Juggling Time - Some Early Impressions Of Persona 3

Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

I don't ordinarily blog about a game until I've seen a significant portion of it. The reasons for that are probably pretty obvious - I wouldn't want to misrepresent a game by saying things that might not be true, or make myself look stupid by bemoaning the lack of a feature that could only be half an hour's gameplay away. In the case of Persona 3, though, I feel like I can make an exception. I'm currently a little short of twenty hours into what I've been told will be a sixty-to-seventy hour journey. In that time I think I've seen enough of the different facets of Persona 3 to at least talk about a single aspect of the game, and how it's been instrumental in my enjoyment of this socially-oriented Japanese RPG - time management.

I called my protagonist 'Daniyu Kemasuta'. It's like my name, but Japanified

I'm sure I'm in the minority at this point, in that most of the Giant Bomb userbase has probably played and/or watched a Persona game by now, so I'll skip over the explanations. Initially the prospect of dividing my character's free time between dungeon crawling and interacting with NPCs seemed like it would be a bit of a boring grind, but in practice that couldn't be further from the truth. Each Social Link that I've established so far has begun to unfold a mini-narrative that's either genuinely interesting, genuinely funny, or both. I've found myself loosely planning out my week on a Monday morning, and have even got into a weekly routine that's served to streamline my social interactions and make juggling all those commitments just a tiny bit easier. So far I feel like I've been managing my time pretty effectively, spending enough time in Tartarus to maintain a steady experience gain, while also pouring as much of my free time as possible into keeping my acquaintances happy and studying for those pesky exams. I realise it probably sounds crazy, but I'm really, really enjoying this side of the game - a lot more than the combat, which feels pretty middle-of-the-road so far, or the Persona fusion, which I'm still not quite sure I've got the hang of.

I think the main reason that I've become so wrapped up in the schedule of Persona 3 is that I can still vividly recall what it was like to be that age and at school myself. I can remember the constant struggle to balance my time very well - in my final year of secondary school I was juggling no end of commitments. As well as trying to stay on top of my schoolwork and prepare for my A levels, I was working a part-time job, attending the local Youth Town Council meetings as a Councillor, playing darts one night a week all year round, playing cricket at weekends in the summer, and writing contributions for the school webzine. Alongside all that I was also striving to maintain healthy relationships with all my friends, practice regularly with my rock band, and every now and again play some video games. I know first-hand how difficult it is to juggle academic commitments with social ones and personal interests, and I think Persona 3 emulates that balancing act pretty damn well. Admittedly, we never had to save the world when we were at school, but you get the idea. To call Persona 3 a 'school-life sim' seems almost derogatory, but I really mean that in the best way possible.

I see quite a lot of both myself and my friends in the Persona 3 cast

What's even more impressive is that Persona 3 pulls it all off without sacrificing its cultural identity. Make no mistake - this is a Japanese game. From the anime cut-scenes to the J-pop soundtrack, Persona 3 practically oozes Japan at every turn. Thankfully, it does so in a way that still makes it approachable for Westerners like myself who have very little knowledge of Japanese culture. A big part of that is down to the fantastic translation work on the game, the best example I've seen so far being the MMO Social Link which has NPCs talking in abbreviated forms and leetspeak. What I find really interesting, though, is how that concept of time management transcends all cultural barriers. Even though the school and social aspects of Persona 3 are distinctly Japanese, they're still totally relatable to a Western audience because beneath the cultural dressing, we do exactly the same things. Strip away all that stuff and going for ramen with Kenji is really no different from grabbing a Big Mac with Fred. I guess that's part of why the Persona games translate so well, and have been so well-received here in the West. I know it's definitely a big part of why I've been enjoying the game so much.

A while back, I wrote a blog about my time with The Sims, and how my manipulation of those on-screen avatars was probably indicative of a desire for greater control over my own, real life. I think perhaps my enjoyment of the social routine in Persona 3 is hinting at something similar. As I write this I'm still unemployed, following over forty-five job applications in the last four months. The rough semblance of structure I once had at University is all but gone, and in its place is a spaceless notion of time - no commitments or appointments to keep, punctuated by unremarkable events and irregular sleep. To put it in perspective, I'm writing this blog at 6:30am after failing to get even a minute's sleep last night. It's safe to say I have no schedule, which is probably why my Persona 3 schedule means so much to me right now. In a crazy sort of way, it's providing me with the routine that I can't seem to pin down outside of the game.

