Before Persona 4 became one of my favourite games of all-time, there was the first Shin Megami Tensei game I ever played, Persona 3. I had heard a lot of good things about it, Gamespot rated it very highly, which was unusual to me as at that point in the PlayStation 2’s run JRPGs were starting to get real shit, like MagnaCarta, Ar tonelico, Forever Kingdom, all those random ones that were just shiny anime garbage. So to see a JRPG with a high rating upon release, that piqued my interest, that genre has always been my bread and butter and the art style was pretty cool, so I gave it a shot.
80 hours later I finished the game and then would later buy Persona 3: FES and play it all over again.
Again, the art in this game is gorgeous, it’s one of the first games where I really started to notice my sheer obsession with anime artwork. Mitsuru stands out as the runaway beauty in terms of design, but other characters like Aigis and even the guys like Shinjiro they all were uniquely designed and beautiful in their own way. The voice acting is also fantastic in the game, Mitsuru again shines in this category, as well as Akihito, Ken and of course your favourite Velvet room employees, Elizabeth and Igor.
The tone of the game is a half-and-half sort of mix between regular everyday life and dark, depressing and downright fucked up shit. I mean, y’know you’re just a regular student going to a regular high school with other regular students attending regular classes and going to other regular places after your regular day at a regular high school and HOLY SHIT YOU FIGHT MONSTERS IN A GIANT FUCKED UP LOOKING CASTLE THING AND YOU FIGHT BY SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE HEAD TO SUMMON YOUR PERSONA!!!
The game runs on a much darker tone the majority of the game, which is common place for a Shin Megami Tensei game. What the Persona series does is break away from it a little bit and turns into a high school life simulator, which honestly is the best part about the series. You go to class, can upgrade your academics and other personality traits, make friends, go out with said friends, even find true love (ooh la la!) and stuff like that. It’s a great way to take time off from the grind that Persona has, like most JRPGs.
That’s because of the massive dungeon, Tartarus which never seems to end until the very end of the game. It’s the one big problem this game has compared to Persona 4, it only has one dungeon the entire game, where Persona 4 had unique dungeons for every character who got lost in the Midnight Channel. I find I grinded much harder in this game than most, I would go way past the threshold of the characters and still have them fighting while tired, which lowered their stats. I wanted to finish the entire 20+ floor section so I could spend even more time in the high school life simulator and get more stuff done.
The battle system is your standard JRPG system with just a few quirks. Your party members have a single summon while you can have several different summons, which makes things really interesting party-wise. You can fit whatever role at any time, which allows you to set your party however you see fit, put your three favourites in and get a Persona that works around those three, whether it’s your elemental magics, support spells, etc. The other great mechanic is the ‘Down’ system, where if you hit an enemy’s weakness, they are downed and can’t get up for at least a turn, allowing you more time to plan. Unless that is you get all the enemies down, at which you can perform an ‘All-Out Attack’ which looks like a cartoon fight scene with the smoke and ‘BAM!!!” speech bubbles popping up. It’s a fair system, you can also be downed as well, so it becomes a matter of preparation against all enemies.
Story-wise, it’s nothing spectacular, but it offers a lot of interesting characters, which I think is the more strong point of Persona games, the character development. It’s also written much like an anime, there’s a beach section, hot springs, the usual fodder. If you’re looking for a dramatic story, you may be a little off on this front. Again, it’s more an anime than a novel.
To further extend that point, the game’s many re-releases have brought newer and some more ‘sexualized’ costumes into the game for those having a second playthrough. The character’s swimsuits for example become wearable outfits in battle, which I imagine pisses off a few of the feminists out there, go figure. But again, it’s that anime charm the series has, it’s not surprising to see that in a game that resembles anime as much as this series does.
I’m waiting patiently for the Persona games to get put on PS4 like we’re slowly seeing old PS2 games starting to show up. Persona 4 is the better game, but that’s not to say the third installment of the series isn’t also a fantastic game in its own right. The third game is the foundation to what made Persona 4 an instant classic. So if you haven’t played this game before and can play it, whether on PS2, PSP or maybe PS3 if it’s a digital copy on there, I have no idea…do it!!!