Whilst I only got a couple of hours on the original Persona 3 last fall, news came out that the FES edition, that Japan was enjoying at the time, would be getting an NTSC release in Spring this year. So I thought that I might as well wait.
And wait I did, for almost 6 months! My only Persona fix was listening to the OST (including FES) once or twice a month and watching the anime.
I didn’t have high hopes per se, but some expectation that the anime would be mildly interesting and entertaining given the school backdrop. It started out decent enough, but soon got way too serious for its own good. Enveloped in over-mysteriousness, a lot of psychobabble and melodrama coupled with pathetic characters; the anime should’ve never existed in the first place. I gave up on it after slugging through 16 episodes. Even though I faithfully got the subs until episode 22, I just couldn’t be bothered anymore. So out they went of my HDD after months, just lying there.
Anyways back to P3: FES, the game is just brilliant. Although I’m just 18 hours in as of today, the FES part will actually begin once I’m done with the main quest. Which, considering the leisurely pace that I’m going at, will take me another 50-ish hours I suppose. I think I’m on 10 or 12th June in the game. I’ve heard that there are costumes that can be outfitted to characters in the game in the FES version. Wonder when that will happen.
Taking a closer look, the reason I love P3 so much is its (somewhat unique) premise and excellent gameplay. The story goes that every night after midnight there is an hour during which ‘shadows’ appear, known as the ‘Dark Hour’. Now normal humans do not experience this hour and to them it is non-existent. A few people, however, can experience it and are either consumed by said ‘shadows’, or have to fight and defeat them. We, of course, kick ass at this stuff thanks to our Persona. The persona is a physical manifestation of your emotions that you will use in battles. Think summoned beings in Final Fantasy series and you’ll get an idea. Oh, and by consumed, I mean that whilst the body survives, the victim’s mind is blank, devoid of thoughts or emotions. In other words, a non-harmful zombie of sorts.
So, in the game you’re living in this dorm where other people are also persona users and can also be in your party during battle. The place where you go to fight the shadows is in a tower which erupts every night (during the Dark Hour) outside of your school, known as Tartarus. Yes, every night, you fight monsters in a big ass tower that comes out of your freakin’ school! But nobody knows this, of course, coz after the Dark Hour ends, things return to normal.
And what makes the gameplay so great you’re wondering? Well, during day you attend school where you can increase several of your attributes such as academics and charm. This in turn helps you get along with many people in your school and outside of it. The more you (positively) interact with people, the more your ‘Social Links’ will strengthen. This in turn boosts your Personas which eventually means better ass kicking of Shadows during the night. It is left up to you how to go about the game.
There is a (thankfully) small world map where you choose which place to go and who to talk to, in order to progress the story further or level up. In fact, the map is just of the town with a few select places you can go to, for instance the local malls, a local shrine, your dorms, etc. So you can choose whether you want to go to Tartarus a certain night and level up, or go to the local mall instead (and also level up by socializing). The game encourages you to interact with different people and then maintain that relationship so that your personas become even stronger. In turn, the more experienced your persona becomes during battles, the better your chances of having better relationship with different people are, i.e. multiple dates, more free stuff, etc. :p
One of the biggest reasons that I’ll see P3 to the end is to get her!
Also, to get closure on the characters and the story. For the record, there was only one RPG that I have actually managed to finish, which was Riviera: The Promised Land (GBA). Besides that, I nearly finished Tales of Eternia (PSP) and FF X (PS2) but gave up on them 2/3rd of the way in as the random battles and constant grinding pissed me off to no end. Hardly any other RPG that I have played has had me engaged for more than 7 or 8 hours. I’m just glad that modern RPGs have dropped random encounters and have better battle mechanics compared to the slow grinding of the 8/16 Bit eras. Although some may say that grinding was actually part of their charm.
Hopefully I can finish this by the time Persona 4 gets the NTSC release this December.