“Arcana is the means by which all is revealed” -Nyx Avatar
Be warned, this is a long one since it is one of my favorites of all time.
I have always been interested in the Persona series, and I didn’t even know about the SMT series. Unfortunate I did not have a PS2, just PSP. So when the announcement was made that Persona 3 was coming to PSP, I was delighted! I woke up early, like 3AM, to download it as soon as I could on my PSP , and boy, I am so happy I did that. Persona 3 Portable was the game that got me into this wonderful series of Shin Megami Tensei!
Because Persona 3 is one of the most popular JRPGs of all time, there are many version. All version are made by ATLUS as always, and the character designer is Soejima Shigemori. Persona 3 was released in July of 2006 for the PS2. Persona 3 FES, a release of P3 with new chapter and Aigis as protagonist, was released in 2007 in Japan and 2008 in NA for PS2. And Persona 3 Portable was released for PSP in 2009 in Japan and 2010 in NA. Not to mention there are 3 movies out for this now as well. The version I played is the P3P and a bit of P3FES. But I will focus on the main story now and I might talk about the Answer chapter in a later time.
Protagonist is the new kid at school. In Persona 3 Portable, the latest version, female protagonist is an option. P3 Protagonist, apart from being in accident as a child, is a complete blank slate. The femalt version has slightly more snarky personality.
Mysterious Boy is this … child, that visits the Protagonist at night, it is not as nearly as sketch as that sounds. Clearly, there is something supernatural going on with this child.
Aigis is the android girl that is totall infatuated to the protagonist. She is built to combat Shadows and protect the people. She has been given a personality and fully functioning AI to be able to summon a Persona.
Elizabeth is the attendant of the Velvet Room, place that exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. She is very helpful, and mysterious. She is curious of the real world as well as the protagonist.
In the area of Iwatodai, there is a hidden 13th hour, know as Dark Hour. When this Dark Hour arrives, everyone freezes, monsters know as Shadows come out and roam the city looking for victims. These victims fall to what is known as Apathy Syndrome, they become a living husk of their former self. Also, there is a massive evil tower that just appears, known as Tartarus.
Starting with Persona 3, the Persona series started differentiating itself from the mainline SMT series drastically, where to begin.
The main combat is somewhat similar. But only the main character has multiple Persona while the rest of the party has a set Persona. While the actual combat is still good old turn based JRPG. It is sad to see the negotiations removed though….
There is a system called “1 More” system, this is based on the Press Turn system from SMT Nocturne. If you exploit enemy weakness, the said player can go again and the enemy will be staggered with lower stats. And when all enemies are staggered, you can do an All Out Attack where the whole party beat the living fck out of the enemies.
Social Link is a huge change, and also something that divides the fans, some people love it, some people hate it. Social Link is, to crudely put it, a dating sim within the game. All demon, or Personas fall under Arcanas, an aspect of personality. Diffrent people you meet in the game represent different aspects of personality, for example, there is a monk who lost his way, he represent Tower. There is a salesman that represents the Devil. And making these aspects, and relations stronger, directly makes the Persona you fuse more powerful, at maximum Social Link level, additional 5 levels can be gained from Social Link. And if you max out a Social Link, you gain access to the ultimate Persona of that Arcana!
Personality stats are different from combat stats. Theses are here to help with your school grades, looking cool, and most importantly Social Links! There are number of Social Links that requires certain amount of personality stats, like you have to be this smart to talk to this person. And this is a cool way to raise the bar for even more powerful Personas.
Unlike the previous Persona and any of the SMT games, Persona 3 has a calendar system. The player can directly choose to advance a day, unless they cannot for plot reasons. And there is a clear end of the game date, and how fast the game advances is literally up to you.
One thing I hated was when fusing demons together, the skill inherited from the “parent” demons are random, so clicking, unclicking, clicking, unclicking, until 30 minutes later you have a skill set you are kind of fine with but not perfect as you gave up on that dream.
