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February 9, 2015

A 100% Rational Analysis of Persona 5’s Trailer

Not just rational, but also succinct.

So.  Let me say this to start:












In summation, yikesy mikesy.

Really.  Is there any reason to analyze the trailer?  Okay, sure, there are some gameplay secrets that probably need to be uncovered before release -- or even before the next bit of info trickles out -- but by the time you read this post, I’m going to assume that A) that’s been done already, and B) it’s been done better than I ever could.  Besides, my gut instinct is that Atlus/the Persona Team didn’t put out the trailer they did because they wanted to inform.  They wanted to get people excited -- hype them up with an explosion of sights and sounds, colors and effects.

And they succeeded.  Boy oh boy did they succeed…which is to be expected when a trailer includes people skating on overpasses while doing poses that wouldn’t be out of place in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

I mean, three seconds into the trailer, and there are more colors there than a dozen other modern-day game trailers in their entire run time put together.  And it doesn’t stop there.  We see the style we’ve come to expect from the Persona games -- from menus, from HUDs, from aesthetics, from in-game elements, from gameplay (stealth elements?!  Eat shit, Splinter Cell), and especially in those battles.  You saw it, right?  That All-Out Attack was a thing of beauty.  Somebody frame that shit and put it in the Louvre.

It’s almost a given that P5 is going to be absolutely amazing, barring some cataclysmic disaster behind the scenes.  The trailer helps confirm that impending quality, showing off some concrete evidence and flash solely designed to breed hype.  And you know what?  That’s cool.  The trailer did more than just cause the simultaneous detonation of a thousand pants; it’s a testament.  It’s something that, in less than three minutes’ time, gave us gamers something we’ve been asking for since Assassin’s Creed got annualized (at least).  It showed off a style, character, and spirit that’s hard to even approach, let alone beat.

And yet, they did more than that.  They gave us exactly what we wanted…by giving us something we didn’t even know we wanted.

They could have stopped at “high school shenanigans with a supernatural twist”, and I would’ve been fine with that.  But they didn’t stop there.  They’re implying -- if they haven’t outright confirmed -- that we’ll be playing as phantom thieves who may or may not become their Personas.  THAT’S AMAZING.  That’s different from the norm.  Could anyone have guessed that that would be the game’s core conceit, given the “You are a slave.  Want emancipation?” teaser from a while back?  Maybe, but I sure didn’t.  And considering the radio silence before and after that teaser, I wouldn’t blame anyone for being nervous about the game’s production.  I got nervous at several points along the line.  But now?  As a wise Monado-boy once said, I’m really feeling it.

You know what I love most about the trailer, though?  Besides the fact that it exists and everything in it?  It’s seeing the reactions scattered across the internet -- 99.99% of which express hype, excitement, and eagerness to get their hands on the game.  It’s proof of the trust we’ve put into Atlus and the Persona Team, bred partly from the respect they’ve shown us.  They haven’t been trying to implant excitement with media blitzes and a constant assault of news or products (ostensible P4 milking aside); all they had to do was drop one sizzling trailer, and people immediately said “Okay.  Got it.  You know what you’re doing, so just give us the goods -- in liquid form, if at all possible.  I want it inside my body.”

The Order: 1886 is just a week away from release, but it’s generated more concern than excitement.  P5 has a VERY dubious 2015 release, but it’s already got the faithful lined up and ready to buy.  Even if the former outsells the latter (and it probably will, because lol PS4 haz graet gaemz), which one do you think will be more successful?

And that’s all I’ve got for now.  I’d tell you to get hyped, but if you’re reading this?  Chances are you’ve blasted off to the moon from the sheer force of your elated screams.  In which case I have to wonder how you’re reading this blog after exiting Earth’s atmosphere.

Ah, who am I kidding?  It’s probably because of the moon-men.

No context needed, I hope.


  1. Fair point on the dungeons. But that was probably a given, what with the devs being able to work with hardware more powerful than the average toaster. I kid, of course, but you've brought up yet another point in their favor: P5's set to give us some JRPG goodness, but they're tapping the PS3/PS4 to do something more than just basic dungeons. That's how it should be done when it comes to leaping over the generational gap.

    *stares daggers at too many games to list*

    Also, apparently Blonde Guy's (Ryuji's his name, apparently) default weapon is a lead pipe. No telling how good his character will be by game's end, but considering who he's prematurely reminded me of, he's primed to be leagues ahead of Junpei and Yosuke.

    Respect the pipe.


  2. Oh, Persona. Storytime. I never got into Persona one and two, despite the fact I saw the battles and thought it was insanely cool. (There's something awesome about the fact the monsters could be persuaded with high school drama.) Problem for me the game was close to unplayable otherwise. (I blame the PS1's terrible load times.)

