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JRPG’s have never been “my thing.” It’s not that I don’t have time for them, I do, they all just felt too tedious and cliché’d. The first JRPG I enjoyed was Persona 4, one of my most favorite games of all time. I then moved to Persona 3 FES on PS2, made it around half-way through, and quit. The game was good but there had been many small enhancements that had been made from 3-4 that made playing Persona 3 a bit of a nuisance at times. In Persona 3 PSP, it’s very obvious their goal was to bring Persona 3 to your handheld device while equipping it with all the excellent features Persona 4 had. They did just that.
In the Persona series for the PS2, you’ve always been able to see moving cutscenes but in Persona 3 PSP, they had to eliminate that. Now all you see is a few images while the story progresses and you hear the normal voice-over. They did the same in the actual gameplay (outside of the fighting areas) where you no longer follow your character from behind, moving about the world, but now move around with a circle on-screen. This new system manages to be competent enough to where you’re never too frustrated that you can’t see what’s exactly happening. The new movement makes browsing around a large room much easier but it can get very awkward at points during story scenes where you hear the noise of an incident, but nothing is really happening on-screen.
Another addition from Persona 3 to Persona 3 PSP is a lot of new items. Items normally aren’t anything to brag about but these new ones can at times have a large outcome on a battle. There are multiple items that are very vague in the description such as “May heal entire party but…” I never found myself using these in a boss battle or anything but they’re really fun to mess around with in smaller battles.
Persona 3 PSP features tons of new additions, none of which, except the addition of playing as a girl, are bigger and more important than the menu changes. Persona 3 PS2’s menu’s were horrid, incredibly slow, and tedious to slog through but in Persona 3 PSP, they’ve updated them similar to the look and feel of Persona 4’s menus. You have to constantly check into menu’s to see other party member’s statuses, your persona’s, read Documents you pick up, etc. and the fact they’ve streamlined the menu’s to feel like the game was designed in 2010, makes it all the more fun to play.
The Persona series has been famous for its social link system. Where, after school, you can choose a certain person to spend time with and overtime, you’ll forge a bond with that person; learning more about their family and about them. Upon gaining new social link ranks, you’ll then earn more EXP when fusing Persona’s. In the earlier Persona games, forging these bonds has been quite difficult and time consuming but in Persona 3 PSP, it felt much easier and faster. Which I appreciate immensely as it eliminates the annoying and tedious grind that ensued once you would get in higher levels.
The aforementioned “fusing” is one of the more confusing things about Persona games. You enter a place called “the velvet room” and proceed to combine current personas (which you summon in battle to fight for you) that you own to form stronger personas. And as they gain EXP, they acquire new spells. Throughout all of my Persona playing, I have never fully figured out fusing. I don’t understand how fusing a level 40 and a level 41 can produce a level 39. Other than those problems, which don’t occur too frequently, fusing is all but unchanged from the previous games. You still watch persona’s level up while Igor talks to you in a mildly creepy, mildly pedophiliac way.
There are many things in Persona that you can always count on to be great, one thing being the characters. Persona 3 is chock-full of great, energetic, and compelling characters that get you hooked from the moment you meet them. They all have a certain spark to them that makes you want to hang out with them in real life. Maybe it’s the realistic writing, blending actual school life with the way teenagers really talk. Persona never gets into the stereotypical kid saying “Garsh darn, I missed baseball practice. My momma’s gonna hurt me!” they treat teenagers exactly the way they should be. With a certain amount of respect but also showing that they know not every teen is a mature and smart person, though many are. Persona addresses that by having the kids occasionally be respectful to teachers but around friends, getting a little out-of-control and immature but not to the point of being offensive and annoying.
Another always great thing is the story. In Persona 3 you play as a teen on a mission to eliminate 12 large enemies called “The Lost” who are terrorizing the city by attacking and killing people at a certain time at night, called the “Dark Hour.” But those Lost only come around to fight you every full moon so you then have to train in a large tower, called Tarturus, until the full moon comes around.
The story really is remarkable. With the amount of ridiculous things happening in it, I fully expected more than a few things to go unexplained; I was wrong. They explain everything down to the tee, while still having it all make sense in its odd little “Persona” way. Persona 3 is filled with twists and turns and times when you feel like you’re about to break out into tears. You fall in love with the main characters so quickly that once anything bad happens to them, even if it’s a slight thing, it hurts you. Throughout the 40-60 hours you’ll spend with Persona 3, there’s never a second where the story is dull or uninteresting.
The developers do an excellent job in hiding the fact that you’re actually just grinding out levels in Tarturus by constantly supplying you with new items and personas. The combat itself is nothing new, apart from the excellent new items, it’s all the same thing as in the last Persona’s. Which brings to mind one large annoyance, Mudo/Hama spells, which are instant death spells. It does not matter what game you are playing, there should never be instant death spells, they’re frustrating and pointless. Even when using against the enemy, they’re no fun as it just feels like a cheap way to win.
But Persona’s main fault, similar to all JRPG’s, is that it overstays its welcome by a few hours. I am perfectly fine with 30 hours but once I hit that mark, the combat started to feel like a constant grind and all I was doing was trying to get by the enemies to advance the story further. When I review games, I go through them as fast as possible, and even doing that, it took 40+ hours to get through Persona 3. And from what I’ve heard from other people, that’s fairly quick.
While Persona 3 would’ve been much more fun and impressive if they would’ve trimmed the fat softly and cut the game down by around 10 hours, it’s still a very impressive game that I think anyone can get into if they try. It takes a bit to get going but once you start fusing, attacking, performing all-out attacks, forming bonds, talking to old monks, and hanging at beaches, you’ll be hooked.