Reviews: Persona 3
P3:P: A Great Game With the Great Misfortune of Being Surpassed By Its Successor In Every Reasonable Way
Halfway through Persona 3 Portable, I realized that I'd ruined it for myself. I'd already played the excellent Persona 4: Golden, and I was hoping for more of the same. And I got it, only at a much lower overall level of quality. Persona 3 is still an enjoyable game, for the most part, with its hybrid platonic dating sim/dungeon crawler gameplay. The characters are still vibrant and fun. But, and here's the rub, so many improvements were made in the sequel that it's hard to go back. Between no non-romantic social links for the opposite-sex characters, a murky plot with no real forward drive, a shifting set of antagonists with confusing motivations and almost no real depth, the storytelling in general is much poorer, too shackled to the style of previous titles in the series. Character have depth and development, but their introductions are clumsier and their development shorter than in 4. And you're just climbing Tartarus because it's there, with no real motivation for doing so except when, later on, victims wander into it. The battle system is... okay. I prefer the better-rounded characters from 4, but a team of specialists is still interesting and puts a greater emphasis on strategy. Unfortunately, while splitting the physical damage types was theoretically a good idea, its implementation leaves much to be desired. Maybe if characters could shift damage types with different weapons? I will say that, from what I can glean, P3:P does an excellent job of implementing 4's improvements to the gameplay. Direct control over characters is possible, especially fine since the originals suffered from Artificial Stupidity, and Social Links seem to take longer to reverse. And while I've yet to finish the female campaign, it's amazingly good, trimming out all the weaker Social Links to include every member of the main cast, and offering, to avoid spoilers, a chance to save one of only two sources of Strike damage from plot-mandated death. I'd go so far as to say I wish I'd done it first, and consider it the definitive version of the game. P3:P is still a good game and an excellent remake. But I can't help but hold it to a higher standard than I really should.
So this is the only Persona i've played so far.....
And I will have to make amends to change that. It took me a long time to beat Persona 3. Way back in 2012, I picked up it up, enjoyed it, and then got frustrated and put it down. In 2013, I picked it up again, and this time got further and enjoyed it even more. However, in surprisingly meta turn of events, due to my real life student schedule I had to put it down. 2014. I download from the PSN store, determined to this time finish. And I did. And it was magnificent. Let me break it down for you, dear reader. The gameplay is excellent. Both the "social link" and "Tartarus" parts of the game are well formulated, accessible, challenging, and surprisingly inventive. The battle system is familiar to anyone familiar with turn based JRPG's, but with the extra twist of the press turn or "one more" system, that gives extra hits for weaknesses. The fusion system for personas makes the game REALLY hard to put down. So many combinations, and when you keep doing it, the increase in strength feels tangible. The game's level progression is excellent, and even if there IS quite a lot of grinding, there are plenty of places to grind, so it's never "difficult" to level up when you need to. The social side of the game is also great. The characters you interact with are all fleshed out, believeable, and likeable (mostly) so you'll want to max links anyway, even if there wasn't persona levels to be gained. The story is also great. Operating in an almost Buffy the Vampire slayer style, a group of high school students must fight "shadows" during the dark hour, a time most do not know exists. From this premise, we get plenty of great characters and several genuinely shocking twists. Don't wanna spoil it for people who don't want to know though. It has a very beautiful ending. The graphics are amazing for the PS2, making the very best of the system, and the music is godlike thanks to Shoji Meguro's genius. I now need to play Persona 4, for comparison and well, fun. Oh, and watch the new movies based on this game. Anyway, ciao! Buy this game. It's only £7.99 or whatever your country's equivalent on the PSN, so you have no excuse not to play it. On another note, the final boss gives some great life advice.
A great JRPG
I have some rather fond memories of Persona 3, having first discovered it just a few years ago. At the time I played it every day and loved it, and it was my favourite video game. And I still appreciate it, while I haven't really played a whole lot of JRP Gs I do like this one a lot. Instead of most RP Gs which have you explore a large world, this is a day-to-day structure which sees the events of a whole year in-universe unfold, with the story progressing by itself. But it's not at all linear - you have to explore the labyrinth Tartarus, and bond with many different people and create 'Social Links', which is vital to the game. With all the Social Links you can get, there is a lot to do in this game. But of course, there's also the story. The story is deep and fulfilling, and the characters go through a lot of development throughout the events of the story. You really start to feel for these characters, and rather than just being your allies in battle, they're your friends. Some really good characterisation here. The gameplay during battle has a few minor flaws, though. For one, you can't really control your team mates, only yourself. The best you can do is assign your team mates to different tatics. Though this is only the PS2 version, from what I hear the PSP port gives you the option to control them. Also, if you are defeated in battle, it's an insant game over, which becomes very infuriating when you are suddenly hit with a fatal attack that kills you, and if only the game just let you heal yourself. But all in all I would definitely recommend Persona 3 if you're into JRP Gs and haven't played this one yet. It's a very well-made JRPG and is at least worth playing for its good story. I'm glad I picked it up when I did.