Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth[a] is a role-playing video game developed by Atlus for the Nintendo 3DS handheld video game console. It is part of the Persona series, itself part of the larger Megami Tensei franchise. It was published across all territories in 2014: it released in June in Japan, November in North America and Europe, and December in Australia. Atlus published the game in Japan and North America, while NIS America published it in the PAL region.
|Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth|
North American cover art, showing the casts of Persona 3 (right) and Persona 4 (left), and new characters Zen and Rei (center)
|Genre(s)||Role-playing, dungeon crawl|
The story of Persona Q is a crossover between Persona 3 and Persona 4, whose characters are drawn from their respective time periods by an unknown force and sent into a replica of Persona 4's Yasogami High School in another world. Meeting with Zen and Rei, two people whose memories were taken, the groups must unite and explore four labyrinths in the school to recover treasures hidden within which can restore Zen and Rei's memories, and to find a way to escape. The gameplay fuses elements of the Persona and Etrian Odyssey series, and focuses on first-person dungeon-crawling through labyrinths and combat using the characters' "Persona" abilities against hostiles known as Shadows.
Development on the game began after Atlus's success with collaborating with an external developer on the 2012 fighting game Persona 4 Arena, based on the wish to create a collaborative spin-off with the Etrian Odyssey development team and fan demands for a Persona game on the 3DS. The Persona Q development team was made up of staff from the main Persona series and Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan. Series character designer Shigenori Soejima designed the cast's new deformed "chibi" appearances, while the music was composed by Atsushi Kitajoh and Toshiki Konishi with supervision by series composer Shoji Meguro. First announced in 2013 alongside both Persona 4: Dancing All Night and Persona 5, it was the first Persona game to be developed for a Nintendo platform. It released to strong sales and positive reviews from critics, with several enjoying the blend between Persona and Etrian Odyssey's gameplay styles. A sequel entitled Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth and also including the cast of Persona 5, was released for the 3DS Japan in November 2018 and worldwide in June 2019.
Persona Q is a crossover video game, containing characters from Persona 3 and Persona 4, and focuses on dungeon crawling in a style similar to the developer's Etrian Odyssey series. The player picks characters from both Persona 3 and Persona 4 to include in their parties, which affects some dialogue and story events.
The game comprises two main areas: Yasogami High School, and a number of labyrinths. In Yasogami High School, the player can heal their party, sell materials dropped by enemies in exchange for new equipment, and visit the Velvet Room where they can fuse Personas together to create new Personas. In labyrinths, the player's party progresses in first person through large, maze like floors with flights of stairs connecting them, while fighting enemies and finding treasures. As the player moves within the labyrinths, the percentage of tiles the player has stepped on is listed. Once this hits 100%, a treasure chest appears on that floor. The player also edits the map manually, drawing in the location of walls and adding icons representing landmarks, to make return trips easier. If a player does not want to map out the dungeons themselves, they can switch to an auto-mapping mode. The game features two types of enemies: Shadows, which appear randomly, and Fysis Oikein Eidolon (FOEs), more challenging enemies that move about on the field as the player moves. FOEs require the player to move in specific ways in order to avoid, as they are often much stronger than the player's party.
When an enemy is encountered, the player battles against them using their Personas, which can attack enemies and heal allies. In addition to their main Personas, characters can also be equipped with sub-Personas. This is a break from regular Persona titles, where the protagonist is typically the only one empowered with the "Wild Card", the ability to change his or her Persona at will once fused. In Persona Q, the especially unusual sequence of events leading into the game's storyline means each of the P3 and P4 cast members can equip a sub-Persona. In that event, the main Persona determines stats, elemental affinities (resistances and weaknesses) and abilities, while sub-Personas determine additional HP and MP boosts and an additional set of abilities, including ones that can override elemental weaknesses. Skill Cards make a return from P3 and P4 and can be used on any of the P3 and P4 cast to teach their main Persona a skill they would not normally learn.
