Tag Archives: jrpg

Game Spotlight: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

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(left to right) Junpei, Minato (MC), Yukari

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.

Mitsuru Kirijo
Mitsuru Kirijo

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!!!

I wasn't kidding...
I wasn’t kidding…

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.

Tartarus
Tartarus

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.

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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.

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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!!!

Game Spotlight: Shadow Hearts: From The New World

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How many games have you played over the course of your life that made you legitimately interested in history, geography, anything like that? Some games come to mind include the Carmen Sandiego games, Mario is Missing, stuff like that.

A game I’d add onto the list for myself: Shadow Hearts: From The New World. Yes, a crazy JRPG that has a giant talking cat fighting like Jackie Chan’s drunken master gimmick, a dumbass American ninja who fights with insane weapons such as a bus stop sign and a mariachi guy who fights with a guitar implanted with guns inside it. That game made me legitimately interesting in history and geography.

(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo
(left to right) Frank, Lenny, Shania, Johnny, Hilda, Natan, Mao, Ricardo

The game is set in the year 1929 as we follow a young 16 year-old Johnny Garland who runs a detective agency in New York alongside an old friend to Shadow Hearts fans, Lenny Curtis. Initially what was just supposed to be a search for a missing person turns into a massive journey across the Americas to save the world from a super-powered villain.

Compared to most JRPGs, the universe in this game is so much more different than most. I haven’t played much of the either two games in the series, but From The New World for me is a fantastic mixture of historical events and places while intertwined into a ridiculously over-the-top sci-fi epic fantasy. Wanna break Al Capone out of Alcatraz while his resurrected sister wreaks havoc on everyone breathing? Hell yeah you can! Want to sneak into Area 51 and along the way bump into an alien and a vampire who switches between a vampire bat, sexy goth girl and a super-obese version of herself? Yeah, that can happen to! The game takes various places, people and events you’ve probably heard of and twist/skew it as much as possible to fit it into the game’s storyline. It’s insane and I love it.

"Normal" Hilda
Slim Hilda form

The one thing that really makes this game keep itself from getting boring, is it’s battle system. Albeit sometimes frustrating, the Judgment Ring system has every action pop up with a wheel mini-game where you have to strike either the larger, main coloured area of the ring to successfully perform the action, or you can go for the much smaller red section which adds a bonus on top of it, like a critical hit. This makes every action require your attention rather than most JRPGs which is a sit and watch experience (*cough cough* FFXIII…) and offers little for the player to do. It can get frustrating when status effects add onto it, doing such things as changing the speed, changing the direction of the needle and making the zones invisible. But most battles are fair and it’s just a matter of adjusting to it.

There’s a fair amount of customization as well. The game offers Stellar Charts, which is similar to FFVII’s Materia system. You can decide who gets what abilities and what chart they use, as some offer more options than others. You can even customize each chart to your own preferences, so there’s plenty of ways to play your party members. They each have their own special abilities as well to further differentiate themselves and they level up over the course of the game through various means. The most notable is of course other main character, Shania who uses the Fusion ability to transform into various Native American spirits which have different elemental abilities and battle styles. Every character has something unique going on and it keeps the battles fresh as the game progresses.

Shania and her various Fusions
Shania and her various Fusions

In terms of the story, it’s nothing too special to look at. I personally view the game and its storyline as a sort of comedic sci-fi epic, the story is there and there are a few interesting plot points over the course of the game, but there’s nothing that will invest you to the point of sinking in hours on end to get to a conclusion.

What the game has however that makes it so irresistible and memorable is its wacky cast of characters, both playable, enemy and NPC. Other than the main cast I already went through, one of the main villains Gilbert is pretty much The Penguin from the Batman series, minus the outfit and accent. The shopkeeps you see are gay bikers, one is normal, the other is super flamboyant which may rub some people the wrong way, but if you’re familiar with Japan, this is a normal caricature you’ll see in various media. And like I said earlier, the number of real people featured in the game, from Al Capone and Eliot Ness to H.P. Lovecraft, it’s crazy how they mix these people in!

Al Capone
Al Capone

If you’re looking for a wacky JRPG, this is way up your alley. And if you have any interest in history, this will be a massive cherry on top of this already delicious cake. Check it out!