Eternights Puts Some Indie in Your Persona Preview 1

Persona is all the rage nowadays, so it's no wonder independent developers have begun filling the gaps as we await the sixth mainline instalment. Eternights, the debut title from Studio Sai, represents the crème de la crème of this new push from the indie world, with stunning cutscene visuals that would look at home in any Atlus game as well as an intriguing plot with various dating mechanics. With Persona 3 Reload not set to launch until next year, let Eternights fill the void in September.

We played the game's opening 45 minutes at Summer Game Fest Play Days, which gradually introduces the story and some simple combat mechanics. Playing as the "Protagonist" (they're not given a name, at least in the first hour), the first sequence introduces you to the game's dating apps before a sudden change signals a retreat to an underground bunker as the end of the world looms large. Some dialogue comes across a bit too pervy, but it's here where you shall begin a life equally split between dungeon crawling and searching for love.

The initial stages are obviously quite light on relationship building, so our only exposure to the dating features came as dialogue options, both in person and on the Tinder, Bumble knock-offs. In the full game, you'll be able to romance up to five characters, with deeper and more meaningful bonds unlocking new abilities for battle. These speech choices were always engaging, offering witty, thoughtful, and occasionally creepy responses. The demo also featured the passing of time and day changes, hinting you may need to secure a date before a certain threshold.

Most of our hands on session was instead spent exploring the underground bunker you've retreated to and fighting the monsters lurking within. You see, a gigantic wall has suddenly engulfed the city of Seoul and its inhabitants are now putting up a fight having been twisted by... something. The main difference between Eternights and Persona is the former opts for a hack-and-slash combat system rather than turn-based action. You're able to freely encounter an enemy and then get straight into a fight, bashing them about with a sword growing out of your arm after it was severed in half.

A lot more mechanics will likely be added as you progress, but the opening 45 minutes of Eternights keeps its combat pretty simple with combos to perform via a single button as well as a dodge which slows down time ala Bayonetta. You're also able to land a powerful blow should you stagger an enemy. It's impossible to accurately judge the depth and complexity of the title's combat systems based on the first 45 minutes, though, so we'll need to wait until the PS5, PS4 launch in September to learn more. The PR representative sitting next to us told us we were one of the better players on the day, though, so we'll take that as a positive sign.

What's so striking about Eternights, though, is its unbelievable cutscene visuals. The game looks fine enough during gameplay — at least a notch or two below a recent Persona title — but it really shines when control is taken away from you for a story sequence. These graphics would give Persona 5 Royal a good run for its money, with gorgeous colouring and eye-catching character design. It's really impressive that an indie developer on its first game could make something that looks so good.

We'll need to wait until the final version lands in our inboxes, but Eternights from Studio Sai is shaping up to be a worthy alternative to the Persona franchise. While it lacks the budget in some areas, we're intrigued by its story set-up, dating mechanics, and action-focused combat. With some wonderful visuals when the cutscenes hit their stride, Eternights deserves a place on your PS5, PS4 wishlist.

Eternights launches for PS5 and PS4 on 19th September 2023. Are you interested in this different take on the Persona series? Let us know in the comments below.