Okami's Reviews for Classic Gamers: SMT: Persona 3 FES
You know, after all the years playing Final Fantasy games, I was deprived by looking over the great Shin Megami Tensei or Megaten for short. I was always interested in playing them but I never got a chance to. Also seeing that they are quite hard to find, that hurt my chances of experiencing them as well but after the scouring the net, I managed to find SMT: Persona 3 FES, Persona 4, Nocturne, and the Digital Devil Saga series. Though Nocturne was the first SMT game to hit the PS2, I started with Persona 3 for my first Megaten experience and oh what an experience it was. Persona 3 FES is an expansion of the the original Persona 3. FES includes a new story to play which is called The Answer ( Aeigis Episode for the Purist) with the original game called The Journey . The game takes place ten years after Persona 2 Innocent Sin and centers around a high school student who is transferring to Gekkoukan High. The main character is actually a silent but not so silent protagonist so he doesn't have a default name. Only in the manga spin off he has a name and those who have read it know him as Minato. Minato has a tragic past that we are introduced to in the first forty minutes of the game. His parents died in a car accident when he was six years old. He then lived with his grand parents but after his first year of high school he was transferred for reasons unknown. In the opening scene, Minato is on a train to his new dorm but something seemed strange. By the time he arrives at the dorm, it is Midnight and a young boy meets him with a contract. Minato signs the contract and that's when his journey into darkness begins. Minato is greeted by two girls who are wielding guns. Minato wonders why do they have hand gun, as he is thinking this Mitsuru Kirijo and Yukairi Takeba introduce themselves and ask Minato to forget what he just saw. A few days later, Minato's dorm is attacked by strange creatures called Shadows. These creatures exist in an hour that shadows Midnight called the Dark Hour. After Yukairi gets Minato from his room, they flee unto the roof and they are attacked by Shadows. Yukairi defends herself and Minato by summoning a being by shooting herself in the head with her gun. Yukairi soon loses her ground and drops her gun. Minato picks up her gun and points it to his head and then mutters the word Persona. Minato's power awakens, the power of the Fool Arcana. On that night he joins a group called SEES (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) which goal is to eliminate the Shadows and the Dark Hour.
From what I heard, the SMT series had always had a very interesting style of game play but this one is something I have never seen before. The game is separated into two sections, school life and the Dark Hour. Minato is in high school so, as the player you also attend high school. The high school days are filled with classes, exams, and friends. All of these aspects are necessary to your characters growth and fit in seamlessly. Minato's personal stats like Charm, Academics, and Courage are raised when you answer questions correctly, score high in exams, and also through things like watching movies. The reason why these stats are important for his growth is mainly to open new Social Link opportunities. Social Links are a way to increase your power to create beings called Persona. Social Links are arguably one of the best features in this game and one of the best ways to have the player learn more about party members which ultimate makes you actually care about the world and the people in it. Social Links are also quite tedious and time consuming as well. In this game you are to live an entire year of the life of Minato. A year may sound like a long time but there are twenty two different people who correspond with the twenty two different types of Arcana which create Personas. Social Links can be broken and you will have to mend the relationships before you can improve the rank and create stronger Persona. This process can take several days and if you jumbling more than three relationships this can be a pain. That's basically the gist of the School Life section of Persona 3's gameplay,now let's focus on the Dark Hour's dungeon Tartarus. At night you are able to enter the Dark Hour and explore the tower of Tartarus. Within Tartarus, Shadows roam in high numbers. This is where most of the battles will take place, story related battles will take place on nights of a full moon in other locations. Persona 3 plays like a traditional console RPG but it shines brightly with additions to the basic turn based flow. The basic commands are Attack, Skill, Item, Persona, Flee, and Tactics. The Persona command is exclusive to Minato being that he is the only party member who called yield more than one Persona. The maximum amount of Persona that he can hold is twelve. The battle system is really refined has things that other RPG's don't have. The idea of exploiting the enemies weaknesss to gain multiple turns, knocking down Shadow's to set up for critical attacks and a feature called An All Out Attack that allows your entire party to attack at once when all Shadows are down makes Persona 3's battle system like no other. As for everything in this world, nothing is perfect. There is one major flaw for this system which is the unavailable choice to to command your party. Meaning you only have control of Minato, that's it. The only way to direct your party is through the Tactics command which still doesn't guarantee that your party members will do the move you want them to do. In the beginning of your journey, it is much of a big deal but just wait until the end of the game. Fighting a twelve leveled final boss without breaks in between... One turn can screw you harder than Bubba at the State Pen, no joke. Expletives will seep from your lips like a room filled with WWF wrestlers. Besides that single facet, the battle system is grand. One more aspect that is worth mentioning is,of course, Personas. Personas are either gained by Shuffle Time, which occurs after a battle, and creating them in the Velvet Room. Personas give Minato different battle stats and abilities which gives a high degree of strategy to this game. Having a Persona who has a weakness in which the Shadow's exploit can cause your party certain destruction. New Personas are made by fusing other Persona but depending on your level not all Persona are available to you. This is where the Social Link feature comes into play. If you have a Link with a person with a certain Arcana, the Persona will gain extra EXP. It also goes by how high the rank of the Social Link is. If you Maxed out the Social Link, the ultimate Persona for that Arcana is available and also a major EXP boost for Persona of that Arcana. There are four ways to fuse. Normal, Triangle, Cross, and Hexagon. Normal is between two Persona, Triangle is three, Cross is four, and Hexagon is eight which is mainly used for the Ultimate Persona fusions. That wraps up the gameplay section of this review.
This game like most Megaten games is anime style cel-shading. There is no CGI in this title, only full anime cut scenes and gives this game a different feel from other RPG's. Those who are anime and manga fans will enjoy and love the art style.
To match the anime style of this game it has a J-POP soundtrack rather than a symphonic soundtrack. All of the songs are well done and are produced originally for this game but some can just get on your last nerve. This is coming from a guy who loves all things Japanese. As for the Sound Design, it is impeccable. Each sound has great volume and never is overbearing.
This story is for mature audiences only. If you have a younger sibling or child, do not let them play this. Most SMT games deal with the Occult and Religion like this one is. This story is really dark but so enjoyable. A perfect RPG for adults.
Pros: Excellent Story and World, Great Battle System, Excellent Music, and a long play with two story lines and new game plus.
Cons: Not able to command party members, some annoying music tracks, Social Links can be a major pain.
This classic JRPG gets a 9.0