By using skills that the enemies are weak against or scoring a critical hit, the characters enter Boost status, which eliminates HP and SP (magic points) costs temporarily. Boosting multiple characters increases the likelihood of perform focused or group attacks such as co-op attacks and the All-Out Attack.
The game's story is split into two campaigns, which follow either the team of characters from Persona 3 or Persona 4; each campaign begins partway through the events of the characters' original games. Dialogue and events vary depending on the player's choice of protagonist. At Yasogami High School in Inaba, during the culture festival, a strange bell rings, trapping the Investigation Team inside a bizarre alternate version of the school. Meanwhile, the members of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) are on a mission into the mysterious Tartarus fortress when they are transported to the Velvet Room elevator, which suddenly winds up at the alternate Yasogami as well. Upon arrival in the alternate dimension, the Velvet Room is warped into a strange and unstable configuration, and two doors appear that lead to different times. Discovering a labyrinth hidden below the school, the two groups meet amnesiac students Zen and Rei and decide to explore the area, fighting "shadows" along the way, in order to restore their memories (as they do not know how they got to the school) and hopefully find a way to escape. Along the way, SEES and the Investigation Team realize that they come from two different time periods.
The combined group eventually explores all four labyrinths, successfully unlocking the doors in the Velvet Room and restoring Zen's memories. He reveals that his true identity is the human avatar of Chronos, a manifestation of death, and Rei is a girl named Niko who died of illness twelve years prior. When Chronos came to escort her to the afterlife, he was intrigued by her descent into nihilism as a result of having lived an apparently meaningless life. Chronos created the alternate Yasogami High, split himself into Zen and a powerful being known as the Clockwork God, and sealed both of their memories in order to try to bring Rei happiness. The Clockwork God is the one responsible for trapping SEES and the Investigation Team in the alternate Yasogami, hoping for them to traverse the labyrinths and recover Zen's memories so they can merge and become Chronos once again: this would result in the teams being erased from time when their tasks were completed. The Clockwork God abducts Rei and transports her to the top of a clock tower outside the school. SEES and the Investigation Team decide to help Zen rescue Rei, and they ascend the tower and defeat the Clockwork God. After spending some carefree time together before the pocket dimension collapses, Zen and Rei vanish into the afterlife, while SEES and the Investigation Team promise to meet again someday and return home, although their memories of the incident are erased.
Persona Q began development in 2012 after the release of Persona 4 Arena, a fighting game co-developed by Atlus and Arc System Works. After this successful external collaboration, series producer Katsura Hashino wanted to create other collaborations. Based on fan requests for a Persona title on the Nintendo 3DS, Hashino created the game's concept. The development team was made up of the main Persona development team and the Etrian Odyssey team, which had created the larger body of Atlus' work for the 3DS: the Etrian Odyssey team, led by director and former Persona team member Daisuke Kaneda, had just finished development of Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan for the platform. Hashino wanted to continue the trend of creating unusual entries in the series, in addition to making Persona Q a "festive" collaboration between the two teams in honor of the series' 25th anniversary. Its title was indicative of that wish for originality. The main aim was to create something for fans of the Persona series. The opening animation was directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, who also served as director for Persona 4: The Golden Animation.
The scenario was written by Azusa Kido, who had been a writer for the Persona series since Persona 3. When creating the storyline, Kido felt pressured due to the strong fan liking for both games' cast, in addition to creating a narrative which would suitably use and combine both casts. She had to make sure that none of the characters ended up as bystanders in scenes, which was difficult for the more taciturn characters. An element that was taken into consideration when portraying the main protagonists of each represented game was the additional media created around their games: while the respective protagonists of Persona 3 (the "Protagonist") and Persona 4 (dubbed Yu Narukami in additional media and later spin-offs) were blank slates representing the players, the later media expansions had given them set personalities which were reflected in Persona Q. Despite being a crossover between the two game's casts, the story of Persona Q is considered canon to the Persona timeline.
