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   Persona 3 FES - Reader Review  

Of Mara and Mechanical Maidens
by DemonAtmaNizzo

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
PS2
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
5
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
4
MUSIC & SOUND
4
VISUALS
3
CHALLENGE
Hard
COMPLETION TIME
More than 80 Hours
OVERALL
4.5/5
+ Thoroughly addictive
+ Superbly streamlined gameplay
+ Intriguing characters
- Limited control over party members
- Inconsistent party AI
- A few annoying voice actors
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Welcome to Gekkoukan High. Humanity is being assaulted by creatures known as shadows. Are you a bad enough dude to summon your Persona and save humanity from a wave of intense depression called Apathy Syndrome?

    Persona 3 was all about making choices and living with the consequences, for better or worse. FES, the expanded, definitive version of the game, gives you more choices than ever in the original game (called "The Journey" in this incarnation) and an additional adventure, "The Answer", which ties up some loose threads and gives insights into the characters' pasts, giving you control over Aigis, the mechanical maiden who stole a good deal of the spotlight in the original game.

   The battle system itself is very polished and streamlined. While battles can end in seconds if you use the right skills and don't wind up missing, you can also end up getting yourself annihilated from even the most standard enemies if you aren't careful. The battle system is called the "Once More" system, and is quite similar to the "Press Turn" system used in Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. Like those games, you will be rewarded for striking the enemy's weakness or scoring a critical. Unlike those games, however, only the character who strikes a weakness can gain an extra turn. In addition, when all enemies are "down" (they have been hit by weaknesses or criticals), you can choose to perform an "All-Out Attack", which deals massive damage to all enemies.

    Only the main character is under your direct control. The AIs of your party members are rather inconsistent. At times, they act rather intelligently, knocking down enemies so you can perform an All-Out Attack. At other times, they'll cast status ailment skills when an enemy has one percent HP. Usually you don't have to worry about them, but during boss battles it's best to issue commands. Fortunately, most of the normal enemies can be taken down within the main character's first turn.

   The S.Link NPCs(which over time grant power to your Personas) and your party members alike have vibrant personalities that encompass the arcana they represent yet remain easy to relate to and sympathize with. There are a few characters that can be annoying, but hey, I'm sure there are quite a few people that annoy you in Real Life(tm).

I I'd pierce that.

   FES adds a few more options after classes. For example, you can amp up your stats, both personal and Persona-based, by heading to the Arcade, and you can take Koromaru, the resident dog, out for walkies on nights when he's in the mood. He might pick up a useful item, you might meet a friend of yours while walking and fortify your bonds, or you might get a chance to talk with one of your dormmates.

    The music in this game is, overall, quite good. There are a few tracks that can get on your nerves due to the constant repetition, but there are plenty of other tracks that you could actually be caught listening to on your i-pod. Every track fits the mood and does its job. And frankly, I don't think any RPG to come will ever, EVER be able to pull off having rap in the battle music like P3 does. The voice talents in this game are quite good, with a few exceptions. Fuuka, Ikutsuki, Chidori, and occasionally Aigis can really get on your nerves, especially Fuuka as she states the obvious during battle in a rather annoying voice. The other characters, though, are superb.

   Shin Megami Tensei has a legacy of original games, and that's not about to stop here. Fusing the aspects of a sim and a dungeon crawler, casting spells by pretending to blow your brains out, and monks who get drunk off their asses are just a few of the aspects of Persona 3 that set it aside from other JRPGs. You won't see anything like it until Persona 4 comes around.

   "I chooseth this fate of mine own free will." In The Journey, the main character, along with the members of a student group called SEES, take it upon themselves to rid the world of the Shadows. They are bizzare creatures that thrive during the Dark Hour, a hidden hour that occurs at midnight nobody is aware of, as they are transmogrified into coffins until the hour is passed. However, some people do not transmogrify, and it is fate that decrees whether they become Persona-users or shadow fodder. Those who succumb to the shadows become overcome with depression and lose their will to live. The outside world has called this "Apathy Syndrome" and believe it is related to stress.

Many hands make light work. Many eyes make creepy face. Many hands make light work. Many eyes make creepy face.

   In The Answer, you play as Aigis. Because of the Abyss of Time spreading, everyone is trapped within the dorm. You must enter it, accompanied by a new character (Aigis' "sister", Metis), to seek out the source of the abyss and attempt to return things to normal. During this endeavor, you will gain insights into each character's past, as well as discover exactly what happened to the main character after the events of The Journey. The Answer is a straight-out dungeon crawl with none of the life sim aspects of The Journey. In addition, there is no Persona Compendium in The Answer, so you're stuck with Personas you fuse and get from shuffles at the end of battle.

   Persona 3's graphics are nothing to write home about. They are dated, but they more than get the job done. Anything they lack in quality they make up for in style. The menus are slick and modern, and the characters are sprite-like in appearance due to the distance of the camera, possibly as a nod to the previous Persona games.

   The difficulty of this game is hard to judge outright. While normal battles can go by in seconds, you can also get your ass handed to you by any enemy if you aren't careful. Some of the bosses, however, are rather brutal. You're practically guaranteed to get whomped on your first try. As with most Shin Megami Tensei games, you are expected to regroup and come up with a strategy to defeat the enemy. Bringing the right Personas and party members to a battle can turn it from a frustrating sadistic experience to a feeling of godliness as you block every last one of the boss' spells. One of the things I've always liked about SMT is this feeling of working from being ripped to shreds up to ripping the boss to shreds, and Persona 3 doesn't disappoint.

    FES adds a new "Hard" difficulty to the mix. Normal battles are actually not much more difficult due to the intensely destructive nature of All-Out Attacks, but bosses can be much more of a hassle as they hit harder, have more accurate instakill spells, and tend to have a slightly smarter AI. Some of the tougher ones become practically up to chance.

   This game is pretty massive. With both The Journey and The Answer, you'll be clocking in at over 110 hours, depending on your play style. Unless you have mastered the Hermit S.Link you will not be able to complete it in a rent, so I suggest buying. The game is very replayable due to the options at your disposal, so it's more than worthwhile to have it to yourself for a measly 30 bucks.

    Like it or hate it, it's an experience you likely won't ever play again. I reccomend this game to pretty much anyone who loathes JRPGs and wants something different; Megaten has always been a breath of fresh air in a rather stale market and Persona 3 does not disappoint.

   The shadows are calling. What is your answer?

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