How the Persona franchise revived the JRPG genre

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Image via Atlus

What is Persona?

Persona and its spin-offs are a JRPG franchise initially developed and published by Atlus and Index Corporation, written as a wider spin-off from the cult Megami Tensei franchise. Released originally in 1996 under the name Revelations: Persona, the series follows a group of High School students who access ‘Personas’, a theoretical feeling made real, manifesting a person’s psyche and subconscious, to combat evil.

Fans of Persona will agree that the series of games combine a compelling narrative, deep character developments, and unique, memorable gameplay mechanics. The franchise frequently incorporates elements of Japanese culture, including societal norms, folklore, and urban legends. This cultural authenticity resonates with fans both in Japan and internationally, contributing to the franchise's widespread appeal.

The stories frequently explore themes of friendship, identity, and the human psyche, presented in a stylish way through the games’ striking art direction, character designs, and music. In fact, earlier games in the franchise, starting with Persona 3 (P3), have introduced the mechanic of Social Links, which lets gamers strengthen and evolve their Personas based on time spent with their owners in everyday situations.

The creators based their ideas for this game on Western psychology, namely the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, analytical psychology, and also a fascination with tarot cards and the prediction of canon events.

The facts, now. 

The franchise is now owned by Sega, who acquired Atlus’ parent company, Index Corporation, after its bankruptcy in 2013. There are two new Franchise games scheduled for release in 2024: Persona 5 Tactica and Persona Reload (P3). Work behind the scenes has been intense with the P3 Reload release last week. Using content from Persona FES and P3 portable with the best visuals from the original Persona 5.

The last mainline instalment in the long-running franchise was launched in 2019 when Sega released Persona 5 Royal, a rebooted and enhanced version of its epic 2016 hit. On the back of this success, Sega released Persona 5 Strikers while confirming that Persona 6 is on the drawing board. 

In an interview with CNBC, Sega’s marketing team revealed that both of those upcoming Persona games are part of a long-term strategy to make the Persona franchise even more financially viable and appealing to a younger audience, and while they didn’t elaborate on the vision, there’s little doubt that the remakes such as P3 Reload and P5 Royal are re-invigorating the beloved franchise. 

Image via Atlus

What’s next?

As for Persona 6, on the calendar to reach the download next year, it’s rumoured to be a party-based spin-off with the code name “Asa.” Most recently, well-known Atlus/Sega insider Midori took to social media to claim that Asa is on course to launch in 2024, while we believe that the Persona 6 release date will be more like 2025 and subject to how Ps Reload performs

Additionally, Midori believes that the mobile spin-off Persona 5: The Phantom X will also go to market this year. Assuming the gossip is right, Sega will debut three Persona games over the next year and a half. However, The Phantom X is not an in-house development but an externally developed project, so this may be a separate release and not really part of the main franchise - why, we don’t know, but what we do know is Sega knows its market and how to spin-off a spin-off.

Each game and its spin-offs, from Revelations Persona through to Persona 5 Tactica and P3 Reload, follow a working formula except for Persona Mobile Online. PMO is a fascinating entry as it leaps away from conventional take-your-turn gameplay and instead follows MMORPG, making the combination a hugely influential and new way to play. 

In conclusion

Finally, whoever said that sequels are never as good as the original is wrong when it comes to the Persona franchise; each game is better than the last, and each remastered version is superior to the one before. Persona 4, released in 2008 for PS2, was remastered in 2012 for the unpopular PS Vita. P4 went to Steam in 2020, just as Persona 5 (2016) was adapted into a spin-off action game called P5 Striker for PS4. Now, Persona 3 Reload is sweeping the charts and gathering old and new fans to the ever-so-popular JRPG franchise.

Image via Atlus

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