26 March 2013

'Persona 3', Part II

Looking back, I think I went too fast with the gameplay section. If anyone read it and had no idea what the hell "Tartarus" or "the Dark Hour" is, I apologize. I will go in more detail once we get to plot, which is not until a good ways off at this rate, but let me simplify them here and now.

When you're not living a normal high school life, a mysterious "hidden" hour emerges at midnight, between one day and the next. That is the Dark Hour. Most people are unaware of this, as they are "asleep" in coffins that suddenly manifest. Only those with a Persona - or those with the potential to awaken one - can wander around freely.

Except there are Shadows everywhere and their behavior seems to be affected by the phases of the moon. Most, however, hang out in this massive tower located in the center of the town our heroes live in. It also just happens to be your high school during every other time but the Dark Hour. Of course, its up to you to investigate and figure out how both Tartarus and the Dark hour came to be.

And you can't do that without comrades.

There might be some spoilers.

The Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad

Hmm... we're missing a few...
You will be stuck with these guys from the beginning to the very end. The entire team is set in stone by the halfway mark and no one arrives too late for you to not have some time to care. Many remain interesting and reliable from start to finish; however, some do lose significance as the game progresses.

Introduced very early on, the first to join you in combat are your classmates Yukari and Junpei. You meet the seniors Mitsuru and Akihiko around the same time, but they don't directly jump into the fray for quite a few hours. Ken Amada is the last member to join. He appears about 15 hours in, but doesn't become a full-time member for another 7 hours. (All liberal estimates, depending on how quickly you play the game.) Overall, there are a total of nine members of S.E.E.S., including Hiro or Rin.

First, let's meet Yukari Takeba, voiced by Michelle Ruff. Her Persona is Io, who specializes in garu and dia spells. Her health (HP) is pretty miserable, but with a high magic meter (SP), she can cast a truckload of magic, which is her ultimate strength. She is the best healer in the game and can pull a few wind attacks when she needs to be on the offensive. For melee attacks, Yukari uses bows, which have good accuracy but lousy damage. However, if she misses (which is sadly common), she will not fall over and be vulnerable.

Only zio magic will knock her off her feet. Considering how often I ran into enemies that cast electricity-based attacks and my preference to playing as a healer, I make sure Yukari is leveled up well before considering her as an option. Regardless, she is always a teammate to consider, as she has access to every heal ability and is less likely to fall on her ass.

As a character, though, she's okay. Being a RPG every character has issues, and Yukari is no exception. Her dad died in a plot-relevant accident that Misturu's family caused, creating tension between the two girls. She picks on Junpei constantly and is quite a vocal skeptic towards the various events that happen. Regardless of which perspective you play in P3P, she's quite friendly and open to both Hiro and Rin.

Since Io is of the Lovers Arcana, Yukari has that Social Link... one of my most hated Links in the game. Hiro needs to have his Charm attribute maxed before even considering a moment of her time. In addition all of the girls with Social Links will fall in love with Hiro. Always. At some point, the game warns you to be very careful as hanging out with or talking to another girl will cause jealousy and a reversed Link. Because, apparently, every girl will always want to get into the pants of any guy that treats her with respect and will go into bitchy-overprotective mode. That's totally fair.

"Hey, [Rin,] us second-year girls have to stick up
for each other!"
For Rin they can talk right away. HOWEVER, developing the Link is a pain in the ass. You can meet her two times a week (as opposed to Hiro's four), but sometimes you will be stuck on a rank for a looooong time, especially 7 and 8, despite spending a lot of time with her. This Social Link was the reason the Persona Compendium was stuck at 98% in my first playthrough: it was the only Link I never completed in that run. I was angry.

Plus, I didn't mind her portrayal during the automatic events, but her Social Link was rather boring. *shrugs*

Onto Junpei Iori. I'm surprised at how many people disliked him next to Persona 4's Yosuke Hanamura. Sure, they are both share a similar character dynamic with the cast, but I found Junpei to be a more genuine, sweet guy.

Voiced by Vic Mignogna *pauses, waiting for fangirls to squeal*, Junpei is the clumsy class clown who holds two-handed swords like a baseball bat. His Persona, Hermes, can perform some agi-based spells and can deliver a few good physical attacks. Perhaps due to Yukari verbally beating him on the head at any chance she can find, garu spells are Junpei's greatest weakness.

