39 points, 3 votes, 1 TOP GAME vote
Will M.: I feel weird voting for an old game first overall (one I may have voted for in the past) but this is finally the first version I’ve completed, and apparently, the best version (discluding its discluding of the epilogue) and goddamn if it didn’t actually rekindle my love for jRPGs. Not that any others will make me want to play like this did, but damn. 70 hours and I’m on my SECOND playthrough now.
if: Playing this for the first time after P4, there were a couple of spots where I could see how things were later improved on and there wasn’t the same novelty value to its social mechanics or its particular line in lightly gothic weirdness. Despite that, the actually interesting and likeable story and characters (ok, likeable apart from Junpei, but I guess that’s deliberate), the perfectly streamlined old school combat, and the endless options to spend your days as you choose and advance both stories and abilities as a result still make it stand out as a class apart from other JRPGs. There’s also still the fun of having one bizarro alternate world of Shadows and Personas (‘The Midnight Hour’) built on top of another bizarro alternate world where you get a day off school to respect your elders and getting high exam marks makes you more popular (‘Japan’).
Lamp: atlus’s persona 3 FES is a gothic-tinged rpg that came out in the waning days of the PS2. the player takes on the role of a silent, mysterious transfer student to a japanese high school. on your 1st night in your new dorm you and your housemates are attacked by a slinking inky mass of arms and faces called ‘shadows’. after shooting yourself in the head you summon an otherworldy spirit guide – classically allusioned and perfectly art-designed – to defeat the shadows & save yourself and your housemate. all of this takes place after about 35 minutes of introductory cut-scenes, expository dialogue and cryptic visitations.
so persona 3 divides its time btw the world of shadows & the day-to-day life of a japanese high school student. & as you make way through both of these worlds, studying for exams, building friendships, occasionally venturing into the shadowlands to defeat monsters and gain strength the two worlds begin to build inwards upon each other, permeating their counterparts in strange & unexpected ways. like twin peaks P3FES does an incredible job of portraying a mundane world that is constantly under threat from the unknowable & mysterious horrors that underlie our everyday world. but unlike twin peaks the ‘regular’ existence never feels like an afterthought, the pleasures of simply being in this world & the social link mechanic are equal to the pleasure of dungeon crawling & the story-driven mystery elements of the game that mostly take place in the hidden shadow world.
it seems kinda crazy that a part dungeon-crawler rpg part japanese dating sim game can be summed up using em forster’s famous maxim ‘only connect’ but persona 3 FES is above all about the longing for contact & the terror of isolation. its most meaningful moments take place in the spaces btw how we see ourselves & how the other characters see us. i think its a mistake to want the game’s dialogue trees and social interactions to function in the same way as they do in d&d-influenced western rpgs. in a western rpg the focus is on developing a character & so the best games give a sense of true possibility and naturalism. whereas with persona there is always a right answer, a correct path. the point isn’t to give the player a blank slate to write his intentions on, to chose a ‘good’ or ‘evil’ path & then make descions based upon your character’s intentions. in P3FES your character is a mirror held up to the npcs. you reflect their vanities & insecurities, their hopes & fears. and so the player is forced to consider them, who they are & at best you can understand and help that person. your goal, your job is to build relationships, not a character.
finally – finally! – the combat in P3FES is one of the most tactically interesting mechanic of any turn-based rpg. every npc is self-directed and their actions will often – frustratingly – shadow their reallife personalities. as battle leader you can give them directives but you cant control their actions perfectly. so combat begins to double the social link aspect of the game, you’re forced to predict the actions of your comrades to know their strengths & weaknesses & so to understand them as people. the difficulty of this makes what is a very grind-heavy game both more fraught and more engaging. never a game to miss an opportunity death literally haunts the game’s dungeon & his shadow is always present in P3FES. even regular combats are perilous & you will die. a lot.
the best that i can say for P3FES is that unlike almost any other game the memory of its events stayed with me. although its mechanically frustrating, overlong & exacting it manages to create a plausible, engrossing world like no game before or since.
10 points, 1 vote
Mitch Krpata: Finally, a Final Fantasy VII product worthy of the name. It’s all heart. Crisis Core would be compulsively playable even if you’d never spent a moment with Final Fantasy VII. The basic mechanics share much with traditional RPGs, but they’ve been streamlined to include some real-time action elements. Although combat is still menu-driven — you can choose to attack, cast spells, and use items from your inventory — you maintain full control of Zack at all times and can block or dodge at will. Zack travels and fights alone, without a supporting cast of characters. This is different from what you find in most Final Fantasy games; it makes for economical use of the PSP’s screen and the relatively brief battle sequences keep the action moving.