According to Kaneda, the two teams faced a delicate balancing act when combining the first-person exploration and user-created mapping of dungeons from Etrian Odyssey with the combat and style of the Persona series, as the two were seen as direct opposites. The two teams were fiercely opposed to making compromises on either side, eventually settling on incorporating the closest paralleling elements from both series. When development first started, the team were going to use the 3D dungeon design and battle system from the Persona series, but as development progressed, it shifted towards the viewpoint and battle system of Etrian Odyssey. An element carried directly from the Etrian Odyssey series was the FOEs, whose behaviors patterns were designed to be unique to each labyrinth's floors and structures. Recognizable elements from the Persona series were included, such as exploitable weaknesses and Sub-Personas. The Sub-Persona system was based on the Etrian Odyssey series' subclass system, some stat-reducing spells were a combination of elements from both Persona and Etrian Odyssey, while the "Boost" feature was an entirely new addition suggested by the staff. Persona Q was the first entry in the Persona series to appear on a Nintendo platform, which offered challenges to both teams. The gameplay systems were ultimately created so that people familiar with both series would find common appeal, and multiple comprehensive tutorials were added so players would not be confused by the new features.
The character designs were handled by Shigenori Soejima, who had been involved in the Persona series since its inception and was in charge of character designs since Persona 3. Soejima's biggest concern with the characters was that fans had expectations about their portrayal, but their standard designs would not fit either with the typical Etrian Odyssey artstyle or with the limited visuals and screen size of the 3DS. Because of these, the characters were redesigned in a deformed "chibi" style. When looking at how to scale the characters down, Soejima focused on what made each character stand out visually, then made that the new versions' key feature. For this, the team did research as to what fans felt was a character's defining trait, and many of the alterations were done based on feedback.
In addition to standard enemy designs carried over from the Persona series, unique enemies were created by Etrian Odyssey monster artist Shin Nagasawa. Zeus, a character referred to in Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City, made a cameo appearance as an optional boss and Persona. Zeus' Persona design was created by Etrian Odyssey character designer Yuji Himukai.
The music of Persona Q was composed by Atsushi Kitajoh, composer for the Trauma Center series, and Toshiki Konishi, who had worked on the remakes of Persona 2: Innocent Sin and its sequel Eternal Punishment. Their work was supervised by Shoji Meguro, the main composer for the Persona series. Meguro also worked on the soundtrack, composing the opening theme "Maze of Life". While the gameplay and aesthetics mingled both Persona and Etrian Odyssey, the music stayed firmly within the traditions of the Persona series while still having unique elements: an example given by Meguro was a request by the staff for a track evocative of the occult. Kitajoh and Konishi were cautious with the music as they needed to be faithful to the musical legacy of Persona 3 and Persona 4 while creating something original. They received many pieces of advice from both Hashino and Meguro, mainly about how the Persona series is themed around the supernatural and to draw from that.
The Persona 3 version of the game's normal battle theme, "Light the Fire Up in the Night", was one of the first tracks to be completed and influenced the general direction of the soundtrack. Two versions of the battle theme were created, one for the Persona 3 characters and one for the Persona 4 characters, each with instrumentation and vocals related to the respective casts. After the style was solidified, composing tracks went smoothly. A point of contrast with the main series was the dungeon themes: while the main Persona games had upbeat and frenetic tunes, Persona Q used gentler themes due to the more relaxed pace of exploration. A track which received a lot of effort from the sound staff was the ending theme "Changing Me", the lyrics of which were written by Kido based on the game's story and themes. Lyrics and vocals for multiple tracks were provided by Lotus Juice, a musician with a long history of collaborating with Meguro on the Persona series: one of his prominent contributions was to "Laser Beam", the main boss battle theme. Multiple Meguro-composed tracks from Persona 3 and Persona 4 were remixed for use in Persona Q. Yuzo Koshiro, who had worked on the Etrian Odyssey series, was brought in as a guest composer to create the track for the boss battle against Zeus.
