reviews\ Apr 6, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES - PS2 - Review

There was a time when RPGs evoked emotion. Serious emotion, the kind that fueled blogs, magazines, and message boards. Grown gamers openly weeping, while today’s RPGs make me wish I was sleeping. It’s been a big change that no doubt stems from the reduction of developers (Working Designs is no more, Square and Enix became one entity, etc.).

Persona 3 was one of the few games that captured the essence of the PSone style of RPG development – story first, gameplay second. The semi-automatic battle system brought it down a few notches, but the character-driven storyline and above average voice acting set the stage for something great. Usually that something has to wait for a sequel. But you won’t have to wait for Persona 4 to find out what happens next. Persona 3: FES, an upgraded version of the original, comes packed with an all-new journey that continues the last game’s gripping saga.

Because of the last game’s history, the emotional impact of the new quest (titled “The Answer”) is immediately apparent. Each character is dealing with a terrible loss, the identity of which will not be revealed in this review. If you played through the first quest (re-titled “The Journey” in this upgrade), then the outcome is no secret. Those of you who have yet to get your personified fix, however, should be aware that any part of this review could you lead you to the game’s revelations. The Answer features a new lead character, and in mentioning her and some of the other cast members, you will likely figure out who’s missing from the second chapter.

"What do YOU think is behind this door? Come 'on, let's make a deal!"

Questions No More

Taking place after the events of the first quest, The Answer begins when another incident occurs. As an unknown force prevents the gang from leaving their dorm, Aigis must lead the crew – Junpei, Yukari, and newcomer Metis (as well as supporting characters Ken, Fuuka, Mitsuru, and Akihiko) – into battle.

The battle system remains faithful to the original. With Aigis in charge, you’ll control her as the main character. Once again, additional party members are treated as weapons on autopilot. You can direct but cannot entirely control their actions. For me, this was the clincher last time around. I’m used to RPGs that allow you to control each character individually, and now that I’ve experienced the alternative, complete control is what I prefer.

Having said that, the game is still fun. The rush feature returns to double your battle speed, eliminating some of the genre’s most annoying components, and controls battle actions automatically at the same time. This increases the distance between the player and the gameplay since you can put down the controller and walk away. But with other automatic features employed, it’s not like this could be stopped. And just because you can turn all the characters on autopilot doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. I use it for the average dungeon beast and to kill time while waiting for Aigis’ turn. But I’d never use it on a monster I hadn’t encountered before.

Unlike the original quest, The Answer is preset with a higher-than-average difficulty. The monsters are ruthless – you’ll need to heal often and save your game frequently to continue progressing.

In order to combat this increased challenge, the game offers more Persona cards than the first. You’ll have the chance to win them at the end of each battle along with various growth and currency cards. Not surprisingly, the game reduces its kind gesture by enhancing the difficulty of the card shuffle. In addition to the fast-moving shuffles, they’ll also fly off the screen before stopping, preventing you from keeping track of any particular card.

If you loved Persona 3’s gameplay, the new content is a must-own affair. Despite my mixed opinions of the battle system, I enjoyed Persona 3: FES more than the original. I liken the reason to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I enjoyed the first film, but it wasn’t until I saw the second and third movies that the first storyline really meant something to me. That’s exactly what happened with Persona 3. Excluding a few awkward bits of dialogue, The Answer’s story is extremely well done. The voice work is superb, and most of the character interactions are very believable. It’ll make you want to go back and play through the original all over again – even if you’re like me and would rather not experience the battles a second time.

Velvet Revolver broke up after getting kicked out of the Velvet Room. April Fools!

More, More, More

Most players will agree that the biggest draw for Persona 3: FES is the new quest. But that’s not the only enhancement. The original quest has also been tweaked with additional Personas, improved Social Links and Persona interactions, a system that allows you to create new weapons by fusing Personas, a bonus difficulty setting (“Hard”), and a couple other extras.

If you have a save file from the original P3 disc, you’ll be able to transfer known fusion spell combinations, academic charms and courage rankings, Personas registered in the compendium, and items from Social Links that have reached their maximum level.

This quote reminds me of a mission with Cloud Strife. (Note: The dialogue from this screen should not be used as a benchmark for the rest of the game.)

Love RPGs? Craving a great story? Got thirty bucks? Persona 3: FES ships on April 22. The days may be getting longer and warmer, but if you’re a fan of RPGs (mature RPGs – this game is not a kiddie title), the enhanced edition of Persona 3 is not to be missed.

Review Scoring Details for Persona 3: FES

Gameplay: 7.5
Not enough has changed to change my opinion of the first. The gameplay is fun but a little too automatic for my tastes.

Graphics: 7.4
Persona 3: FES isn’t breathtakingly beautiful, but there are a few impressive characters, textures, and anime sequences.

Sound: 8.5
Superb voice acting and a soundtrack that’s moody, engrossing, and perfectly suited to Persona 3’s style.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
One of the most brutal console RPGs. An “Easy” mode is included with The Journey quest, for those of you seeking a more peaceful experience.

Concept: 8.4
The gameplay is not as unique as it was in 2007. Metis has an interesting feature that’ll become apparent as soon as you start playing. But even with the enhancements, this is essentially Persona 3 all over again. So why the 8.4? Because in the land of RPGs, an enjoyable and relevant storyline is imperative in making the concept of the game come to life. That is something Persona 3: FES does beautifully.

Overall: 8
Persona 3: FES will increase your appreciation of its storyline. The characters are great, the dialogue is believable (how’s THAT for an RPG!?), and if you enjoyed the gameplay last year, there are several new reasons to play through the original quest all over again.


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