Title: Persona 4: Official Design Works
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Artist: Shigenori Soejima
Series: Persona 4 by ATLUS
Release Date: August 2012
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 4, the final game of the landmark Persona series! Inside you’ll find character designs, rough sketches, 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 4: Official Design Works, an officially translated version of an artbook originally released in Japan during 2008 and of course… covers the Playstation 2 release of Persona 4. Due to the initial release date, this does not take into account the upcoming releases of Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Golden. However for the most part the contents of this book will be relevant to either of these releases if you are being introduced to the series through them.
The above video animation which served as the Opening Sequence for Persona 4 on the Playstation 2 was my first incite into the game series which was Shin Megami Tensei. It was a completely random purchase that I had no initial incite on before buying and one that served a week sitting in my games draw before I even contemplated playing it. Several years later, every game in the series played and a slight habit of acting fanboyish whenever someone mentions the series name I am sitting here reviewing what could be considered the ultimate design compendium for the game. You may recall back in June 2012 that I reviewed Udon Entertainment’s previous release of Persona 3: Official Design Works and gave it a well deserving score of A- (You can read it HERE). How does this design compendium fare in comparison?… Read to to find out!
The Design Works for Persona 4 benefits from an extra 50ish pages from the Persona 3 one, alongside the fact that a comparable amount of nick-nacks from Persona 3 were also used in Persona 4 which means they were not necessarily covered in this title. But, throughout these 192 pages you are treated to everything from detailed sketches, rough drawings, concept art, storyboards, finalized character artwork and miscellaneous artwork by the hundreds – alongside descriptions and annotations which give you a greater appreciation of the world developed for this game.
The book is split into five separate chapters – an Illustration Gallery, Main Character Profiles (Which takes up the greater majority of the book), Sub character Profiles, Shadows, and finally Extras. Each of the games main characters – including Nanako and Ryotaro Dojima are given several pages detailing both the human character and their Persona counterparts. To showcase how the character profiles are laid out I will use Yosuke Hanamura as an example.
- On page 32/33 he is given a double-page spread detailing overall thoughts on his character design and how they went about coming to his final design and personality.
- Page 34 was dedicated to a full-page shot of his entire character design alongside his basic biography – Name, Gender, Age, Height/Weight, Blood Type and all that basic content you may already know.
- The next three pages showcase his dialogue portraits alongside different outfits he wore during the game (Eg. Summer/Winter uniform) and facial expressions. Also featured among these are some of the teams favorite quotes from the game alongside a respective portrait.
- Two page spread with full artwork of his original and upgraded Personas – Jiraiya and Susa-No-O
- The remaining four pages and dedicated to headered and annotated designs for Yosuke’s character / persona designs alongside annotations from Shigenori Soejima
Each of the games characters receive a much more detailed treatment from Persona 3: Official Design Works and it is interesting to hear the thoughts that went into designing each of the characters – especially when you contemplate how much the game could have changed with just one differently styled and planned out character. One of my major peeves with the previous Design Works was that none of the games sub-characters generally received more than half a page, with most being compiled onto a couple of pages. In this release, each sub-character with the exception of the four carrying over from Persona 3.. receive full or even double page spreads featuring their full character designs, portrait character designs with outfits and expressions and even a couple of annotated character concept designs.
This same structure carries over to the Shadows chapter, where each of the games individual “Boss Shadows” recieve a separate page with comments from Shigenori Soejima, concept artwork and model CG (As none of them ever had portraits) while single concept artworks were included for minor shadows. However, I would like to see an actual Persona design compendium released down the track, with detailed information on the designs and backstory of the numerous Persona added throughout the games – as while they could be considered just summonable beings ingame, most do have some mythological background to them. The final Extras chapter focuses on things away from the games concept designs including marketing illustration ideas, uniform concepts, background art CG and even a multiple page interview with Shigenori Soejima where he shares his thoughts on the games development and designs.
