Mapping out your true self
Once a mere spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei, Persona has become an RPG heavyweight of its very own. There have been special editions, anime retellings, and spin-offs like the fighting game Persona 4: Arena, and now the series is getting its first ever crossover. Persona Q brings together the cast of the third and fourth entries into one game while also adding in the gameplay of hardcore strategy series Etrian Odyssey. After playing a little of the English language version, I can say the game really plays to the strengths of both Persona and Etrian.
My demo began right after the prologue as the central casts of both Perona 3 and 4 are figuring out how they have traveled across time and space to meet. There are numerous fun bits of fan service, like seeing Yukari asking Kanji about his love of sewing, or Teddy constantly flirting with Mitsuru. Backed up by a large amount of spoken dialogue and catchy tunes, these scenes embrace the fun of seeing these well-defined personalities bounce off one another as they prepare to explore a treacherous dungeon.
And those dungeons are indeed treacherous, as they embrace the tense, challenging exploration established in the Etrian Odyssey games. For the unaware, Etrian Odyssey is a demanding, handheld strategy-RPG series that involves battling tough enemies as your thoroughly map out dense, trap-laden dungeons. The relationship with Etrian is behind the scenes, as the dev team is recreating the classic RPG gameplay without any Etrian characters involved. As such, you'll need to carefully plan your route through the dungeon, as each wrong turn can drop you straight into another tough random battle--let alone one of the FOEs (Etrian's terminology for optional bosses that roam dungeons). As you systematically map out each floor of a dungeon, you'll know that you earned the ending by the time you get to it.
Persona Q, already out in Japan, will come to the US November 25 (November 28 for Europe), where it'll have a chance to prove if it can bring together all these different games into a cohesive whole, but this early chunk of it seems to understand where it comes from. Balancing interesting characters with intense exploration is the name of the game, and Persona Q doesn't seem to skimp on either.
Read on to see some brand new English language screens of the game...