I feel like I've picked up Persona 3 at just the right point in time. Still relatively young and fresh out of University, I can directly empathise with the game's school routine. Currently out of work and living a life where time is a relatively amorphous commodity, I can appreciate the rigidity of the game's structure in a way that makes me crave something similar outside of it. I'm really looking forward to finding out where the coming weeks and months at Gekkoukan High will take me, partly because I'm interested in how the story and characters will develop, but mainly because I'm really looking forward to working out how I'm going to manage my time before the next full moon. Thanks for reading guys, I'll see you around.

Dan

---

Currently playing - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (PS2)

#1 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

I don't ordinarily blog about a game until I've seen a significant portion of it. The reasons for that are probably pretty obvious - I wouldn't want to misrepresent a game by saying things that might not be true, or make myself look stupid by bemoaning the lack of a feature that could only be half an hour's gameplay away. In the case of Persona 3, though, I feel like I can make an exception. I'm currently a little short of twenty hours into what I've been told will be a sixty-to-seventy hour journey. In that time I think I've seen enough of the different facets of Persona 3 to at least talk about a single aspect of the game, and how it's been instrumental in my enjoyment of this socially-oriented Japanese RPG - time management.

I called my protagonist 'Daniyu Kemasuta'. It's like my name, but Japanified

I'm sure I'm in the minority at this point, in that most of the Giant Bomb userbase has probably played and/or watched a Persona game by now, so I'll skip over the explanations. Initially the prospect of dividing my character's free time between dungeon crawling and interacting with NPCs seemed like it would be a bit of a boring grind, but in practice that couldn't be further from the truth. Each Social Link that I've established so far has begun to unfold a mini-narrative that's either genuinely interesting, genuinely funny, or both. I've found myself loosely planning out my week on a Monday morning, and have even got into a weekly routine that's served to streamline my social interactions and make juggling all those commitments just a tiny bit easier. So far I feel like I've been managing my time pretty effectively, spending enough time in Tartarus to maintain a steady experience gain, while also pouring as much of my free time as possible into keeping my acquaintances happy and studying for those pesky exams. I realise it probably sounds crazy, but I'm really, really enjoying this side of the game - a lot more than the combat, which feels pretty middle-of-the-road so far, or the Persona fusion, which I'm still not quite sure I've got the hang of.

I think the main reason that I've become so wrapped up in the schedule of Persona 3 is that I can still vividly recall what it was like to be that age and at school myself. I can remember the constant struggle to balance my time very well - in my final year of secondary school I was juggling no end of commitments. As well as trying to stay on top of my schoolwork and prepare for my A levels, I was working a part-time job, attending the local Youth Town Council meetings as a Councillor, playing darts one night a week all year round, playing cricket at weekends in the summer, and writing contributions for the school webzine. Alongside all that I was also striving to maintain healthy relationships with all my friends, practice regularly with my rock band, and every now and again play some video games. I know first-hand how difficult it is to juggle academic commitments with social ones and personal interests, and I think Persona 3 emulates that balancing act pretty damn well. Admittedly, we never had to save the world when we were at school, but you get the idea. To call Persona 3 a 'school-life sim' seems almost derogatory, but I really mean that in the best way possible.

I see quite a lot of both myself and my friends in the Persona 3 cast

What's even more impressive is that Persona 3 pulls it all off without sacrificing its cultural identity. Make no mistake - this is a Japanese game. From the anime cut-scenes to the J-pop soundtrack, Persona 3 practically oozes Japan at every turn. Thankfully, it does so in a way that still makes it approachable for Westerners like myself who have very little knowledge of Japanese culture. A big part of that is down to the fantastic translation work on the game, the best example I've seen so far being the MMO Social Link which has NPCs talking in abbreviated forms and leetspeak. What I find really interesting, though, is how that concept of time management transcends all cultural barriers. Even though the school and social aspects of Persona 3 are distinctly Japanese, they're still totally relatable to a Western audience because beneath the cultural dressing, we do exactly the same things. Strip away all that stuff and going for ramen with Kenji is really no different from grabbing a Big Mac with Fred. I guess that's part of why the Persona games translate so well, and have been so well-received here in the West. I know it's definitely a big part of why I've been enjoying the game so much.

A while back, I wrote a blog about my time with The Sims, and how my manipulation of those on-screen avatars was probably indicative of a desire for greater control over my own, real life. I think perhaps my enjoyment of the social routine in Persona 3 is hinting at something similar. As I write this I'm still unemployed, following over forty-five job applications in the last four months. The rough semblance of structure I once had at University is all but gone, and in its place is a spaceless notion of time - no commitments or appointments to keep, punctuated by unremarkable events and irregular sleep. To put it in perspective, I'm writing this blog at 6:30am after failing to get even a minute's sleep last night. It's safe to say I have no schedule, which is probably why my Persona 3 schedule means so much to me right now. In a crazy sort of way, it's providing me with the routine that I can't seem to pin down outside of the game.

