Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is the fourth installment of the Persona series, itself a spinoff of the Megami Tensei series. It was developed and published by Atlus Co, and is the spiritual sequel to the 2000 PlayStation game Persona 2: Eternal Punishment/ Persona 2: Innocent Sin. It was directed by series-newcomer Katsura Hashino, who took control of the Persona line in 2004 after convincing Atlus executives to revive the series. Shigenori Soejima served as lead character artist, having been promoted from staff artist after Persona 2. Composer Shoji Meguro returned as lead composer.
It was released on July 13, 2006 in Japan by Atlus, then (in extremely limited quantities) in North America on August 14, 2007 by Atlus USA. It was then later exported to Europe by KOEI on February 29, 2008.
Players take on an adventure as a high school student who fights shadows with other people who have the same power to call forth their "Persona." The game combines dungeon crawling and turn-based role-playing gameplay elements with dating simulations. Persona 3 later saw two re-releases with the expansion of the original on April 22, 2008, called Persona 3: FES, containing an additional chapter and some new changes from the original release and Persona 3: Portable, a PSP port of P3 P3: FES that features additions and improvements from Persona 4.
Persona 3 begins with a teenage boy transferring to Gekkoukan High School, and attempting to live a normal life there -- until he's attacked by strange creatures called Shadows that feed on people's minds. The stress of the situation awakens his Persona, an odd yet powerful creature dwelling within him. It can also be classified as a manifestation of his inner psyche.
With its help he defeats the Shadows and realizes that he is not the only student in the school with such powers. In fact, there is a a group called the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (or SEES for short), charged with the responsibility to destroy these creatures. Each member is armed with an Evoker, a weapon in which they literally shoot themselves in the head with (a.k.a. mock suicide), in order to cause enough strain to summon their Personas.
The player soon learns of the Dark Hour, a daily transitional period between today and tomorrow in which a few people are aware of. The high school they attend in also becomes an evil tower called Tartarus during that period only. Each member of SEES has sworn to enter Tartarus every midnight to rid the world of the Shadows, Tartarus, and the Dark Hour, while trying to uncover the truth behind their existence..
The gameplay in Persona 3 joins together two very different genres: role-playing and dating simulation. During the Dark Hour, the player must explore the tower Tartarus, fighting the shadows that appear in his way through its many floors. Floors are randomly generated and the tower itself it divided into several blocks. After a certain number of floors, players must fight a mini boss that is usually a super version of an enemy encountered earlier. To prevent players from getting too far up the tower too early, a status element is included that will eventually force players to retire for the day. As they continue to go through the tower, the player and teammates will eventually become tired, and their performance will be affected. It takes a few days for a person to recuperate after becoming tired. However, the protagonist can sleep earlier to recover sooner.
Persona 3 uses a turn-based battle system that is engaged when the player either attacks or is attacked by a Shadow. If the Shadow gets the jump on the player, then the Shadow will gain the initiative. Conversely, if the player is able to get the jump on the Shadow, then the player's party will gain the initiative instead.
During battle, the player only has control of his/her own character, but is able to give orders to his/her party members (tactics). The player must rely heavily on character AI during battle as a result.
Persona 3 encourages players to exploit the enemy's weakness in order to gain an extra attack or pull off an All-Out Attack. Using the correct skill on the enemy will grant the player an extra attack. Hitting another enemy with its weakness grants the player yet another turn, and so on and so forth. An All Out Attack is only possible if all the enemies are knocked down, and there are at least 2 party members present (including the player). This attack involves all the party members bum-rushing the Shadow(s), engulfing them in a cartoonish cloud, dealing a large amount of damage to the enemies.
When not fighting in Tartarus, much of the player's time will be spent in school. During the school day, the player may be asked a question during a class and if answered correctly the charm attribute will increase. At lunchtime, a character that the player has formed a social link with may ask to hang out after school. No matter how the player responds, they will always be available after school on that day to hang out with.
After school, the player must decide how to spend their time. Several options are available including the following:
- Raising attributes (Afterschool - Evening)
- Buying supplies
- S Linking (Afterschool - Evening)
- Returning to the dorm and fighting in Tartarus (Afterschool - Next Day)
- Returning to the dorm and going back to the room (Afterschool - Late Night - Next Day)
The following Social Links can be formed in Persona 3.
- Fool: S.E.E.S. (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad)
- Magician: Kenji Tomochika
- Priestess: Fuuka Yamagishi
- Empress: Mitsuru Kirijo
- Emperor: Hidetoshi Odagiri
- Heirophant: Bunkichi and Mitsuko
- Lovers: Yukari Takeba
- Chariot: Kazushi Miyamoto
- Justice: Chihiro Fushimi
- Hermit: Maya (following this link contains spoilers on this character's true identity)
- Fortune: Keisuke Hiraga
- Strength: Yuko Nishiwaki
- Hanged Man: Maiko
- Death: Pharos
- Temperance: Bebe (a.k.a. Andre Roland Jean Gérard)
- Devil: Tanaka
- Tower: Mutatsu
- Star: Mamoru Hayase
- Moon: Nozomi Suemitsu
- Sun: Akinari Kamiki
- Judgement: Nyx Annihilation Team
- Worlds: N/A
A full moon will appear once every month. Once a full moon appears, players will be faced with an incredible challenge that they must overcome to move onward. Each full moon event is part of the main storyline and must face these obstacles in order to move on. The player must also use his time before the next full moon by gaining enough experience in preparation, as well as improving the player's attributes, and balancing time between social links.
