A game about shooting ones self in the head, can it be fun? At first yes, but you may eventually feel some pain.
When you are dropped into the SIM/RPG playground that is Persona 3, you are put in the shoes of a young man who is transferring to Gekkoukan High School. There your silent hunk of flesh and hair moves into a local dorm with other students and blah.... But, wait....this isn't a normal dorm! *shock* *gasp* It is actually the HQ for a group known as SEES (I was really tempted to just call them SEED and get the easily comparible names out of the way) whom all your dorm members are a part of. And I don't wanna talk about the story anymore because that is how the game tells it....in chopped up meshes that will make you want to keep playing, but are a little bit too spread out. This can make it hard to continue playing sometimes, there were multiple times during the course of this game (you play through one year) where I just wanted story development and for it to quit the SIM Life shenanigans.
The epic, who can kill themselves first?!, battles in Persona 3 are pretty standard RPG tomfoolery. It's turn based I attack, you stand and take it, you attack, I stand and take it, formula. But the main difference is the use of Personas that you acquire throughout your journey through the game's one dungeon, Tartarus (also your school *shock* *gasp*). These Persona range in ablities, stats, and apperance. Some look really cool, like Seiryuu the Blue Dragon and Samael. While others looks like something out of a saturday morning cartoon show, I'm looking at you Jack Frost. Well, these Persona are activated by....shooting yourself in the head? With a gun called an Evoker and it breaks your psyhic barrier holding your Persona in your soul and yeah....stuff like that. There are two attack types Persona use, ones that require an HP sacrifice and ones that call for an SP sacrifice. So, you really can kill yourself by shooting yourself in the head too many times.
The battle system overall was fun and very well executed. Each enemy you face has a weakness of some sort (besides some bosses) that you MUST exploit to win. When you do hit an enemy with their weakness, they fall down and you can attack again. Therefore, you can chain attacks and make it so an enemy can never attack you at all during the course of the battle. However, the enemy can do this to you as well, so you can be the one flat on your butt unable to do anything while the enemy takes it's time slowly killing you. I did have one annoyance with the battles however, if the main character (silent hunk of flesh and hair) dies...then the battle is over. This can be VERY annoying if you've been in a long battle and just he dies from an attack.
The way the game progresses makes the game both unique and boring at times. You go through each day almost exactly the same: Early Morning, Morning, Lunchtime, Afternoon, After School, Evening, and Late Night. On the weekends it's just Morning, Daytime, and Evening, though. During each part of the day events happen and can really clock on hours to your gameplay time. At first this was a refreshing change from typical RPG story progression. But after a few months, it got quite boring and just felt tedious to have to press X to go on to the next day and do it all over again...kinda like real life, eh?
Another interesting aspect of Persona 3, is the Social Links (SL) you create with the people around you. Hench, the SIM aspect of the game comes into play. The more you talk and hang out with certain characters, the higher your Social Link goes (up to lvl 10). Each SL correspondes with a Terot Card or Persona class (like Strength or The Tower). Thus having higher SLs makes your Persona more powerful. So you can't be an anti-social jerk and expect to have total power over your Persona.
The graphical presentation of Persona 3 is very fitting for it's location. You feel like you're in a Japanese school, you feel like you're in a real life Japanese town (I assume the game is accurate anyway), and you really feel like you're in a dirty back alley of a Japanese subway station...ahh the authenticity. The anime cutscense are, of course, very well animated and pretty to watch. The dungeon environments are rather "meh" though, kinda bland if you ask me.
The soundtrack can also either kill this game for you or make it all the more enjoyable. It's the J-Pop invasion I say!!! Every non-battle theme is some sort of J-Pop song. So if you can't stand J-Pop, avoid P3 like the music version of the plague. If you can stand to listen to them however, they can be quite catchy and get stuck in your head for days. Oh wait...the main BGM theme is also J-Pop...woops.
Persona 3 also has a great deal of extra goodies to make you keep coming back. There is the always great, New Game + feature, there are requests you can fullfil to get rewards (like Yen or items), which are given out by Elizabeth, an assistant to Igor (no not Frankenstein's Igor). Igor fuses Persona for you to create new ones. The Persona you can make depends on your characrter's level and since he is so special, he use any Persona he wants. The other characters are stuck with their one Persona.
When the days of self inflicted pain were over, Persona 3 was a fun game. Though some of the features that make it unique, can also hurt the game. If you can get past the progression flaws, soundtrack (if you aren't into J-Pop), and some annoyances with the battles; Persona 3 is well worth a pick up.