Friday, July 31, 2015

Persona for PlayStation (1997)

Revelations Persona for PlayStation Print Ad
Original ad published in the February 1997 issue of Game Fan (vol V, no. 2).
Press to enlarge or download in higher resolution.

A successful introduction of "Cool Japan" in the West


An incredibly popular franchise in Japan, the first Persona game to reach North American landed for the PlayStation just when Sony's machine was starting to gain traction. By all accounts, this "sleeper hit" published by Atlus proved a successful foundation in the West for other Persona games well into our decade.

I won't delve into the mythos and details of the franchise or this game. I don't known the exact details because I have only played one recent Persona game for the PS2. I don't qualify to speak about the game. I can only say that the main series is a very polished JRPG, with enthralling characters that live in between two worlds created by their own J√ľngian interpretations. The "persona"--or "mask" in Greek--is the avatar they use to combat the evil seeping from the netherworld into reality. If this all sounds very related to manga culture is because it is. The artwork, personalities, problems and setting of the game is directly related to the franchise manga. I can only assume that the enormous success of the series is linked to the rich Japanese ambient the developers bring into their 3-D worlds. Any one who has visited Japan or at least seen recent movies from that country will immediately recognise the streets of Tokyo, famous landmarks, highschools, social relations, etc. Here's an excellent primer for the Megami and Persona franchises. The series had appeared previously on the SNES, but only in Japan. 


I will say that Japanese culture started booming in the West in the middle of the 90s after both the government and big media and electronic giants realised they should start exporting their products into the lucrative American market. This a well-devised plan that included manga, video games, music, movies and all merchandise related to these attractive and exportable products. This initiative is known as "Cool Japan". It still flourishes today in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  The main objetive of the plan involves strengthening the knowledge of modern Japanese culture outside of its native country. Popular culture, as manga and video games, has spearheaded this ambitious project. 

With that context in mind, Persona seems like the perfect example in shortening the cultural differences between East and West. I can't fathom the huge success the series has garnered without this basic realisation. It's clear that the objetive of "Cool Japan" has been achieved: a good proportion of Westerners are familiarised with the franchise and buy the video games, animes, mangas and figurines that revolve around Persona and the Shin Megami Tensei brands and their offshoots. 



Of course "Cool Japan" doesn't mean the West consumes Japanese culture the same way the Japanese do. Take for example the artwork of the Persona game. Over here we got the more "action-oriented" look of the game (left), instead of the introspective aspect of it (right). This is just a very brief example of how big electronic and media companies adapt their products for the West. "Cool Japan" could not be built another way. Otherwise, we would be in the slippery terrain of "cultural imperialism". No one wants to go there. Least the Japanese. 


Now the artwork of the game printed in Western magazines is something special. Here we see an interesting "V"-shaped layout. Your eyes will naturally fall on the brightest subject of the scene (1); in this case, the demons eyes to the upper-right of the page. But next you'll advance to the lower part of the page, where the actual game screens of the game are presented quite attractively. Your eyes then either follow the right-hand side of the "V" and return to the demons eyes before reading "Persona" or advance ti the large copy of the ad in the upper left, a not very attractive zone in traditional editorial layout. I could argue that the entire upper-left of the page is very much redundant, but considering that this was the first Persona game in the West, it's understandable that Atlus would offer as much information as possible to convince gamers this was a solid JRPG. I think they achieved thus that.

Persona for PlayStation print ad copy


Proof that demons do exist

In the near future, mankind has conquered dimensional travel but the door we have opened swings both ways. The peaceful city you have grown up in has become a haven for dark creatures from another world--Demons! Now it's up to you and your friends to harness the hidden power within you by entering the fantasy game known as Persona.

You awaken with incredible abilities that you will need to defeat the scores of Demon invaders and cleanse the land of their forces. Converse with them before doing battle to determine your best course of action. Fight them or enlist their aid in your mission. Either way, you are set for the fantasy adventure of a lifetime!

Special Features

  • Based on the ultra-popular, mega-hit, Megami Tensei series: first time to hit US shores.
  • 100+ hours of pulse pounding gameplay.
  • Over 300 different monsters to do battle with.
  • Morph any member of your party into a more powerful source known as "Persona".
  • Fight your way to one of many endings.
Persona

Persona is the first chapter of the Revelations series. 

Atlus RPG


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