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PS2 Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

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This one player role-playing game continues the Persona series with quality narratives and characters that make a high level relationship based experience. If you’re new to the series, the music video beginning and initial cutscenes are incredibly interesting especially when you encounter a girl with a gun. What transpires next and in the game’s future is really the only significant reason this game is rated M (and maybe pushing caffeinated drinks).

This engaging game follows a one-year timeline with full moons (about every month) when you and your teammates find special challenges fighting the shadows at a unique building housing the antagonist element effecting society on a large scale. Most scenarios allow open-ended opportunities as you make the decisions, which affect how fast you advance and develop. The all day Sunday friend visits are the only timeline element that disappoints. Each setting gets used eventually as you explore and discover on your own. This Altus title doesn’t take itself too seriously either with some of the names (i.e. Tartarus).

As you navigate, you can rotate the camera at times and solid color blocks represent open area you can go right through. You also encounter special areas and objects that all types of characters mention (it is always a good idea to pay attention to character dialogue though it can get lengthy and repetitive at times, depending on the timeline). A cell phone also helps you keep in touch with your new friends, gaining invites to other events.

Persona refers to the soul power which “thrives on bonds you have with others.” Relationship connections create an amazing experience in several different settings. At school, players increase their charm with other characters by answering questions in class. Some questions are very challenging while others are as simple as one plus one. You get permission to join clubs to create even more relationships. You’re not really penalized for not accepting social engagements, but don’t disappoint them too much consecutively. Here you also have school on Saturday, so fatigue becomes a factor. If you stay awake in class, your academics increase and food purchases always come in handy. After the school day, take a visit to other sites include stations, malls and a shrine great for finding spare funds.

You can also find refuge with you fellow Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) teammates at the dorm. You can find or purchase special items on your TV, save your game at the front desk and study to increase your academic skills, which takes the highest effort besides the midnight hour fighting. The familiar fighting elements allow you pre-emptive advantage hits (for both sides) before going into battle mode. Use tactics to assess your enemy and sometimes wait to save strength while your teammates hit the enemy hard. Here you can also save your game and develop relationships you’ve made symbolically represented in cards.

After you’ve gained experience, you can access your status at any time in any setting by pushing Triangle. Once you establish social links, keep switching between acquaintances/friends. You have a definite advantage in the battles with a varied fighting cache instead of one concentrated area, which is what your teammates usually have. If you want to take strategy out, then just rush your opponent. Your teammates (on auto control) may outperform you at times, but remember it takes a while for you to “level up” with your multiple personas.

Game play prompts a lot of real world activities like writing important dates (especially for advance planning – you usually get notices on that day) and possibly researching school subjects so you can answer classroom questions correctly. The more you interact with the environment, the more information you get to make informed decisions. The interface takes some of the strategy away from the player, but also saves you hassles like wasting your time in the faculty office when you can’t do anything there anyway. Automatic moves and item use no sense of urgency except in boss fights when the moon is full.

The various events and voice talent kept the timeline from getting stale. Every time you get close to predicting events or tire of the same settings, a new twist or opportunity appears changing the narrative and possibly characters. The load times can be frequent and a bit lengthy, but work well given the immense content and seemingly infinite combinations/possibilities, which produce a high replay value in this title.

Persona 3 is definitely worth the higher price (many recent Playstation 2 titles have reduced prices) for hard core RPG fans who plan on completing the game more than once. Casual gamers can also find a great experience if they complete the game in smaller blocks of time (e.g. one school week a night). Players can even choose an easy level that allows continues 10 times after a character becomes unconscious. Make sure you have plenty of rest and you’ll do just fine (your support team really freaks out if any one gets tired). This quality title ‘evokes’ elements of The Sims, Harvest Moon, Final Fantasy and even Choose Your Own Adventure books while creating several original scenarios to set it apart from these similar titles.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for blood, language, partial nudity and violence.


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