Posted by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

Warning: Spoilers ahead! I'd regularly post this to the Persona 3 FES forum, but tagging blog posts to game pages seems to be broken right now.

First, a confession: I didn't finish Persona 3. I got to January 1 (right after the big Ryoji decision), saw the half-assed New Year's event, contemplated the continued Tartarus grinding and frustrating final boss fight I'd have to put up with, and decided to watch the finale on YouTube. I put 70+ hours into the game, completed most of the social links I was interested in, and grew completely sick of the dungeon crawling. I just didn't have it in me to play any more.

Don't read that as a complete dismissal of Persona 3. There's a lot about Persona 3 I really like, but my six-month-long, on-again-off-again crawl through the game says volumes about my relationship with it.

I didn't love the combat in Persona 4, but I also didn't particularly dislike it. The changes in setting kept things fresh, and the narrative stakes of each stage made the fighting feel important. The bosses were often challenging and rewarding, and rarely feel cheap. In Persona 3, the only real challenge is in the floor bosses, and the balancing is all over the place. I'd tear through some, and get utterly wrecked by others until I spent a night grinding through the same repetitive corridors. AI partners would make exasperatingly idiotic decisions at the worst possible times, making me yearn for the direct party control of Persona 4. Winning was more of a relief than genuinely satisfying. The SEES operation bosses, because of the way the game uses floor bosses to ensure that you're levelled appropriately, were a cakewalk in a way that felt at odds with the narrative.

I don't expect a JRPG to keep me constantly on my toes, but Persona 3's grinding felt tedious and disrespectful of my time. I liked parts of Persona 3 despite the 30+ hours I must have spent grinding in Tartarus while listening to podcasts, and that doesn't appear to be an uncommon opinion. I suspect part of my problem with the Persona games is my lack of interest in the fusion system -- I know some people love fusing uber-powerful persona and poking at the underlying gameplay systems, but that's never been my jam.

Even the real-world parts of the game often felt half-baked. Months went by with almost no original content, and events like the Kyoto trip and New Year's felt half-assed. I was able to max out my character stats weirdly early and finished the evening social links midway through the game, meaning I was stuck making the same run to Game Panic every night to buy persona stat upgrades. There were no social links with the main male characters, and the forced dating of female characters meant I had to walk a scheduling tightrope to avoid letting their social links reverse. Many of the ancillary social links felt trite and forgettable. For an 80+ hour game, there's puzzlingly little attempt made to keep things fresh.

I needed to get off that off my chest, but let's be clear, I also liked a lot of stuff about Persona 3. Like Persona 4, Persona 3 concludes in a really satisfying way. I think there's a good case to be made that the length and relatively slow pace of these games makes them well-suited to appeal to emotion -- particularly in their conclusions -- without feeling corny or unearned. I think Persona 4 did a lot more to get the player invested in the characters, but even so, I was pretty touched by Persona 3's conclusion.

The concept of friendship and love being this supernatural force able to overcome all is odds with my trained disposition against earnestness and platitude, but as pieces of fiction, Persona 3 and 4 resonated with me, and were refreshing in this media atmosphere of cynicism and irony.

Persona 3 has style, both artistically and technically. While I was a big fan of Persona 4 (a game with a larger scope, to be fair) I think I might like Persona 3 more as a complete artistic package. The Dark Hour feels menacing and almost macabre without feeling cartoonish or otherwise over-the-top, and it's accented perfectly by the slowly-layered-upon piano hooks. The use of green -- not only on the moon and sky, but also in the oppressive smoggy tint -- gives the Dark Hour an appropriately toxic and menacing character. It plays off the presence of blood at the lower levels, which gradually (and also appropriately) gives way to a more seraphic and otherworldly look near the top.

Iwatodai is tonally ambiguous. It's equally appropriate as a setting for dark and light moments. The school -- particularly the roof -- feels safe, youthful, and bright -- a disposition cemented by the energetic pop music. Even as the Apathy Syndrome reaches its peak, the school remains an oasis. The stations are rough around the edges, and their level of upkeep reflects the mental health of the population. The dormitory feels like a much more adult place than the school, as reflected in its music. The members of SEES -- both in terms of their personal histories and the task they've been given -- are not innocent children. The dorm music shares its musical influences with the Tartarus battle theme and SEES operations -- the dungeon theme even follows Ryoji into the dorm.