His fire skills are not very impressive, as a late addition, Koromaru, can easily outclass him. The same can be said about his physical attacks, such as Assault Drive or Double Fangs, because Aigis is a pro in comparison. Even his two-handed sword can deal a good chunk of damage, but accuracy is pretty pitiful. As a result, he can be seen as nothing more but back-up.

Despite that, he ended up being one of my safest options when entering the unknown. As the game progresses, more and more enemies will spam hama (light) or mudo (death) spells to instantly kill your team. Koromaru has the best fire attacks but is weak to light spells, so Junpei is the best replacement. Plus, his HP and SP are quite good for such a "mediocre" combatant.

His AI is quite competent as well, as I never had an issue with him running blind towards the enemy.

"S'up, dude?"
I want your coat. NOW.
In the story Junpei starts off pretty immature, but never to the point when you want to kill him for his stupidity. When Yukari once proposes to investigate a shady part of town to find a missing girl, Junpei is the first to use common sense and call her an idiot. Overall, I found him to be quite humorous, especially with his little skit, called "Believe It, or Don't."

At best, he serves as the best friend with some insecurities for either protagonist. He is Rin's Magician Social Link, in which I genuinely believed that a teenage boy and girl can get along without being romantically involved. The best friend dynamic really works well regardless of the protagonist's gender.

Next is the in-universe chick magnet I could have hated if his voice wasn't so badass.

... Oops. Sorry. The similarity was so uncanny that I couldn't resist.
And this joke is forced.

After being injured the first time you see him, Akihiko Sanada, voiced by Liam O'Brien (again, I'm sorry for the bad joke), jumps into the ring with his fists and abysmal SP. Thankfully though, he's the most flexible teammate in the game. His punches rival both the main character's and Junpei's, and his HP is pretty damn good. Despite not being able to use magic as much as other Persona, Polydeuces' lightning abilities brutally shock enemies, and his enemy-debuffing status effects make many fights easier. For bonus points he has a healing trick for one up his sleeve.

No other teammate has ever been in my party as much as Akihiko. Whether I knew what was coming or not, he had everything I needed to keep me alive. (Because in this game, no one can go on without you.) Even with his ice weakness, Aki could hang on a lot longer in battle than everyone else. He was always useful, even if it meant being constantly targeted, exposed, and killed by one of the hardest enemies in the game (1). And when dealing Critical Hits... say your prayers, indeed.

Character-wise, there's not much to him. Akihiko is simply a long-time friend of Mitsuru and has a pretty lousy past that he broods about occasionally. Throughout the game, he's portrayed as a determinator, willing to do anything to grow stronger. Yet he does nothing: unlike Junpei, he never takes the initiative and acts on his feelings. He simply lets things affect him and his temper flares. As the game begins to drop the happy-go-lucky, sunshiny fluff in the first half, Akihiko slowly starts to question himself. It's not until a spoilerific event that finally gets him to man up.

In battle he kicks ass. In the story, he's just... there, occasionally playing off one or two characters, like Ken Amada, pretty well. Too bad I can't remember who the other one -

*slaps self*


Oh, that was my subconsciousness reminding me not to think too much. Sorry about that.

I had to wear a sweater vest throughout my
Catholic school years... and it looks so dorky. XD
Anyway, despite his passive presence, I still liked Akihiko. You don't get to know him very well as Hiro, but he is Rin's Star Social Link. Even though it makes sense thematically to the development he has, it's quite jarring since it does not correspond to Polydeuces' Arcana, the Emperor. Oh well. At least he can be an adorkable love interest for Rin. Junpei totally supports this pair if only for the idea that a transfer student steals the heart of the school's chick magnet. If only he wasn't so oblivious to love...

Even though Hiro or Rin is considered the "field leader", the real head behind the group is Mitsuru Kirijo. The elegant ice queen, fitting of her being of the Empress Arcana.

Originally serving as background support, Mitsuru becomes a combatant after the full moon event in June. Like Hiro (2), she wields one-handed weapons, swords, and rapiers. Not much can be said about her melee attacks, as she can hit but with even less damage than Yukari. Even her critical hits, defense, and evasion rate aren't very impressive.

Then we get to Penthesilea. She performs bufu spells that make her a very powerful magic-focused Persona. Other skills include charm status effects that entice enemies into attacking each other and only one Dia spell.