Persona Q was announced in 2013 alongside the mainline entry Persona 5, fellow spin-off title Persona 4: Dancing All Night, and the PlayStation 3 port of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. The game was released in Japan on June 5, 2014. People who pre-ordered the game received a special soundtrack sampler CD. The CD features select original music from the game, in addition to special re-arrangements by the Atlus sound team that can only be heard on this CD. The full soundtrack was released on July 16. There is also a Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Famitsu DX Pack with the game itself, a B2-size tapestry illustrated by the Persona Q anime staff, an A3-size clear poster illustrated by Atlus, a set of five different visual clear file folders, an original mug cup, and a Graphig paper figure of Rei. A manga adaptation illustrated by Akaume began serialization in ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Maoh magazine in its October 2014 issue. In 2015, two manga adaptations were released. Side: P4 written by Mizunomoto centeres on Persona 4 protagonist. It launched in Kodansha's Monthly Shōnen Sirius magazine in January. Side: P3 written by Sō Tobita centeres on Persona 3 protagonist. It was launched in Kodansha's Bessatsu Shōnen Magazine in February. Side: P3 will end in November. Like previous games such as Catherine, Atlus posted a statement requesting that players refrain from posting video spoilers of the game's later story events on sharing sites upon its release in Japan.
In February 2014, Atlus announced that the game would see an English release in the second half of 2014. The localization was handled internally by Atlus, and followed the precepts of their policy for the Persona series: they kept the text as close as possible to the Japanese original, except where some aspects such as humor would be difficult for a Western audience to understand. They also sought to avoid the localization adjustments that would seem out of context with the visuals, citing the changes to the Ace Attorney games as a type of localization they wished to avoid. As Persona Q was a spin-off from two popular games, the team were careful that they remained faithful to both the original and fan expectations for the characters. A compromise that was made was that players did not have enough space in the naming screen to use the "Yu Narukami" title for the Persona 4 protagonist. In Europe, the game was published by NIS America.
Persona Q was well received by critics. It won Slant Magazine's Game of the Year award, and Samantha Nelson of The A.V. Club listed it as one of her favorite games of 2014. Prior to the Japanese launch, Atlus noted that they expected shortages of units in stores. The game topped Japanese game charts following its release, selling 186,856 units. By August 2014, the game had sold 255,597 units, becoming the fortieth best-selling game in that period. Upon its release in North America, the game sold 40,000 units, which was noted as a high sales figure given its release late in the month alongside other notable games. NIS America had high hopes for the game, expecting it to boost sales for their new online store.
Several critics liked how the game blended the gameplay styles of Persona and Etrian Odyssey; Meghan Sullivan of IGN particularly noted the battle system, praising the strategic possibilities offered by the arrangement of the party in rows, the additional Personas each character had, and the leader skills. Kyle MacGregor of Destructoid found navigating the labyrinths the weakest aspect of the game because of situations like backtracking in search for a key or a puzzle solution, as he felt they were a "waste of time", but enjoyed drawing maps and making notes. Sullivan also found this tedious at times, but overall enjoyed the exploration and puzzles. Game Informer's Kimberly Wallace said that some might find it tedious to draw maps, but that she found it "thrilling" to get to the other side of a labyrinth by finding the correct path on her own. Megan Farokhmanesh at Polygon, too, liked drawing maps, calling it fun, personal and rewarding.
MacGregor enjoyed how the game's writing was more playful than in other Persona titles, with Persona 3 and 4 characters interacting in "bizarre and lighthearted situations". Wallace, Farokhmanesh and Sullivan also liked these interactions, but Sullivan was disappointed in the focus on the new characters Rei and Zen, saying that it took a long time to learn who they were. Farokhmanesh said that they, while not as "personally satisfying" as their counterparts in Persona 3 and 4 where the player spends time with individual characters, effectively created a sense of togetherness within the group.
Famitsu liked both the visuals and the sound. MacGregor called the music "stellar", and said that some of the new tracks were among his favorites in the series. Sullivan was impressed with the music, calling the mix of old and new songs "fantastic". Wallace enjoyed the sound, and thought that the updated character designs worked well in making the game stand out from previous Persona titles. She also liked how the labyrinths were given distinct themes, calling it an improvement over Etrian Odyssey.
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