Two years ago, I found a copy of Persona 3: FES in the bargain bin of my local department store and decided to give it a try after hearing so much about the series. I instantly became a fan of the series and picked up Persona 4 later that year and enjoyed it just as much, if not a little bit more. While Atlus has only mentioned the game's development briefly over the past year or so, Persona 5 is one game I have my eye on.
Part of the reason Persona 3 (in its multiple incantations) and Persona 4 were so enjoyable to play was due to how different the gameplay was from other RPGs out at the time. The main crux of the games was the Social Link aspect, which had players run around as a normal teenager during the day going to school and hanging out with friends to build up links which allowed for more powerful Persona fusions, which gave you special attacks to use in battle. The other half of the game was devoted to the dungeons, which were during the night in Persona 3 and during the afternoon in Persona 4.
While the dungeons were pretty uneventful from a gameplay perspective, essentially having to clear various floors to get to the next boss and fighting enemies along the way, there were a number of additions which livened up things. Players could talk to the other party members, whose conversations would change depending on various factors, such as if they were in a relationship or if the main character had done something recently. Enemies were also visible on the screen and could be attacked first for an early strike or avoided entirely.
One of the better parts of the games, however, was the interactions between the characters. Numerous times while playing through both games I would burst out laughing, such as during the hot spring scenes in Persona 3 or the scene in Persona 4 during the scenes between playable characters Kanji and Naoto. Unlike many RPGs, which felt stifled and contrived, the dialogue in Persona 3 and Persona 4 had an extremely well-done localization and Atlus USA obviously took a great deal in care in localizing them.
As many already know, the Persona team has been working on a new game, Catherine, in which you play as Vincent (who had a brief cameo in Persona 3 Portable), a man who has strange nightmares in which he may be killed after meeting a strange girl called Catherine. However, at the same time he's in a relationship with another girl called Katherine. What caught my eye about the game was its striking art style, which takes cues from Persona's art styling to a degree but has its own unique look all its own.
With Catherine's developing wrapping up soon before the game's Japanese release next month on the PS3 and Xbox 360, its very likely development on Persona 5 will start ahead full-steam. While we don't know if the game will reuse the Social Link, something new entirely or even go back to the gameplay of the original Persona titles, the Persona team's work on Catherine has me very interested in what they have planned for their next entry in the long-running and very successful Persona series.
As for fears that Index Holdings' recent takeover of Atlus's Japanese branch will affect future releases in the series, I doubt that will affect Persona 5's development in the slightest. From what we know from the various people involved with the game, Persona 5 has been in development long before the takeover ever took place and with a franchise as popular as Persona, which is part of the much larger Shin Megami Tensei franchise, it's doubtful any major changes would be made that would alienate fans.
So that's why I'm psyched for Persona 5. With the raw power of the next-gen consoles, shown in games such as Atlus' upcoming Catherine, and Persona 3 and Persona 4's improvements to the brand, one can't help but wonder how impressive Persona 5 will be when it's finally released.