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Persona 2 Coming Fall 2011 To North America

It’s official, folks. Turns out that the email Atlus sent last week dated 1999 was hinting at a North American release for the PSP remake of Persona 2: Innocent Sin. Up until now, Persona 2 was the only title in the Persona franchise which had not made it to western shores.

Check out the official trailer, here:

This version of the game will host a bevy of new features and improvements. To list a few: the visuals and audio are remastered, the UI has been improved and there are new quests.

”In a world in which rumors are coming true, an unlikely team of citizens must discover and harness a hidden power dormant within each of them if they’re to have any chance of getting to the bottom of this dangerous phenomenon and stopping it before it gets out of control.

The official website can be found here.


Are You Committed? Asks Atlus; Here is the Response

A while back Atlus asked fans to submit responses to the question ‘Do you Want To Get Married?’, and, well…this is the response. A good mix of yes, no and uuuuuh, with an awkward moment between a few couples to boot. Notice, too, snippets of the English voice acting–for Vincent, Catherine and Katherine alike. You can definitely hear the Kanji Tatsumi in Vincent and the Rise Kujikawa in Catherine (only creepier).

Love Game

Oh god, not the Lady Gaga song.

I stumbled upon the Digital Romance Lab this morning via this week’s Sunday Papers over at Rock Paper Shotgun. As Rossignol suggests, it’s a beautiful post so I wholeheartedly suggest you read it. More than that, it provides some context for this post.

There’s one bit in that post that intrigued me, a bit that is obvious but has interesting implications if taken at face value.

“Games create meaning through the gap between its rule-based procedures, and the player’s subjective response. This is what Ian Bogost calls the simulation gap. Therefore, in playing video games, we are able to critically reflect; to learn something about not just the game’s creator, but about ourselves.

Videogames are, then, excellent tools by which we can explore what it means to be human; to help us to explore, and unravel our subjective selves.”

Earlier the post stipulates that reading Pride and Prejudice allows the reader to learn something about Jane Austen, how she saw the world and, more specifically, how she saw romance. Objects like books are ”expressions of the way we see the world; or, at least, of how we want to represent it.” However, unlike books games are structured, easily quantifiable objective based systems. Romance often follows suit in that regard. Games tend to enumerate or somehow represent exactly where you stand with a possible romance.

This is where one might be inclined to criticize such a dehumanizing, inaccurate representation of romance. How can a game like Dragon Age Origins, for example, give you a special achievement for sleeping with specific characters? What does that say about how Bioware sees romance? Further, what does that say about what they think we want out of a romance?

It’s here that my mind recalls a recent conversation with a friend regarding relationships. He made a crack about how girls tend to look at the title ‘girlfriend’ as an objective that rewarded them with a type of ‘ascension’, a type of elevation in both status and treatment.  Romance unlocked!+5 kisses, +10 cuddles, etc. This came to me as a shock, initially. I’m not much for titles myself, I’m not sure I ever see myself getting married. What does a title or piece of paper prove, after all? Neither is necessary to have an understanding of monogamy if such is your thing. Thus I can’t help but wonder if its function is primarily a social one, like achievements (evidence of your skill and accomplishments to your peers) And yet for me the title had a facade; an expectation that came with it. An implied level of intimacy–we’re not talking purely physical here–which was exclusive to the title.

The expectation is somewhat furthered when I play games. Most of the time, I obsess over the romance aspect of games. At first this worried me–am I some maladjusted socially inept person or something? Perhaps! But I also realized it wasn’t just me, it’s the way some of the relationships are structured. If I wanted to get to know someone better, if I wanted to experience intimacy, romancing them was inevitable. A requirement, even. In Persona 3, getting to know any girl meant you were making them your girlfriend. There is no other choice. In Mass Effect, being cordial to someone is the same as romancing them. Romance unlocked! +5 deep conversation. Congrats. Often times, even when I’m not shoehorned into a relationship I still seek it out anyway: I can’t help but feel like writers only allow you to know characters the best if you pursue their love. A level of intimacy which is exclusive to the romance.

I can’t help but think about the seemingly rat-raceish nature of it all. Finding ‘the one.’ Settling down and getting married by age 30ish, have a kid, what have you. Do it and you’re playing the game right, you’re winning. Love becomes a marker of a successful maturity into adulthood, as the NYT puts it, ”Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.” Of course, what that article ends up conceding is that such milestones and the way we go about achieving them is currently being redefined. Some might acknowledge this as an inevitability given how archaic and arbitrary they are as markers of…anything. Will we start seeing this cultural shift reflected in games?

