New details about Persona 3 have been translated from the pages of Famitsu magazine. Persona 3 intends to take the series in new directions from previous Persona games, the first being an entirely new storyline and a new setting.
At first glance, the world of Persona 3 seems fairly normal. But in this place, when Midnight strikes something called "Shadow Time" occurs. When this "13 Hour" occurs it draws out monsters, appropriately named "Shadows." When Shadow Time starts, most humans freeze in place and become statues for the entire extra hour, and neither feel nor remember anything that happened during it. Only those who have the power called "Persona" can stay awake, and -- more importantly -- alive during Shadow Time.
Players take the role of a 17-year-old student who recently transferred into the area. Already among the few people who have Persona, he has an unusual ability to switch between several different Persona, rather than a single one. Yukari Takeba and Junhei Iori, who also have their own Persona, join forces with you -- the main character begins with the Persona known as "Orpheus," Yukari with "Io," and Junhei uses "Hermes."
Persona 3 isn't just about wandering around during Shadow Time while fighting Shadows. It allows players to play through days in the characters' lives, which also includes school life, as players head off for a full day of school. After class, they can wander around campus or in the town before returning to the dormitory, and these areas can also be explored after night has fallen. Once Midnight comes, both Shadow Time and battle begins.
Battling involves summoning each character's Persona via a gun-shaped summoning device. In addition to their Persona, characters also have weapons of their own to fight Shadows. As in most Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games, hitting an enemy's weak point gains players an extra half-turn. Once battles are won, any loot a player receives also includes "Persona Cards," and a player may choose one out of several face down cards. These cards permit players to learn how to summon new Persona, or to use them in special "Fusions." As seen in other Persona games, players can visit a character named Igor, and have him fuse two or three different Persona together, through a process called "Persona Dreams."
In addition to Shadow Time and Shadows, players will have to concern themselves with something called "Community." During daytime, while wandering about the school and the town, players can become friendly with "Community Characters" in certain areas by talking to them. By maintaining friendship with these characters over time, that community's level will raise itself as well, and depending on how specific or broad the attention is, that community level will rise with greater or slower speed. These communities have specific affiliations, just as Persona do, and high-level communities will give experience bonuses to fused Persona of the same affiliation.
Persona 3 is scheduled for release in Japan on July 13. A North American has not been announced at this time.