I feel like I've picked up Persona 3 at just the right point in time. Still relatively young and fresh out of University, I can directly empathise with the game's school routine. Currently out of work and living a life where time is a relatively amorphous commodity, I can appreciate the rigidity of the game's structure in a way that makes me crave something similar outside of it. I'm really looking forward to finding out where the coming weeks and months at Gekkoukan High will take me, partly because I'm interested in how the story and characters will develop, but mainly because I'm really looking forward to working out how I'm going to manage my time before the next full moon. Thanks for reading guys, I'll see you around.

Dan

---

Currently playing - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (PS2)

#2 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11467 posts) -

Nice to see you chose to play this one. As someone still attending school, I too find something to relate with in the Persona games. Except if my life was a Persona game I would be playing it wrong, with not enough studying and not nearly enough social linking, all being sacrificed to the singular dark god known as "Skyrim". 41 hours over the past week? Yes. That has happened. Honestly, since you're unemployed that game is probably even better than P3 for sheer ability to consume time. I am employed to the responsibility to competently finish my school work, something that has suffered as a result, conveniently during a week where I should have been working on an essay. I'm going to get such a horrible grade on it now...

Anyways, enough about my sad pathetic life. Persona 3 is great. Some of the social links are far better than others, and certain parts of the plot aren't perhaps explained or fleshed out as they should be, but as a weirdly compelling combination of dating sim style interaction and standard, albeit exceptional JRPG style mechanics it excels far more than either of its parts would suggest. Also holds host to one of my favorite endings of all video games, even if the epilogue chapter kind of screws it up in some way.

#3 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6081 posts) -

Persona 3 was a hell of a fun game. The dungeons definitely could have used a bit more variety, and I definitely wouldn't have minded if some of the activities actually utilized some mini-games to break things up a bit. But overall, I thought it was a pretty spectacular game for many of the same reasons you've stated. I keep meaning to play through Persona 4, having only watched a couple of hours of the Endurance Run. I suppose when I get my "to be played" stack down a bit, I'll get around to it. That, and I've still yet to beat Wild Arms 3 and 5. They glare at me each and every day from my bookshelf. I swear, sometimes I hear them muttering at me and see them giving me the finger. Ah, oh well.

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#4 Posted by McShank (1629 posts) -

@dankempster: p3fes is in my top 3 favorite games for ps2 besides san andreas and vice city.. I have put well over 200 hours into P3Fes and love it, WAY more then persona 4. Happy to see you started with that instead of the infamous p4 since that is where most people on this site go since it was an endurance run and they dont think the ones prior can be alot better >.> My personal opinion but meh, p4 doesnt grab me like p3fes did. And the soundtrack for p3Fes.. not p3 but the Fes menu song playing when i lived alone is still etched into my head when I was off work for a week from a fever and sleeping on my couch and playing this game nonstop.. would have dreams of that song playing and i still love it :D

#5 Edited by BulletproofMonk (2718 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater said:

Also holds host to one of my favorite endings of all video games, even if the epilogue chapter kind of screws it up in some way.

Yeah. Holy fuck that ending hit me hard.

This is easily my favorite Persona game. I just found the characters to be a lot more interesting and less annoying in this one compared to Persona 4. And the twists! So good.

#6 Posted by Vexxan (4615 posts) -

Persona 3 FES is my absolute favorite game for the PS2. Except for the maybe too repetitive dungeons I loved everything about it: the story, the characters, the soundtrack(which is blasting through my speakers as good as every day)and so on. When the end credits rolled I realized this game had a depth that Persona 4 never had or was even close to(I was a little late to the Persona scene so I played Persona 3 after Persona 4). Being a university student it's hard not to relate to the event of the game and how it all plays out. Playing through the game it felt like it was trying to portrait how we all want to live, or how we should live and how life should be. Well, maybe minus the "Hey, we gotta do this or the world will end!"-part. 
 
Enjoyed reading this, followed!