    It wasn't until Persona 3's third release that I really took a shine to the whole High School sim (also with monsters.) P3 kept my attention to beat it but not without it making me want to put an evoker to my temple (if you catch my meaning). Mitsuru is still the sexiest woman in video game history in my book, her Persona Arena look only cements this.

    Persona is difficult for the wrong reasons. You can get game over before you can say Mudo, and the first versions of P3 and P4 punished small lapses in judgement by making you lose several hours of gameplay progress. Not cool.

    I made the mistake of downloading P4 on PSN (NOT GOLDEN) and it made me despise the game from a 'game' perspective. I love the story, the twists, and the characters. (Including the meat loving Chie-- head cannon tells me she may be Lloyd's biological mother)

    What I'm getting at? Persona 5 needs to get it right the first time. I picked up Persona Q on the 3ds and it makes me hopeful they might not have learned their lesson. Save points are still scarce and even on 'normal' difficulty surprise attacks can wipe the party. Atlus. Don't make your game built around imposing lost progress on the player. Losing from bad luck is nothing new for Persona-- IE a unlucky Mudo or Hama. (And don't try and tell me I should set it up so I'm immune. Persona actually has skills that remove elemental immunity) This is stuff I ran into with Final Fantasy (One).

    This is why I probably won't be first in line to buy P5. I'll probably hang back, lurk a bit and scoop up P5 Golden Turbo Edition.

  3. Though I did not explode in fangirly excitement, I am so confident in the game that I'll preorder it the second it's announced (which I have only done for Persona Q and two of my favorite band's latest albums). Congrats, Atlus, you made this customer happy. To celebrate being Atlus' slave I have established a policy of ignoring anything that leaks so that my experience with Persona 4 Arena Ulimax never happens again. *hides near-mortal cranial damage under a silly hat*

    I'm pretty happy with everything I've seen thus far. But I realize more than ever that most video game trailers nowadays (with Nintendo as an occasional exception when they properly market their games) completely fail to inform. Persona 5's trailer showed us gameplay, in-game cutscenes, menus, anime cutscenes, character designs, style, color, story theme, and ear-catching music. If this was the only trailer we ever get for the game, this is just about enough to let the consumer know what they're getting themselves into. The quality of the gameplay is in question, but you get enough of the basic concept to say "yes" or "no" or "let me rent first". Meanwhile, Assassin's Creed Disunity's trailer gave gameplay, graphics, co-op, Paris, and assets and mechanics from the past games that haven't changed a bit (was there even music because I can't remember for the life of me). E3 2014 can be best summed up as a static billboard image of brown. Even Dragon Age Inquisition, which is likely a damn good game from what I've heard, had trailers that felt as generic as every other AAA game that was released. At least Nintendo tries to make their games' trailers stand out, even if they're buried under the other 90% of crap.

    So good job, Atlus. Persona 5's trailer was a White Christmas in an era where snow vanished from the earth.

    As for the game? I love how the teaser video had Harry Potter-kun look all dorky and oblivious, only for this trailer to turn him into a phantom vigilante you don't wanna fuck with. The contrast was so beautiful that I laughed. Morgana looks promising, if only because I don't want a repeat of Teddie's "character development" (so much story and lore potential thrown in the trash... *sniffle*). With the way the game looks superficially, it'll likely blow its predecessors out of the water. My expectations on story and plot are simply "let it be good" and "Persona Team, please know what you're doing". I do hope the difficulty balance is fair this time. Persona Q seemed to be good, so the broken easy-snorfest moments of Persona 4 Golden are likely not going to return.

    Other than that, I'm game. It'll help ease my pain in waiting for more info on the next WiiU Zelda game. That might convince me enough to finally get the damn console. ;_;

  4. "Even Dragon Age Inquisition, which is likely a damn good game from what I've heard"

    Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, about that...not to color your perception of the game, but, well, I'll tell you what I told a friend of mine when it came to Destiny: "I would not recommend that game to anyone at any time." I'm really trying with Inquisition, but every time I sit down with it, I find more to dislike than like. We'll see how I feel a few weeks down the line.

    You know, I don't want to discredit the people working at Ubisoft -- because let's be real, they're probably putting in a hell of a lot of effort -- but when it comes to trailers (and the full games, arguably) I get the sense that they feel like they don't have to try. Like they know they've got customers in the bag. I don't know the sales figures for AC: Unity, but even with the backlash I'm worried that the numbers were still high. My brother's just one of millions who bought it on day one, just 'cause.

    You and me and plenty of others might be Persona fans, but Atlus is never going to reach AC or CoD levels. They have to know that on some level -- so since their victory isn't assured, they put out a trailer that acts like it's got something to prove. Like it's screaming "Everyone, look at me!" and trying to make a case for itself. It's a pretty big paradox, isn't it? The game that's not going to sell (and doesn't have the marketing behemoth behind it) puts out an amazing trailer even though its quality is almost a given. The game that IS going to sell and DOES have carry the big ol' marketing stick puts out a trailer as interesting as a brick, even though its quality is getting increasingly debatable.