While it does unfortunately not cover Persona 4 Golden or Persona 4 Arena, the content that is included in this release should be more than enough for fans of the series, and may help you appreciate the work that went into designing what could easily be considered the last great RPG for the Playstation 2.
As I mentioned in the last section, the book is split up into a number of different sections – each of which focus on a different component of the games design to feature. These were clearly marked and retained a consistent theme and layout across the chapter. Similar to how Persona 3 had a colour schema focusing on different shades of blue, Persona 4 focused on the brighter yellow and oranges which they kept throughout the book, which was a nice touch and maintained a consistent theme and structure throughout. There were no noticable formatting errors, and the font used for translated dialogue was both appropriate and easily readable but may still be considered smallish to some.
Where this release does improve greatly from its predecessor is with how everything is better spaced out. No longer is a single main character left to two double page spreads, instead with each receiving at the very least six pages of designs which allowed them to spread out imagery at a greater size while still leave room for more artwork and comments. For the most part, the layout is more than appropriate for this release and it is evident that care and effort went into its design and translation.
While there is an “Extra” chapter in this book, most of the content is not what I would consider “extras” but instead content I would expect to see in the book anyway such as concept and CG designs for the different areas in the game and in-game clothing designs. However, in terms of what I personally would consider extra content, they throw in a couple of storyboards for the games openings sequence and a six page interview with art director Shigenori Soejima. Oh… and the first several pages feature several illustrations which you may or may not have seen in previous material for the games release along with an index detailing where each are from.
This is a perfect complement to what could easily be considered the last great RPG on the Playstation 2, and would equally serve as a great compliment to the upcoming game releases. I can happily recommend Persona 4: Official Design Works to any fan of the series.
Personal Opinion: A
Overall Score: A
*Images for this review will be along soon.
Want to Know More About Persona 4?
Persona 4 (Playstation 2)
Inaba, a quiet town in rural Japan. A normal teenager arrives at the station to begin his year-long stay in the countryside, only to be welcomed by the news of a dead TV announcer. Shortly after, another body appears, mysteriously hung from the top of a telephone pole. The cause of death is unknown… with no leads on the suspect. As the peaceful community is thrown into turmoil, the urban youth and his classmates wander into a strange, surreal place covered by a thick fog…
If you do not mind some of my earlier (Less well written) reviews, you can read my opinions on Persona 4 HERE. The game is currently only available on the Playstation 2, however will be re-released on the Playstation Vita later this year, alongside a spin-off fighting game entitled Persona 4 Arena.
Persona 4 Arena (Playstation 3 / XBox360)
Two months after the ending of Persona 4… The protagonist and his friends encounter a new case!
The bizarre, serial murder case that caused quite a disturbance was solved and peace returned to Inaba. But that only lasted for so long. During the Golden Week after the Protagonist and the others entered the third year of high school, a new rumor begins spreading in town. The rumor speaks of a mysterious program that comes on if you look into a turned off TV on a rainy night. The name of that program is the “P-1 Grand Prix”. It is a fighting program where high school friends fight each other to the bitter end. When the protagonist and the others watch this program, they see Teddie on screen declaring the beginning of the show.
“May the manliest of all men come on down!”
and with that, the participating challengers are introduced. But what appeared were their selves with botched up catch phrases. Could this program be a mischievous brand by Teddie!? Around when the program began though, the protagonist’s friends go missing one after another. On top of that, they cannot get in contact with Teddie who was on TV. The members of the “Investigation Team” realize this is an abnormal situation and they dive into the TV once again to solve the case… what could this mysterious program be?
Persona 4 Golden (Playstation Vita)
For those who have not already played Persona 4 on the Playstation 2, this will most probably be the best point to enter the game. This is an enhanced port of the original game featuring a number of added bonuses including additions to the games battle system, a few extra plotlines, new social links and game modes. No formally announced release date has been set as of this review being posted up.