Persona 3 has ten playable characters, which include:
The main character of the game. He is a transfer student whose parents died in a car accident when he was a child.
- Date of Birth: 1992
- Age: 17
- Height: 170 cm
- Blood Type: O
- Weapon: All, Excluding guns and knives.
- Persona: Orpheus, Thanatos, Messiah
- Arcana/Tarot(s): Wild Card, Universe, Fool
A best friend of the protagonist, and primary love interest. Her father died when she was still young, and she doesn't get along well with her mother.
- Date of Birth: October 19th, 1992
- Age: 17
- Zodiac: Libra
- Height: 159 cm
- Blood Type: B
- Weapon: Bow
- Persona: Io, Isis
- Arcana/Tarot: Lovers Arcana
- Date of Birth: January 16th, 1993
- Age: 17
- Zodiac: Capricorn
- Height: 170.5 cm
- Blood Type: B
- Weapon: Two-Handed Sword
- Persona: Hermes, Trismegistus
- Arcana/Tarot: Magician
- Bio: A best friend of the protagonist. He is a wise-cracking, albeit clumsy dude in every sense of the word.
- Date of Birth: May 8th, 1991
- Age: 18
- Zodiac: Taurus
- Height: 166 cm
- Blood Type: O
- Weapon: Rapier
- Persona/Tarot: Penthesilea, Artemisia
- Arcana: Empress
- Bio: Daughter of the head of the Kirijo Group. She is an intelligent student, and the head of the student council.
- Date of Birth: September 22nd, 1991
- Age: 18
- Weapon: Fists & Gloves
- Persona: Polydeuces, Caesar
- Arcana/Tarot: Emperor
- Bio: A mature & competitive student who lost his sister at a young age, whom he felt he had failed to protect. As a result of this, he is fiercely competitive. He is also a member of the school's boxing team.
- Date of Birth: December 22nd, 1992
- Age: 17
- Weapon: None
- Persona: Lucia, Juno
- Arcana: Priestess
- Bio: A shy student picked on by her classmates. She is locked in the gym one night and becomes lost as the school transforms into Tartarus. SEES locates and rescues her, bringing her on board as a support member who stays out of combat.
- Date of Birth: August 11th, 1991
- Age: 18
- Weapon: Battle Axe
- Persona: Castor
- Arcana: Hierophant
- Bio: Childhood friend of Akihiko, he has since distanced himself from most people, and rarely attends school. He also has previous connections to Ken & Koromaru before joining SEES.
- Date of Birth: June 24, 1998
- Age: 11
- Weapon: Spear
- Persona: Nemesis, Kala-Nemi
- Arcana: Justice
- Bio: Elementary school student who is staying at the students' dorm. His mother was murdered and he has since been seeking answers & justice.
- Date of Birth: Unknown
- Age: Unknown
- Weapon: Knife
- Persona: Cerberus
- Arcana: Unspecified
- Bio: A dog whose owner dies partway through the school year. Lacking a place to go, SEES accepts him into their ranks after discovering he has a persona.
- Date of Manufacture: September 10th, 2000
- Age: N/A
- Weapon: Firearm
- Persona: Palladion, Pallas Athena
- Arcana: Aeon
- Bio: A machine built by the Kirijo Group for the sole purpose of destroying shadows. She eventually begins to form a personality and thus, a persona.
Art Book and Soundtrack
Persona 3 launched in the US as a Limited Edition box-set for a standalone retail value. Included in this release was an art book and a CD soundtrack containing a best-of sampling of the game's music. Both of these items were later included in a special factory leftovers edition of Persona 3: FES.
The Art of Persona 3 Cover of the art book.
Called The Art of Persona 3, the art book contains several early concept sketches and illustrations relating to Persona 3. Character pages are included showing each main character and their Personas, as well as multiple other sketches and concept art. The book also contains trivia and descriptions relating to the game and its characters. It is written by Persona 3's Art Director, Shigenori Soejima.
A soundtrack was also included in the game, titled Persona 3: Original Soundtrack. Composed by Shoji Meguro, the soundtrack contains selected songs from the game. Its vocal tracks were performed by Yumi Kawamura, Lotus Juice, and Tomoko Komiya. The full soundtrack of the game was released exclusively in Japan and contains 58 tracks. An arrangement album titled Burn My Dread -Reincarnation: Persona 3- was released to accompany the release of Persona 3: FES.
- Burn My Dread - 1:37
- Aria of the Soul - 5:41
- Want to be Close -2:35
- Shadow - 2:44
- Unavoidable Battle - 2:55
- When the Moon Reaches Out for the Stars - 2:36
- Iwatodai Dorm - 2:32
- Mass Destruction - 3:30
- Deep Breath, Deep Breath - 2:23
- Master of Shadow - 2:36
- Changing Seasons - 3:00
- Basement - 3:05
- Living with Determination - 3:08
- Memories of the City - 2:47
- The Battle for Everyone's Souls - 5:34
- Burn My Dread -Last Battle- - 3:50
- Enduring Bonds - 1:12
- Memories of You - 6:04
Persona 3 garnered much attention since its release, being named "Best RPG of 2007" by many gaming sites like Gamespy and RPGFan. The game was praised for its combination of turn-based RPG and dungeon-crawling elements, as well as its unique dating simulation involving Social Links. It was considered the best PlayStation 2 RPG until its sequel Persona 4 came about. It currently holds a score of an 86% at Metacritic, based on 52 reviews.