My Top JRPGs ~ #2 ~ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

The Shin Megami Tensei series of games are an eclectic group of astoundingly additive and innovative games. With all of its different sub-series’, there are a lot of titles to explore. Out of all them, the one that shines the brightest for me is without a doubt Persona 3 FES.

The story of Persona 3 revolves around the Dark Hour, a 25th hour in the day that occurs every night at midnight. Normally people are encased in coffins and have no recollection of this special hour, but some people curiously are awake during it. Lately, monsters called ‘shadows’ have been attacking these people and either killing them or turning them into lifeless husks, a condition that has been dubbed Apathy Syndrome. You start off as the silent protagonist (whom you get to name), a boy who just transferred to Gekkoukan High. You find that you and a select few of your school peers have the ability to experience the Dark Hour. In addition, you and these select classmates all also have the rare ability to summon Personas, creatures that are reflections of your soul that can combat the shadows. You take the chance to join SEES, the group they have put together to fight off the shadows, as you go on a journey to discover why these changes are happening and how to stop more innocent lives from being taken.

The Persona series is known for being a marriage of RPG and dating sim elements. Persona 3 brings these two genres together masterfully. Besides the basic RPG elements, you also have to attend school and keep your grades up, as well as juggle your social life. This isn’t all just fun and games however; certain groups or individual people have an Arcana assigned to them (these are called Social Links), and increasing your friendships will empower those Arcana, which will power up Personas that correspond to those Arcana, as well as give any Personas you create of that Aracana an extra boost.

The higher your Social Link is with that Arcana, the more of a boost that Persona gets. To top it off, continuing to spend time with different characters will also let you learn more about them, and just about every character you meet has an interesting story that keeps you emotionally invested and makes you want to keep visiting them. This coupled with the mysterious and addictive main storyline makes for one hell of a tale to tell.

You can also visit different places at different times of the day to engage in activities that increase your Academics, Charisma, or Courage. Some Social Links or dialogue options are only available once you hit a certain level in one of these three attributes, so spending time increasing them is important. Some methods will increase these attributes more than others; for instance, spending an afternoon watching romantic French films at the cinema will up your Charisma far more than sipping on a cup of Pheromone Coffee at the mall.

Aside from balancing all of this during the day, you have the task of spending the Dark Hour scaling Tartarus, a massive tower full of shadows. The tower is divided into blocks, and each block consists of many floors that are sprinkled with several mini-bosses and one or two big bosses. There are a lot of floors to cover, but each block has a different color scheme and design, and each floor is randomly generated each time you enter it, which helps negative a lot of the repetitive feeling that climbing Tartarus can sometimes give you.

Yes, you’re reading that number right. This tower is BIG.

Monsters are visible on screen and you can either avoid them or try to hit them first to gain an advantage in battle. You can also find lots of treasure in Tartarus, and you have the option to explore each floor as a team or to scatter and cover more ground. Since experience is divvied up between everyone who participates in a battle, this allows each character to gain more experience per battle, but they can die if they aren’t strong enough to face a battle alone. Your party members can also become tired, which will greatly reduce their battle performance. When this happens, its best to call it a night and wait until they’re well-rested again before tackling more of Tartarus.

Besides weapons, armor, and accessories, you also have the most important element to your battles, which are your Personas. Each character has their own Persona, but the main character has the unique ability to house multiple Personas and can swap them mid-battle. This helps when you discover an enemy’s weakness, as you can change to a Persona that can exploit that weakness, making battles infinitely easier. The only downside is that you cannot control your comrades in battle, and until you find an enemy’s weakness, they may inadvertently use an ability that can heal or be block by an enemy.

As for the visuals, they are just about flawless. The game takes place in a 3D plane and is very accurate to what the environments would look like in real life, since the game takes place in modern day Japan. You can run around and use the shoulder buttons to rotate the camera, making moving about very easy. Chatting with other characters is also pleasurable, as many of them have close-up facial art with some pretty hilarious expressions, and talking to many of the important characters comes with the extra joy of top-notch voice acting by some of the most well-known anime and video game voice actors in the industry.

The other bundle of ear-pleasing goodies besides the voice acting is the music, which is always fantastic in every Shin Megami Tensei game. The songs range from dark and dangerous to upbeat and almost jazz-like. Each song is positively addictive and you will find yourself singing them in your head over and over again. This is, by far, one of the best video game soundtracks in history.

So, while it isn’t a typical JRPG, Persona 3 is still a title that no RPG fan should pass up. The FES (or ‘festival’) edition of the game also comes with new Social Links, new Personas, and 30+ extra hours of gameplay in the form of an after-story known as The Answer. It truly is the ultimate edition of this game, and even more goodness is coming in the form of Persona 3 Portable, which will boast even more new goodies, as well as a female protagonist that comes with a slew of new story events and Social Links. If you haven’t played this game already, now is definitely the time to do it!

Buy yourself a copy of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable via this link, and you’ll be supporting Chu*Blog at no additional cost to you!


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