The character portraits and modelling are great -- succinctly conveying aspects of the characters personalities and dispositions. Mitsuru's moneyed upbringing, internalized expectations, and cultivated distance come across not only in her script, wardrobe, and voice, but also in subtle aspects of her portrait and animations. Likewise, a lot of Junpei's insecurity and projection of carelessness comes across in his character art, idle animations, and posture.

Persona 3 is obviously a PS2 game, but it doesn't suffer much because of it. For all of the contemporary focus on specifications and how many gigabytes of memory the PS4 and XB1 allow games to use, Persona 3 gets an astounding amount of mileage out of the PS2's 36 MB of RAM and 300 MHz processor. A lot of modern games -- in an era of orders of magnitude higher memory and CPU budgets -- struggle to make their characters feel like real people as effectively as the Persona games. Textures very rarely stick out as being low-resolution, and the low polygon counts are very rarely noticeable.

Shōji Meguro's soundtrack is all over the place in a way I really appreciated. How many video game composers could pack this video gamey ditty, this this mournful orchestral piece, this reserved atmospheric piece, and this straight-up J-pop ending theme into one soundtrack without the aggregate product feeling like an aimless mess? While I have no idea what Meguro's mindset is, I get the sense that he possesses a potent combination of eclectic influences and non-self-seriousness that's allowed him to stake out a pretty unique and endearing style.

I'm not an art book person, but I went out of my way to grab the Persona 3 Design Works. Likewise, I tracked down the soundtracks for Persona 3, Persona 3 FES, and Persona 3 Portable, as well as the "Reincarnation" remix album. When I look forward to playing Catherine, Persona 4 Arena, and the slate of Persona games announced for 2015, the work of Shigenori Soejima and Shōji Meguro are a big part of the draw. Soejima's art is good enough to speak to me despite a lack of manga or anime background, and Meguro's music nails a melodic pop sensibility that I'm not typically drawn to.

Persona 3 is one of those games that I really wish I liked more. Aspects of it are masterful, and aspects of it are downright exasperating. It feels special to me in a lot of the same ways that Persona 4 Golden did -- and it's arguably not all that different of a game -- but Persona 4 Golden was tightened up and fleshed out to an extent that kept me largely hooked from beginning to end, and Persona 3 was constantly losing me in the drudgery of actually playing it.

#1 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

Thanks to @video_game_king for his absurdly large collection of high-quality Persona 3 screenshots. I was trawling Google for badly-compressed screenshots when I realized I had fucking 5,400 to choose from here. They're unfortunately mostly inaccessible since whoever wrote the infinite scrolling code for the image pages clearly didn't account for this particular edge case.

Also, I haven't watched The Answer yet, but I plan to! And no, there's no way in hell I'm going to play it.

#2 Edited by ViciousBearMauling (1039 posts) -

I completely understand all of your issues with the game. Your complaints are pretty valid. (Hell, I'll admit it right here, I didn't finish The Answer, I ended up just watching it) I enjoy the main plot of Persona 3 more than Persona 4, but that means that the side content feels like a second thought. I feel that Persona 4 handled it's side content in a such a better way, yet the main plot suffered from it.

Enduring through Tartarus and reaching the games beautiful conclusion is still one of my most memorable moments in video games. Good write up!

P.S. Aigis Best Robot Waifu Everrrrrrrr

#3 Posted by Slag (4261 posts) -

Kinda funny, that's about exactly where I stopped as well. I think I'm a little further than you are. I like it a bit better than you do, but the things that bother you are what bother me more or less.

I was grinding out all of Elizabeth's quests before the end game and eventually I just needed a break after 80 hours or so and having several tartarus grinding trips end in defeat due to me getting greedy. And never went back to it. It's a bad habit that's gotten worse as I've gotten older and I tend to do it to myself on JRPGs I enjoy because I go excessively side-questing. Oddly enough I usually finish the ones I don't like.

I think I just don't have the stamina for 100+ hour grindfest games much anymore. Lately I've been playing games that 40 hours or less mostly. Side effect of having so much choice on what to play (backlogs I've come to accept are part and parcel with the all digital future) whenever I want, increased responsibilities and my age I think.

