Yep, I have spent a good number of hours into Persona 3 and am now ready to do my review on this series. Questions that must be asked by myself are “Was it a good investment of my time?”, “Was it worth the stress hunting for it”, “Does it keep the standard I got from Persona 4?”, well fret not, I shall answer these in good time.
[Images should be coming soon]
First up, the characters are all pretty diverse. Most of them are high school students who enter S.E.E.S at different times during the year in a big to fight the shadows that plague the world. Most of the characters do have a link to the creation of the ‘Dark Hour’ that occurs every night, which shows that they are not just a bunch of random characters who decide to stop a mystery, but are there is fix the deeds of their parents ten years ago. Later on, they are joined by a dog, elementary school boy (Who weilds most probably the biggest weapon out of them all) and a robot who plays a major role in the storyline. Whilst there is a variance in screentime for some characters, each of them have enough storyline to hold their worth as being main characters in the series.
Of course, social links are also in this version and still contain interesting personalities such as an old couple who have a link with a tree within the school, the normal student club friends who you are almost forced to be friends with alongside several others. They are all pretty diverse and you go into their own stories quite a bit such as how the treasurer of the student council is claimed to have stolen money or how Tanaka, a businessman you may have seen in Persona 4, is trying to give business advice to the main character.
Unfortunately, most of S.E.E.S you cannot make social links with, so you only can make them with the females. This was disappointing as it would have been nice to see the backstory of the other characters. The males get left out of both versions and Aigis doesn’t get a link in the original version. You can of course date most of the female students in your grade which adds a decent level of jealousy if you start two-timing them.
Oh, and the protagonist is completely silent as with all Persona games.
“Terrible creatures lurk in the dark, preying on those who wander into the hidden hour that lies between one day and the next. As a member of a secret school club, you must wield your innter power, Persona, and protect humanity from impending doom. Will you live to see the light of day?
The main character enters Port Island when the clock strikes midnight, everything suddenly stops working and the street is covered by coffins and blood. Ignoring them he makes his way to the dorm. When entering he comes across a strange boy who makes him sign a contract. Three days later, Igor wakes him to the fact that he can summon a Persona and he uses that power to protect humanity from the shadows that plague a hidden hour.
It is an interesting storyline which is more prevalent in P3 than P4 and I would have to say is much better than the murder mystery delivered by P4. That being said, it is much more darker and serious than the semi-upbeat nature of Persona 4. The only problem is that there can be large gaps with no storyline however this is remedied with several random events mid-month such as new characters joining you or an event happening during school. Overall, not bad through, especially in the October – January months.
To be honest, these aren’ t anywhere near the best the PS2 can offer, however they are more than suitable for a game of this genre and any better and I don’t think they would have given the same feeling if they were too high quality.Playing P3 before P4 or vice versa will no doubt leaving you noticing a few similarities between character designs (At least in my opinion) however besides that, not much complaint about the designs. A lot of the dialogue is done in normal visual novel style with characters faces appearing over the screen with dialogue at the bottom. The face art is pretty good but I must admit, it doesn’t differ that much throughout the series like Persona 4 does.
Environment is pretty good as well, the environment looks like it comes out of a modern Japanese city with the Japanese looking shrine, the detail on the stations being decent and the school being designed gigantically. However I must say, I was pretty disappointed with the Tartarus designs, I must admit it was a randomly generated dungeon, but it would have been nice to see more than a handful of designs of them, especially the gold one which hurt my eyes after a long period of time.
All the tracks were composed by Shoji Meguro who has fast rised to being one of my favourite game music composers. I really enjoyed his musical tracks here, especially songs like Burn My Dread, Mass Destruction and Changing Seasons, all of which I think are better than their P4 counterparts. Overall there is about 60+ songs comprised in the game and they are all shown enough so you don’t get sick of them. If you have the soundtrack, you may be stuck listening to the music time and time again! The music ranges from J-Pop to J-Rap however most of the songs are sung in English, which is good for the people who dislike Japanese lyrics in English translated games. Singers include Lotus Juice and Yumi Kawamura.
