, what? I think if I was seeing a little ghost girl and fake stairs, I’d probably be a little more freaked out than that. SEBEC is a major employer in Mikage-cho - in fact, we passed their building on the way to the hospital.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: There’s also this mysterious old man who is totally not Yamaoka.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: In true Shin Megami Tensei style, the hospital has both stairs and an elevator. This was a recurring thing in the early SMT games, where you could often skip half a dungeon with the elevator simply because there was nothing on certain floors.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: None of the doors in the hospital are labelled, but all of the doors on the third floor are locked except for Maki’s room.

Maki: “Jihei… you all came… thanks…”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: Meet Maki. Maki is our last possible party member, and also has anime disease. They have to keep her in the hospital or she’d collapse into an anime singularity.

Maki: “You’re so thoughtful, Masao.”

Nanjo: “What do you mean?”

Maki: “I told Masao I wanted to see everyone when he was here last time… isn’t that why you all came?”

Yukino: “… Yes, it is. How are you? Have you been feeling okay?”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: How much do you want to bet she’s talking about Philemon?

Maki: “He’s like a father…”

Yukino: “Like that doctor? He seemed nice.”

Maki: “…I don’t like him…”

Mark: “Did he do somethin’ to you!?”

Maki: “No, that’s not it… I just… don’t like doctors.”

Maki: “She’s not my mom! She cares more about her job than me! She doesn’t care about me at all…”

9_2iVBrO_400x400: I feel like if Maki got isekai’d into Ni no Kuni 2, she’d probably fit right in.

9_2iVBrO_400x400: All of a sudden, Maki starts clutching at her head in pain.

Next time, we’ll get to some actual gameplay in a scene very reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei 1.

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Not only is it white text on a white background with not a lot of black border it’s also slightly fuzzy on my screen so it’s blurry white text on a white background.

I’m sure it’s all very symbolic something something difficult to understand something work for enlightenment.

It did make sense with like here and the mall in SMT1, but yeah, silly 3D maze stuff.

Good to see this game being LPed, didn’t age the best but there’s some real good fond stuff with the PSP version I had.