Although Mitsuru can be seen as a decent replacement for Yukari, her AI can make her a pretty clumsy choice. Marin Karin barely works on most enemies, and if you do not use direct commands, she will spam it constantly. Her fire weakness can be a problem as well, because Mitsuru an lose a ton of health from one hit. Even when Penthesilea evolves much later in the game, the fire weakness is never fully balanced out.

I guess I have a soft spot for glass cannons because I bring Misturu along frequently. Yukari might cast more spells per battle, but Misturu can cause more damage with her magic. Quality over quantity is the main debate here, so your milage may vary.

Since many major plot events occur thanks in part to her extremely wealthy family, Mitsuru's character development occurs very, very slowly, spreading throughout the entire game. She could have easily been the arrogant, entitled bitch with a cold attitude, but it's odd that she wasn't. Persona 3: FES has a few easter egg videos that treat her ignorance of the life of "commoners" in a light and humorous manner. Formalities and mannerisms pollute her dialogue to silly levels, particularly in combat ("I COMMAND THEE!"), but it's not too over the top. Tara Platt's voice is actually quite soothing.

"*sigh* I must admit I am not familiar with
fast food etiquette."
More than anything, I saw her as a mature, poised mother figure with a large burden to bear. Mitsuru knows quite a lot about everything that is happening, but is insecure about her involvement and how to reveal such heavy information to her friends. As a result, the skeptical Yukari constantly butts heads with her.

I'm only slightly upset that her Social Link occurs at the very end of the game. By that point your Academics attribute should be maxed, but considering how plot delved into insanity by that point, talking over ramen with Mitsuru after school is quite jarring.

Regardless, since she has more character than Akihiko and she's quite useful in combat, Mitsuru Kirijo is one of my favorites overall.

Now in comes the rest of the gang. Fifth is the official noncombatant.

Fuuka Yamagishi. What a delicate but helpful flower. She arrives pretty early on and replaces Mitsuru as background support. As your team explores Tartarus, Fuuka stays behind on the main floor and communicates with you from long distances. She also provides extremely beneficial details regarding floor layout and enemy detection. With Lucia she can analyze a Shadow's strengths, weaknesses, and abilities and can advise who in S.E.E.S. would be capable of defeating it. A few other abilities will come along as she levels up alongside the protagonist: some will be useful... others will make you scream at the screen. (*cOoRuAgChLiEn!g*)

That's about it. Think of her as a more useful Navi with a voice that is more flat than annoying. From what I heard, her Japanese portrayal is much better than her English one. Whenever characters - like Junpei - comment about how soothing and peaceful Fuuka's voice is, it's more believable with Mamiko Noto than Mela Lee (3). I'm not in the camp that hates Fuuka's voice... but her quotes in battle can be extremely repetitive. I miss Tara Platt's support advice. :'(

In the main plot Fuuka has no baring at all. Add onto the fact that she has no real "issues" like dead or insane relatives, an incurable illness, or a bad case of stupid, she ends up being more passive and boring than Akihiko. Her being "sickly" was mentioned at one point in the beginning, but is never brought up again. She's also supposedly timid and shy, but even Hinata Hyuga is more convincing! Her character is so underdeveloped that the Megami Tensei wiki only has three sentences describing her personality. THREE.

"*gasp!* The enemy - !"
Fuuka is the Priestess Social Link in both perspectives. She tries to cook but sucks at it, so you must be a badass to try out her food. Depending on who you play someone might actually help her out once or twice. The most we learn is that she is pretty gifted with technology, as she gathers top-secret information through the Kirijo Group's database and creates high quality headphones for the protagonist.

Yep. Pretty flat. She's too cute to hate... it's just she's "meh."

Speaking of hate... I'm sorry, Karen Strassman.

I do not understand the appeal of Aigis. At all. Her being a robot is not the reason. Most times in fiction, particularly Mass Effect, I treat anything - alien, machine, or a stuffed animal - with the capacity to reason and question as if it is human. Sometimes I don't always follow the peculiar language and word choice, but I always give the ideas some weight.

I just don't know what the heck happened here.

Before I attempt to explain why, what are her combat skills? Aigis mainly deals physical attacks and has a better selection of debuffing abilities than Akihiko. Palladion is strong with pierce attacks and weak to zio, like Yukari's Persona. Despite being a tiny android resembling a teenage girl, Aigis can be quite a powerhouse when she joins. At least... that's what people on the internet keep telling me.

