Review by G3cko360

"The Simulated Suicide Solution"

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when I stepped into the ring with Persona 3, Atlus' latest addition to their fabled Shin Megami Tensei franchise, but in a market flooded with big-budget cookie-cutter RPG clones and Lord of the Rings wannabes, this low-budget anime-inspired powerhouse delivers on every level. From an intriguing cast and intense battles to macabre displays of simulated teen suicide and a story that you'll actually give a damn about, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a rare breed in the videogame market.

The game places you in the role of a transfer student to Gekkoukan High School in the Iwotodai district of Japan, an area plagued by creatures called shadows that feed off the minds and hearts of humans leaving them with a disorder known as Apathy Syndrome (victims more or less become zombies). Shadows only appear during the dark hour, the hidden hour that takes place at midnight during which normal humans are transformed into coffins and all machines stop working, and Tartarus, a seemingly endless tower filled with shadows, appears. Only a select few people are aware of the dark hour. These people have awakened to their "other selves," or personas and are the only ones capable of battling the shadows.

Combat in Persona 3 is fast and furious. Although the fighting system essentially boils down to the traditional turn-based fare that you'd find in any other Japanese RPG, the small details, like pulling out a gun (aptly named "The Evoker") and shooting yourself in the head, repeatedly, to summon your persona keeps things from getting stale. This never gets old, which is a good thing since you'll have to do a lot of level grinding if you expect to do much advancing. The game offers up between 60 and 80 hours of playtime and more than half of that is spent navigating Tartarus' many floors collecting items, leveling up, and strengthening the bonds between party members.

Great scripting and intuitive combat aside, one of Persona 3's biggest draws is it's ability to mix a darkly woven role-playing title with a social sim. You'll spend your days doing various tasks like studying, drinking pheremone coffee, and singing karaoke to raise your stats and make new friends. I know what you're thinking. "What the hell?" It all serves a purpose though. When you establish a relationship with certain characters in the game, a social link is created. The more time you spend with these characters, the stronger your social links become. The stronger your social links are, the more awesome your personas will be. You do the math.

In a genre overrun by poorly translated imports and fancy graphical presentations, it's nice to see a game like this. Easily one of the best Shin Megami Tensei titles, Persona 3 is a great game with plenty to offer for everyone (well, provided you're at least 17). Hell, it even comes with a hardbound art book and the game's soundtrack. The bottom line is this: if you love games then you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Besides, this is an Atlus title so if you don't pick it up now you'll be kicking yourself later on when it's nearly impossible to find.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/11/07

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

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