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I’ll Burn my Dread and Then Face Myself It’s 12 o’clock midnight and it’s time to get wild. *Entering the Dark Hour* Not that wild, please no. *Survives the onslaught* Perhaps it’s best to never stay up past 12AM, unless you’re playing a game as good as Persona 3 perhaps, it’s your responsibility in the end, but be wary of those shadows, they will not hesitate to finish you off. Hey guys, I had many suggestions to play Persona 3 and after playing it for an entire month, I’ve seen it through to the end, so comes my review for it, I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing. Here's Yuriofwind's video review of it if you wanna see how the game works. Dreamless Dorm, Ticking Clock Persona games, at least the ones I played are fixated on this “Midnight” thing, Persona 3 more so than 4. The story of Persona 3 takes place in a small town in Japan and focuses on the Special Extracurricular Execution Squad. (SEES for short) They are high school students who live on the same dorm, all with the same special power Persona which I’ll elaborate on later, their goal is to restore peace to the world by defeating the evil creatures known as shadows. As the opening song states, this is indeed a dorm that rarely gets decent enough sleep. The only way to face the shadows is via the Dark Hour which takes place right when the clock hits 12AM, you know that time when people are usually asleep. The story takes place over little less than a year, the characters must defeat strong shadows every full moon so there’s a very important boss every month to advance the story. One of the many things that make Persona special is the character development, almost every character in the game is three dimensional and flawed, they may have special powers but they’re just high school kids, they get tired in battle, they face difficulties in real life tasks, but most importantly, they face themselves (No pun intended) Junpei is a video game nerd who could care less about his grades and finds his Persona ability to be the only important thing he’s proficient with, Ken is a 10 year old kid despite being mature about it, and Aigis is a bloody robot. Every character in the game have very clear and well thought out story arcs and the resolution for those story arcs not only change the character but also changing gameplay, as they literally unlock a new Persona better matching to their current state. (Except the OP as hell MC he has access to multiple Personas) Akihiko is my favorite character, I mean he’s just too badass besides developing a relationship with his old friend Shinji. But the story and plot are also interesting in their own right and have a lot of twists and turns like any good story has, the theme of the game is facing death, its inevitability and questioning life. The characters are very suited to the theme, as almost all of them have personal issues to deal with on top of being placed with the burden of saving the world. It’s a well written story filled with intriguing villains and grey morality. On par with that of Persona 4. The Arcana is The Means by Which All Is Revealed Persona 3 is a game that is very similar to Persona 4, or should I say the opposite, but it’s a very different game at the same time. A lot of the combat and gameplay aspects remain similar, there’s of course the Personas which are the series’ equivalent to Pokémon or Yu Gi Oh in a way, and they are spirits summoned from one’s heart into battle, each of them are related to the Tarot cards major arcana if you’re familiar with those cards. The game’s combat system is similar to that of a typical turn based JRPG, each party member takes turns followed by the enemy (Unless the enemy has higher speed) and the battle pretty much continues on until one of either party is dead. Don’t die though, just like in most JRPGs boy do you lose progress and you get to watch that lovely 5 minute boss intro scene which thankfully didn’t happen to me all that much as I almost never died against the major story bosses, only once during the Wheel of Fortune/Strength boss. The tower bosses are a different case, we’ll talk about those in a while. The only thing that makes combat in Persona different than other JRPGs are, well, Personas. These Personas each have different traits to them, different skills, strengths and weaknesses. And really one of the most fun parts of the game is Persona Fusion, fusion does what the name suggests, it literally fuses all different Personas you have to give you a single Persona that’s usually stronger depending on your fusion choice. Near the beginning, you get to fuse two or three Personas in a single fusion operation, and later on, you’ll be able to fuse even more than that. The cascade of synergy is the most exciting part of the game’s combat, managing a team of Personas on top of managing party members in battle adds flavor to the game. A Different Twin But what makes it very different to Persona 4? Well, it’s two major things among others, two of my biggest problems with this otherwise fantastic game. First of all, Tartarus. The game has only a single dungeon if you don’t count the very short pre major boss areas in which you mostly don’t do much, and that dungeon is Tartarus, a 264 floor tower that’s procedurally generated, just like Persona 4’s much more diverse procedural dungeons. You can progress in it a specific amount of stairs in each block, you’ll be able to explore it further every months, as blockades will disappear and allow you to progress further. And every now and then, you’ll reach a non-randomly generated floor that has a boss in it. Tartarus is a very boring dungeon, it’s visually repetitive, it’s repetitive in its exploration and it’s just tedious. Persona 4 was able to hide it’s repetition under the mask of its diverse settings in those dungeons and the reason why you pretty much rarely feel the dungeons in Persona 4 is that they are on average 10 floors long, not 264. Alright, every block in Tartarus has vastly different aesthetics and slightly different music, but they’re mostly pretty boring in my opinion, the game’s combat system and trying out different Personas/Party members make it not as painful as it sounds but when your core central part of the plot, this insane tower that’s a labyrinth of death is really just a 264 floors with variation in about every 40 or so of them. That’s never a good thing to have in your game. I have to at least commend the developers for trying to be different, but you can do better than that, even if you wanna be different. It doesn’t help that the tower bosses are usually cheap and uncreative, there are a lot of bosses in Tartarus that will just make you wanna throw the controller across your room, and others that are pathetically easy. The cheap ones have incredibly unpredictable attacks that stomp your party, sometimes in one hit if they’re weak to the ailment or are under leveled. If it