    As a wise man once said, ain't that some shit?

  5. Oh jeez. I barely even considered the possibility of a Golden Turbo edition of P5. Though I guess it'd make sense; Atlus has been riding the P4 train for a while now, so why would they stop with their latest and (potentially) greatest new product?

    On the other hand, a chance to give the Persona Team more money can -- presumably -- only lead to good things. Surely, someday my dreams of a heavy metal-themed Persona game will come true.

    Anyway, I missed out on P1/P2 as well, so I guess you could say I'm a poser. (Poser-sona?) And as much as I enjoy P3/P4, you've got a point. There were some cheap deaths, and plenty of lost progress on my files. Fun fact: there's nothing more pleasant than starting up The Answer and getting killed on your first trek out so you have to sit through thirty-ish minutes of prologue again. And come to think of it, P4 took like two or three hours just to get to the first real battle. I don't mind a slow burn, but there's only so much X-mashing I can take.

    Still, I'm sure Atlus won't let us down. Manual party member control is what makes P$ a HUGE step up from P3 for me, so with any luck the next game will keep up the improvements. We'll see.

    Also, not to devolve into waifu shenanigans, but my favor -- and heart, ostensibly -- goes to Devil Survivor 2's Makoto Sako. I'd assume that that's independent of her ability in the late-game to essentially bench-press dragons, but I wouldn't put it past the darkest recesses of the rusted steel trap I call my mind.

  6. Here we go.

    On top of the reasons you've given, I've always detested "chosen one" arcs because they make mincemeat o the setting. The world begins and ends with you at its core.

    You see, there's an oft-neglected principle of tensile strength in worldbuilding. Dynamic worlds have internal players in them that have goals independent from your own. They also have the agency to fulfill these goals. You shouldn't be able to walk all over a world without it pushing back because without that smidgeon of recoil, you get no contrast or scope. As much as I dislike it for other reasons, The Witcher performs well in this category: kings take an interest in recruiting you for their own purpose, and you have to grapple with a formidable array of political and military problems to get what you want. You are, after all, a mere monster hunter in a wider context. While you have a powerful, defined role, it isn't influential everywhere or with everyone.

    Skyrim fumbles this ball badly. In an effort to scale everything to the player's wants and desires, the developers made everything too pliable. The Dragonborn may contend with a fellow who wants six shellfish, but the protagonist is in total command of the situation. Worse yet, there's no fallout to refusing to play by the rules. The game world warps around you. Bethesda's products suffer from this badly. Dishonored attempts to rectify it somewhat with a death = more plague and zombies mechanic; it undermines that by having every character lean on Corvo's existence. Tying everything back to the protagonist fishbowls the world.

    Where Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment flourish, Dragon Age falters. Instead of casting you as a messianic figure, BG and Ps: T make you Frankenstein's Monster or a destructive force of nature. You're a nuke, not a lighthouse for lost souls. Others come to you in order to hitch themselves to your carnage comet, to seek something else, or to simply bump into you on the way to something else. You're not the deciding factor for every life: people can get on without you, and often it would be beneficial to them if you perished.

    More importantly, flipping the script allows the emotional journey to run inward, to let your characters come to terms with the fact that the universe *doesn't* want them. Your character begins with diagnosis "sick and must get healthier" rather than "healthy and emitting moonbeams out their ass." This isn't to say that these sorts of characters can't become just as unbearable as the saints -- Casshern Sins and vampires come to mind -- but they allow for a greater range of peripeteia and penury than "Sheploo, you a gud leadurr." They don't even technically need to be driven by fate: Planescape's Nameless One was basically the remainder of a bad cosmic equation.

    Well, technically you *never* need a character driven by fate. I'm just saying that there's a way to retain your ubermensch protagonist and keep your worldbuilding dynamism AND have an internal arc.

    For all its angsty bathos, Dragon Age II had some notion of this. Its champion was a major actor on a grander stage. When I shook the plot from side to side, there was no flurry of potato flakes. It wasn't a snowglobe.

  7. *gasp* Your comment! At last! The prophecy has been fulfilled! (Yeah, there was no way I was letting that one slip by.)

    In any case, you make a good point. I've heard that a creator should treat the setting like another character, and when it's used effectively -- when all the aspects, like people, places, and things like that get fleshed out -- it can really make for something special. But chosen ones really do reduce that effect, don't they? (Well, the worst of them at least -- I don't want to generalize.)