#7 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater: Funnily enough, Persona 3 is currently acting as a Skyrim substitute for me. The monetary situation means I won't be able to pick up Skyrim for at least another couple of weeks, so I picked up Persona 3 as a kind of distraction while I wait for that time to come around (on your recommendation, no less, so I feel like I should thank you for that!). It's probably still a little too early for me to make any finite judgements about the gameplay mechanics, as I guess something could possibly come along and shake everything up. Based on what I've seen so far, though, the game definitely is a shining showcase for something that's better than the sum of its parts. Like I said in the blog, I haven't yet stumbled on a Social Link that hasn't been engaging in one way or another, although given I've only forged about seven or eight, I guess there's plenty of room for that to change. I think the one I've got most absorbed in so far is the Old Couple Social Link, because I just really want to see how that's resolved. Kenji's Link is hilarious, too - "You don't think Kenji is ever going to stop talking" had me genuinely laughing.

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: Strangely enough the dungeon designs aren't bothering me at all so far. I've only seen two different blocks of Tartarus at this point, and it's pretty clear to me that they're nothing but simple texture swaps of each other, but I really don't mind that. Similarly, I don't mind the lack of interaction during the Social Links, either. I agree that some interactivity in the form of mini-games might help those parts of the game move along a bit better, but I've got no problem with them as they are right now because the narratives they're spinning are all so engaging. They also provide you with those occasional choice of responses, which went a long way towards dispelling the feeling that I was sitting through walls of text.

I also have Persona 4 on my Pile of Shame - funnily enough I bought it because of the Endurance Run hype, despite never actually watching any of the Run itself. To this day, like you, I'm still yet to actually play it. I bought Persona 3 much more recently, because a friend of mine recommended it to me. The sole reason I'm playing it before P4 is that I've seen people here on the GB forums talk about both games, and they say that there are mechanical improvements in P4 that would make playing P3 after it feel almost like an ordeal. For that reason alone, I've decided to experience them the other way around - so I can feel like P4 streamlines what P3 already did well instead. I can definitely empathise with you on the 'to-be-played' thing as well - despite recently (and grudgingly) offloading a lot of games for some much-needed cash, I still have a lot of daunting RPGs glaring at me distastefully from my Pile of Shame. I have a rough plan as to how I'm going to deal with that, but I won't say too much about it right now. Look out for a future blog on that subject ;)

@McShank: The music of P3:FES is pretty great for what it is and it definitely serves its purpose brilliantly - it fits the tone and environments of the game perfectly, I think. Having said that, there's no lasting appeal for me as far as listening to it outside the game. That's not a dig at the music by any means, I just personally find it very jarring to listen to any sort of soundtrack music outside of the medium that it was composed for. They're some pretty memorable tunes though, especially the 'shopping' one - I've caught myself humming the 'do-do-do doo doo' of that track at least once.

@Vexxan: Yeah, it does seem to paint a very idealised picture of teenage life, at least so far. It doesn't seem like it's going to address any bigger pressures that affect that age group, such as drug-taking or underage drinking, although I definitely wouldn't expect the game to - the Dark Hour stuff is macabre enough as it is, without dragging the player down outside of the Shadow stuff too. The emphasis is much more on being a model student and a good friend, because it's only by doing those things that you'll make any significant progress through the game. In that respect, I guess it's a pretty great advocate of those values to the teenagers who are playing it. Also, while real world teens definitely do not have the fate of the world resting on their shoulders, I can remember that period of my life very clearly and it definitely felt like that sometimes. Fail to get that balance right between the acadmic stuff and the social stuff, and you can really end up feeling like the world is about to end. In that respect I think the threat of the Shadows in Persona 3 can be read as a pretty comprehensive metaphor for what a school-going teenager might feel if they can't maintain that balance. I don't want to go too far down the route of allegorical analysis, as I'm sure there are people out there who understand the extended metaphors of Persona 3 a lot better than I do, but that's how I see it, anyway. Glad you enjoyed the blog post, and thanks for the follow :)

#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6081 posts) -

@dankempster:

I played Persona 3 for that very same reason. Well, that, and when I bought my PSP this year, it was all of $15 on an Amazon sale. I kinda bought it in one big game lump along with just about every RPG on the system that seemed both cheap and appealing. I'm still working my way through that stack, and have every intention on writing up a blog on them as well. It's remarkable how many great RPG's there are for the DS and the PSP. I think I'm relatively close to the end of Trails in the Sky, so after that, I might revisit a few PS1 classics. And I understand Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VI are going to be released soon on PSN. I've played a bit of Chrono Cross, enough to know I really want to finish it (and start over again, since I can't remember a damn thing about its plot), and I've never played through the much-trumpeted FFVI, so I'm looking forward to that. Wow, I have no idea how I got so derailed from the topic at hand, but... errrr.... how about that local sports team, huh?

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