Some Thoughts on Persona 3

April 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

Re-releases with additional content are always a bit of a kick in the teeth for loyal fans. They force you to essentially re-buy a title you already own, just to get your hands on a few more hours of content which, on the flip-side, you’re practically guaranteed to like. I’m thankful then to my own laziness for allowing me to buy Persona 3 FES just once. Admittedly the extra FES content has sat on the main menu untouched (I’ve been told you should complete the game before delving into it) but it’s nice to know that it’s there for when the time comes.

Persona 3 is a fresh and unique game in so many ways, but because of this, its adherence to the norms of the Japanese RPG in other places really grates. Assumed knowledge is one such problem when you’re never really sure of how a system works until you try it for yourself. Another is the continue system, or lack thereof; where failure to save often will lead to huge chunks of lost progress when you snuff it.

A lack of information is a pretty consistent issue in the game. Right from the get-go you have access to the entire town to explore, but without a shred of a map in sight it’s tough knowing exactly where the fun’s to be had. “Go to the staff room!” you’re told on your first day of school in-game, only to spend upwards of five minutes searching corridors for that elusive room. Maybe this is Atlus’ extremely well concealed way of forcing you to explore, but on the day it just ends up feeling like you’re wasting your time.

It’s almost as though the developers were afraid of cramping the game’s style with too many menus, but as a result information that should be at your fingertips is either available only when you don’t need it or sometimes not at all. It’s lovely to be able to know the stats of the equipment my party has equipped just before going into a dungeon but what about giving me that information before at the weapon shop, when I had no idea whether the items on sale were any better than what my companions had equipped.

Typically for a JRPG the story doesn’t get started for a while. Not so typically Persona 3’s story lacks any sort of intrigue or mystery. You’re told within the first five minutes of the game that at night demons appear and wreak havoc, but then your supporting cast acts surprised when people turn up unconscious in the morning. That’s not to say the whole story is junk though; side stories with people from your school can be very involving, especially when it feels like you’re having an effect on the outcome. You might find it a hard game to leave for the night at times, simply because you’ll want to discover the next step in admittedly what is quite a minor story.

That’s really the crux of it; you may see its flaws whilst you play but you keep playing anyway as a testament to Persona’s overall quality. Clearly there’s a lot in there to love, and when you find it it simply won’t let you get away.

This week Jon finally updated the blog. You didn’t need a fancy footer to know that though.

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