    I guess I can understand why video games would go that route, what with the whole power fantasy aspect -- but even if it does get done perfectly well, I can't say I approve of it. Like I said, I don't know anything about Baldur's Gate or Planetscape: Torment, but just hearing you describe it makes me think "Wow! That sounds really interesting!" And "Hey, there's some real potential in there!"

    So I guess the question that follows is this: why does it feel like we're going backwards here? It's been proven before that games -- well, pretty much anything with a story -- can do all right without banking on a chosen one. But Dragon Age: Inquisition, a 2014 game, has a chosen one setup that's eerily similar to a game released seven years earlier. Maybe I'm reaching here, but shouldn't people be pushing the boundaries just a tiny bit more? Or do the creative types (and their purse-holding overlords from on high) just think people can't handle anything different? Or won't even tolerate it?

    Man, thinking about the latest games makes me sad and tired. Well, unless they're on the Wii U. Here's hoping Splatoon takes off.



  8. So, 5 months too late, but I'm still gonna do it.

    The topic of the Chosen One is an interesting one to me, because it is one of the most used plot devices in the history of storytelling, yet also one of the most infamous. I think what really comes down to is how much freedom the story allows itself while telling the tale of a CO. The actual plot-device I despise the most is The Prophecy (a very common enabler for COs), because that limits the possibilities of stories just so much. A prophecy narrows down the path a plot can take (either fullfill the prophecy or screw destiny) which is just very boring. It's one of the reasons why I think the later Harry Potter-installments are merely subpar, because the prophecy robs the overall arc of all tension and mystery.

    One of the things I do in my writing is establishing the chosen one A) as part of a group, B) as part of a legacy and C) as a tool for a specific purpose. The plot itself is not solely motivated by the CO, eventhough the plot-point is important. A makes the Chosen One less special because there are others like him, making him not the front and center of the mythology. B makes the whole chosen one business even more mundane like the steady occurrence of a full moon. C keeps the balance that you pointed out in check. The chosen one(s) are not the end-all-be-all of fate but rather another cog in the clockwork, which keeps the scale and tension in place.

    Now the reason why I really commented on this post is Jupiter Ascending. I don't know if you watched it by now and after the release of the Nostalgia Critic review you probably have no inclination to do so. I gotta say I really, really love this movie, not ironically, but geniunely. It's one of my favourites of 2015 thus far. I will defend this sinking ship, eventhough everyone is against me.

    A reason why I like this movie is because how it deals with the Chosen One problem. You see, Mila Kunis' character Jupiter is not really much more than a glorified property owner. I mean, yeah, the Abrasax family, which she is part of, is pretty influential as far as intergalactic business moguls go, but in the overall context of this universe she is really little more than a wealthy citizen. She is not a space queen destined to rule them all, she is a pawn in the machination of a tycoon-family and fights because she wants to protect her home. The thing is, while protecting Earth is the ultimate task in other movies, in this one it is little more than protecting your favourite tree from being cut down to build a mall or something. I love how relatively small this story is and how they avoid the Matrix problem of "(S)He is Jesus".

  9. You've got me pegged when it comes to Jupiter Ascending -- I haven't seen it yet, and I can't say I plan to. (Then again, who knows what I'll be forced to watch when hanging out with friends?) But in any case, that's a pretty interesting interpretation you got out of something I assumed was hated by most of the populace. It's one thing to have a CO that saves the universe, but another entirely to make them just a cut above a plot coupon.

    Then again, I wonder if the Wachowskis swung too far in the opposite direction; from what I've heard, Jupiter doesn't get to do much besides fall from stuff, be saved, and act bored. So I guess it's a very risky balancing act in terms of character roles/agency -- so it's cool that you found something to like about the movie, but that's apparently not an interpretation a lot of people might buy into. It's a shame, too; as discussed, SPACE IS AWESOME...but it can only do so much for movies.

    Setting that aside, though? I think you've got it right here; it's OK to have a CO, but having a solid group of characters alongside him/her can go a long way. Well, that's true of a lot of stories and scenarios, but hey. With other people around, they can make the CO less of a plot device (or resolver, for lack of a better word) and more of a person. Bonding and relationships and banter, oh my.

    Chalk that up to personal preference, though. I've been sinking deeper and deeper into the Super Sentai quicksand these days, to the point where I'm legitimately getting hyped by a series built on magic trains and the power of imagination. Also their giant robot has an extendable, potentially-weaponized willy. So yeah, quality abound.

    Also? Don't worry about commenting on old posts; it'll pop up anyway on my Blogger dashboard, so I'll be able to get to it without too much trouble. (I say that, but for some reason the dashboard said you commented on the post AFTER this one...for some reason.) So yeah, go nuts. Though I have to say, it's surprising that you'd be willing to go so far back to read something here.

    Not that I'm complaining. Who doesn't love a little...VINDICATIOOOOOOOOOOOOOON! *powerslides and rocks the air guitar*