In the PS2 versions of the game, the party members could not be directly controlled. So Mitsuru will keep using Marin Karin, the seducing spell, instead of actual job, being a destructive magic user or heal the party… so many were frustrated.
If Persona 3 has anything, it’s style. It is oozing with design and you just can’t get enough of it. The colors from background, character design, to UI, they are freaking gorgeous.
Ah… the Social Link, how I love thee. Hear me out. While playing persona 1 and 2, I felt that the games were way to similar to mainline SMT games in terms of game play. Sure the stories are more focused on the characters but the battle system is not that unique. But Persona 3 and addition of Social Links, made Persona games entirely a different animal, dividing the fan base, I will get to that later.
There is a lot I liked about the Social Links, where do I start. First, it divides the gameplay significantly, but Social Link is not a mini game, it is really important to the combat. While the combat is fun, after long hours of grinding, you can use a change of pace. Social Link, while much slower, is also dramatic. Important decisions can be made.
So second point, Persona 3’s themes and story heavily relies on bonds between people and how it is the true power. While that is very cheesy, it is implemented in the story AND the gameplay. If Social Link has to exist in any RPG games, it has to be here, the franchise is literally called Persona, a mask we wear to fit the situation. Social Link was the perfect piece to complement the gameplay in Persona. The game is about adapting and nurturing many aspects of yourself, and I think Social Link was great demonstration of that.
Thirdly, Social Links are really fun! Through various ways, you meet a lot of people: aforementioned fallen monk, salesman, as well as Online friend on MMOPRG, student council president, a weeaboo, a jock, a man struggling to find hope knowing he has terminal disease and short life span, a girl struggling to the fact that her parents might not love each other anymore, and even your teammates, and ELIZABETH! Sure there are romance options in the game, but some of the stories these people have to tell are heart breaking. And if you say the right things, you can indeed bring a happy ending to these people, as happy as they can be anyway.
No random encounter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is heavenly. Within the dungeon, you will see these blobby monsters, those are representation of monsters, Shadows, encounter. If you catch it off guard, you get the first strike, if they catch you off guard, they attack first, and if you two meet face to face, stats dictate the order. I loved this change from random encounter, and glad Persona 4 carried it on.
I love the story of Persona 3, it is a story old as time: life vs death. The theme of Persona 3 is life worth suffering through while death is always an alternative? The game almost demonstrate this with gameplay by giving 2 endings: one where you defy the impending doom and struggle until the very end, or a peaceful painless death. To further emphasis this, character deaths in Persona 3 is rather high, many of the characters have to process death in one way or another. “Life is fragile and irreplaceable” – George from Super Bunny Hop
Music of the Persona series has always been top notch, but Persona 3 has my favorites. The best of the best being Burn My Dread final battle version. It is just epic. And I also love the opening “Soul Phase” for the Portable version.
- Will I play it again? Yes, and I have. I think I beat it like 3 or 4 times. There is a New Game + that lets you keep all of your stats, so higher level Social Links can be obtained earlier and less time is needed on things like studying, so more of the game is in your control.
- Do I recommend it? Most definitely. This is pretty much the best gateway to SMT games. It is not overly difficult and it is very fun.
Let me address this, if you don’t know, in the SMT fandom, there is this toxic SMT vs Persona toxicity. And within the Persona fandom, there is P1 vs P2 vs P3 vs P4 toxicity. Pretty much everyone hates everyone. But we exist in a world where you can, surprise, like all of those things. I wasn’t fan of P1 because of its first-person dungeon crawling, I liked P2, and I love P3.
This was my first SMT game, and I am glad it was. What I tell my friends is this, if you want a challenge, play SMT III: Nocturne, but if you want to have fun, play Persona 3 or 4. And I still stand by that. Among these, I like Nocturne best, but that does not take anything away from this one.
For a long time, this was my favorite JRPG at the same level as Disgaea in terms of fun. I can still go back to it and have a blast. I put around 180 hours of work into this game, and I loved every second of it. I love this game, what did you think of it?