Release Date: 4/22/2008
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I heard all the hoopla about Persona 3, but the next-gen craze sidetracked me from it. I finally rented the game and I have to say I am very impressed. I’m tired of the same old random battle JRPG with cliché stories, characters, and battle systems. P3 tries to do something different with practically every element. When you start the game out you’ll notice the game has beautifully drawn anime cutscenes. The story doesn’t become very clear until after you start playing, but this is OK.
The first thing I have to say is that the game takes FOREVER to get going. Maybe 5-6 hours into the game you’ll really start getting interesting and most of the play mechanics taught. When you’re not fighting you’ll be living your regular school life by studying hard and preparing for exams. The game has a calendar event set up and you go to school, talk to some people, and you can choose to stay awake in class and listen to the lecture to increase your academic skills. Sometimes you’ll have to answer questions (it’s mostly guessing) and maybe your charm will increase. After school, you can meet up with your friends to strengthen your Social Link (more on that later). Depending on the responses you choose will affect your relationships. You can also go around shopping at the mall for items, weapons, armor, etc. Another thing I have to mention is there isn’t enough to buy before the next moon phase (more on that later). So there is one new thing for each member and that’s it. This can make traveling the upper levels of Tarturus even harder (more on that later).
The game’s story is about Shadows that try to wreak havoc during the Dark Hour which is midnight. During this hour the Dorm you stay at turns into a mysterious tower known as Tartarus and you must climb the tower fighting stronger and stronger enemies. Every 30 days you fight a boss and some event happens that evolves the story. During those 30 days, you have to increase your Social Links, level up, and acquire all that you can before the big boss. When you fight in battle you use your Personas which are like Aeons (think Final Fantasy) and they are your strongest attacks. You’ll rarely attack yourself so you always concentrate on your Personas. Some Personas have different magic abilities etc. The battles are won by determining the enemy’s weakness and exploiting this. When you hit their weakness you get one more turn and the enemies fall down. If you get all the enemies to fall down you can do an all-out attack where all the players will maul the enemies for extra damage. This is key to mastering because you can die very easily early in the game because leveling up takes longer than it should. Luckily you can switch Personas in mid-battle so you can exploit accordingly.
One irritating thing about this game has they changed the elements’ names. Instead of Fire, Ice, Wind, Fire it’s Zio, Bufu, Garu (light) and it’s really stupid. Why did they do this? Probably just to be cute, but it confuses you and you have to know idea what these names mean. Once you win a battle you may get a Shuffle Time which lets you see the faces of a card and it shuffles them around. Some may give you bonus experience, some may be a new Persona, and some may be weapons. While you run around through Tarturus you can see the Shadows so this game isn’t random. If you hit them first you get an advantage, but let them hit you and it’s not so good.
The game mainly revolves around Persona so, of course, you can make your own. Take your cards to the Velvet Room and you can combine them to make better Personas. Now there are attributes and rules, but these are confusing and pointless so you just add a few up and see what it makes. It’s really simple and easy to use, but you can’t do this for a while because you can only create a Persona that is at your level. Also in the VR, you can take requests from Elizabeth by bringing her certain items at certain dates for rewards. I found this very hard because you never really know what she’s talking about half the time. I think it’s mainly there for completionists.
Social Links affect your Persona because if you have a friend that is a Magician SL all your Magician Persona will level up faster. Of course, there are events every day that always changes. Sometimes you can’t go to Tartarus at night because your members are too tired, some may get sick, some may be busy studying for exams, etc. This changes things up all the time so not one day is the same. When it all boils down is that the game is generally always the same. Go to school, go to Tarturus over and over. There are no worlds or levels to actually explore so this may disappoint some people. When in doubt pick up Persona 3 because you are going to have a blast and there are dozens of hours of RPG goodness here. With decent voice acting, memorable characters, and a great battle system you will truly love this game.