By yami4ct 3 Comments
We all have favorite game series we really want to write about and discuss. Persona is that series for me. I finally feel like I'm in a place where I can discuss Persona 3. This is the first of of about 3-4 planned blog posts on Persona 3.
I've been spending the last week or so trying to figure out what made Persona 4 work better than P3. All the elements are there that should make the game amazing. The story is arguably better than 4's, it's certainly darker, the characters are just as unique and endearing, and the gameplay itself hasn't changed all that much, but it's a combination of a larger variety of refinements to the formula that make P4 nearly perfect. Persona 3 id just a really amazing experience and just barely fails to reach the heights of it's successor, which is what you should expect. I expect a game's sequel to improve on the original.
So what's wrong? The first issue I have is the game's length. The game took me about 10 hours longer to finish than P4, not even including the around 27 hour long epilogue. I clocked in at a final play time of just over 85 hours. It isn't so much how long the game is, but how the game structures the narrative. The game feels really 'front loaded'. It starts really slow and when the story starts picking up, the game ends. The game is so slow to get started, by the end I was starting to get really tired of playing. If it weren't for the great story, I don't think I could have kept playing.
Persona 3's dark tone turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. The game can feel hopeless and even suffocating at times. I would come away from a few hours of game time feeling very melancholy. I would deliberately avoid playing the game on bad days knowing I'd come away even more depressed than when I started. The dungeon design only adds to this. Sure the game varies the different Blocks of Tartarus look, but your still coming back to the same dungeon and that dungeon is very claustrophobic and drab. The fact that many of the social links are much more lighthearted can at times create drastic, sudden changes in tone that really can pull you out of the experience. I would go from a fun time out with a friend to one of my characters getting shot in a short period of time. That drastic of a tonal shift can be really distracting.
Even if it's not quite as good as Persona 4, P3 is still an amazing JRPG. It mixes a traditional turn based battle system with an unconventional setting and story telling methods. If you boil down the story to it's basest elements, it still tells a traditional JRPG tale, but it doesn't feel that way. I would go as far as to say Persona 3 is the first truly innovative JRPG I've seen in a very long time. If some one told me a couple years ago that I'd actually want dating sim elements into my RPG, I wouldn't have believed them. It really is what makes the game for me, though. Without it, Persona would just be another JRPG about teenagers saving the world. The game uses the Social Links as a way to attach you to the characters. I almost feel like I become close friends with the characters by the end. It uses every day events a a way to endear you to all the side characters and make you actually care about what happens to them. It shows you that the characters have lives outside of saving the world, and I think that really helps set the story apart from other JRPGs.
Now, about that battle system. This was the hardest thing to adjust to coming from P4. The AI is alright and most of the time will do what you would have done anyway, but I still would have liked direct control over my secondary characters. Also, the game does a terrible time explaining the Battle System to new players. If I hadn't played any other Persona game, I wouldn't have understood so much of the basic stuff needed to play. Just simple things like Agi=Fire or Almighty spells can't be reflected. The fusion system is still nearly impenetrable for anyone who doesn't already know how it works. Also, I hate weaknesses and resistances for enemies feel almost random. If an enemy looks to be an ice type, it should be weak to ice. Persona's battle system, both in 3 and 4, seems to be just an arbitrary way to force you to scan an enemy at least once.
The game is amazing, end of story. Is it perfect? No. Does it have a lot of fairly major flaws? Yes, but I still love it. The characters are much less human than those in P4, but it's still far ahead of many other JRPGs on so many levels. I can't wait to see how they manage to make P5 better given all the power of a current generation console. Even if it's just as much of an improvement over 4 as 4 was over 3, it will still beat 99% of RPGs out there.