Saturday, March 08, 2008

Finally done with Persona 3

I finally finished the game. I have to say - this game was one of the most selfish I've played.

If you haven't played it, let me give you the setup. In the year 2009, a group of teenagers discover an evil spiritual force that has the power to destroy the world, and only they can stop it (well, of course - only teenagers can save the world). They do this via a power called Persona, which is basically the psychic power of their personalities expressed as a creature. At first your Persona are small things that look like bio-mechanical humanoids, later on you can obtain more powerful Personas with names like Set (looks like an Egyptian god) or so on. Each Persona has strengths and weaknesses that you can use as you fight.

The game is a combination dating sim meets dungeon crawl RPG. By day you move through your town, talking to people and making friends (or girlfriends). Pick the right thing to say, and you'll be better friends with them. The closer your friendship, the more powerful Persona you can make. A relationship with a little girl may strengthen your Hanged Man persona, while making the cute school treasurer your girlfriend will make your Justice Persona more powerful.

At night, your characters troll through a place called Tartarus (which is the high school during the day). Tartarus is just a series of randomly generated maps, and you move up the floors, finding treasure, destroying monsters called Shadows, and on and on. Each Shadow has a strength and weakness of your own, so the game becomes a catalog of trying to figure out the best way to beat a particular shadow. Every few floors, you'll find an extra powerful Shadow blocking your path upwards - defeat them, and you can go up to fight extra powerful monsters. Create new Personas, and keep going.

One thing to mention: the spellcasting. In order to bring our their Personas, the characters have to shoot themselves in the head. Yes, that's right: they put a gun to their head, and pull the trigger. The idea is that the gun isn't filled with bullets, but instead helps push their psychic powers out - but its a powerful visual.

So why do I find the game selfish? Mainly, the social interaction. Each person you are to befriend has different questions and responses, different kinds of gifts they would like. What struck me as odd is that in order to further your friendship, you often had to pick, well, pretty crappy choices. One of the kids in your class is having an affair with his teacher. Hey - bad! Very, very bad, right?

Only, in order to keep your friendship going stronger, you have to encourage him. So when he asks you if you think it's a good idea that he's trying to bonk his teacher, you have to say "Oh, sure - go for it!", instead of "What? Are you kidding? No! Stop it, you moron!"

But, if you want those all powerful Persona points, you *have* to do it. So you can either do what a true friend should do - tell them when they're being stupid, or be a bad friend and just nod your head. "Stick you hand in a blender? Sure - why not!"

In battle, you have to be just as selfish. You are the only one capable of using Restore Beads, which bring you back from unconsciousness (note: not death - sure, it's OK to have Satan and Lucifer as your Personas, but let's not have resurrection). If your character dies, that's it - game over. Evidently, the other characters can't figure out how to open up your backpack and bring you back to life. (Maybe they think it would be rude to go through your things.)

And to be honest, at times my fellow companions were, well, kind of stupid. If there's an enemy who's immune to, say, fire, they can either bash it on the head with a sword, or cast "Break Fire" (which removes that fire invulnerability), then cast Fire on it.

Of course, they do the stupid thing - instead of just bashing it, they waste time casting pointless spells. I had to keep tweaking their AI mid battle to tell them "Stop using magic" - and then of course when I got too hurt, I had to tell them "Hey, moron - how about a heal?" Setting their AI on "auto" was just too hard for them, I guess.

Still, an interesting game, with an interesting story, and the "dungeon romp" elements were enjoyable. Trying to figure out the strength/weakness of each enemy I was fighting got to be fun. And I'll probably pick up the upgrade "Persona 3: FES" later on (in May, I think). Since there's a "New Game +" mode after you finish it (so you get to keep all of your powers for a replay), that will make playing it with the new bells and whistles fun without having to grind to get strong enough all of the time.

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