Review by Drache the Dork

"Excellent, but not perfect."

Persona 3 is easily one of my favorite games.

First - the thing everyone wants to know - there is NO need for knowledge of previous games in the series (although there are cameos here and there).

Second, gameplay. It's nothing special. Turn-based battle system. Blah blah blah.

You have one dungeon in the whole game. It only appears between one day and the next – in an hour called the “Dark Hour”. During this hour, shadows (the things you have to beat up) come out, normal people turn to coffins (I'll get to that later), and Tartarus (home of the shadows) appears in the place of your school. When you're in this dungeon, there is no time limit to get out, so don't worry about that. While in Tartarus, your allies can explore the map (which is different each time). They can even get into battles without you.

Bad thing is, you don't control your allies during battles when you're with them. You can tell them to “heal/support” or something, and they'll do so, but they aren't always the smartest about how they do their given task. For example, my Yukari had some rather nice healing techs – one that healed the whole group for a decent amount of HP, and one that completely healed ONE ally. When I needed the whole team to be healed, it was always best to do it myself due to the fact she never would.

The only thing that “spices” things up a little (or makes the game easier, if you have the right ones) is your ability to change your “Persona” (and ONLY you – allies cannot change their Personas), the being which comes out of you. Each one has its own move set (they learn new skills by leveling up, actually, but they can't learn new things forever. You'll be able to tell when they can't learn anything else, as there won't be a skill and level to the right of the actual move set on the Persona's status screen), and Personas also determine your weaknesses/resistances when you have them on, so pay attention to what the enemies do. Speaking of enemies, Mitsuru (or later, Fuuka) will analyze them for you, usually telling you their weaknesses. Once you use an attack that the enemy is weak against, it'll fall over and you can attack again. It's recommended that you knock over as many as possible in order to execute an All Out Attack (basically, a more powerful attack that often kills many enemies when they're all down).

Sounds easy, right? Yes, very. If you thought I was going to say “wrong” in caps right next to that, then you were WRONG.

After a battle, enemies occasionally drop cards. They mix them up after letting you see them, and you have to pick the correct one. Sometimes you get yen, sometimes you get a chance to meet death (I never did, luckily), and sometimes you get new personas (among other things).

To go on about Personas, you can make new ones from very early in the game. Just fuse two (or three…and later, four, five, and six), and BAM, a new one. You shouldn't just randomly fuse everything though, because you may end up with something weaker than you had. If you want an old Persona for fusion purposes, you can buy it back from the compendium (which you get a bit later in the game). You can't just fuse them whenever you want though – you have to get to the proper level first. Once you get to the higher levels, you can have even Satan and Lucifer (not a joke) as a part of your collection.

Each Persona (and enemy, actually) is part of one of the 21 Arcana. In Persona 3, you have the ability to socialize with many types of people – each person representing different Arcana. If you get their Social Links up to level 10 (talk to them and make them happy until you can't make them any happier…), then you can create a new Persona in that Arcana. In addition to that, whenever you create a Persona of that person's Arcana, it'll gain experience and level up (the higher level the Social Link is, the more the experience you receive).

Social Links are actually rather interesting. They provide a bit of character development for some of the main characters (the females, actually), and gives a point to minor characters. The side stories told while you're increasing your Social Link levels range from somewhat interesting to downright creepy/wrong (just play the MMORPG as often as you're able and you'll see what I mean). It must also be noted that you may need a high amount of a stat (academics, charm, or courage) to meet/start talking with some people. For instance, you can't date Mitsuru (yes, you can date ladies in this game, but having more than one at once after you get “serious” will make one jealous) until you've maxed your academics (by eating the “Prodigy Platter”, studying at night, etc.), and gotten the top score on an exam (oh, and you have to wait until November – somewhat near the end of the game).

A necessity? No, but they're certainly very helpful to do.

Graphics are…well, not the best. If that's your thing, then you'll probably notice the jagged lines here and there… They're nice enough to get the “feel” of the game down though. You're in a school environment, and you have a few places you can visit (but you really can't explore the world, like most RPGs do. Your world is quite limited, actually).

Moving on, the voice acting is, for the most part, quite excellent. Many voices fit the characters very well, although I personally hated Fuuka's voice with a passion (and you have to deal with her during every battle after a certain point). Ken was also a bit irritating, but luckily, he was mostly quiet.

It took me a while to get used to the music, but I eventually loved it. I believe it does enhance the environment sometimes. I still believe the music could've been a bit better sometimes.

Plot time. You're an orphan. Your parents died ten years ago. Why? Who cares?

You play as…whatever you name your character. You don't (and won't, except at the very end) have a back-story to speak of (you actually rarely speak at all outside of battle). It can be up to your imagination if you MUST have one. Anyways, you're transferred to a new school, and you begin the game heading to the dorm you're going to stay in. Everything in the game is confusing at first. It even looks like people are committing suicide.

They're not.

When people point the gun-like things at their heads, they're only summoning their Persona. It doesn't hurt them at all. If the image of someone looking like they want to kill him/herself bugs you, then I suggest staying away from the game.

The game begins by you finding out that (after many other events) you have a Persona, and you end up summoning it to save some chick's life (someone who lives in the same dorm as you). She's a member of a group called SEES – a bunch of teenagers (who have Personas) who desire to get rid of the shadows. The members of SEES are the only ones who know what happens during the Dark Hour due to their Personas – everyone else is, as I stated much earlier, a coffin during that time. You end up joining them, and your mission to destroy the shadows begins.

It really isn't all so simple, however, and you'll have to see what I mean for yourself. There were a few predictable things, and some things that were not, as with all good RPGs. By the end, I was quite excited to see how it ended. I was playing so much that I got through three months in the game in three days (maxing out many Social Links on the way).

My only real problem with Persona 3 is that I couldn't have Social Links with the main guys (Akihiko, Junpei, Ken) and that some of them seemed to get extremely quick character development. Something (character development) was basically thrown in your face, then yanked away quickly and buried (don't mistake what I mean though – it's not ALL the time).

I highly recommend Persona 3. Don't miss out on it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/10/07

Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (US, 08/14/07)

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