I really want to go back though, I love the characters and the story. Not sure I actually will but there's a higher chance I will than with about any other game I've put down for this long. I already have once to put another ten hours in. But that was before the last Steam Sale.

They definitely fixed some of the bigger mechanical shortcomings in P4, but I always liked the characters and story better from 3.

#4 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11638 posts) -

Persona 3 is a fantastic game, but yeah, your caveats are totally fair. There are plenty of great social links to be had (Tanaka!), but there are also plenty of entirely dull or forgettable ones (Kenji!). There's a lot more grinding to be had in the central dungeon, and there are some pacing issues with the story and the gameplay. Still... it might have one of my favorite endings in a video game.

Persona 4 might have better gameplay and a stronger main cast (who actually act like they're in High School), but I will take P3's poignant, bittersweet ending over "It was an ancient Japanese deity the entire time!" . Would I take the rest of the story though? Not sure. I'd have to play them both again to make that sort of call. They both have their own problems in that department.

#5 Posted by Cathryn (545 posts) -

As someone who will always love Persona 3 more than Persona 4, I agree with a lot of your assessment. I particularly agree that Persona 3 is a more cohesive artistic statement than Persona 4, which is something I've always loved about it and I've not seen anyone else bring up (or at least not that I remember anyway).

I've never seen 3 as especially grindy, since I found the combat much easier than in 4, but I do think that one of its biggest problems is the progression through the late middle part of the game. I'd argue that the combat in January is worth it, because to me it was satisfying to watch the characters powering through the last dungeon section together. Not to mention that it's kind've cool to enter that last Tartarus block and hear where that music's been building to all that time (though if it was getting frustrating, video is a decent substitute for it ;D).

There are some attempts to get over the pacing in Persona 3 Portable, though they don't totally succeed. The female protagonist route does solve a lot of the social link problems. There's no forced dating and you have access to social links with all of your party members. IMO, the writing in those s.links is better than anything in the original game or 4. Interestingly enough, the S.links with female party members are largely unchanged, save for Fuuka's, which is drastically altered, thank whatever.

If you have some free time, I'd recommend at least checking out some of the FeMC stuff on youtube.

Thanks for posting! Enjoyed reading this.

#6 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@grantheaslip said:

They're unfortunately mostly inaccessible since whoever wrote the infinite scrolling code for the image pages clearly didn't account for this particular edge case.

I feel a delightful pride in that insanity. Especially since knowing me, it's not exactly an edge case.

Still, you could always rip the images directly from the forum thread I posted them to. Which you should read, by the way.

Also, I haven't watched The Answer yet, but I plan to! And no, there's no way in hell I'm going to play it.

Fuck you, man! The Answer's good!

Also, you can post blogs to game boards. You just need to copy/paste the exact title into the search bar, or it won't show up. @dankempster tipped me off to that'n.

#7 Edited by SteadyingMeat (1159 posts) -

I just looked up the Answer too. :P It's a decent continuation of 3's ending, but considering the dungeon crawling was my least favorite part of the Journey, the Answer did not appeal to me at all.

Anyway, I think Persona 3, as a story, is far better than Persona 4. Not to mention the ending is just sooo much more satisfying and definitely left me with a better taste in my mouth than 4's did. 4's gameplay was definitely better, though.

I'm definitely hoping 5 will be the best of both worlds, and will hopefully cut down on 4's goofiness a little bit.

Online
#8 Posted by believer258 (11808 posts) -

You should check out Digital Devil Saga and Nocturne's soundtracks for more Meguro goodness.

And yeah, I think your complaints are valid. I like Persona 3 more than 4, but 4 is definitely a more matured game in a gameplay sense. I didn't have much issue with the grinding, since it was excellent podcast gaming.

I started The Answer and found that I would rather play P3P or P4 instead.

Nyx is one hell of a final boss, though. I found beating him extremely satisfying, though it took me two hours to do it. That's two hours in one fight, not two hours of dying and jumping back in.

