Yesterday SEGA purchased Index Corporation, the parent company of ATLUS. And while it’s good news that ATLUS has now avoided bankruptcy, SEGA may well destroy the Persona brand the company is so well known for.
ATLUS, for all those unfamiliar with the company, is a Japanese developer popular for their main JRPG franchise, Shin Megami Tensei. Even though the mega-series has tons of different titles, one of its side narratives, Persona, is its most treasured.
The Persona series (mainly Persona 3 and 4) is extremely popular in Japan and enjoys a dedicated niche following in the West. The games revolve around high school kids solving mysteries and saving the world by defeating creatures known as “shadows”. During the day the player goes to school, increasing his stats and developing relationships, which carry over to the night. At night, the player summons his inner power, called “Persona”, to fight the shadows. It’s a brilliant mix of life-simulator and traditional RPG.
The series is so popular in Japan that there have been live concerts, a play, and a movie trilogy.
Yet, despite these ridiculous money-grabbing opportunities, the games have never been compromised. None of the games are ever rushed or feel incomplete. Both Persona 3 and 4 were well over 100 hours in gameplay. Then there’s the most recent title in the franchise, Persona 4: Arena, a fighting-game sequel that packed a full story as well as a ton of other gameplay modes. It was also received very well by critics, with certain publications calling it “one of the best 2D fighters of the modern era.”
On the flip side, when anyone thinks of SEGA, one franchise immediately comes to mind: Sonic the Hedgehog. In the past decade Sonic has been subject to something Nintendo is very well known for: beating-a-franchise-to-death. There have been so many Sonic games (Sonic Jump, Sonic Unleashed, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Sonic Heroes), and so many of them have fallen to mediocre, cynical reviews. SEGA also rushes these games out, often resulting in wonky controls
But, before we go on bashing the blue-blur for another hour, let’s examine what this means for ATLUS. The main concern deals with the Persona series. While Persona 5 will most likely still be safe from SEGA influence, the series may come under fire the way Sonic has. In order to make more money, we may see a lot more Persona spin-offs, as well as rushed release dates for the series.
Moreover, SEGA has also shown to have little interest in promoting their JRPG’s. Valkyria Chronicles, a PS3-exclusive JRPG, was fantastic. It was a beautiful blend of real-time strategy, third-person shooter and action role-playing all drawn in a beautiful anime watercolor style. Unfortunately, SEGA only released the first two games came to the West. Also, the 2nd and 3rd game were released exclusively on PSP. This lack of promotion in the genre may end up compromising many of ATLUS’s lesser-known titles (Digital Devil Saga and Devil Summoner). These smaller titles may never see the light of day in the West now.
Finally, ATLUS released a message following the purchase yesterday. The message speaks about further raising their brand with SEGA. Though I can’t help but be excited for more Persona, I just hope ATLUS doesn’t need a “Persona Generations” to bail itself out of mediocrity and rushed titles.