Updating RPG Persona: from PS1 to PSP

58 9

Like the president of the Hair Club for Men who’s also a member, I’m not just part of the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona localization team, I’m also a fan. I was there in 1996 as the original game was released on PlayStation to an audience of RPG fans who needed something to play until Final Fantasy VII’s release, and to my surprise, the “filler” game ended up making as much or more of an impression on me as what I bought the system for.

But it wasn’t perfect. The localization standards of the day meant it was compromised in a few respects; some major, some minor. The translators and editors at 1996-era Atlus actually acquitted themselves fairly well when it came to the dialogue: major story beats were properly conveyed, and the personality of the nine playable characters shone through pretty well. As for the changes made to the rest of the game… well, at the time, there was nothing else in the series available in English, so it might not have been the highest priority to make sure it upheld series traditions like the modern-day Japanese setting or the mythological underpinnings of Personas and demons.

When we learned that our parent company was remaking the game for the PlayStation Portable, though, those of us at Atlus U.S.A., Inc. who’d played the game 13 years ago were nearly salivating at the chance to polish the original Persona up the standard we’ve become known for with games like Odin Sphere, Persona 3 and 4, and Knights in the Nightmare. All the dialogue has been touched up to read more smoothly and naturally than it did even in the PlayStation original, but there were three key areas where the re-localization will pay off most for recent converts to the Persona series.

Persona comparison 1

The first is the retention of all the original Japanese names and locations. Whereas the PSX release maintained the polite fiction that the game took place in the American city of Lunarvale, where you and your friends Mary, Nate, and Mark were off on an adventure, for the PSP release we’ve kept everything true to the Japanese roots. Here, the trouble starts in the city of Mikage, and you’ll need help from your friends Maki, Nanjo, and… Mark. Strange to say, but in the Japanese version of Persona, a few characters went by nicknames, and Masao Inaba was called Mark by his friends throughout the game. So whereas he was Mark due to sweeping translation changes on PSX, on PSP he’s Mark out of fidelity to the original. Funny how that works, eh?

The second is the greater attention paid to the proper names for the Personas and demons. The Shin Megami Tensei series has always prided itself on attention to detail in its accurate and careful use of world mythology; for instance, if you know the backstory behind the various demons in Nocturne, that right there is enough to draw a few conclusions about the factions they side with. The original translation kept very few of the true names, though in fairness the character limit was very strict and the vast online resources our current localizations make frequent use of didn’t exist at the time.

Persona comparison 2

For the PSP remake, we used references such as online mythology databases and Japanese series guides like Persona World Guidance to ensure accuracy in the names. We also worked with the developers to implement a font for the names of enemies, Personas, skills, and items was thin enough to display what we needed. As a result, players needn’t worry about scratching their heads over a Pawn or a Lance anymore—they’ll be named Airgetlam and Cu Chulainn as they were intended, which should keep the Celtic mythology buffs in our audience happy.

Persona comparison 4

Finally, the skill names are now consistent both with what fans know from other games in the Shin Megami Tensei series as well as internally within Persona. There’ll be no more confusion as to whether “Ray,” “Wave,” and “Sonic” are all part of the same family of spells—now they’re simply called Zan, Zanma, and Zandyne. (And if you’re totally new to the SMT series and wish you could have Ray, Wave, and Sonic back, don’t worry. The new interface in Persona lets you access spell descriptions in most menu screens.) The skill types are also a little clearer than they were on PSX: if you had to find out the hard way what Physical skills were, perhaps it’ll be easier to understand now that it’s known as Force magic.

Persona comparison 3

As you can see, a fresh coat of localization paint can make a lot of difference, both to the story and atmosphere as well as to the player’s understanding of the game’s mechanics. Hopefully, our retranslation, combined with the improved interface and speed enhancements, will let a whole new generation of RPG fans see in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona the same things I did 13 years ago.

Comments are closed.


9 Author Replies

  • I (and many others) would love it if you’d start talk to Atlus Japan and let them know that America is iching for PS3 Persona 5!

  • We need psp update 6.0!!!!! Stop those dumb psp haxers theyre so annoying in online psp games

  • You’d think that the Playstation store would allow something like… if you buy a game, other things like an OST or bonus content is automatically catalogued onto your download list as a bonus or something. They sort of already do that with demos and unlock keys to begin with, so :/

  • I really loved the English translation version of Persona 3 & 4! They really kept “Japan” feeling in the game. I played original Persona when it came out in Japan (I used to live in Japan) and I still have the game! I am really looking forward to play this game again on PSP in English.

  • Pre-order confirmed. I can’t wait to play it. Can you please do remake of the second persona next?

  • I’m really excited about Persona PSP ^^
    I’ve played Persona 3,4
    Persona 4 was the best I’m really happy
    I’m gonna play the first one !
    thanx Atlus for the hard work I’m faithful
    to you ^_^

  • this year of persona from me cuz i brought persona 4 then persona 3 Persona 3 fes and Next Persona 1 it good thing i start this year Atlus are my fav. developers now cuz i see alot of great from you guy plus where
    Shin Megami Tensei PS3 going come out anythime or Persona 5

  • oh we are going to see Jack Frost and other Frost family member this game as well

  • I have every Persona game (1-4) and most of the other SMT games (Devil Summoners & Nocturne), and this one is already preordered and paid for. IS there any chance that Persona 2 will be ported to PSP with the Innocent Sin & Eternal Punishment?

  • I can’t wait for this game, been a huge fan of the series since persona 2. I’m actually currently on my second play through of persona 4 (I got the bad ending the first time around, lol) Also really looking forward to that snow queen 30 hour quest action, I always love long side quests in my RPGs :) I always really like how you guys have upgraded the look and everything of the menus, the game is looking extremely polished and I am counting the days until I get my hands on the umd.

  • Now you need to remake Persona 2 for PSP but both parts of Persona 2!! Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment! :)

  • While I see your above comments on why you opted for a psp release rather then ps1 classics, it’s a little disappointing not to have it as a classic as well.

    Not everyone feels a need to drop 199$ on a hand held with no titles other then remakes. Show the ps3 users some luv please :D

  • Man, I remember playing this game back when it came out and loved it! I cant wait :D

  • Thank you so very much. Day1 umd purchase!

  • I’m happy about getting Persona for PSP, but I’m overjoyed to be getting Demon’s Souls two weeks later. Atlus, keep bringing out the good S#!t.

  • This is looking great. Thanks for the update.

  • Will the character chris, believe that was his name, from the original be availible to play and will you still have to do certain things to obtain him if so?

Please enter your date of birth.