#9 Posted by SavePoint (100 posts) -

I just finished Persona 3 Portable last week... took me about 83 hours. I definitely think too much time is spent in tartarus, but I also felt like I didn't do a lot of grinding. I went floor by floor killing each enemy, but I never took extra nights just to grind. The only time I would redo floors is to find the missing persons, and even then I bypassed most enemies. And with all that I never had a single issue with any enemies or bosses (including the final boss), the only time I would die is from an instant-kill (damn mudo and hama)... but that only happened a few times. I was also getting pretty tired once January 1st came around and then noticed I still had like 50 more floors to do... but I rushed through them pretty quickly and glad I kept with it. Overall, the game is pretty great and I agree with you that a lot of the side stories feel a bit half-assed and that evenings felt lacking after midway through.

Oh, even though I played P3P and had the choice for direct control, I mainly still used Act Freely for about 99% of the game. I would sometimes change it to direct control on boss fights. Overall, they would make good tactical decisions but every once in a while would do dumb shit like casting bufu on each enemy rather than just using mabufu... but that's not the end of the world.

Great write-up!

#10 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

@slag said:

I think I just don't have the stamina for 100+ hour grindfest games much anymore. Lately I've been playing games that 40 hours or less mostly. Side effect of having so much choice on what to play (backlogs I've come to accept are part and parcel with the all digital future) whenever I want, increased responsibilities and my age I think.

I don't think I ever had the patience for grindfests, when I think about it. I'm open to playing a long game, but not a long game that feels needlessly padded out. I didn't grow up with JRPGs (I went straight from NES to N64, and never had a PS1 or PS2), and I think that lack of "training" in the genre has left me less willing to accept the genre's common faults/quirks than most.

I completely understand all of your issues with the game. Your complaints are pretty valid. (Hell, I'll admit it right here, I didn't finish The Answer, I ended up just watching it) I enjoy the main plot of Persona 3 more than Persona 4, but that means that the side content feels like a second thought. I feel that Persona 4 handled it's side content in a such a better way, yet the main plot suffered from it.

Enduring through Tartarus and reaching the games beautiful conclusion is still one of my most memorable moments in video games. Good write up!

P.S. Aigis Best Robot Waifu Everrrrrrrr

You're right, Persona 4's main story didn't feel as satisfying, though I tend to see it in a similar light to Mass Effect 2 in that the characters' stories are less separate from the "main" story. I think that over-reliance on characters at the expense of an interesting overarching story was a problem in Mass Effect 2 as well.

@cathryn said:

There are some attempts to get over the pacing in Persona 3 Portable, though they don't totally succeed. The female protagonist route does solve a lot of the social link problems. There's no forced dating and you have access to social links with all of your party members. IMO, the writing in those s.links is better than anything in the original game or 4. Interestingly enough, the S.links with female party members are largely unchanged, save for Fuuka's, which is drastically altered, thank whatever.

If you have some free time, I'd recommend at least checking out some of the FeMC stuff on youtube.

I hadn't really considered it, but you're right, I really should. When I was looking at playing Persona 3, a few people I know suggested I play P3P instead, but I didn't listen. In hindsight, they were probably right!

@grantheaslip said:

They're unfortunately mostly inaccessible since whoever wrote the infinite scrolling code for the image pages clearly didn't account for this particular edge case.

I feel a delightful pride in that insanity. Especially since knowing me, it's not exactly an edge case.

Still, you could always rip the images directly from the forum thread I posted them to. Which you should read, by the way.

Also, I haven't watched The Answer yet, but I plan to! And no, there's no way in hell I'm going to play it.

Fuck you, man! The Answer's good!

Also, you can post blogs to game boards. You just need to copy/paste the exact title into the search bar, or it won't show up. @dankempster tipped me off to that'n.

I will check that out now that I'm clear from spoilers. And thanks for the tip -- I guess it's the tagging search box that's broken, not the underlying functionality?

I'm definitely hoping 5 will be the best of both worlds, and will hopefully cut down on 4's goofiness a little bit.

I'm curious about 5 in all sorts of ways, but I feel like I won't know what I want out of it until I've already seen it. If you'd described Persona 4 to me, I wouldn't have been particularly interested in it.

And yeah, I think your complaints are valid. I like Persona 3 more than 4, but 4 is definitely a more matured game in a gameplay sense. I didn't have much issue with the grinding, since it was excellent podcast gaming.

