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Persona's Long And Interesting Car Culture History

Persona 5 The Phantom X - Another car morphing creature!

In recent years, the Persona series has maintained its upper-echelon status compared to other RPGs arguably for the past 17 years thanks to the success of Persona 3. The growing pains of being a student with dreams and aspirations while also moonlighting as a cognitive demon exorcist had attracted many fans to the series. Its popularity was enough to spawn many sequels and spin-offs, with a mobile spin-off game titled Persona 5: The Phantom X officially announced this week.

Initially, the game was first announced in 2021 via an announcement by Perfect World Games that it was developing a mobile title for a "famous JRPG IP" that has sold "over 10 million units worldwide." Under the project title CODE NAME: X, information on the title was kept private until several outlets released a gameplay trailer as well as a cinematic trailer. While no official information from PWG or Atlus has been made yet, it's great to see ambitious projects such as these find a way to make their way past the development stage.

Persona 5: The Phantom X - Gameplay Trailer

With news all but confirmed about an all-new game within the Persona 5 multiverse, it's a great time to bring up one of Persona's most intriguing cameos that P5X may or may not be continuing and that is Persona's obsession with cars. On the surface, Persona 5 accomplishes this by having the game's cute "not a mascot" party member Morgana transform into a van during Mementos visits. However, even the car he transforms into is a part of the greater picture.

Since the first Persona game back in 1996, the school that the protagonist attends references a real-life car manufacturer. While some are on the obscure side, others are more obvious with little trinkets of references mixed in. Hopefully, Persona 5: The Phantom X will introduce a new school that fits the same motif as the entries listed below, but even if it's the same school as the original game, its entry plus the other four are all intriguing.

1. St. Hermelin High - Revelations: Persona (1996)

The very first game featured a group of high school students attempting to solve the mystery of their town as the popularity of a new game, Persona, ushers in many supernatural beings. Revelations: Persona was a humble beginning for the series, with gameplay mechanics based on existing Shin Megami Tensei games yet within a modern "everyday non-apocalyptic" world. These were high school students in the small city of Mikage-cho and this particular group of students belonged to St. Hermelin High. Much like the name suggests, the creature on St. Hermelin's crest is a weasel, with "hermelin" being the German word for one.

Naturally, the car reference here should be a German automobile manufacturer but that's not the case here. The weasel's pose is strikingly similar to the lion's pose in the original Peugeot logo, with inverted arms raised and the weasel's head pointed upward. Peugeot is a French auto manufacturer best known for their rally cars, especially the 205 which had a storied legacy. The choice to use Peugeot as an inspiration for the school's emblem is likely based on the simplicity of the mammal to use as a point of reference. Unfortunately, the new Peugeot logo removed the lion's body, replacing it with a lion's head and ending decades of tradition.

2. Seven Sisters High School - Persona 2

Persona 2 was an interesting point in the series as its story was split into two halves, Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment. While Eternal Punishment was already released, it would take Western fans almost a decade for Innocent Sin to be released. This was largely due to its staff cuts and its content, yet as Atlus grew as a company, the thought of remaking Innocent Sin was never off the table. Eventually, Atlus released the Innocent Sin remake in 2011 on the PSP, well into the platform's twilight years.

In both games, the school setting takes place in Seven Sisters High School. Coincidentally, I had discussed the name "Seven Sisters" when reviewing Drive Girls the other day when explaining Galaxa's reference to Subaru. Subaru is the Japanese term for the Pleiades star cluster which also goes by the name "Seven Sisters." The logo would have been enough to piece the connection together even without knowing the origin of the name. It would be rare for the Atlus team to be as obvious as they were for Persona 2, but future logos would be just as easily identifiable.

3. Gekkoukan High School - Persona 3

Arguably one of the most important games in the series as Persona 3 laid the groundwork for the sequels to attain global success. While recent attempts at bringing this game to modern consoles have been mixed at best, this beloved title's main location is Gekkoukan High School. While previous Persona games had used their schools as a dungeon in the past, this was the first in the series that made a school a central location. A player's social life mattered in building a strong party and fighting shadows in the same school at night helps the player grow stronger to take on bigger threats.

The emblem for Gekkoukan High and the BMW logo are literally one and the same. The colors are inverted and the school has a black, white, and red aesthetic instead of black, white, and blue. Aside from its simplistic appearance, or rather because of its simplicity that the Gekkoukan High emblem remains one of Persona's most identifiable logos. The high school patch combined with the "S.E.E.S" armband was a sign that there were some high school students on their way to fight through another dark hour.

4. Yasogami High School - Persona 4

Without a doubt, Persona 4 remains the series' most identifiable and profitable game of the entire series. The following game comes close to surpassing it, but nothing can knock the heir to the crown off their throne that easily. The switch from the other games' city setting to a mellow countryside made Persona 4 an interesting experience. I'll admit to this day that no other game bearing the Persona name came close to this aesthetic. The likable cast of characters and introduction to many game mechanics that would become the norm in later games also helps.

Yasogami High School may not have the best faculty staff but its logo is based on good taste. The logo is an inverted Mercedes-Benz logo which, okay, fair. Follow up a popular German brand (BMW) with another one (Mercedes). This is all a mere coincidence I'm sure, but you have to wonder if the designers had a fondness for European cars. Surely it's just fate that made it this way? Looks like this is a job for the investigation team to figure out before another victim gets thrown into a TV.

5. Shujin Academy - Persona 5

Finally, we have the most recent addition and the most popular of the bunch, although this could be due to the newness of the IP relatively speaking. Or it could also be due to seeing Joker in literally everything, including Smash. It's no secret that Persona 5 is heralded as one of the best games released in recent years. The recent announcement of Persona 5 The Phantom X has been making stirs among the fan base and its recent release of Persona 5 Royal had seen success despite the number of times it's been released.

A new Persona meant a new high school. A new high school in a Persona universe meant, of course, an emblem was going to be based on a car. This time, the car emblem is Citroen which can be identified by the chevrons from both logos. Of the logos here, the Shujin Academy logo is the most different from the original logo. If this was the first time the design team had made a logo based on a car emblem, I would not have made the connection to Citroen.

This is where the design team succeeded in being consistent. For almost 20 years, the Persona series had used car references since the beginning. As a cheeky way to nudge the fans that the Citroen reference was intentional, Morgana's van is a direct reference to the Citroen H-Van. Another fun thing to note. Joker's initial persona is Arsene, based on Arsène Lupin, a French character written by a French author. Remember what country Citroen is based in? It was definitely intentional this time around.

While it's unknown if Persona 5 The Phantom X will take place in another high school, it's safe to assume it will also take place in Shujin Academy. News of a possible Persona 6 is also up in the air, but it will be interesting to see what the next school logo will be a reference of. They could even switch it up and ditch the "school emblem car logo" connection but I doubt it. If they continue the trend, I feel like a Porsche badge would be pretty cool. It would also be interesting to see an American badge or some more Japanese cars. Regardless of what the designers come up with, I'm sure it will be a cool reference in the works.

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