I'm sorry, I can't do this.

She never works well with my battle strategies, with direct commands or not, and I swear that she is as clumsy as Mitsuru when a Shadow exposes her weakness. It does not matter if she has abilities to boost your party's offense, defense, and evasion because when you need such an advantage in battle, the enemy will wipe the floor with Aigis' limbs. And her magic meter is far greater than Akihiko's even though he has a much wider rage of abilities that require so much SP. I call bullshit.

If I ever needed someone to deal pierce attacks, I always preferred Ken's spear or Yukari's bow over Aigis' guns. I leave all the debuffs to Aki, and Yukari can heal herself if she gets hit by electricity. All I need is a Persona of the Chariot Arcana for physical attacks. Done. Since Palladion's physical skills eat up too much HP, leaving the SP meter full, Aigis never surpassed level 35 in any of my games. I am even more frustrated by the fact that I spent far more time investing in a temporary squadmate than this so-called powerhouse of a permanent one. Ain't that sad?

... "temporary squadmate"? Was there one? If so, who -

*smacks self*

Oh, right. Don't question. That was an odd slip-up... Moving on.

Yep. She even goes to school with you.
By this point I wonder if the whole machine questioning its existence theme has run its course in fiction. Out of all the ideas this game juggles, this one fails pretty badly. In a world where common technology is about the same as ours in 2009, how could have androids with personalities and Personas existed? Don't give me any military conspiracy bullshit either. We haven't even reached that threshold yet and it's 2013! How can we have created these back in 1999, with one still functional in 2009? What the hell, game?!

Her character development is predictable if you like sci-fi stories, her attachment to Hiro is creepy, the les yay with Rin is unfunny, and her Social Link, the Aeon, is nothing noteworthy. And she's the protagonist in the FES-exclusive epilogue? Whatever. I'm done. The Japanese can adore her as much as they want. Sheesh, I have a greater appreciation for Legion fans.

Oh, look! A puppy!

Koro-chan! ^_^ *snuggles*

Because I strongly believe animals have souls, just like humans, I do not question the plausibility of a dog having a Persona. The intelligence and ability to understand the characters' conversations might be a stretch, but a Persona? Bring it on!

I guess one good thing about Aigis is that she can "understand" what Koromaru "says". The best way I can describe it is that she can read body language... I guess. Again, animals have souls so I ain't questioning it. Hell, I talk to my pets all the time.

Predictably, Cerberus is Koromaru's Persona. He outclasses Junpei in the fire department big time, as it can hit one or many targets at once. Koro-chan is also quite gifted with mudo spells, which is a commonly used attack against you by this point. Finally, you can give the Shadows a taste of their own instant-death medicine. Unfortunately, hama spells are far more likely to bring everything at full circle. Since both light and dark spells are worthless against bosses, Koromaru might not be the best option. However, do not hesitate to bring him along, as the pup has ridiculous evasion. With a knife in mouth, he is untouchable and ready for action.

Like Fuuka Koromaru doesn't have a ton of character development. However, you can spend a good bit of quality time with him. You can take him for walks, alone or with one of your friends, and he is the Strength Social Link for Rin. ("Paw-five! :D") He hangs around with everyone in S.E.E.S. as he lost his master a few months before the game starts off. But he's a very friendly, intelligent, loyal companion and I cannot resist adding him to my party sometimes.

Even with blood-red eyes, he's a keeper.
Koro-chan is so cute.

Finally, the last person to join the crew is... ten years old?!

Many players hate Ken Amada. I probably should too, but my hand is ready to clobber me with a Fanta bottle full of sand I brought back from the beaches of Normandy, France so I will not question why. Maybe it's because he's a kid, or Mona Marshall trying to sound like a young boy is not always well executed. He cannot be that bad though, right?

Ken uses spears to make up for his tiny stature. His pierce-based melee attacks are alright, but nearly everyone is about average in that department, regardless of weapon. Skill-wise, Nemesis has a strange library. He is immune to hama spells, and weak to mudo. He has a dia spell to heal the entire team if in a crisis, a fairly useful group-wide physical attack, and a zio technique.
This sounds like a jack-of-all-trades sort of character; however, like Junpei, he is outclassed on many accounts. He is a lousy choice for boss fights as hama will just never work. Even Mitsuru's melee attacks do more damage. Akihiko is the god of thunder and Yukari the goddess of healing, so there's no competition in either department. That being said, if you want a teammate with decent healing skills and no elemental weaknesses, Ken can be a great healing/support role (given that you are using direct commands). Otherwise, he's an extra just in case anyone ditches you because of exhaustion.

