Title: Persona 3: Official Design Works
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Artist: Shigenori Soejima
Series: Persona 3 by ATLUS
Release Date: 20th June 2012 (Diamond) | 26th June 2012 (Bookstores)
Special Thanks: Udon Entertainment for providing me with a review copy of this title to cover.
Featuring the character designs of Shigenori Soejima! Go behind the scenes of PERSONA 3, one of the most unique and respected RPG’s ever. Inside you’ll find character designs, rough sketches, storyboards, backgrounds & settings, an exclusive interview with the game’s creators, and more!
Thanks to the folks at Udon Entertainment I was able to get my hands on a copy of the upcoming release of Persona 3: Official Design Works, an officially translated version of an artbook originally released in 2006 and of course covers the Playstation 2 release of Persona 3. As I have never reviewed an artbook before, although have every intention on doing more in the future, this review schema may change in future articles, but the areas of focus within this review will be:
a) Content – Is there enough content for ones buck? This one will be reviewed on a book by book basis, so if it is a book purely dedicated to artwork I would expect to see more than a single small image per page or if it is like this release… a design compendium I would expect to see content of different degrees of development, comments, thoughts et cetera.
b) Layout – Is everything in the book easy to read? If they have diagrams or comments are they legible to read? Is artwork correctly sized to be viewable in the intended detail? Is the image quality high?
c) Extra Content - While not usually considered a major role when it comes to the overall score – is there any added bonuses which provide something different to the reading experience? Interviews, Artist Biographies, Comments from others or guest artwork?
d) Personal Opinion - Did I enjoy this book overall? While this comes down to my personal preference, it does not have as heavy a bearing on the overall score and I will try and put my comments in respect to both myself and to those of different preferences.
When I read there were only going to be 144 pages in this release, I will admit I was skeptical at first. Persona 3 was a sizable game and when I read everything Udon Entertainment was promoting I was wondering what the quality would be like. Actually I was highly impressed with almost everything in this set. Throughout the 144 pages in this book are detailed sketches, rough drawings, concept art, storyboards, character designs and artwork by the hundreds – some of which will be evident to fans of the series and some not so evident going to show the numerous changes made during the games planning stages.
As this is more a design compendium than a collection of artwork, there is more planning stuff than finished artwork by Shigenori Soejima, however you are invited into the book with several pages of final official artwork which was never really released to the English market prior to now. From there you are methodically directed through the book from 50ish pages detailing the charaters, an additional set of pages detailing each of the main Persona’s, another 25ish pages detailing the world and the rest of the book being an appendix with a few features that I will discuss within the extras section.
Each of the games main characters were given two double-page spreads, and over these pages are basic introductions to the characters, “Event Playbacks” of key event scenes they are involved in during the game, final character artwork / portraits with translated annotations by Mr Soejima, designer comments by Mr Soejima and a number of concept artworks and in-game character models. The annotations and descriptions provided were not tacky either, but gave legitimate design comments for the ingame designers and pointing out the odd design feature even I hadn’t noticed after playing the game numerous times.
Where they were perhaps lacking in terms of character details were with the secondary and minor characters to the game. As fans will already be aware, the game does not so heavily rely on interacting with your own party members as they are interacting with your fellow classmates, members of the community and a certain “teacher of yours” through an online game. Some characters have basic concept artwork shown for them including Elizabeth, Ryoji Mochizuki and Shuji Ikutsuki, other characters including Igor and most social link characters have very little in the way of concept art. While all the characters portrait artwork and facial expressions are shown, I felt they must have had some additional planning into the designs which could have been shared.
Persona 3 was the first game of the series released in its generation and with it came the complete redesign of almost every prior persona included in Persona 1 and Persona 2, and for the most part were completely new Personas altogether. Given the size of the book it would not be possible to see the notes of every single Persona (Although those in a book alone would make for interesting reading), therefore only the primary persona used in by the main characters along with key enemy arcana’s were included. I thought this section was very well done and contained a wealth of final and concept artwork for all persona and arcana, with each characters having a single page focused on them. The Designer’s Comments given the lore and history behind each of them proved to be interesting reading.
Wrapping the whole game together is the third and final main category showcasing everything about the development of the game world. There is such an array of assorted content that is is impossible to describe it as a whole however was an interesting read and it proved interesting overall. While it is the fault of nobody as this was originally published when the Playstation 2 game was originally released, it does not factor in either Persona 3 FES or Persona 3 Portable, each of which introduced brand new storylines, social links and characters which might leave those who have more recently come across the series confused about why they have been excluded – but besides this minor issue the content should be more than satisfying for anyone who like myself have enjoyed the Persona 3 line of games.
As I mentioned before, the book is separated into four different categories – each of which had a certain component of the game to feature. These were clearly marked and retained a consistent theme and layout across the chapter. It is evident that care was put into ensuring the books layout was appropriate with no noticeable formatting errors. he font used for translated dialogue was appropriate and easily readable however given the amount of content on the page – sometimes may be a tad too small for some readers. Additionally, for the games secondary and minor characters which had their facial expressions and character artwork spread over several pages I felt they might have benefited from expanding over a couple more pages as the individual image sizes were not big enough to do them justice in my opinion.
Other than a few minor issues, the layout is appropriate and what I would be expecting, with no page neglected or missing detail.
In addition to the three main chapters, a fourth additional appendix is included. This is contains a small but interesting collection of added content which does not directly fall into design but provides an interesting look at other things related to the game. This includes an interesting 6-page interview with Katsura Hashino (Director and Producer of Persona 3 along with other titles we would over here class under the Shin Megami Tensei line of games) and Shigenori Soejima (Character Designer and Art Director of Persona 3 and other Persona games). In addition, as many of us would not have seen them we get a glimpse at the different TV Commercials and trailers for the game with text dialogue included in them. This is perhaps not the most interesting thing to have near the end of the book but they are well designed and grants a look at other scenes from the game. Lastly there is the English translation of the games ending theme “Memories of You”.
While I would not go as far as saying that the Persona games are the best designed RPG’s on the market…. near the end of the Playstation 2′s life cycle they managed to show that the console still had something to offer gamers, and managed to get consistently high scores through media outlets meaning that the end-product they offered worked with gamers, both for Persona 3 and Persona 4. I can happily recommend Persona 3: Official Design Works to any fan of the series.The perfect complement to a great game.
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A-
Want to Know More About Persona 3?
A teenager who was orphaned as a young boy returns to the city of his childhood. Shortly after transferring to Gekkoukan High School, he is attacked by Shadows–creatures that feed on the minds of their victims. The assault awakens his Persona, Orpheus, his only chance of defeating these creatures of the night. He soon discovers that he shares this special ability with other students at his new school. From them he learns of the Dark Hour, a hidden time that exists between one day and the next, swarming with Shadows. He joins the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES), and with his new friends, confronts this evil threat…
Now available on the Playstation Portable and Playstation Network for Playstation 3 by ATLUS USA.