Persona 3 FES's main story may seem like your typical "group of teenagers with special powers band together to save the world" ordeal, but the depth and development in both its main protagonists and side characters are what make this PS2 JRPG shine.
JP: April 19, 2007
NA: April 22, 2008
EU: October 17, 2008
AU: November 13, 2008
|Platforms||PS2(Original, FES), PSP(Portable)|
It took me months to beat this game and 70 hours(on the lower side for this game) in total, and I do not regret any part of it. Persona 3 has a fairly basic looking premise at first. You are an orphan who has the "potential", a power that lets you summon a Persona. You join a group called SEES, made up of other students at your new high school who have this ability as well. Over the course of the year, you work together to defeat the evil demons known as Shadows. What sets this game apart from other JRPGs isn't the combat, or the modern setting, but rather a mechanic referred to as Social Links. These Social Links bridge the gap between the two sides of gameplay; in Tartarus, the main dungeon, and in the real world in day to day life.
In P3, as cheesy as it may sound, friendship is power. After school or on weekends, you can choose how to spend your time. The thing that you will be doing most is making bonds and talking to people. Through this unique conversations, you build with them what is known as a "Social Link". This mechanic directly ties in to the combat and provides some of the best side stories I have ever seen in games. Some of my personal favorites were Akinari, a teenage boy who is dying of a rare genetic disease and writes a story, and Maiko, an elementary schooler whose parents are about to divorce. Though these stories aren't necessarily the main focus of the games, the conversations and interactions can make up some of the most emotional moments in a very emotional game.
The plot takes numerous twists and turn but for the first few months is very slow. While the plot does not pick up until around August(the game starts in April), oh boy does it pick up. Even with the pacing issues, the plot remains engaging and allows you to see the flaws and true personalities of the numerous great characters in this game.
In the evening, you have the choice to go to Tartarus, which is what becomes of Gekkoukan High School during the dark hour, a hidden thirteenth hour that only Persona-users experience. The combat is the typical JRPG fare, where you have your choice of weapons and Personas. Personas are sort of like Pokemon, as they learn new skills but in contrast, you do not become good friends and buddies with these Personas. To get new Personas, you can fuse multiple together or find them in post battle rewards. Every Persona, is associated with a Major Arcana of the tarot that corresponds to the Arcana of a Social Link. If you have a higher Social LInk lever, more XP is gained when fusing the persona. One downside in the combat is that it is not possible to directly control your party members, of which you can have 3 at a time. These is remedied by a system in which you can give general tactics to the AI however. The combat revolves around fighting and exploiting your opponents weaknesses while avoiding getting hit by your own weaknesses, in in typical Megami Tensei fashion. If all of your enemies are downed, your party can perform an All-Out Attack complete with comic-book esque bangs and pows. Each Persona has their own skillset and is activated by shooting a gun-like object called the "Evoker" to your head.
This game soundtrack, to put it lightly, slaps. The blend of J-Pop, depressing piano melodies, and jazz sets the mood and tone for the game and perfectly fits each situation. "Living With Determination" gets me choked up while "Iwatodai Dorm" is uplifting and very swanky. Anime cut scenes appear before major plot points, and though the proportions of the characters are very strange and inconsistent they add a lot to the characters and relating to them. The games has consistent themes throughout, that of the fact that death and loss is inevitable and it is a fact that should be accepted. Rather than dreading death and spending your life fearing it, accept it and spend your life working towards a goal and making the most out of life. Characters that seem one-dimensional at first such as Junpei, the lazy less-than-intelligent womanizer, goes through major events that transform him and making one of the most interesting characters in the game. SEES, who at first came together just because of their common ability form an unbreakable bond over the course of the game.
Persona 3, despite its age and its annoyances, remains a hallmark of JRPG history with its Social Links and emotional storytelling, laying the groundwork for its sequels, two of the most critically acclaimed RPGs in recent memory. An extremely accessible RPG, I reccomend it to people even if RPGs "aren't your thing"