If a game is best played while doing something else, I think that's a sign that they've messed up in a pretty fundamental way. I did the same thing as you, and I've done it before, but I always resent it.

Oh, even though I played P3P and had the choice for direct control, I mainly still used Act Freely for about 99% of the game. I would sometimes change it to direct control on boss fights. Overall, they would make good tactical decisions but every once in a while would do dumb shit like casting bufu on each enemy rather than just using mabufu... but that's not the end of the world.

I wonder if P3P tightened up the dungeon crawling. The bosses I got hung up on in FES seemed to be pretty notorious, and Atlus may have taken that to heart when making changes for Portable. Issues like Mitsuru constantly casting Marin Karin or Tentarafoo in random encounters, party members skipping turns if their elemental skills weren't effective (rather than attacking, healing, or buffing), and the aversion to "ma-" skills you mention bugged me throughout. The healing was especially a problem -- Yukari's choice of skills was so unpredictable and inefficient that I ended up taking a healing role in most boss fights.

#11 Posted by SavePoint (100 posts) -

@grantheaslip said:

I wonder if P3P tightened up the dungeon crawling. The bosses I got hung up on in FES seemed to be pretty notorious, and Atlus may have taken that to heart when making changes for Portable. Issues like Mitsuru constantly casting Marin Karin or Tentarafoo in random encounters, party members skipping turns if their elemental skills weren't effective (rather than attacking, healing, or buffing), and the aversion to "ma-" skills you mention bugged me throughout. The healing was especially a problem -- Yukari's choice of skills was so unpredictable and inefficient that I ended up taking a healing role in most boss fights.

I still did see quite a bit of these issues - Mitsuru liked casting support skills if her ice wasn't effective and Junpei defending for no apparent reason. I've never played FES so I'm not sure if they just made it easier or what, but the easiest way I got around these issues (other than just switching to direct control) was to either just Rush battles (which I did about 90% of the time) or I would have my main character use the enemy's weakness and then do the All-In party attack... so I never really relied much on my party members.

One thing I wish P3P had was the polygonal world that FES has, the point and click was OK and quick, but I like to control my character and run around, which I could only do in the dungeons.

#12 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

If a game is best played while doing something else, I think that's a sign that they've messed up in a pretty fundamental way.

Not necessarily. You ever play Dungeons of Dredmor? That game was made for podcasting. Same with Might and Magic VII, kind of, not really.

Not exactly? It has to be an exact match, or else it won't work. I think it's because it's going for the actual forum board rather than the game page, so it gets all squirrely about that.

#13 Posted by Make_Me_Mad (3075 posts) -

I've been playing Persona 3 Portable quite a bit lately, and am now at around the point where Strega is becoming a threat... and man, do I have a ton of problems with that game. The opening just feels terribly rushed, and actually completely turned my opinion on Persona 4's opening around. While in the past I've said that game takes too long to get rolling, I'd take it any day over the weird mess that is Persona 3's first hour.

I don't hate the game, though. It's just... man, in every way, I see how they improved things for Persona 4. Tartarus is tragically boring as a setting, and the full moon operations are usually over in a matter of minutes. They don't take the chance to have a cool, distinct area, they just throw two or three enemies in the way and then you fight a really weak boss and you're on your way. The Tartarus bosses so far have been the only real roadblocks, but they've all got almost exactly one trick, and once you find out what it is it's just a matter of whittling their HP away.

I'll do my best to finish Persona 3 Portable, but the more I play of it, the more I wish I was replaying Persona 4 Golden. Also, not being able to Social Link with the dudes on the team is... a bizarre choice. In general I've found the S. Links to be a lot less compelling, but there are a few bright spots; that athletic competition event was kinda fun, even if it did completely screw me out of getting the reward for top-grade on the finals, and I liked the Emperor S. Link a lot. One issue is that... well... it seems sorta like there's no 'friend' option for the female Social Links, which is making me hesitant to actually do most of those. I hung out with Chihiro a few times and suddenly it's talking about how I should be careful if I hang out with other girls? A goddamn option would be nice, game.

