01 April 2013

'Persona 3' Part III

Okay, me, those boxes are deliberate. Such lazy censorship was clearly done by an amateur. What the hell are you hiding?

*sees hand with Fanta bottle of sand*

Ha! You can't stop me! I came prepared!

*wrestles with arm and twists thumb, forcing bottle to fall*

*free hand picks up bottle and throws it out the window*

*wraps once-aggressive hand in a cast to prevent movement*

TAKE THAT, ME! =P


Anywho.

Yes, something has been bugging me all throughout this review. At some point I will have to confront my subconscious and demand it to spill it out. I really feel like I'm purposefully avoiding something, as I keep making awkward pauses to slap myself back into shape.

But I must stay on track. If I don't figure out what this missing thing is before my final verdict... No. That won't happen. I will finish the detailed review with that missing thing! I will succeed, even if it kills me! I will stay strong until the end!

Well, enough of the silly battle cry! Let's move on into the plot, where spoilers will be common!

CHARGE!!!!!

Other Characters

With there being 22 Social Links for Rin or Hiro, there are far too many people to squeeze into one category. Not every single Link is the same in both perspectives and not every Link is represented by one person. For example Hiro's Moon, Fortune, and Star Links are a few that involve completely different people from Rin's; the Hierophant Link is noted as the "elderly couple link"; and the Fool Link involves everyone in SEES. Listing every single difference will only destroy one viewer's curiosity about this game.

To avoid that, let me talk about a handful of characters that are somewhat important.

First, there's Tanaka, who cannot be mentioned without that earworm all players will be subjected to.


Are you bored on Sunday mornings and have a crapton of yen to burn? Turn on the TV, let the lovely "Jikka Netto ta Tanaka" implant permanent residence in your brain, pick up your cell, and place your order! Seriously, sometimes you get some pretty rare stuff from TV shopping, and it's worth purchasing something whenever you can.

Tanaka's Social Link is that of the Devil, which makes sense considering his questionable business methods. I could never bring myself to hate him, if only because he looks so happy with what he does that it's genuinely funny. In real life, I would either boycott his products or get a group together to sue his ass out of the job. Since this is fiction, I might as well just find the amusement behind his obnoxiousness. Easily he was one of my favorite Links, if only because of how unavoidable his presence feels at times.

The next victim is Ryoji Mochizuki.


You know, I feel bad for bashing Aigis as much as I did. The concept of an android built in 1999 to have a Persona and treading the "why do I exist" path is indeed tiring and annoying. Thinking back, I guess my only gripe was how the overall presentation of her character in relation to the setting seemed to be very clumsy. In her defense I can say that she tried to be likable in several plot-heavy moments. I cannot say that for Ryoji at all. Aigis makes me feel little or nothing for her. Ryoji makes me want to bludgeon him in the skull with a spiked baseball bat.

Above all else, I despise womanizers. I cannot tolerate men who have no sense of respect and do not understand that no means no. And I especially loathe that this guy's only trait is that he hits on every human being capable of breastfeeding. So what if Junpei and Hiro befriend him quickly? He tastelessly wastes no time trying to hook up with Mitsuru and Yukari the second he meets them! What is the appeal to this guy? I know that anime tropes litter this game, but for crying out loud!

And why does he constantly want to bang Rin every time he sees her? *sigh* I know there are fans who like this romance option, but... just... EW. "Ew" for spoiler reasons, and "ew" because most times, my character already has a boyfriend. Ryoji just has no sense of decency and apparently Rin cannot outright say "I'm already taken, so please back off." What sucks is that he is her Fortune Social Link, and it is pretty much mandatory to max it out at all costs. So I have to constantly kiss ass the whole time until the time comes when you chose between "let's bang in my room!" and "let's remain friends".

Doesn't he even look like that one kid in stripped pajamas Hiro or Rin hallucinates about from earlier in the game?

"I would still like you, no matter if you were a boy or a girl."
So that means Rin could possibly be in a relationship with a creepy kid that stalked her throughout most of the game... who can take the form of a giant monster... and is now a womanizing creep who just so happens to be relevant to the plot as it spirals out of control. He could also be gay for Hiro. And there is no option to tell him to back off permanently? And Rin could potentially sleep with -




*shudders*

I hate this guy. Easily, he is my most despised character in the game. He either makes me extremely uncomfortable or extremely angry, even when I play as Hiro. I simply just hate this guy's guts. And I am glad that Aigis hates him as much as I do. *gives Aigis a girl scout cookie*


...but nothing makes my skin crawl as much as these guys. Strega.

