Jetsetter: Forget the Xbox One, ‘Persona 5’ is here!

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It all comes to a head this weekend! The single most exciting three day stretch of the gaming calendar in 2013, when all of the hopes and dreams of millions of fans reach fever pitch, when the holiday release season comes to a single blissful climax. Sunday, November 24th, 2013 is the moment when we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief, when all the tension dissipates and the future of all video gamedom is revealed! 

Wait, did you think I meant Friday? Why would I be talking about Friday, the day that Microsoft releases its third console, the Xbox One, along with a salvo of exclusives like Dead Rising 3 and Forza 5? And I’m not talking about Nintendo’s all out holiday blitz with the dual release of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World, arguably the best games released for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U respectively. All of these events are secondary. I’m not even talking about the PS4, which launched last week. How could they compare when Atlus’ Persona team appears to be counting down to the reveal of none other than Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 5 on Sunday? Pretty obvious, really.

Jetsetter, Digital Trends’ weekly import gaming column, fully recognizes that Xbox One and Nintendo’s big holiday gambit represent the culmination of 2013’s gaming year. Even the release of Tearaway on PS Vita probably means more to the life of the average reader than a new Persona game. To a certain type of gamer though, namely the kind that remains obsessed with the sort of Japanese video games that publisher Atlus has specialized in for decades, the countdown to the Persona team’s Sunday reveal is the biggest day of the year.

Sunday means more than the first brand new Persona role-playing game since Persona 4 hit the PlayStation 2 back in 2008, though that’s certainly exciting enough on its own. Think about it: by the time Persona 5 is announced, the development team will have skipped an entire generation of PlayStation hardware – and the PlayStation machines have very much defined the series. It was Persona and Persona 2: Innocent Sin/Eternal Punishment that kicked off Atlus’ unusual tales of melodrama and demon fighting. Then it was the combination of the PlayStation 2, Persona 3, and Persona 4 that offered the most compelling evolution of the Japanese role-playing game in the modern age. These are games that directly tie together interpersonal relationships and strategic turn-based fighting! The complete RPG package. 

No, Sunday means more than a new hardware launch. Jetsetter and Atlus’ many fans have been anxiously following the publishing house’s fate all year. First, Atlus’ parent company, Index Corporation, declared bankruptcy, threatening the very existence of Atlus’ many properties. Second, Sega bought Atlus, which wasn’t exactly a comforting development. Sega has shuttered myriad studios under its purview in recent years, hoarding intellectual properties so it can make easy money digitally re-releasing old games. It has even promised wide releases of games like Yakuza 5 and Phantasy Star Online 2, then refused to release outside of Japan.

persona4golden2530-1This Sunday will be the first major new game announcement Atlus will have made since its troubles began earlier this year. We’ll finally know what platforms the studio’s been developing for – the Persona team’s most recent work was Persona 4: The Golden for PS Vita, and Catherine for PS3 and Xbox 360. (Persona 4: Arena, a 2012 fighting game, was made by Arc System Works.) We’ll finally know if Sega plans to take a hands on approach in the company’s operations, or if it will let Atlus continue to be the profitable operation it’s been in Japan. American fans who have benefited from Atlus USA’s stellar localization practices of the past few years may not get the reassurances they want on Sunday, but it will at least be the start.

The Persona series is a significant one for importers. The US release of the original game under the name Revelations: Persona shows just how far localization has come since 1996. That game made it to the US, but Atlus was so afraid of turning off American gamers that it made clearly Japanese characters black instead. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, one game of two that made up the full sequel, came to the US but Persona 2: Innocent Sin went un-localized for years due to its graphic content. Persona 3 almost didn’t come out in the US at all. For the first decade of the series’ existence, the true Persona experience was only available to importers. 

Persona 3 did come to the US though, and it was a major success for Atlus in 2007. Here’s hoping that when Persona 5 is announced it will continue that tradition of success here in the US, regardless of the platform it’s been developed for.

UPDATE: It’s official, Atlus has confirmed that Persona 5 is on the way, and it will debut in Japan late in 2014 as a PlayStation 3 exclusive. No word yet on a North American release.

A Nintendo 3DS game was also announced titled Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. It makes the first game in the series to appear on a Nintendo platform. 

Persona 4: Dancing All Night, a new PS Vita Persona game, was also revealed. The Vita exclusive is a rhythm based dance game set during the events of Persona 4, and features the same cast. No word on if it will be released in North America, but it will debut in Japan late next year. 

And finally, Atlus revealed a new Persona fighting game, Persona 4: The Ultimax Ultra Suplex Hold. The fighter will be coming to the PlayStation 3, but no release date was given. 

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