Not A Review – Persona 3 Portable

I’ve been away for a little while, but it doesn’t mean I’ve not been playing games.

In fact, today’s game is one I’ve been playing since Easter and I’ve managed to clock in 75 hours. Was it worth it?

There’s a lot I want to cover with this one, so let’s get started.

Firstly, let’s set-up just what it is that this game’s about. To give you a general idea, it’s a JRPG with a fairly standard story behind it. You’re the new kid at school and you move into the dorms along with several other characters who you’ll get to know throughout the game. Turns out that everyone in the dorm has the power to see monsters that appear during the ‘Midnight Hour’. This is a special time that most people never realise occurs, where monsters (‘shadows’) appear and get up to mischief, kidnapping or killing people, I’m not sure. Anyway, the story’s not the most original thing I’ve ever encountered. Baddies turn into goodies, team-mates die, weak kids become strong kids, wrongs are righted and fears are overcome. You know how it works. It basically boils down to an evil tower that pops up at night. You need to make your way up the tower, level up and get real strong. Whilst this sounds negative, bear with me, I’ll explain why I actually agree with the huge number of people who hold Persona 3 in such high regard.

This game is often considered as something of a classic and has garnered quite a fan-base since its initial release on the PS2 in 2006. This being a port of 6 year old game, there’s been some new content added and changes have been made to allow for the game’s new hand-held home. There’s extra Personas to find (more on them later) and getting around the town is easier than ever thanks to the game’s new menu navigation system. There’s no longer the need to run around the environments as they’re now replaced with static screens and whilst I initially thought this concession was detrimental to the atmosphere of the game, I soon got over it and began to appreciate the new stream-lined interface. One omission that does hurt the game, slightly, is the removal of the amazing animated cut-scenes. Whilst there’s not many throughout the game, it would have been nice to have them in there. Still, the main thing is that the characters remain as vibrant and as interesting as ever thanks to the voice over work done and the great art that appears on-screen.

There’s a whole range of characters to talk to throughout the game. Whilst it’s true that some aren’t that interesting (ooh, a brooding, troubled teenager with a dark past. Original.) the majority are pretty compelling to talk to and have fully fleshed out stories and personalities. Some of the characters will naturally be encountered through the story and end up in your party, though it’s the optional characters that you encounter that contain some of the more ‘human’ story arcs. Spending time with these characters is highly recommended, though time is a valuable commodity within Persona 3 Portable.

When you finish your school day, it’s time to figure out what to do with the evening. Naturally, this being a JRPG, you can spend time in the tower of evil (called Tartarus) and level up. This is highly recommended, sure, as you have to get strong enough to fight a boss at the end of each month when there’s a full-moon. Along the way there’s other activities vying for your attention as people will need rescuing from Tartarus and friends will offer to go out with you.  Why would you want to hang out with friends when there’s evil monsters to kill? Why, to improve your Social Links is why.

Social Links offer more than just items and story-lines to enjoy, they boost the strength of Personas being made. Personas are the beings that you summon from your mind. They range from Gods to Demons and Monsters to Mythical Beasts. New Personas are initially gathered by collecting cards after battle with though more powerful Personas can be created by combining 2, 3, 4 or 5 Personas together,  meaning you’ll be spending a whole lot of time mixing and matching Persona cards to unlock all of them. It’s a good idea to get into the Persona creation process as the Personas all have their own strengths, weaknesses and abilities. Luckily, so do the enemies you’ve got to face.

These weaknesses come into play during each fight making them pretty tactical. When an enemy is hit with an attack that they’re weak against, they fall down. When every enemy has fallen down, you can do a ‘All-in’ attack where everyone bundles in like it’s a school field throw-down. Whilst it may seem that it’s a good idea to do this all of the time, what with it doing massive damage, it’s important to note that the enemies get back up after the attack whereas if you hit them normally, you make them dizzy. This gives you an extra turn to heal or buff your team.

It becomes real tricky when you consider the huge number of enemies that exist within Tartarus, with over 200 floors to explore. Add in the large number of weapons, armour, accessories and cards that power-up your Personas, you’ve got a huge amount of content to work your way through. Hence it took me 70+ hours.

Overall, I highly recommend this game. It’s true that just how ‘into it’ you’ll get will be down to how willing you are to become invested in the characters which, no matter how great I think most of them are, aren’t particularly ground-breaking. The combat is deep and the generous amount of experience given after battles reduces the amount of grinding needed and keeps new abilities appearing at a steady rate. This isn’t the JRPG genre re-invented, it’s the genre damn near perfected. How good that sounds is really down to you and how ready you are to sink days into a single title.

“PERSONA!”

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