Review by Menji
"The hopeless dream of being - not seeming, but being"
After a long day at school, you return home excited to wind down and play a game. Little did you know you would be going right back to school! Persona 3 FES takes a fresh approach to the standard RPG game. You are an orphaned boy who has just transferred to Gekkoukan High. A couple of crazy things happen on your first day there and you discover your persona has awakened. Naturally, you're just as scared as your were when puberty first hit and you don't know what to do now. Fortunately, you happen to live in a dorm where this has happened to everyone else.
You see, every night at the stroke of midnight the world is covered a green fog. They call this the Dark Hour. Everyone in the world disappears except for your group of course. Your group is a Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES). Their purpose is to hunt down monsters called shadows. They've been appearing during the full moon and it is your duty to hunt out and destroy these shadows before they can harm anybody. But that isn't the only thing different during the Dark Hour. Your school has been transformed into an enormous tower filled with hundreds of floors known as Tartarus. No one knows what is at the top but you have a natural curiosity to find out and destroy all the shadows on the way up.
Unlike most RPGs, the game of Persona is structured for you. You follow the days of the year and once you get to the last day (don't worry I won't tell when that is) it's over. Don't let that scare you away from the game though. It is well over 70 hours and then at least 20 more for The Answer which is one of the new features in the FES edition. Each day has its own advantages. You will go to school Monday through Saturday and attend class. There is free time after school, the evenings and Sunday for you to explore the city and improve your social links.
Social links are one of the major things in the game. There around twenty of them for you to seek out. Each one applies to different arcanas like Death, Lovers, Sun, and Moon. Improving these social links gives you bonuses for creating new Personas. Going about improving them is somewhat challenging but fairly straightforward. During your free time after school or during the evening you can visit classmates, join a club, or befriend an old man to establish connections and improve the relationship. Hanging out with each link will improve the level, while neglecting them or dating more than one girl at time will have negative affects on the link. It may sound complicated and annoying if you've ever played The Sims but it is easy to figure out keep in order.
However, here lies my first problem with the game. Certain characters are only available during certain days, namely Sunday. That also happens to be the only day people will call you up in order hang out. So while you may decline their request which could result in a reverse social link you are going to miss out. Halfway through the game, your evenings become so free that they are extremely wasteful. This open time would be perfect for your overcrowded Sundays.
The characters are all unique, maybe a little too much. They are all on complete ends of the personality spectrum. But this makes it easier to relate to one of them and differentiate between them all. The game world is disappointingly small. You are confined to one city with six locations. You spend just about all of your time in only three of them. And for whatever reason only two of them are open at night. There is a mall for improving your attributes and purchasing items. Naturally, the school is a place where you spend a lot of time and lastly your dorm. The other three locations are almost completely pointless. They are fun to explore once but after that they only serve as a location to meet up with friends. Even your dorm is wasted. There are floors for the guys and gals but each character's room serves no purpose. There isn't even anything exciting in your room except for a TV and computer.
The graphics and music are unique. Everything is straight out of a Japanese anime which allows for colorful scenery. There are also animated FMVs throughout the game. The music is a mix of Japanese pop-rap and it is incredibly catchy.
Persona 3 is very exciting at first. It does get repetitive halfway through the game. You will fall into some pattern where you will go to school, establish social links, and fight in Tartarus for the whole month and then a bit of the storyline will occur and get you excited again. If you can get past that, you'll love it. And even if you struggle, you will witness certain things that will get you hooked again.
I would recommend this game to any RPG fan that is looking for something different. This is the version to get because it gives you an extra segment and apparently extended storylines on social links. There is plenty of replay value with the option for a New Game+ so be sure to check it out!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/10
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (US, 04/22/08)
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