Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 was one game that took me a very long time to get into. When I initially tried it, I was almost immediately turned off by how different it was. It wasn’t until much later that I decided to give it another chance and try to get used to the differences. I did, and today, Persona 3 is my third all-time favorite RPG.
In fact, I already wrote a lengthy review of this game. So, go ahead and check that out if you’d like. Or, you can continue reading this post, which will basically be a summary of said review.
Persona 3 takes place in the real world. You’re a high school student, and you’ve recently moved into a new town. Shortly after arriving, you are awoken from sleep one night when a monster appears on the dorm’s rooftop. The monster is soon revealed to be a “shadow” – a mysterious creature that only appears during the Dark Hour. The Dark Hour is a “hidden 25th hour” than only a certain few people can experience. In addition to the shadows that appear, the world itself has an eerie green glow to it during this hour. On top of that, the nearby school transforms into a gigantic tower that reaches toward the heavens, known as Tartarus. You and your friends decide that the answers behind the meaning of the shadows, and the Dark Hour must be hidden inside Tartarus. Through the course of a story that spans across several months, your team periodically enters the elusive tower to unlock the meaning behind these mysteries.
Instead of a fantasy world with castles, hills, dungeons, and mountains, Persona 3 strays from the traditional RPG format and does things its own way. There’s only one “dungeon” in the game: Tartarus. In between your numerous trips to the massive tower, you live the life of a normal high school student. When you’re not battling demons during the Dark Hour, you’re at school answering questions, participating in club activities, or hanging out with friends. During your free time, you get to decide what to do. You can hang out at the local arcade, watch a movie, study in the library, attend the music club, grab a bowl of noodles, and much much more. The decisions you make all indirectly affect your performance in battle.
As you talk to certain people, you will develop “Social Links.” Each person has their own corresponding Social Link which levels up as your friendship with that person improves. In conversations, you are very often prompted to choose your responses, which can affect your relationship with the person you are talking to. Your Social Links all affect one thing: your Personas. In battle, your “magical” abilities are all brought to you by your Personas. These mythical beasts appear to aid you in battle by casting magic spells in addition to other abilities that will make short work of your enemies. In Persona 3, you’re given a great deal of customization, and you can even create your own Personas. The initial strength of the Personas you create is largely dependent on how well developed your Social Links are, so it’s important to keep them maintained.
Persona 3 is quite simply one of the most difficult games I have ever played. This game does not forgive your screw-ups. If you’re not properly prepared for battle, get ready to be demolished. While you do have allies in battle, you don’t have direct control of their actions, and they don’t always do what you want. If your character falls in battle, the game is over – even if your allies are still alive and well. It’s extremely frustrating at times, but this game is a perfect example of where frustration can be fun. There’s nothing better than the feeling you get after beating an insanely difficult boss, and you’ll get that feeling quite a bit while playing this game.
The Shin Megami Tensei game series always likes to be different, and Persona 3 is no exception. If you’re new to the series, I would recommend picking up either this game or its successor, Persona 4 (which I also reviewed). Persona 3 may take quite a bit of getting used to, but once you get the hang of things, it becomes an addiction. And it’s one addiction I don’t regret ever having gotten myself into.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is available for the Sony PlayStation 2.