"This is how RPGs should be made"

I came into this game not expecting much of anything, and boy was I surprised when I finally popped the game into my Playstation 2. Persona 3 is the near-perfect definition of an RPG, it does many things right and very little wrong. This might be game of the year, people.

Plot: 9/10
Every night there is a hidden hour called "The Dark Hour" between 12:00 and 12:01 AM. At this time, many people without special abilities become coffins, and the world mutates and changes into a very dark and sinister place. Those who do not become coffins usually have the ability to summon a spirit know as a Persona, which can be used in combat to use magic and amplify other such skills. The game revolves around a group of high school students and their Persona as they try to find out the mystery of The Dark Hour and Tartarus, a 263 floor tower which serves as the main dungeon of the game.

Gameplay: 10/10
Persona 3 is split into 2 main gameplay segments. It's half dungeon crawler, half dating-sim. During the day, you build relationships with other students by going to the mall with them, going to the movies, playing MMORPGs with them, and so on. By building these relationships you unlock Social Links which improve the stats of your fused Persona later in the game. Also during the day, you can raise some of your characters stats such as Courage, Academics, and Charisma, which have minor effects on your overall game such as which Social Links you have access to. The other half of the game occurs on either the days there are a full moon or the days you decide to go to Tartarus. The game randomly generates a floor with monsters and items and all of your other RPG goodies and basically sends you on your way. There is only one dungeon in the game, but it is so huge and varied and such a blast to go through you really don't even notice. Of course, the game doesn't let you go through the whole dungeon right from the start of the game, it breaks it up into segments and eventually by the end you are expected to be able to clear all 263 floors. Don't fear however, you have about 8 in-game months to do so. The battle system is fantastic as well, and very easy to get the hang of. Experimenting with different Persona fusions is also quite deep and should keep you entertained for the entire game.

Graphics: 8/10
This game doesn't really try to be beautiful, but it isn't ugly either. The character designs are pretty cool and the monsters are unique, although quite a few are re-used from previous Shin Megami Tensei games. The environments are varied enough to not be bland and the spell effects are pretty cool looking. Not the games strongest point, but it makes up for it in just about every other department.

Sound: 9/10
The soundtrack in Persona 3 is fantastic. The battle music is awesome, which is a good thing, since you will be in battle quite a lot. The music that plays as you explore town and the school is catchy and will likely get stuck in your head whether you like it or not. The voices fit each character quite well, but some are simply annoying to listen to, such as Fuuka and Aegis. It's quite easy to look past these faults, however.

Control: 10/10
You shouldn't have a problem controlling the game at all. The tutorials explain everything to you very easily and nothing feels too complex to handle. X selects things, the analog moves your character. That's pretty much all you need to know to get started, you'll pick up things along the first hour or so and be a master in no time.

Other Things to Note:
This game is long. Very long. Sixty hours and over long. And then, when you are done playing, you'll probably want to play through at least one more time on New Game + with your completed Social Link items and your Hero's LVL ported over to unlock what you missed last time, and possibly make the Persona's you didn't have the chance to make last time. Maybe you'll even up the difficulty a bit, if you played on Easy the first time, which you may have ended up doing since the game can be pretty difficult. Imagine going through 10 floors of Tartarus and encountering an enemy which has an instant death spell. He gets the first turn because he back-attacked you and casts it on the hero. It connects, and the hero dies. Game over, hope you saved. It's not going to baby you at all, but if you can look past the difficulty that presents itself around 10 hours in, it's a fantastic experience. This game is a definite buy, and if you plan to buy it, you'd better do it soon. This is a Shin Megami Tensei game after all, and they tend to dissapear like cake at a fat camp.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 09/17/07

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

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