Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
If there is one developer besides Square-Enix who are well known for their Japanese RPGs, then it’s Atlus. With the Shin Megami Tensei series, they have produced some of the best RPGs for the Playstation and Playstation 2 and it look like this won’t change real quickly, since they just released Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 in Europe.
The Persona series is a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei and tells the story of a group of students, who by special circumstances awaken their own persona. These personas can be seen as ghosts which fight by your side against the demons. Persona 3 tells a new story of a group of students who all go to Gekkoukan High School, which has a mysterious history.
The main character, which you give a name yourself, arrives and immediately strange things start occuring. Before you know it, you’re in a student club called SEES (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) who are fighting an enemy called the Shadows in secret and on top of that you have one of the most powerful personas. Isn’t it sweet to be the coolest guy around!
The Shadows are creatures which appear during the 25th hour. When it is midnight, time freezes and most of the humans are turned into… coffins. A small group remains normal and experiences the 25th hour, also called the ‘Dark Hour’. Downside is that you are then vulnerable for the Shadows, who look at humans as if they’re a tasty snack. Up to the main character and his student club to find the origin of these monsters and end the existence of the 25th hour!
Place of all the ongoing fights is Tartarus, a mysterious tower which appears during the 25th hour, but during the day it is your very own school. While playing, you will unlock new floors in the tower and discover more unique enemies. Once you have one in sight and you attack, a turn-based fight starts and you can land the first blow. However, if they manage to strike you first, they can attack first.
During the combat, you only have complete control over your own character. You can give the other teammates some general orders, but that’s it. For example, you can say that they need to use their persona, but not which attack they need to use. If you can do several critical strikes on the enemy, then you can do a combined attack using the whole team. This is beautifully shown in anime-style and is never something that starts to bore.
Personas, power ‘spirits’ that will fight for the characters, are called upon by using an ‘Evoker’, something which looks like a modern day pistol. You aim towards the side of your head and simply pull the trigger as if it was nothing. After a fight you can also earn specific cards. These go from healing your team and getting a new weapon to acquiring a complete new persona. The collecting of these cards is quite important since you can go to a place called the Velvet Room where you can combine curent personas to create even more powerful ones.
Besides kicking ass and messing with your personas, you can also improve your ‘social skills’ in Persona 3. The higher these are, the more powerful your personas will be. You can develop them by answering the right question during class or building up a relation with current or new friends. If you want to succeed in this game, you will have to hang out with your classmates. If you’re tired of that you can also do after school activities, like athletics or the fight club, which will make you stronger if you succeed in these.
When talking about the graphics it will certainly not defeat games like God of War 2. Still the people who like some visual splender will not be disappointed. The game doesn’t go for realism, but for a look which leans closer to modern day anime series. The characters in the fights are all beautifully shown and this can also be said of the Shadow enemies and the personas. The game is also filled with tons of anime cut-scenes which really add to the unique atmosphere the game produces.
A game which has Japanese as original language is most of the time a complete disaster in English. Luckily Atlus does not make the same mistake as other developers. The English voices all fit perfectly with the characters. The shy girl, the boy full of confidence… They all sound as if it was the original voice. The music adds more to the positive points of this game with a varied offer of sounds, but also techno and dance music.
Is the game that perfect? No. For example it is a pitty you can’t have full control of your team during combat. Also the whole routine of school, after school and dark hour might become a bit annoying after a while. Still this doesn’t outweigh the positive things of this game which has several succeeding gameplay-elements, a gripping story and excellent fights.
Atlus has done it again. With Persona 3 they show that the Playstation 2 can still give birth to beautiful games. While it is not a game which has next-gen graphics, it has tons of addictive gameplay. With playtime that goes over a hundred hours and different endings, this game will give every RPG fan an unforgettable time!