I dunno, in the end, a lot of my problems with that game are just that I've already played a vastly improved sequel. Tartarus is pathetically boring compared to the Midnight Channel dungeons, the amount of time it takes to level up Social Stats seems weird (which I say having maxed Academics and gotten the other two to 5/6), and there's just a really weird sort of disjointed feeling between all the characters and the story events. You've got a main character who's explicitly receiving warnings about the Full Moon shadows, but apparently decides to just not say anything and let SEES figure that out themselves because...?

It's weird. I'm enjoying the game, but mostly as a way to see how Persona 4 came into being from this... weird ass game that is Persona 3.

Online
#14 Posted by believer258 (11808 posts) -

@grantheaslip:


And yeah, I think your complaints are valid. I like Persona 3 more than 4, but 4 is definitely a more matured game in a gameplay sense. I didn't have much issue with the grinding, since it was excellent podcast gaming.

If a game is best played while doing something else, I think that's a sign that they've messed up in a pretty fundamental way. I did the same thing as you, and I've done it before, but I always resent it.

A few things worth mentioning:

1) I don't think that's necessarily true. Borderlands, Call of Duty's multiplayer, and Doom are all great podcast games. I played Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow while listening to the newest podcast. All of these are good podcast games, all of them are pretty good games period. Doom, in fact, is one of the greatest games.
2) I played a fair bit of Persona 3 without podcasts, too, and didn't often get bored with the grinding.
3) I also played a fair bit of Persona 3 after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, so I was taking pain pills.
4) And I also didn't play JRPG's as a kid, I thought turn based combat was lame.

I'm just saying, I liked Persona 3's dungeon-grinding. I liked the battle system a lot, and I didn't have a ton of trouble with my teammates doing stupid stuff. It seems like most people just miss that tactics menu option, but I was switching up everyone's tactics all the time.

Curious side question: Which JRPG got you into the genre? It was Chrono Trigger for me, I played it on the DS two years ago.

#15 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

@video_game_king:

@grantheaslip:

And yeah, I think your complaints are valid. I like Persona 3 more than 4, but 4 is definitely a more matured game in a gameplay sense. I didn't have much issue with the grinding, since it was excellent podcast gaming.

If a game is best played while doing something else, I think that's a sign that they've messed up in a pretty fundamental way. I did the same thing as you, and I've done it before, but I always resent it.

A few things worth mentioning:

1) I don't think that's necessarily true. Borderlands, Call of Duty's multiplayer, and Doom are all great podcast games. I played Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow while listening to the newest podcast. All of these are good podcast games, all of them are pretty good games period. Doom, in fact, is one of the greatest games.

2) I played a fair bit of Persona 3 without podcasts, too, and didn't often get bored with the grinding.

3) I also played a fair bit of Persona 3 after getting my wisdom teeth pulled, so I was taking pain pills.

4) And I also didn't play JRPG's as a kid, I thought turn based combat was lame.

I'm just saying, I liked Persona 3's dungeon-grinding. I liked the battle system a lot, and I didn't have a ton of trouble with my teammates doing stupid stuff. It seems like most people just miss that tactics menu option, but I was switching up everyone's tactics all the time.

Curious side question: Which JRPG got you into the genre? It was Chrono Trigger for me, I played it on the DS two years ago.

I see where you guys are coming from. I guess saying grinding is fundamentally bad is overkill, but I have a hard time seeing it as a good thing. At best, it's something that I tolerate. Especially now that I'm in a place in my life in which I've got way more games to play than time to play them, I've got way less tolerance for games being padded out with content that isn't engaging enough to stand on its own. Mindless grinding feels disrespectful of my time. I spend enough time listening to podcasts in my day-to-day life (walking, on the subway, dishes, cooking, etc.) that I don't need an excuse to listen to more. This is, of course, my opinion -- I totally get that a lot of people don't share my mindset.

My foray into JRPGs wasn't really driven by one game so much as a desire to see a genre I mostly missed out on. I've been trying to fill in the gaps in my gaming history over the last little while, which at the very least will give me a better sense of what I really like. I played Pokemon Red, Pokemon Silver, Final Fantasy Tactics (GBA), Golden Sun, Tales of Symphonia, and part of Baten Kaitos when I was younger, but that was about it. Xenoblade was my first recent JRPG, followed by Final Fantasy XIII and Persona 4. None of them were slam dunks, but enjoyed a lot of stuff about each. I've got plans to go back and play older FF games, one of the more recent Tales games, Valkyria Chronicles, and eventually Ni No Kuni, among others.

