Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

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Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series have always been a fan favorite, dealing with themes of the occult, witchcraft, and demons while thrusting players into gameplay that’s likely too hard and abnormal for their own good. The third installment of the Persona series is no different; it offers all the intense departures of Shin Megami games in a sleek-looking package with high production value.

Persona 3 takes place in modern day Japan, where the main character of the story arrives as a newly transferred exchange student. As he arrives at the dorms, he meets a handful of bizarre incidents and individuals that I don’t want to spoil them for you. A few days into his transfer, our hero is woken up in the middle of the night by a ruckus caused by unknown assailants on the dorm, which turn out to be evil creatures spawned by the darkness, called Shadows. At this, he somehow conjures up the ability to summon powerful demons called Personae to do his bidding and annihilates the entire legion of creatures. With this ability in hand, the hero joins a special organization called SEEDS that has a major goal in annihilating these bizarre creatures while exploring the Tartarus, the place in which they spawn.

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Persona 3 shares some similarities with other games in the genre. The game’s only dungeon is the Tartarus, which holds over 250 floors for the player to explore. Most of the floors in this dungeon are randomized, with the few that are not reserved for mini bosses, as well as serving as ‘check points’ for the player to return to later, as parts of the dungeon only become available after certain points in the game. During battle, the player is only allowed to take control of the main character only. Every other character in the party will act of their own accord, only changing their tactics in accordance with the orders that the player gives them.

However, the aspect in which Persona 3 mostly differentiates itself from the rest is its status and customization systems. Aside from the hero, each character in the party has a Persona unique to him or her that remains mostly static throughout the entire game, giving them each an individual strength and weakness. The game gives the main character the use of multiple Personae. Each Persona gives specific strengths, weaknesses, skillsets, and stats, so it pays off to have a large collection of different Persona available for use. Certain Persona, when available for use to the player at the same time, can create ‘Mix Raid’ attacks that create absurdly powerful abilities that are immensely useful in battle. New Persona can be obtained by defeating enemies in Tartarus, but the number of Persona available in the dungeon are so few and so weak that it’s really not worth the trouble to use them; instead, most new Persona the player will be using will be gained from Persona fusion, another deep aspect of the game that the player will either like very much or hate very much. 

Half of the enjoyment present in Persona 3 is the life simulation aspect. When not fighting the forces of darkness, each character in the party is just like any other high school student, they have to go to school, participate in after school activities, do homework, take tests, hang out with friends, and go to the bathroom. The life-sim aspect is not just for looks, though. The way in which the main character interacts with other characters in the game can affect Persona growth enormously. First of all is the attribute system, which is composed of Courage, Charm, and Academics. And secondly, the Social-Link system that is directly linked to the Persona fusion system. Thus, it is extremely important that the main character spends some time doing activities, studying, and participating in social events because doing so will enhance his efforts in the upcoming battles.

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The game’s story is well written and excellently localized, just like most Atlus’ other offerings. Each of the many characters in the game has a unique feel and personality to him or her, unveiled slowly as the game progresses. In addition, the Japanese school environment is excellently reproduced in English without losing any of the uniqueness that the special setting offers. The English localization is beyond excellent and fans of dubbed anime will be please to hear some of their favorite voice actors and actresses. The music is a bizarre mix of rap and normal composition of pop. Most of the tunes are well composed, and fit the game’s life simulation aspect rather well, including the awesome beat of the battle theme. 

The graphics in the game are rendered in full 3D, and while not totally remarkable, they are quite good and properly do what they’re meant to do. The artistic style for the game is unique and fresh without being completely new. You will notice that from the first moment you start the game. Persona 3 is quite long. It can easily poll over 50 hours to play through main story, and engaging in the optional tasks and dungeon will likely increase playtime by up to 30 hours; this game offers you more than enough gameplay for your $50. The game however isn’t overly difficult nor it is an easy sailing; it’s difficultly relays on how well your characters are customized and the personae that you possess.

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Persona 3 is not for everyone. It has many different unique gameplay features and a daunting Persona creation system that some may find unsavory. However, for those willing to try something new and different, Persona 3 is an incredibly entertaining and enjoyable game. Its setting, gameplay style, story and characters, and visual and aural characteristics all combine to create one of the best RPGs I’ve played on the PS2.

Overall Score

9.0 out of 10

 

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7 responses to this post.

  1. I wish I had the time to play these types of games like used to, but I really don’t have the time anymore!

    Reply

  2. looks like a neat game. but as the commenter before me stated: I don’t have any time for these games anymore v____v it’s a shame. lefunfunfun. v_v

    Reply

  3. @Marzouq

    Well if you give some of your time to videogame than watching anime it won’t be a problem LOL.

    Actually, playing this game in particular is like watching an anime since it is loaded with anime cut-scenes 🙂

    @G.

    I understand. RPG games usually require some commitment but try to play them step by step…say one or two hours per day or maybe on weekends.

    Reply

  4. […] and customs. If you missed the original Persona 3, don’t dare to miss this one. Click HERE to read my extensive review of the original game. The game is sold for a budget price of […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by K.T.I on June 5, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    no le entiendo a este juego!

    Reply

  6. Posted by K.T.I on June 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    jajaja

    Reply

  7. Posted by gdgdf on June 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    jajaja!!

    Reply

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