Takaya, Chidori, and Jin.... grrrrr
Okay, not all three of them. Chidori's pretty boring on her own for a while. Once she meets and befriends one of the members of SEES, things get pretty interesting. So she doesn't count at all. Jin is not that impressive either, other than supposedly being well-known on the internet and having enough connections to make a whole city panic at the mention of a rumored threat. He's just useless... with an awesome voice. Takaya, however, is a white-haired Antichrist carrying a revolver. I want him dead. Badly. Where is that Renegade trigger when I really need one?!


Due to undergoing nasty experiments from the Kirijo Group, these three obtained their Personas unnaturally. Although the exact details of how they are artificial is not explained, but they are known to take suppressants to prevent their Personas from killing them. Once the experiments ended, they fled into the world and became known as Strega. With Takaya as the leader Strega use their powers for their own selfish goals, one of which is to preserve the Dark Hour and Tartarus. Of course, this is problematic for SEES as these three butt in and make life difficult for the gang.

On numerous occasions Takaya particularly likes to use his silver tongue to manipulate or verbally slap some of the characters (Akihiko and Junpei especially). They try their darnedest to be threatening, and in cutscenes they can be quite a pain. In gameplay, however, they are a colossal joke. Hands down, regardless of difficulty, they are the easiest boss fights in the entire game. In a game that can brutally slaughter you if you don't have the right skill set or teammates, this is a nice breather. I guess it just would have been nice if Strega was heartless and cruel both in the gameplay and the story instead of creating two separate entities.

But it does feel nice every time I beat the shit out of Takaya. Oh, to watch a weapon slice or pierce his flesh as he loses HP quickly and he collapses, gasping in pain -


*snap* *clutches head*

Owch. What was that?

...

...

Hmm. False alarm.

Overall, Strega are nothing but side enemies that can be easily defeated. Some might get satisfaction with such easy targets to beat up, other might not. As one who laughs hysterically at how quick the battles go, I'm probably in the camp that loves fighting them. Otherwise, there isn't a ton to say without spoiling too much.

Although I wonder why my head hurt a second ago...


*looks at profile pic*

Since when did my beloved Shadow the Hedgehog get replaced by... wait... who the hell is this guy?


Hmm. He looks so... huggable...

Whatever. I bet he has no relation to this game at all.



Plot

At a time most people are unaware of, the Dark Hour, you and a bunch of friends have this cool power called Persona, used to fight off Shadows that crawl around an eerie tower called Tartarus. Balance school life and dungeon crawling as hilarity, drama, and tragedy ensue in a tale influenced by Greek mythology and Jungian psychology.

As Hiro or Rin is entering the Japanese school system, the entire story is told across the span of one academic year, starting in April. Six days of class and one day in the weekend as break. Some events might happen based on which days you have off. Japanese culture is stuffed full in this game, so do not be shocked if you do not know all the answers to questions asked in class. Honorifics are are abound, with "-san", "-sempai", "-kun", "-chan", and "-tan" used frequently, albeit inconsistently. Nothing to worry about, as the honorifics are just signs of respect (unless one knows another well enough) and GameFAQs can help with the questions in class and on exams if all hope is lost. :)

When some have recommended Final Fantasy 13, they'd often say that the game starts off slow, only to pick back up about 20 hours in. I don't care what kind of gamer you are, but waiting nearly a day for a piece of entertainment to get interesting is inexcusable. In 20 hours I would have completed about two and a half Sonic games. In 20 hours of any Mass Effect game, the final climax is a little off in the distance but obviously within eyesight. I would have only needed to finish the last dungeon in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess in that much time. Insert other random comment here. You get the idea, right?

Is Persona 3 guilty of this? Dear mother of the superior being(s), thankfully no; however, the game does start off with some lousy pacing. The first 10 hours, or up until June, hardly any plot development occurs. It's all mostly build-up, some traces and hints of future conflicts that will arise. The only way for me to defend the slow pacing of this game is to attack its successor, Persona 4, in which even at 15 hours, the plot is still moving at a speed that a snail would laugh at. Picking on another title within the same series for a specific niche might not ease the mind of the general audience. So allow me to briefly mention what does happen during the early hours.


