Review by Yamate
"Time to grab your 'Evoker' once again!"
August of 2007 was a very good month for the PS2. Why you ask? Another 'Shin Megami Tensei' game just landed on US shores. Now, a lot of people were very iffy about that release, but games of the same franchise like 'Nocturne' and the 'Digital Devil Saga' titles brought fresh RPG experiences and hope that the next game will deliver a new flavor. Then, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 hit the store shelves and gamers are taken aback by this new entry. What made the game so enjoyable to fans of the series are the many features that the game had to offer. A dark and engrossing storyline, a assorted cast of wonderful characters, a deep Social Link system, the traditional RPG turn-based battles, and the 'Persona' system. The game took many players by storm and garnered many awards by the media. Yes, that's how good the game was (with some flaws that don't really hurt the experience much). Players who have completed it achieved a sensed of accomplishment in ways that keep them coming back for more (some players even underwent multiple repeats). What the hardcore fans also knew from this game's release was that an expansion game for Persona 3 was already out in Japan back in April 19 of 2007. Now, a lot of people are upset at the fact that Japan got more of the experience than the people in the Americas. But, given the mass reception by the media, as well as the number of fan requests by the people, developer and publisher, Atlus , definitely took this to heart and decided to port the game. The news, however, was kind of a hush-hush situation with a couple of hints, but finally spread word of its release on April 22, 2007. Although, fans should've already seen this coming, anyway! It was on this day that the expansion arrives on US shelves in the form of Persona 3 FES. For those that do not know, FES' refers to the word festival' celebrating the fame and success of the original Persona 3. FES offers the original Persona 3 with a number of new gameplay features that really makes this more than a mere expansion. Just how good is this game and will it please the fans of the series? Well, isn't that why I wrote this review in the first place? Definitely! Well, without further ado, here's my take on this title.
As most of you already know, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES is a dungeon-crawling turn-based RPG by Atlus. The game is the supposed expansion' to the original Persona 3 released in 2007. Although, this is considered an expansion, a lot of content in this game makes this more than just an expansion in my view. How much more is packed into this game? Well, the original Persona 3 gave players a deep story, a deep customizable gameplay element, lots of Personas and Arcana, fun little dating sim quirks, and a likable cast of characters that seam well into the Shin Megami Tensei universe. FES gives more for the players with additional content. The original game now gets more Persona and Arcana, additional characters to interact with, and the option of changing your party's appearances in battle. But what's really snazzy is the additional storyline added to the game that follows up after the events of the main story, which reportedly adds another whopping thirty hours of playtime. And in that storyline, a new character joins the party for battle, and several new plots twists and turns takes players on a new ride within the Persona 3 universe. I'd say that's a big bang for just a $30.00 price tag (which is also a big deal for those new to the game).
As stated previously, the story of Persona 3 FES is split into two storylines. This time, players have the option of selecting either The Journey, which is the original Persona 3 that's enhanced with FES, and The Answer which is the follow of the original story. In The Journey you take the role of a cool-looking main character that you name yourself. This storyline takes place in Japan, of course, in which you move to Gekkoukan High School when you realize that strange things have been happening since your arrival into your new dormitory. You then join up with your fellow dormmates who also attend your school, and fend off against the shadows that lurk about in the city during the Dark Hour', an hour which rest between midnight and 1 am. Together with your allies, you'll discover the mystery of the Dark Hour as well as the destiny that is set before you. In The Answer, the story takes place after the events of The Journey. You take control of the female humanoid android named Aigis as you band with your former allies once again. Here, time has been looping, always remaining on March 31 and Aigis and her allies attempt to discover why that is. That's where she meets up with the enigmatic Metis, another female android like her, and also venture into the Abyss of Time to put an end to the endless loop that's present before them. It is in the Abyss that Aigis and her friends discover other things inside it's depths (first timers should play "The Journey" before tackling this story).
The Journey has players do two things: during the day, the hero interacts with every day life such as school and friends. But when midnight rolls around the corner, the Dark Hour appears and players will venture into the Tartarus, a massive tower with many floors. It's here where the dungeon-crawling and combat take place. The game progresses in days and split into different times of day: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. During those days, the hero will study at school to raise social status as well as making friends to boost the power of your Persona, buy items and equipment during the day, and visit many locales. Once the Dark Hour comes around, you and your comrades enter Tartarus, from where you will climb from floor to floor to do battle with the Shadows. After you've done some exploring, you get some rest, tomorrow arrives, and you start your day again. Repeat. You will also encounter the Velvet Room in certain areas. There, you will manage and fuse Personas together to form more powerful Persona (if you made a lot of social interaction, even better) as well as fuse weapons to create stronger ones (the weapon fusion is new to FES). The story progresses in specific events on the calendar, but you'll have plenty of time to do some interaction and level grinding. As this is a turn-based RPG, the battle controls are simple, but you only have control over the main character. Don't fret over that, as you will give Tactics' commands to your comrades. And as in any RPG game, there will be types and elements with strengths and weakness to tackle. However, striking criticals and weak points of enemies can topple them, allowing you or your allies to attack again in succession. Be careful, because the enemy can do the same. If all enemies are down, you and your friends can initiate an All-Out-Attack to assault all enemies and inflict heavy damage. Your Persona is what give you stat boosts and skills to dish out in battle, but you can only edit you own Persona. Your comrades' Persona become stronger as they level up and go through personal changes during the story, giving them a better edge to use alongside your own. You'll have a lot of customization for your Persona and your equipment to suit you strengths. The Answer is slightly different in that the Persona customization is limited somewhat, no more day-to-day activities (you are repeating the same day), and going into the Abyss of Time is like that of the Tartarus. Monsters there are also harder to tackle.
The world of Persona 3 gives off a mix of colorful Japanese locales and darkness of the aura that is the Dark Hour. The battle animations are impressive as always from the original Persona 3. Graphically,overall, it isn't as good, but it never really isn't a big issue as the story and gameplay drags the players into the game. The artwork presented is always wonderful to admire, with the characters changing their facial expressions, and the environments blend in to the typical flavor that is Shin Megami Tensei. Add to that the amazing anime sequences, and you've got a solid visual experience that everyone can be comfortable with.
This is a love or hate' category when it comes to this game. The music in the game presents a mix of techno, mood setters, and hip-hop tracks that flow with the theme of Persona 3. A lot of people were in disagreement over some themes, like the game's main battle theme. But the songs presented in this game never hurt the ears (some players have even grown into them). The sound effects blend into the many spells and effects during the battle, which is superb. The voice acting that brought life to the characters is also top-notch. Although, there are some voices I believe that don't really fit into the character, but that can be overlooked. All in all, the sounds are what should be expected from any Shin Megami Tensei title. In this sense, it's very favorable to the fans and to newcomers alike.
There are some issues (as with any game) that are sometime displeasing. The most obvious is the tedious task of going from floor to floor, which gets really repetitive to those with little patience. Also, powerful Persona cannot be acquired without initiating some higher-level social interaction, and voices in battle can sometimes grain on you. For those who cannot stand any of these gameplay problems should stay away from this one. However, renting this game to try it out won't hurt, either. Who knows, you might enjoy it despite the issues.
It's what all Shin Megami Tensei and Persona 3 fans have been waiting for and I mean that when I write this. You got a mix of everything players have enjoyed about the original Persona 3 and add a new level to it. Fans of Persona 3 should've already picked this one up. Newcomers will come to expect a very good story plot and great day-to-day elements. If there is any game that can keep the PS2 running in its final years, this would be one of them, I guarantee it!
(REVIEWER SCORE: 9/10)
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/08
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (US, 04/22/08)
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