Name: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES
Release Date (US): 2008
Platform: PS2
Score: 98
Beat: January 28th, 2018
Written: April 27th, 2021

Persona 3 FES is the second half of what I feel to be “Peak Persona.” The first half being the Persona 2 duology. (That's not to say that P4 and 5 are bad. They aren't.) Where P3 really excels is the writing and music. The atmosphere throughout the game is sublime and the music plays a great part in that. Where the game fumbles (depending on who you ask) is the gameplay and pacing. I fully acknowledge the game’s pacing is, to put it bluntly, horrible, but the pay off in the second half of the game is completely worth it to me. I actually first played the PSP version so seeing everything in 3D was "mindblowing" when I went to play the PS2 version.

The combat is a huge point of contention among people. Many feel the AI controlled teammates are terrible, unreliable, stupid, le epic Marin Karin meme, and so on. A lot of the problems would be solved by effectively using tactics. Want Mitsuru to stop spamming Marin Karin? Use a better character Tell her to go Full Assault. It's that easy. Though, I will admit, these frustrations are not totally unfounded. Who exactly the AI will prioritize for healing is a bit odd. One aspect I appreciate about Persona 3 is the ability of the protagonist to equip different weapon types, which they for some reason removed from the PSP version. I ended up using the gloves the most often for their ultra-quick map attack that made ambusing Shadows pretty easy. Tartarus is the main dungeon of the game. It's a massive, constantly changing tower that only appears during the Dark Hour. Each floor is randomly generated (a staple going forward,) with premade parts such as corridors, open rooms, and elevated platforms. There are six blocks total and each one features a radically different design and a new song that builds on the previous one. It can get repetitive but it doesn't really bother me that much.

As for the side content, there isn't really very much. There's Elizabeth's requests, Social Links, and... that's about it. I suppose there is the Crane Game too, but there's not much of a point in doing it other than to get Jack Frost plushies. I can understand the relative lack of side content as coming from Persona 2, that wasn't really something the game needed, and looking ahead to Persona 4, whose "enhanced" version is stuffed to the brim with side stuff, it makes sense that there is not much in the way of side content. Persona 3 was the first game in the series to use the Daily Life/Social Sim mechanics and as a result are rather unrefined. One very easy example of this is the fact that all Female Social Links turn romantic at around the 6th rank. Thankfully, that never returned. There's also some real stinkers in Social Links as well as some really great ones. Nozomi Suemitsu (whose name I had to look up as my brain blocked it out)'s S. Link is horrible. Sickeningly, shockingly bad. I can't give specifics because it's been a while, but I remember I had no positive feelings about it. On the other end of the spectrum, Akinari Kamiki's S. Link perfectly embodies the themes of the game and serves as an example of how having someone to talk to can change a person. I don't want to say too much about it other than it's probably the best one in the game, but there are other ones too. Elizabeth's requests are alright, I try to do them, unless it's the pure RNG ones. My luck isn't that good for this sort of thing and it would just waste my time to accomplish nothing in particular.

The last thing I want to touch on is the story. The story is amazing. It executes its themes wonderfully and I love it. As mentioned earlier though, one huge issue the game has is its pacing. Tartarus is a big slog for most people, though I personally love it. How Mementos in Persona 5 is better is beyond me. The story itself basically doesn't start until roughly halfway through the game. Up to that point, you're just kinda going through the motions and not really doing a whole lot. I didn't even really notice in my first playthrough but in subsequent ones it did become more obvious. The scene where Yukari watches the non-doctered video of Eiichiro Takeba's last words never fails to make me tear up. The premise of the game is a bit weird, but whatever.

To finish off, I really love Persona 3. It's my favorite Persona game and I look on it fondly. Lots of fun, frustration, and every emotion inbetween was had while playing the game. The combat can be off-putting, but if you don't mind the severely gimped presentation of the PSP version, you can use direct commands. Or install the hack for the PS2 version, but I don't know how to do that.

-Hat Kid

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