Vocals in this game are lacking. Except for a few random occasions, you don’t hear S.E.E.S members speak outside of storyline scenarios and the vocals of all social links bar S.E.E.S members and one (Who is under another identity until you hit Social Link 10) are non-existant, therefore you never get to know what they sound like, even at the end of the game, which is a real shame.
The gameplay is honestly very fun! The game is split up into four different areas which I shall review seperately.
The main component of the game is crawling through a 250+ tower that forms during the dark hour every single night during the dark hour. Your main objective is to work your way up to the top of the tower over the year, whilst beating mini and mega bosses throughout the tower, each at seperate intervals. Of course, you have two kinds of deferrences throughout the year to prevent you reaching the top of the tower. The first deferrence is that every 30 or so levels you are barred from going any further until a certain date after the full moon. The second is that your characters can only do so many battles until they end up tired, of course, this increases during the year.
The bosses are actually pretty hard if you don’t go in with a plan and you may be forced to level a few levels to earn a certain persona which gives you a better chance of winning. The battle system is also pretty good and whilst it may take some time to adapt to the battle system having images instead of words telling you what each means, if you get over that it is a pretty solid battle system. Annoyingly, you only have control over your main character whilst the others are run by a decent AI system, which you can manipulate later on in the year with commands such as “Knock Down” or “Conserve SP”. Battles have enough challenge so you are not bored to tears with them.
As well, every month on the full moon, a main boss battle occurs, usually with a boss under one of the tarot cards. These are much harder and often have storyline behind them. They are also the only time you will be made to battle outside of Tartarus in areas such as the mall, the stations or even a love hotel which makes its appearance as well in Persona 4.
An important factor in winning battles is through the social link feature. You have one character assigned for each of the major tarot cards and the more you talk with that person and give the best responses to them, you gain a social level which allows an EXP boost for every Persona you make under that card. With that however is a stat system which has 9 characters locked from you until you reach the appropriate stats in ‘Courage’, ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Charm’. You can level these up during the day and at night time through either free or costly activities such as movies and kareoke. The social links will not keep you bored and it is highly unlikely you will get through them all in the first playthrough unless you are very stict with how you play the game, which is boring for a first time player.
The pokemon factor of the Persona series. If you so wish you can earn all the personas through either Arcana Chance after random battles or by merging two or more personas together to produce another one through Igor. Each of these personas have different resistances, weaknesses and skills, thus the reason why the main character, holding the wild card tarot “The Fool”, can hold up to 12 of them. You will inevitably have to use a number of personas throughout the series as all of them only have effectiveness up to a certain level.
On that note, the main character is the only person who can use multiple personas.
Since all the characters are of school age, you are required to send your character to school everyday, and then if you wish to, send him to different clubs, library or other school facilities. The first thing you will notice is that on random days you will be in the classroom and forced to answer a question, if you answer correctly either your knowledge or charm will rise. At the end and middle of each semester, you have to sit an exam, which a high score on will allow a further charm boost and popularity with all your school-based social links. As well, you have four clubs to join, the student council which you are forced to join, the sport club (either swimming, kendo or athletics), a cultural club (either music, art or photography) and to form a certain social link, a fashion club. These all have social links involved and you should try to get at least one or two of them completed.
This really depends on the person. If you have a desire to collect more personas, max social links, collect all the items, play with more characters or anything else as such, then you will definitely find yourself replaying this game again. If you however have no interest in these things and just played the game to get from beginning to end, then it might be hard to justify replaying the game. However I hope you are the person who wants to try everything in the game as there is a lot to replay for, especially with a lot of things carrying over into a new game. If you are playing FES, it might also be a justifiable reason to play the HARD mode if you were only on normal or easy.
What can I say? I have personally enjoyed both Persona 3 and Persona 4 and they are definitely games that shall shine in my collection for a long time to come!
Personal Opinion: 14/15
[review pros="The game is a masterpiece that should be in anyones collection." cons="I suppose this is not the game for you if you loathe dungeon crawlers." score=87]