Yet again, Ken is another teammate who does little to advance the plot. Typically Persona fans paint him as the Scrappy with nothing worthwhile or interesting to him. Sure, he's mature for his age, but his angry, vengeful side can be pretty scary given the right circumstances. Well, that fails to phase me as Higurashi has provided that in spades.

I guess he was alright whenever he and Akihiko interacted. These two are painfully passive male characters, as they consider taking action, but never have the chance to do so. Yet it was nice seeing the two connect and support each other as the story progresses in a dark, cold direction. Their friendship remains quite strong, even into the FES-exclusive epilogue, titled "The Answer".

Shorts?! Kid, aren't you freezing?!
As with Junpei and Akihiko, Hiro barely gets to know Ken very well. For Rin he is the Justice Social Link, and he has a chance to grow to be a more confident and brave kid. And he's a potential love interest. DO NOT WORRY. Nothing crazy happens, especially since the English version severely toned down the "worst" aspects of this OPTIONAL relationship. Yes, yes, it's creepy as hell since Rin is almost twice Ken's age. Even though I never pursued him in any of my runs as a female, the relationship is handled more as in Ken having a really cute crush. It does have quite a few endearing moments without slipping into the squick category.

And I am convincing no one. You know what? Forget I said anything. I guess I just can't hate Ken as much as everyone else. His cuteness never rubbed me the wrong way, and I felt bad for the poor kid. I thought his character arc was a billion times more genuine and entertaining than Aigis', that's for sure!


Wow. That's everyone! Man, this post was long. In the next part, I will make a few comments on other characters that appear in Persona 3, and I finally dive into the plot! Whoot!

... when did that blue square...

*sees Fanta bottle of sand*

Ohsuperiorbeingsnevermindforgetisaidanything! X(


Huh, I guess the guys can fight over Rin too. XD


Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


(1) - My first fight with the Reaper was only bearable because he would only attack Akihiko and occasionally nullify Junpei's fire affinity. I can't ever remember seeing the team-killing Almighty spell that Persona 3 players warned me about. I still laugh about how easy that battle was. Then I cry because my ever-reliable squadmate was raped non-stop while the fragile Yukari survived unscathed.

The second fight in New Game Plus was not as hilarious. But it was still a breeze.

(2) - In vanilla and FES Hiro was capable of using any weapon: one and two-handed swords, gloves, bows, axes, and spears. (Only Aigis can use guns.) This feature was removed in P3P, and Hiro is stuck with one handed swords. Rin can only use a naginata.

(3) - For some reason, none of the English voice actors were credited in Persona 3. However, many of the actors are recognizable enough by ear, or the credits were made outside of the game. Oddly, only Wendee Lee is credited as Fuuka's voice actress on numerous sites even though she only played her in Persona 4 Arena. I found Mela Lee on the cast list on IMDb... so I went with it. Feel free to sue me if I'm wrong.


Voltech said...

Junpei Iori? More like Junpei You're-y-totally-my-best-bro, amirite?

By and large, I think he's my favorite character of the bunch. He was my bro both in and out of battle; he had some really great lines and development (though I could be a bit jaded), and once I got him the proper equipment he pretty much never left my party. Of course, it certainly helps that every time he said "Trismegistus!" I felt compelled to shout "Kiss my biscuits!"

It is a travesty that Junpei wasn't playable in Persona 4 Arena. A travesty. But that aside...

"Next is the in-universe chick magnet I could have hated if his voice wasn't so badass."

Mmmm-hmm. Just gonna leave this here and be on my merry way.


.:Melanie~Light:. said...

Awesome. XD

I loved Junpei so much, that I was surprised when people said they thought that Yosuke was a better character. Junpei was a class clown I actually gave a crap about because he was so darn loyal.

He always helped me confront the final boss like the best friend he is.

Liam O'Brien... is a... O_o

*checks pulse*

That was... interesting... I'm gonna go try to get therapy treatment again...

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