By no means am I implying this is a standard parsing of the human experience. Not everyone treats life as a series of achievements. Nonetheless it’s interesting to look at that approach when thinking about the way games position love–can we truly say it’s a completely off-base representation, speaking structurally? Or is it actually representative of the ‘real’ underbelly of love? Let us not forget that romance doesn’t have to be be structured as just another game mechanic.

No Catherine in the US…yet

Atlus are some crafty motherfuckers, we know that now.

The internet has been raised to tizzy levels over the recent announcement that Catherine won’t be coming to the US. Well, that they have “no plans for an NA release at this time.” Which is very, very different than “won’t be coming to the US”, which is how the news is being reported. What it means is that it is not on their schedule of games to translate and, with an immediately upcoming release of Persona 2, it’s probably a good idea to get as many people in an uproar about Catherine not being released in the US as possible before it is announced.

They did this for Demon’s Souls, too, let us not forget. There were no plans to release it here, then suddenly there were huge, immediate plans, and then it became Atlus’ centerpiece at an investor’s meeting. That’s very possible here, as well. I mean, it’s not like Atlus USA is working on any big thing like the remake of Persona 2: Innocent Sin or anything, which is a much bigger “traditional” release. Additionally, Catherine would probably take a lot of time, and be very difficult to port. Probably smart to not commit to the project until you know it’s workable.

Catherine has gameplay!

The internet is a funny place. Andriasang has reported that there is in fact gameplay in Catherine, and everyone there seems to be pretty okay about it. The rest of the internet, though, seems to be taking this as some sort of horror. Oh, no! The gameplay is pushing blocks to escape from Vincent’s nightmares? And not a JRPG? HEAVEN FUCKING HELP US.

I mean, a person with half a brain could have figured out the gameplay would be running, in some fashion. The way it seems is less scare based and more “solve this puzzle before you fucking die!” which sounds like a pretty neat mechanic. Personally, I’m still sold, because I think the guys at Atlus can pull off a puzzle based horror game much better than an actual horror game. Remember the horrible Jack Frost puzzles from Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne? Yeah. This is a game full of those, plus horrible babies with chainsaws through their eyes.

So I’m really baffled by why western audiences seem upset over this. What better gameplay could there be? Vincent collecting dream animals and using them to fight off his horrible nightmares? Oh, that was what you wanted. A video gamey video game. Right. I forgot.

Catherine’s Action Part Detailed

Are We Ready For Catherine and Real Life?

“Oh, you’re looking at that again.”

It’s said with such disdain, you’d think I was looking at dead orphans or something, but no, it’s my friend, and I’m looking at Catherine trailers. Commonly known as “The Sex Game That Patricia Wants,” Catherine has become rather…infamous amongst my friends. Incidentally Persona games are often seen as “dating simulators,” instead of the high school simulators with dungeon crawling RPGs they are–fact is, the second that a game showcases a semblance of sexuality, it’s like being back in kindergarten and discovering cooties. But can we see past that?

I do not mean to belittle Atlus’ choice to focus on the sexual aspects of Catherine: a big part of Vincent’s problems deal with sexuality. Sex is a healthy and normal part of our everyday lives, and it is paramount that they adress the subject to show an accurate portrayal of an everyday life. Moreover it’s refreshing to see a game that wants to address sexuality in a meaningful way.

Still, most people will look at a trailer of Catherine and come to the same conclusion: it’s “the sex game.” And, sure, it is…but that’s not all it is. The marketing for the game, however, would tell you otherwise. The issue I have with Atlus’ choice to focus on the sex of the game instead of the Things That Actually Matter is that a good deal of players may feel too uncomfortable in giving Catherine a chance. The idea of playing a game where sexting is a mechanic, for example, may seem too “sleazy” to take seriously, despite it being a real, everyday practice. But if players are sometimes too embarrassed to play “kiddie games” because of what it might reflect on them, how will people feel about playing a “sex simulator”?

If there is a time when our distinctions between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are pronounced, it’s when dealing with sexuality…in that sense, I suppose I can’t blame anyone for feeling uncomfortable exploring the subject of sex in a virtual place. If intimacy has a place in our society, it’s not considered to be found within a joystick…but that’s exactly why exploring it in this medium might be an interesting and revealing exercise.