#16 Posted by believer258 (11808 posts) -

@grantheaslip: I've actually played Ni No Kuni recently. It gives a great first impression and it's pretty fun so far, but from what I hear, if you don't grind then you have trouble toward the end of the game. How Long To Beat says between 45 and 55 hours, though, so it's not too bad. Definitely worth a try.

Chrono Trigger really is that "slam dunk" you mention. Not much grinding, about 25 hours long, you're always doing meaningful stuff. I loved that game.

#17 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Now I'm questioning if "engaging" is a universally accepted sign of goodness of games in the first place. I'm going back to Dredmor and can't see that as a bad game. Besides, not every game needs to test my mind and grab my attention at all times.

And now mindless. Man, we need far more specific vocabulary in game criticism (although "grinding" is oddly fine, for whatever reason).

#18 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

@believer258 said:

@grantheaslip: I've actually played Ni No Kuni recently. It gives a great first impression and it's pretty fun so far, but from what I hear, if you don't grind then you have trouble toward the end of the game. How Long To Beat says between 45 and 55 hours, though, so it's not too bad. Definitely worth a try.

Chrono Trigger really is that "slam dunk" you mention. Not much grinding, about 25 hours long, you're always doing meaningful stuff. I loved that game.

I've heard that about Ni No Kuni, but I did grab it on sale a while back so it's at least worth a shot. I should have mentioned that I want to play Chrono Trigger as well -- I've heard so many good things about it, and the shorter length is a big draw.

#19 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

Now I'm questioning if "engaging" is a universally accepted sign of goodness of games in the first place. I'm going back to Dredmor and can't see that as a bad game. Besides, not every game needs to test my mind and grab my attention at all times.

And now mindless. Man, we need far more specific vocabulary in game criticism (although "grinding" is oddly fine, for whatever reason).

Again, this is all my opinion -- it's hard to explain my thoughts here without seeming like I'm making universal value judgements. Though I'll say that Persona 3's grinding did get pretty mindless in a way that I struggle to see in a positive light. Over the weekend, I got to a point at which I'd memorized the area's enemy patterns and the series of inputs required to win as quickly as possible. It was literally something like "I'm going to switch to this persona and use Magarudyne, then Junpei's going to use Gigantic Fist to finish off the last shadow." Yes, every game can arguably be reduced to a flowchart, but rarely this blatantly.

Some of the stuff in Xenoblade bugged me in the same way. I remember a specific Colony 6 item that required me to fast travel to the same area dozens of times, attacking a certain enemy and hoping it would drop a rare chest. That, to me, isn't remotely fun. Millions of World of Warcraft players would beg to differ, I'm sure.

#20 Edited by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@grantheaslip:

And just like that, we have established what mindless is: repeating a set of actions in a very strict, specific manner. (OK, I guess that could be a better definition, but I'll bite.) Of course, I'd say Persona 3's combat system engaged me and required my attention, but that's a matter of different interpretations.

Just like this. Is this something you had to do in the game, or was it one of those junk quests the game throws your way? I always saw them as "while I'm in the area, might as well". To imagine them as necessary.....eugh......

(Predictably, I started thinking of Pandora's Tower and potential grind there, but narrative context justifies it there. You've gotta work for Elena. There's weight to what you do. No idea why I'm spouting this off.)

#21 Edited by Slag (4261 posts) -

@##@grantheaslip: @video_game_king: @believer258:

@believer258 said:

And yeah, I think your complaints are valid. I like Persona 3 more than 4, but 4 is definitely a more matured game in a gameplay sense. I didn't have much issue with the grinding, since it was excellent podcast gaming.

If a game is best played while doing something else, I think that's a sign that they've messed up in a pretty fundamental way. I did the same thing as you, and I've done it before, but I always resent it.

@grantheaslip: @video_game_king: @believer258:

For me it's somewhere in the middle.

