Persona 3 FES: Memento Mori

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barthvader25

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Edited By barthvader25

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.

DeveloperAtlus
PublisherAtlus
Release Date

FES

JP: April 19, 2007

NA: April 22, 2008

EU: October 17, 2008

AU: November 13, 2008

PlatformsPS2(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.

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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"

5 out of 5

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BajiBoxer

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Shit, I forgot to finish this one lol. Up to where I am, it's among my favorite jrps. The only things I really knock it for is the overly repetitive procedural dungeon, and some unnecessary "sexy" outfits. Battle Panties? Seriously? I do like the comments they give when making them wear that crap though lol.

The sequels refined some of the gameplay elements, but I don't think the protagonists of either have surpassed 3.

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redwing42

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@bajiboxer:There are people who want their fanservice, but the outfits are completely optional and as you said, the characters themselves aren't very excited about wearing them, so I feel like that is a very minor issue.

@barthvader25: You mentioned that the inability to control your teammates in combat was a downside. This is the point where I am required to say that the inability to control your party is intrinsic to the feel of the game. More than Persona 4 or 5, Persona 3's characters are really a collection of individuals with similar goals, and not really a party. They are thrown together because they share a similar power, but there is a lot of distrust and animosity amongst them for most of the game. Even as the appointed leader, you cannot mind control these other characters and make them follow your commands. They have their own personalities and tactics, and Mitsuru REALLY NEEDS TO CAST MARIN KARIN EVERY BATTLE. The only version of party control I think would work in this game (given the story) would be if you unlock direct control by maxing an S. Link with the character.

OK... off my soapbox now. This is probably my favorite JRPG of all time, and is in my top 5 of all games ever. I do think it is very hard to recommend to just anyone, given the length of the game (without the open nature of something like Skyrim) and the unforgiving nature of some systems. It is a must for anyone that is a fan of the genre, though, and I still hope for a remaster/remake in the Persona 5 engine.

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I have always argued OG Persona 3 has a top five video game ending. Always and forever. In a lot of ways, similar to Final Fantasy X-2, I think FES does a lot of damage to the overall impact of Persona 3's original ending. It adds a bunch of complications that the game didn't need and it muddies the game's original punch. That said, that ending is still a work of art and I wish the following games in the series took as big risks as Persona 3 did during its finale. Persona 4 probably has the better cast of characters, and Persona 5 has the style, but Persona 3's final two acts are really something special.

Nonetheless, I do not think I will ever play the game beyond the last time I completed it. Two things always impede my excitement to try and capture that "special feeling" I had when I first gave it a run. First, as you mentioned, Tartarus is awful. It might be the worst dungeon Atlus has ever made, and in a series that banks a lot of its gameplay on dungeon crawling, it's a source of nigh constant misery and frustration. Second, the story really misses the mark with a handful of characters. The most prominent example is obviously Ken Amada whom I continue to maintain is one of the "BIGGEST TRASH BOYS IN VIDEO GAME HISTORY!" I think the only other JRPG companion I have come to hate more than Ken is probably Hope Estheim from Final Fantasy XIII.

Either way, great write-up and thank you for sharing!

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Efesell

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@redwing42: I've always felt that justification for auto battle is a big case of painting a bullseye around a target after the fact. It's an explanation that makes some sense but had you just have been able to control all of the party members from the start do you think you would have thought that there was anything off about it at all?

That being said while I do think it's a better more smartly designed game when you can control your allies the system itself actually works fine provided you use it correctly. When you scan all of the enemies it teaches the AI exactly what it needs to do so even things like Marin Kirin spam won't actually happen all that often.

But a lot of players didn't scan if they didn't think they needed to and it led to a lot of needlessly dumb AI until it learns the hard way through trial and error.

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soimadeanaccount

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#5  Edited By soimadeanaccount

I feel like at this point in time P3, P4 and P5 have to be looked at together. There was once a time when P3 was the big revival of the series, and at that time the game felt refreshing despite its somewhat lower budget feel.

While it is true that P3 probably has the best end game ramp up when compare to its predecessor, the end game portion of P4 and P5 are among the weakest points of their respective games. Conversely I feel like P3 struggle with keeping the focus on characters and story in the beginning whereas P4 and P5 are top class when it comes to that.

After 3 games of Social links (or Confidant in P5) I find P3's side stories getting outdone by the later games barring a few exception (Sun and Tower came to mind), which by all means is a good thing and should not be use as something that devalue P3 at its time, but pragmatically speaking, there are betters out there now. The shift from actually having your team members prominently feature as Social links rather than just having 3 shoe-horned in romance interests in P3 was a great shift.

Mixed feelings about the party control. If we buy into the sending a message about individuality and trust, then shouldn't direct control be available by the end of the game? On the other hand from a pure gameplay perspective P3 MC offers the most versatility among the 3 games, multiple weapon types, able to change persona every turn, and access to fusion spells. I also wonder if the auto battle and auto skills development of P3 was used to prevent the player from building him/herself into a corner.

Ken is...whatever...at this point you are criticizing a certain type of character and story across all medium. Although to be fair P3 pretty much grab cliches from multiple genre of anime and attempt to mix them all together which might be better or might be worse than the later games' grabbing cliche from, for the most part, a single genre.