Still, let’s not even think about the sort of bad press the game might get if mainstream media gets a wind of this game.

Maybe, the gaming community isn’t particularly ready for game that seriously deals with sex: what we experience in games are one-note caricatures of ‘love’ and lust. Not only that, we tend to be appeasers…it’s okay if a game falls short of exploring anything meaningful if it plays well, so games do not need to take risks in making meaningful experiences if we’re satiated with technical/mechanical decency. However, Atlus has to rely on the sex to get people to take notice..more on that in a second.
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Radiant Historia has release date, quick turnaround

Looking for *another* game to be pumped about in the early weeks of 2011? Well, Atlus has today announced Radiant Historia (a game it sometimes feels like I am the only person in the world truly excited about) will come to American DS’s with words translated from the original moon to malfangled American English on February 22nd.

In case you are curious, Radiant Historia is an RPG with a fruity name and lots of time traveling. In effect, it is a JRPG where you get to make lots of profound choices, according to Andriasang, then go to alternate timelines and see how things could have turned out. Internet reaction so far has revealed a serious, political storyline, a complete lack of random encounters, good production values that remind of games like Legend of Mana, and a tactically influenced grid battle system (like a smaller scale SRPG). And no awful voice acting. That’s maybe the best part. Basically, it looks pretty swell.

This is also a very quick turnaround, as it released in Japan on November 3rd and I didn’t expect a port until the summer. This is perhaps good news for those of you expecting an early Catherine release, because if Atlus gets their shit together so quickly on a DS RPG with zero hype, then it stands to reason that they’d get things together quicker on a game everyone and their mother is interested in.

New Catherine Trailer Showcases Split Second Of Gameplay

What it does showcase in spades, however, is the drama. Sure, we can’t understand what is specifically being said, but we already know the context so it’s not completely unintelligible. Andriasang has some lines of choice, if you’re interested, though.

Things this video confirms: time will definitely be a mechanic, not just in the dreams, but outside of them, too. It seems as if the things Vincent sees in his dreams start haunting him in real life, too…the trailer carries an air of ‘horror game’ to it, actually. And there’s a new track snippet, too–confirming, once again, that the soundtrack for this game will probably be excellent.

Also note that Catherine is a creepy mofo in bed. Why Vincent, why?

Brief Look At Catherine’s “Stray Sheep” Segments

As you might’ve heard by now, Catherine has 3 gameplay segments: nightmare, drama, and stray sheep. We can probably guess that the ‘nightmare’ sequences will house most of the traditional action gameplay, and that the “drama” sections will be mostly narrative (think how, the Persona series does in its outside-of-combat segments, perhaps?).

The last part, called ‘stray sheep’ (hmm, commentary, much?) is not a segment we know much of anything about aside from it being the name of the bar that Vincent and his friends frequent. We do, however, have a video of this segment…which is also in Japanese. Sorry, folks, we just gotta work with what we’re given, no?

Still, can you drool over the silky-smooth presentation, since the characters/environments are downright palatable. I’m gushing, clearly, at Atlus in HD. Vincent is also down in the dumps, it seems. It’s probably not a stretch to assume this might just be the very first thing(s) we see when we start up the game, since the murder has just happened and it’s one ‘day 1.’ Like other Atlus games, ‘time’ seems to manage some aspect of the game…while you have to navigate your way out of your nightmares every night, it would be interesting if the timeframe for your girlfriend to have a baby has any effect on the game.


Persona 2: Innocent Sin? More like Eternal Punishment!

Now on the list of games we give a shit about: the PSP remake of Persona 2: Innocent Sin.

I mean, it’s not like we care too much about the Persona series or nothing. In fact, there are times where Nightmare Mode might as well be a Persona fan site. And yet, neither myself nor Patricia have played Persona 2. Well, I’ve played parts of both games, but gave up for…mysterious, forgotten reasons. But, soon, that will be no problem, because Persona 2: Innocent Sin (the first half of the series; Eternal Punishment is the second, released in America half) is getting a PSP remake. And we are excited.

Well, I’m excited. And I don’t even own a PSP. Understand that, gentle reader! Anyway, it looks quite snazzy, so it’s something worth keeping on the radar.