Move Over Joker, Here Comes Shin Megami Tensei
Since Joker from Persona 5 joined Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a DLC fighter, a good number of Nintendo fans have been persistently pushing for the release of the Persona games on Nintendo Switch – or at least ports of Persona 3, 4 and 5. It was always a request that felt more like hollow entitlement than a valid reaction; after all, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots never made its way to Wii despite Snake’s inclusion into the roster of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and neither the Wii U nor the 3DS saw any kind of Final Fantasy VII ports after Cloud’s inclusion into those Super Smash Bros. entries.
Despite this, demand has continued to remain strong, with requests seemingly reaching an apex with the ‘#BreakFreePersona’ trending earlier this year. One may think that the announcement of two mainline Shin Megami Tensei games coming to Switch next year (an HD remaster of 2003’s Nocturne along with the next mainline entry, Shin Megami Tensei V) would be enough to satiate fans and quell some of the requests. But still, a sizable group of Switch owners continues to bombard Atlus with requests for Persona, when the fact of the matter is that Nintendo Switch ports of Persona now feel less vital than ever.
While most with an interest in Persona already know this, it’s worth reiterating that the franchise initially started as a spin-off from the main Shin Megami Tensei franchise, before dropping the branding altogether with 2012’s Persona 4 Golden. Since then, the two have been separate entities, with Persona being the slightly more approachable of the two due to its generally lighter tone and social sim aspects. While Persona is an excellent series in its own right, its more beginner-friendly nature doesn’t necessarily make it a better game. In fact, Switch fans should be celebrating the fact that the next mainline entry in one on the most influential and unique JRPG franchises is coming exclusively to the platform, along with a remaster of one of the most revered entries in the series.
The distinct and niche nature of Shin Megami Tensei makes it a more alluring game to have access to in some ways. It shares the similarly addictive fusion systems and snappy turn-based combat as the Persona series, but exchanges the pseudo-visual-novel elements and anime-inspired aesthetic for something more divergent from the typical conventions of popular Japanese games. The more persistently bleak and oppressive tone of the mainline entries is something that can be found in very few other games, while the RPG mechanics make the titles just as enjoyable to play as any of their best contemporaries.
Comparatively, Persona’s individual components don’t feel as novel, even if the execution manages to eclipse most of its competitors. Despite being a turn-based strategy game as opposed to a turn-based JRPG, last year’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a Switch exclusive that offers a lot of the same appeal as Persona, with its social mingling’s, strategic gameplay and general art style ticking a lot of the same boxes. It’s not a direct comparison, but it goes to show that there are other games filling a lot of the same niches as Persona. Meanwhile, the Shin Megami Tensei games exist as entities that feel almost completely alien from the rest of the genre.
Games that truly stand out in an industry that often feels crowded by the same ideas and trends are truly admirable. What’s even more admirable is when those games manage to deliver unmistakable quality alongside their distinct identities, and the mainline Shin Megami Tensei installments have been delivering on this notion for over 30 years now. So, is it really justifiable for a vocal group of Switch owners to constantly beg for Persona to come to the system when they’re being treated to two key entries from its older – and arguable cooler – sibling next year? Instead of begging for Persona ports on Switch, owners of the system should be ecstatic with the fact that they’re getting exclusive dibs on what is likely to be another stellar entry in an incredible franchise; the franchise that birthed Persona, no less.