Within the first few minutes of the game, you see what happens in the Dark Hour firsthand. Two in-game days later (about one hour in real life) you get to see the main enemies, Shadows. You start exploring and fighting in Tartarus by the two hour mark. The members of SEES (Mitsuru, Akihiko, Yukari, and Junpei), their advisor Shuji Ikutsuki, and Igor, resident in the Velvet Room, all provide concise exposition for you to follow in reasonable chunks. Tutorials are just as short and sweet. Background characters at school and in town tend to drop a few hints as to what you will face on the full moon of each month. You learn a few quirks and insecurities your teammates have, which you know will come up later on.


Sprinkled all throughout is some fairly creepy or dark imagery to set the mood.

So yes, there are no massive life-or-death moments, there are no big reveals. You might get very tired of spending time doing nothing but starting Social Links, developing your Charm, and exploring monotonous Tartarus. However, the game does not hold your hand and it will not provide information without giving a simple explanation. Do not worry, there is a "glossary" of sorts on the Systems menu, but you will never need to look at it to follow along the story.

Things finally start getting interesting during the summer. You finally learn how the Dark Hour came to be, meet Aigis, and bond with your friends at Yakushima. Koromaru pops up briefly, and Ken says hello, creating one of the most awkward conversations in the game. By September 1 school starts up again, your team is fully assembled, and the operations during the full moon are coming to an end... or are they?

Even within context, I have no comment.
I guess the only thing to look forward to as a first-time player is the full moon events. Some fairly powerful enemy is rampaging the streets of Iwatodai or Port Island and you must go out to kill it. By that point you are probably sick of the repetitive design and structure of Tartarus and welcome a boss fight in a train, on a bridge, or in a dance club.

Character development by far is probably the most annoying thing to wait for though. Once a member of SEES faces whatever has been troubling them and finds resolution within his or her self, his or her Persona evolves. The ones mentioned in Part 2 were the initial Personas of all but one of your teammates (Koro-chan is left out *sad face*). As cool as this concept is, all of these events happen past the half-way point of the game. The first two don't occur until October and one happens in mid/late December. January is your last free month. What the heck were you guys doing for the first six months?

Don't start to think that the end game is any better. A gigantic slowdown appears - yet again - in November that persists until Christmas. Characters are moping, sighing, bitching, and lounging, unwilling to explore Tartarus. The first 10 hour drag is understandable, as it's a good way to adjust to gameplay mechanics for the sake of a moving plot. The November-December drag is stupid, self-indulgent, and angsty.

The only time I wanted to punch Junpei.
Yes. Persona 3 can be quite angsty. A great chunk of the cast are not of age and repeatedly shoot themselves in the head to unleash monsters to destroy other monsters. People talk about death and revenge. Several refuse to let go of past mistakes which horribly affected other characters. Some are brainwashed, some are killed, and others are simply axe-crazy. Many of these things can be dark, but understandable. When such themes are thrusted upon teenagers, whose only real-life concern is surviving high school and maybe getting laid, this can be suicide in the hands of a bad writer. As much as I believe the guys behind Persona 3 have done a great job at making teenagers likable or relatable...

The angst fest that comes out of nowhere and amped up to eleven in November and December is wrist-cutting levels of frustrating. One character gets slapped back into shape, only to sink into the same hole as everyone else. The best part is that nearly everyone has an evolved Persona, ready to kick ass. And now everyone is moping around. Yes, guys, I know exactly why you are upset. Please, though, get upset for a few days (not a few weeks), get off your ass, and restrengthen your resolve to put an end to the nightmare you worked so hard to prevent.


Just as a note to people who have played this game... I did not want to spoil anything that happens during October and onwards, simply because the real goods are in and shit gets real. (Minus the emo revival ritual that I just complained about.) If I was thrown into any of the situations that crashed upon SEES, I might have been the same way. Except I would have shown more effort to turn my sour, depressed self around and keep moving forward.


One last thing I'll tackle are the differences between the various releases of Persona 3 -


- Wait a minute. What and whose Persona is that? I don't remember...

*growls*



The Festival

FES has the main story, known as "The Journey", and a bonus chapter, "The Answer." Because I have not played FES enough to get to the epilogue, all I have to go by are the cutscenes on Youtube, fan comments, and some fanfiction. Unforgivably lazy? Absolutely, and I have little shame.