weren’t for Akihiko and his debuffs, the battles would’ve been other levels of ridiculous, a couple of the bosses are just a case of having a good team and good Personas, but some have insane difficulty curves like the Sleeping Table which is a higher level boss than the ones after it in the freaking next block. But really the biggest problem I have with this game and the other major difference from its sequel is the fact that party members cannot be manually controlled, and the AI is so stupid, the only way to make them semi-reliable is going to the tactics menu every now and then and order them to change their behavior, but that’s not nearly as efficient as controlling them yourself like you can in Persona 4. There were a lot of times when I lost a battle just because of a party member’s dumb actions like waking a downed enemy up that I was setting up for an all-out attack, and there were a lot of cases where I would’ve loved if they could’ve used items from my inventory but guess what? They can’t, they only use items through their stupid infinite magical supply inventory that only has two or four crappy items. And there are times when I wanted them to use a different buff, having Akihiko only debuff an enemy on Heal/Support instead of healing an ally that barely took any damage. The final boss in the game was very good and very symbolic but it would’ve been much easier if I could’ve controlled party members instead of rotating the wheel every turn for different tactics that aren’t as reliable as manual control. There are other smaller differences like the stamina system, fight too many battles and you’ll eventually be too tired and suffer penalties, and eventually have to head back home. At first I thought it was a cool system because it brought a sense of urgency and gave a makes players choose their battles wisely, grind too much, and you’ll be too exhausted to keep fighting. But since the game required too much grinding, I just disliked it later on. The overall UI and Menus are much harder to navigate, it’s tedious having to talk to each specific character in order to change their inventory, in Persona 4 there’s one menu that has all of those options, but it’s a slow and tedious process in this game. In terms of technical differences there aren’t that much, the game uses the same engine as Persona 4 so nothing notable in terms of graphical, animation quality and sound differences. One major difference to the visuals is the 2D portraits, every different expression isn’t just a different facial expression but the whole body stance changes, dunno why they left that out in P4, too much work and drawing, I guess? The voice actors are just as excellent as they were before and the soundtrack is great, albeit less memorable than Persona 4’s. The game’s flaws frustrated me a bit, mostly the AI one with Tartarus as a close second, but the other parts of this game are its saving grace. Meaningful Choice This is one of the terms that game designers love to use, immersion is a word that both gamers and game designers love using but meaningful choice helps with that, greatly. Getting immersed in the game is greatly amplified if the game offers meaningful choice. If you’ve studied game design, or you like watching Extra Credits or read some of Gamasutra’s articles, then you’re probably familiar with the term. If you aren’t, I’ll quickly elaborate since I didn’t in my Persona 4 review. Meaningful choice is when a game gives you different choices that have unequal outcomes, those choices can be either gameplay related or story related, or even both. But they must have different results, one could be good or bad, good and better, bad or worse. These meaningful choices help immerse the player in the game’s world and sometimes the Illusion of Choice can be used instead in different games which isn’t as great but also effective. The Persona series has meaningful choice built onto its core, every day you can do a single activity, you can’t possibly do all since it’ll be late and you have to sleep, everyone has to sleep eventually. But what you do with your time is your choice and yours alone, whether you’re developing your social stats or hanging out with your friends is your decision, and you can’t hang out with all of your friends, only with one at a time. This game introduced the social link system that has become prominent throughout the series, and those different social links and different friends you get to hang out with will make certain arcanas stronger for you, making fusion offer more experience points and overall better results with more skills and such since they’ll level up further. A strength and an admirable quality in the Persona series, here it’s slightly weaker than in Persona 4 since you only have 3 social skills as opposed to 6 which means if you’re playing like me you’ll probably max them all out less than halfway through, which means you gotta rely on hanging out with your friends as your sole time killer and they’re not always there, and there are less of them than in P4. But otherwise, it’s an amazing part of the series, very amazing and I always look forward to see the results and fruit of my work. As a player, it empowers me emotionally, immersing me further into the world and making me care more about its characters. As a designer, it inspires me. I think it’s very clear to see that the strongest component of the series is still very much alive in this game, what’s the final verdict? Final Verdict: Persona 3 is an epic video game. It has its fair share of flaws and I wish I played it before Persona 4, or hell I wish I played Persona 3 Portable which had party control. But still, this game laid the foundation when Persona 4 polished it greatly, and there are a lot of suggestions I have for Persona 5 that can make it the perfect Persona game, and I’m pretty sure many others have such suggestions. But I digress, Persona 3 is a very good game and its final chapter was definitely better than Persona 4, while I still think Persona 4 is the overall better game, I still can find lots to appreciate here. Despite Tartarus and Lack of AI control, I’m still gonna give it a better verdict than you may have expected, a nine. The good outweighed the bad for me. Especially after how masterful some of its moments were. Final Score: 9/10 Excellent If you're interested, my Persona 4 review is here. The next game may be Okami, I still haven't beaten Dragon Age Inquisition and don't have the patience to restart it, I lost my save. But yeah, there's a good chance that I'll play Okami soon. And I have not played the extra chapter that came with the FES version of Persona 3, I may play that but I need a break from it. And yeah, new review style, even though I've been writing reviews as an on and off hobby since early 2011 I'm still up for making changes. Thank you for reading, feel free to post your thoughts on Persona 3 and tell me which one you like better, Persona 3 or 4? And why?