jaykho's Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PlayStation 2) review

Persona 3 is the craziest JRPG game!

In Persona 3, you play as main character Minato Arisato – as his name is revealed in the Japanese manga series – though you are free to name him as you wish. Minato is starting at the upscale Gekkoukan High School, and things immediately take a strange turn. Upon arriving at the school, he experiences a wide range of bizarre experiences – signing a contract presented to him by a child (believing it to have something to do with his registration), arriving in the Velvet Room where he meets the enigmatic Igor and Elizabeth, and crossing paths in the dorm itself with an extremely nervous girl armed with a pistol.

Once the latter misunderstanding is resolved, he meets two of his dormmates: the high-strung Yukari Takeba, and her polar opposite, the well-collected student body president Mitsuru Kirijo. From that point, the main cast is rounded out with the introduction of class clown Junpei Iori and upperclassman Akihiko Sanada, and things get going in earnest. The dorm is attacked by monsters simply referred to as "shadows," Akihiko is seriously injured in the conflict, and Minato ends the battle by picking up Yukari's pistol, or "Evoker", and shooting himself in the head, thus calling forth his main Persona, Orpheus. With Akihiko out of action, Minato is named interim leader of the group, known as S.E.E.S. (Specialized Extracurricular Extermination Squad)

Graphically, Persona 3 is a mixed bag. The character design is expertly accomplished by Shigenori Soejima (Stella Deus). Mitsuru,Akihiko and Shinjiro are my favorites. Small touches such as when the seasons changes during the school year, the characters clothing reflects the season. I know, small to some of you, however I think small touches such as this shows the developers are paying attention. Those of you who have played previous Shin Megami Tensei games will recognize many of the summon characters, such as Nekomatta and Jack Frost. The School and the City are well done and interesting to explore. The Tartarus is equally well done, however randomly generated areas can only be so exciting.

The Tartarus, battle system, and fusing Persona. during the Dark Hour, you can fight in the Tartarus, an enormous 200+ floor dungeon (it goes up..don't dungeons go down..?) which you can level up your player and Persona(s). Essentially you and up to three other Persona users grind for experience, items, and other goodies and you climb the Tartarus. Usually, for me, grinding is a chore, however in Persona 3 I never really tired of it. For players of the Shin Megami Tensei series, certain aspects of the battle system are familiar. What was referred to as the Press Turn system in Digital Devil Saga in Persona 3 is now "One More". The enemies you battle have certain weaknesses which you can have analyzed by a member of your team.Exploiting this weakness will gain the attacking character one more attack. This weakness, can however be used against you, so thankfully when you analyze the enemy doesn't eat up a turn so you can summon the appropriate Persona. You have some control over what your teammates do, such as heal, wait, knock down, etc. this wasn't a problem to me, as the AI would usually do what I would've wanted them to do anyway, which usually involves using the appropriate Persona. This brings me to the technique of summoning. Yes, this is the part which the characters point a gun-like object called an Evoker to their heads, pull the trigger, bits of "soul"fly out of their heads, and the Persona is summoned. Never once was I creeped out or disturbed by this. In fact, I thought the animation was rather cool. So relax folks, I don't think playing Persona 3 will result in mass evoking from the innocent gamers. After the battle, Shuffle Time may appear.

With the huge spanning quest that promises to be 70+ hours, many secrets to uncover and plenty of side-questy relationships to play out. you won't be upset at dropping $50 on persona 3. It's the music that's really the showstopper here. It's quite simple one of the funkiest soundtracks i have ever heard for a game. Excellent!

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