On the one hand fans claim that FES is the definitive experience, as "The Answer" details what really happened at the end of "The Journey" and brings some closure to the members of SEES, Aigis in particular. It's only 30 hours long, less than half of the main story's campaign, and it's a nice final farewell to everyone. 

*start tangent* Until Persona 4 Arena came along. Seriously though, what the hell happened to Akihiko? Did the skinny twig get mauled by a pack of bears? And how in the hell did he gain that muscle? Did he have far too many beef bowls?! Sure he's shirtless and my cheeks turned pink, but still! O_o *tangent over*

When I looked at the details of the plot, however, I found "The Answer" to be pointless. You spend more time level grinding (DEAR BEING[S] WHY?!) than allowing a story to be told. The new character Metis has the personality of a block of wood, and Yukari's hints of bitchiness in the main game exploded to ridiculous levels. And the revelation of what happened after the final battle in "The Journey"... leaves me puzzled. All I will say is this:

If the apocalypse happens when one god descends with the aid of a vessel, what does the second god have to do with anything? Is that second god supposed come to earth after the first god? If so, why did that second god not appear in "The Journey"? Why is creating a seal the only way to prevent the apocalypse when you destroyed the vessel? Was there a former seal preventing the first god from descending that was undone by the creation of the vessel? Can't you just push the first god back to where it belongs (1)?

Let me guess... putting the first god back to where it belongs will play out exactly like the ending of Sonic Adventure 2. In other words, pushing the god back and creating a seal will produce the exact same result.

*sigh* Enough nitpicking. For now (2).

Unless you are willing to take the time to read my NOTES section, I'll say it now. "The Answer" is not worth 30 hours of level grinding. Just watch the cutscenes on Youtube, or read some fan fiction. I ran into a few decent, alternate takes on the events and I enjoyed them much more than what was presented in FES (3).


And Aigis is the main character? *groan*


All the Aigis fanboys and fangirls probably want my head on a silver platter. Now I will shut up and move on.


The Parallel Dimension

Persona 3 Portable. My favorite release if only because I spent more time on it than FES. The option to play as Hiro or Rin is a nice touch as well. The gameplay and some imagery, such as the all-out-attack profiles, incorporate elements from vanilla and Persona 4. In a way it is taking the best of both games and piling them into one nice package. And I love it.


Story-wise, there are hardly any changes. Many Social Links are shared in both storylines. One exception is Rin having Links with all the members of SEES, very much like in Persona 4.  Interestingly, many men have some kind of interest in Rin by the time their links end, but there are only four romance options. You can choose get hooked up with all of them with no consequence, or stick with only one. Other differences include some dialogue stating the protagonist's gender have been altered and Hiro using a one-handed sword as a weapon, while Rin a naginata.

That's about it. It's a shame, really. Why re-release a game with no changes other than a few tiny details that don't change the plot at all? What a waste. At least you can bring the game anywhere.

Wow. Pretty short. There's nothing else worth mentioning so we can now move on to -


Not yet.


??

Did my own hands type that?


Yep. You actually missed something: October 4th.


...

What about it?

It can play out differently, depending on how you play as Rin.

Such as?

*chuckes* You mentioned not spoiling anything that happens from October onwards, as  - how did you put it - "shit gets real"?


...

Fair enough. But that's an oddly specific date.


One word my dear. Shinjiro.


...

"Shinjiro"? Huh?


...

Answer me, damn it!