Personally I'm ok with grinding and collectible hunting, and it's nice to be able to shut off the game audio for while and multi-task with a podcast whatever. I do that probably every week when going for an S-rank in some game. It helps extend the life of the game for me and allows me to actually get better at it since it kinda trains you to pay more attention to visual cues. I'll do it for multiplayer games too, my friends and I still occasionally have old school LAN parties and we'll jam out to some bad techno while blowing each other to bits in some shooters. I definitely agree with you guys there,

But I think Grant has a point that a game that forces you to do it through large chunks of the primary game instead of allowing you to decide when to do it maybe didn't accomplish its' design goals. Or if it did accomplish its' goal, the accomplished design isn't how a lot of western players like to play games.

The effect of the Calendar in the Persona is pretty interesting on JRPG grinding, it really forces you to plan your time and while you as a Player do have agency over how you decide to spend your days, you definitely are heavily encouraged to make certain decisions at certain times and risk getting really stuck if you don't. That's a big difference from a Traditional JRPG like a Dragon Quest Viii where you can decide whether you need to grind or do sidequests at all, and if you overextend yourself you can always go back catch up at your leisure.

The difference with the grinding in P3 vs a Dredmor (which as a roguelike is entirely different animal), Borderlands, Saints Row 2 (which I just played), is that P3 required a lot of it to progress through the main story and given the calendar mechanic also seemed to dictate to you when you had to as well (through the weather). Or at least the boss difficulty spike could scare players into thinking they had to progress. But those Midnight Hour deadlines add that tension into the equation that typically isn't there. It turns the grinding into a chore to get to the next story beat.

Saints Row 2 has that respect meter required to unlock story missions, but I maxxed it out very quickly to the point that I never had to grind once to progress. If your grind in something like Borderlands you are doing it because you want go grab some loot or get some sweet weapon, but P3 it feels mandatory.

That's the most common complaint you hear about Final Fantasy Xiii, from the opposite perspective of really not enough grinding, is that it removes that agency from the player by forcing you down that story tunnel for eleven chapters. On one hand it's probably easier to tell a cohesive and well paced story that way, but on the other a player could get frustrated by the lack of variety (no sidequests etc) in such a long game. But the complaint goes back to the source of what players often don't like, which is noticing the game forcing them to play a certain way.

It all comes down to framing of choice and how the grinding is presented to the player. While many JRPGs basically require some level of grinding to win, P3 presents the opportunity in a way that makes the player feel disempowered. Whereas in Saints Row 2 respect and in Bordlerands xp is basically generated from stuff you are probably going to want to do anyway.

#22 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1573 posts) -

@grantheaslip:

And just like that, we have established what mindless is: repeating a set of actions in a very strict, specific manner. (OK, I guess that could be a better definition, but I'll bite.) Of course, I'd say Persona 3's combat system engaged me and required my attention, but that's a matter of different interpretations.

Just like this. Is this something you had to do in the game, or was it one of those junk quests the game throws your way? I always saw them as "while I'm in the area, might as well". To imagine them as necessary.....eugh......

(Predictably, I started thinking of Pandora's Tower and potential grind there, but narrative context justifies it there. You've gotta work for Elena. There's weight to what you do. No idea why I'm spouting this off.)

You're right, Xenoblade is different in that it relegates most of the "mindless" stuff to sidequests.

A lot my reasoning, as you say, is open to interpretation, but in the end, playing Persona 3 felt like a chore to me way too often. If I didn't have some fundamental issues with it, it wouldn't have taken me six months to get through, and I wouldn't have been guiltily thinking "jeez, I really should get back at that." I respect it in a lot of ways, and I see where you're coming from, but I think we've got different values when it comes to gaming.

(I grabbed Pandora's Tower on a whim in a clearance sale a while back, and I plan on giving in a shot at some point.)

#23 Posted by MajorMitch (515 posts) -

That was a good read! I harbor a similar love/hate relationship with Persona 3, and had many of the same issues with it that you do. I played it shortly after it first came out, and was so burnt out on the game after finishing it that I didn't want to touch Persona 4 for years. When I did get around to P4 last summer, I deliberately played it a lot slower, while playing other games along the way to keep me fresh. When I played P3 I powered through it pretty hard over a few weeks (during a break), and I think that made its issues harder to put up with. I'm not sure if taking it slow is a universally applicable aid in games that long, but on this occasion it did stand out to me as being helpful.