Why Aren’t There Better Persona Clones?

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog for any length of time that I’m a huge fan of the Persona games. It also, then, shouldn’t surprise anyone that I seek out and have tried most of the games that claim to be Persona clones or Persona inspired (even if the game itself doesn’t claim that but reviews or the premise hint at it). I’ve tried Sakura Wars: So Long My Love, Conception II, Mana Khemia, lately Blue Reflection, and a host of others. Suffice it to say that if it’s one of these games, I’ve probably tried it, and if I haven’t I want people to tell me about it so that I can try them out. And there’s been an idea hiding in my head that finally came to the fore while playing Blue Reflection:

Why, in the twelve years since Persona 3 came out, has no one managed to create a game that rises to its level, as the series has advanced throughout the years? Why don’t we have anything as good as Persona 3 when Persona 4 and Persona 5 have both, in general, improved on the basic model?

Conception II comes pretty close wrt the overall feel. It pretty much nails the “Dungeons for plot and combat and daytime for S-links and events” feel of Persona 3, but the combat is inferior and the S-links are more shallow, and less numerous. Blue Reflection — more on this in a future post — has the number of S-links, but doesn’t capture the right feel for them — are you supposed to go out with your friends after school while your classmates are having emotional breakdowns? — and has a vastly inferior dungeon and combat system. And these are probably the best examples, and they’re vastly inferior games. Which doesn’t mean that they are bad games, per se, as I’ve enjoyed, in greater and lesser amounts, most of the games. But as games in roughly the same genre as the Persona games, they aren’t even close. And don’t even get me started on the Western system like, well, everything Bioware does. I like at least some of the games and the romance systems, but even as they are mechanically more deep than the Persona games they don’t capture the feel at all.

Why is this? Why is it that despite having the Personas as examples for over 12 years no one else can even come close to what the Personas give? Is it that hard to clone? Do most of them feel that they’ll make enough money without having to put in that much effort? But then some of the things are just plain obvious and don’t seem hard to do — like having explicit free time and a deadline in Blue Reflection, or more in-game mechanisms to encourage socialization — so that doesn’t seem to be the case. So why can’t people clone and improve on or even match what the Personas do? That’s happened in other genres, so why not here?

This really does boggle my mind. In a lot of other genres, the big popularizing game that is used to define the genre often seems limited when it’s played by someone who only played the later games, or who has played them for a long time and wants to revisit the game that started it all. Compared to the latecomers, Persona 3 would still be a far better game and a far better example of the genre. How often does that happen without all of the competition being idiots who missed the point of the genre and what people liked about the game? In short, how often does that happen without killing the genre? But I don’t think the genre is dead, and I think the opportunities are there, given the reception of Persona 5 and how many other games are expanding their mini-games and social aspects. So why hasn’t anyone other than Team Persona gotten it right yet?

2 Responses to “Why Aren’t There Better Persona Clones?”

  1. First Thoughts on Persona … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] it would be good to talk about it again, especially since I can think about it in the context of general Persona-style games and see how it holds up. So, what do I think of […]

  2. What I Finished, What I Played in 2018 | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] that I hadn’t played before for 2018, and it was worth playing. But it made me muse about why it’s so hard to make Persona-style games that come even close to the later Persona games. Which struck me even stronger when I replayed Persona 3 and found it to be far superior despite […]

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