...




~~~~~~~NOTES:~~~~~~~

(1) - UBER-MEGA SPOILER. FOR FANS OF THE GAME ONLY WHO BEAT THE GAME. To be honest, I'm on the fence about the protagonist's death. I do like how Persona 3 ended, as it was so bittersweet and heartfelt. Although I do like how vague it is, as some could see it as the protagonist falling into a coma or finally dying in his/her sleep. I took it more as the latter, but whatever. It's a well-executed ending.

On the other hand, I really feel that the explanation added in "The Answer" felt tacked-on and forced. The addition of Eberus makes sense by keeping to the abundance of Greek mythological references... but was it really needed? Couldn't it just be left as Hiro or Rin using their life force to put Nyx back where it belongs? Why was a seal to prevent two gods from meeting up at McDonalds needed?

I think all that "The Answer" did was to make a plot that should have been self-contained drag on for years with teases of "the protagonist's return". So I guess my view is this:

Regardless if the main character lives or dies, just leave canon of Persona 3 end at "The Journey." "The Answer" should be seen as nothing more but fanfiction. It's content is unnecessary to fully enjoy the Persona 3 experience, as it has created a great chance of destroying the emotion of "The Journey"'s ending in the long term.
END OF UBER-MEGA SPOILER.


(2) - Actually, what is the prophesy of the apocalypse in this game? Who wrote it? Where did it come from? How did those crazy scientists find out about it in the first place?


(3) - There is one I liked in particular, but is still incomplete with 17 chapters out of 25 or so. The author seems to take a long time to update, but each chapter has a decent chunk of content. With a different main character a lot of creative liberties were taken, yet I still found it fascinating. It's called "P3P: Shinjiro's Resolution" Then again, if curious, you be the judge.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


... "Shinjiro"? What is he, an original character from that one fanfic I read?



Why does that name... sound familiar...



...

Alright, me, you yanked out the last stitch.




WHAT THE HELL HAS BEEN UP WITH ME?! What have I been trying to forget?! Why do I keep stopping myself from remembering?! It's been breaking the pace of my reviews and I don't think I can take it anymore!! What could have been so awful that I spent my entire college tuition on therapy?!

Come to think of it, why were my words like poison when talking about Takaya?! Why did I wish he died with all of my being?! What on earth could he have possibly done to -


Yes, that's Takaya. What does this have to do with -




... "Shinji"?


What.














October 4, my dear.
October 4, 2009.


....










XD

2 comments:

Voltech said...

"eriously though, what the hell happened to Akihiko? Did the skinny twig get mauled by a pack of bears? And how in the hell did he gain that muscle?"

The official explanation, I think, is that Akihiko took off from college to further his training (and as a member of the "Shadow Operatives", it's safe to assume he's done some extra fighting on the side). His given nickname is "The Two-Fisted Protein Junkie", and throughout his story he talks about getting some more health drinks and such to keep his body conditioned. So it's safe to say that his musculature is largely earned...and considering that his story starts with some "action" in South America, I'd say that he's gotten more than a few scars as a result.

...Then again, you could probably just chalk it up to fanservice. That's the only explanation for him remaining shirtless at all times -- along with whatever the hell Mitsuru's wearing.

Anyway, FES. Yeah...I guess looking back I still like The Answer, but I will admit it drops the ball in a lot of ways. No Social Links, no town, no school, no time management...it's like the elements that made P3 were gutted, and the mode suffers because of it. The thrust of the plot feels stretched out without much in the way or gains or additional understanding of the canon. If you don't level up Metis, you're bound to have a hell of a time clearing it. And let's not forget the best part: the difficulty gets ratcheted up so that you can die in the first dungeon outing -- and if you haven't saved you have to play through/watch the opening sequence again. Joy of joys.

As for Erebus, the explanation is that he's supposed to be the manifestation of humanity's negative emotions. So my theory is that the near-apocalypse with Nyx pushed humanity's negativity further than it's ever been before, giving birth to Erebus.

Then again, confirmation trumps conjecture, and I'm hard-pressed to answer any questions without fresh knowledge of P3. Yet again, I regret handing over my copy of the game...sigh...

.:Melanie~Light:. said...

Ha, ha... thankfully the fanfiction I found makes "The Answer" a lot less unbearable. The extra "bonuses" you described are all the more reason that the epilogue is not worth playing. Looking up on Youtube? Yeah. 30 hours of hard-mode torture without the gameplay that makes Persona 3 and 4 worthwhile? I draw the line. *remembers rant on level grinding* @_@

I think my main issue with the whole Nyx-Erebus conflict is that I felt the whole thing feels... flimsy. I can see what they were trying to go for, but I felt that the whole mythology about the Fall could have been better established and discussed. The only real thing we get from it was "some stupid scientists were bored, heard of this rumor, and wanted it to happen. BOOM. Vessel born. BOOM. Apocalypse now!" It just seems... flat. *shrugs*

That said, I still am not in the crowd that wants the protagonist to live (based on how Atlus is handling the "subplot" with Elizabeth). As much as I question the necessity for a seal, the story of hero, regardless if he/she lives or dies, should have ended in Persona 3.


Hopefully you can get a hold of the game again. I'm not sure which consoles you have but PSN has FES for $15. Otherwise... enjoy hunting. :/

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