A unique and fun RPGs with twists and hooks that won't let go

User Rating: 10 | Persona 3 PS2
The story begins as you (Minato-though you aren't given that name as default) come to live in the dorms. You're a transfer student and are greeted (coldly) by Yukari and meet Akihiko & Mitsuru. On your first night there you meet a young boy and sign your name…then a shadow attacks and your persona is unleashed via shooting your head with an evoker. You soon discover your housemates have the same abilities and fight shadows during a period known as the dark hour (which no one else knows about) and your mission is to travel to Tartarus (which during the day is your school) defeating shadows and seeing how far you can go. Along the way twists and turns will abound and you'll meet other fellow persona users. All of you with a goal in mind and the desire to stop the shadows.
The story of Persona 3 is quite good, refreshing and original. Although it can be slow during down periods, it does pick up and added to it the real-life simulation part (more about that later) storylines, you'll find a lot to get into story wise. Of course, part of what makes a good story are the characters. The characters in Persona 3 can best be described as 'real'. At least one of the characters you'll meet or befriend is someone you probably know personally. They're not imagined characters, but real characters with solid personalities (not necessarily good) dealing with real issues and real life. That is one of the many things that will bring Persona 3 to life.

Persona 3 splits into two different worlds. The first world is a real-life based sim. Minato (main character) finds himself as a junior in high school studying, making friends, dating, and other normal high school activities. However, when you have freedom during the day, you'll be finding yourself balancing the social and academic aspects of life. You have three personality traits you can build in academics, courage and charm. By increasing these stats you gain new social link openings. So, I've broken the game down into two sections-The Real Life simulation and The RPG half.

Real-Life simulation

Personally, I found this to be the most fun aspect at times. Minato (or as I called him, Takeshi) lives a normal life. He goes to school, makes friends, and joins clubs, can go shopping, study, sleep, and do the normal things any high schooler does. Minus the fact a voice will ring in his head that he has a better relationship with someone, and he can increase his charm by drinking coffee, courage from karaoke and academics from well, studying. There are other ways to raise it as well and its fun finding out all the fun ways to raise them. As they go up new social links become opened as well. Through the game you'll want Takeshi to reach rank 10 with as many people as possible. The story's around them are all interesting and adds a very nice element to the story (not the main story, but it is fairly addictive and well thought out). Just like in real-life saying the right thing will make you closer, doing the wrong thing and they're mad at you. You can also date five girls in the game (including three of your party members) I managed to max out Chihiro and later did Yukari and Mitsuru (yes, Minato's a cheater and the girls CAN and WILL catch on). Minato: (caught cheating with Yukari by Mitsuru) But…I need to increase my social rank! There are several characters you can have a social link with (each which has a different arcane/element. Outside of relationships, Minato will live the typical Japanese life of real holidays off, having the junior year trip, summer break, midterms, exams, answering questions in class, the list goes on and it's easy to forget about going to Tartarus because you get so caught up in it. Speaking of Tartarus…

Tartarus-Let the RPG begin
In a secret hour known as the Dark Hour, Minato and your other group members will meet and begin up the 200 floors of Tartarus. Your party will eventually have nine members (including yourself). Each character will have a certain special ability you'll need in the game and you'll need to focus on keeping them all well leveled. During the course of a month you can only go up so high before you reach a stage that is blocked and only after you fight the boss shadow for that month are you able to move on. In Tartarus you'll be able to get requests from Elizabeth (such as finding items from enemies or 'your world') and be rewarded. You'll mostly be leveling up and collecting weapons and items as well. When the full moon approaches you won't go to tartarus but instead you'll fight a 'shadow boss'. The boss battles are pretty interesting and nothing overly hard if you're leveling up enough (ideally, you should go to Tartarus 2-3 days a week). There is one frustrating boss battle in the earlier months/midway through, but otherwise, most of the bosses are a breeze.

Persona 3 is essentially a dungeon crawler. Instead of going forward you go by and the battles are handled in an interesting way. You'll see the shadows on the screen, and the bigger they are the harder/more of them there are. If they have a red tint to them, be careful, they're more powerful than normal. Equipped with your sword you have the chance to sneak up on the shadows and smack them before they see you and get a 'player advantage' which means you get a turn ahead of them. If they see you but you hit them first it's a normal battle. If they hit you first they get a turn advantage over you. The battle system is also very complex. Your characters can get tired from too many battles and if your MP or HP get's too low you can return to the main floor and recover, but any tired characters will return to the dorm. In battle, however, you have the option of using magic, attacks or items. Some enemies will be immune to magic or attacks and weak against certain elements. There are several ways to fight out the battle making it more complex. However, the battles can get repetitive after a while, however.

Also, there are two difficulty modes to choose from, easy and normal. I went for normal and it is HARD. I died way too many times and it gets really frustrating when certain enemies cast death spells on you. Overall I died about 100 times or so (seriously) and at times all I could do was fight one or two enemies then return to the main floor and save or just run from certain enemies. The battles can be frustrating and hard overall.

The release of Persona 3 was a special set. It contained a cardboard box with the game, an artbook and a CD. There's a good reason that they included a CD; they knew it was that good. The tracks in Persona 3 are never dull, and range from upbeat tracks to intense songs and basically any feeling or mood song you can imagine. After playing for over 130 hours I can honestly say I never once got tired of hearing the music. The music keeps the game flowing well and there is no track out of place. My only con at all (and I had to search for it) is that some of the tracks won't appeal to certain people. Other that that, the soundtrack to Persona 3 is close to perfect.

Persona 3 has anime style character and anime style cutscenes. Being a fan of anime, I liked them. But, if anime is not your style it might not look as appealing. The graphics during the cutscenes are also interesting, but don't be lead away, the graphics are still good, especially during real time and game time. The colors are fresh and the details are normal. Graphic wise it's not going to be the most beautiful game you've looked at and is probably the weakest part of the game, but still if for anime-style haters it's something that's easily forgotten in lost as a major flaw.