PERSONA 3 FES REVIEW
Well just to get the ball rolling here's the first of hopefully many reviews that'll be posted at this blog, that of the game Persona 3: FES.
PERSONA 3 FES REVIEW
Think of Japanese RPGs and you often think of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Great games that cater for your general JRPG fan. Persona 3: FES (hereafter referred to as P3: FES) thankfully is a recent entry in the established Shin Megami Tensei series that takes the best conventions of JRPGs but adds its own original elements to make a refreshing experience and breath life into the JRPG genre.
P3: FES was released as an enhanced version of Persona 3 (kind of like Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition). The original game remains but with added weapons costumes, Persona and best of all, an extra episode that adds an extra 30 hours of gameplay to the length of the original game and adding much more.
The game has you play as a blue-haired, headphone wearing emo-styled youth who moves to the dorms of the school you've enrolled in, only to find strange things taking place around you. Every night at midnight you find out that your school turns into a freakish tower of its former self, known as Tartarus. In addition to this you encounter creatures known as shadows which emerge in the zero hour, an extra hour of the day that appears at midnight. It is from your first encounter with these creatures that you learn of the existence of Persona (something you find out by shooting yourself with an evoker, a pistol that allows you to bring out the Persona inside) fight the shadows and get to the bottom of what's going on in the world around you.
The introduction to the game serves to not only show you the above but allows you to get used to the school you enroll in, becoming familiar with your classmates who become your comrades in ascending the tower of Tartarus when it appears. You'll also find your character enrolling in school clubs, taking tests, making acquaintances within the local community as well as the ability to visit the Polonian Mall where you can purchase various weapons and items, as well as partake in activities to increase your characters' play statistics.
Part of the charm of P3: FES is that it encourages you to build relationships with those around you which in turn allows you to power up your Persona in the process. It's a great experience that encourages you to get along with people in order to become more skilled and powerful in the game (and how many JRPGs can truly say that is the main mechanic of the gameplay?) Of course, you can choose to be a complete prick and be mean to everyone, but when you find that you're struggling to climb up the tower of Tartarus you may think twice about how you treat those around you.
The focus of the action for the main game is certainly grounded in dungeon crawling and where as this may bore some (admittedly it can ocassionally be a grind) there is something pleasingly unnerving about going into each fight, knowing that your enemies may get the better of you (and we're not just talking bosses!) To say P3: FES is a challenge is like saying you know the alphabet. It is clear from spending even a little time with the game that this is not for the 'button-tapping' friendly camp of old FF games alike. Basically, if you don't know what you're doing the game will punish you and have no hesitation in humiliating your characters and hard work. Otherwise, P3: FES will present a challenge even to the most seasoned of JRPG players, ensuring they get plenty of challenge for their money (those daring Expert difficulty will certainly be put through the grinders in difficulty). Also bear in mind that this is one of the longer RPGs I've played in my lifetime and you may feel like you need a spare lifetime to make it to the end.
With that said, due to the amount of social links you level up, Persona to create through fusion, weapons to obtain, an interesting story to follow and an extra chapter included to play as well (best to play after the main game for continuity) P3: FES is almost a gift to seasoned JRPG fans. That it fuses SIMS-like gameplay together with classic JRPG tropes to make a refreshing gameplay experience supports the fact that P3: FES will be worth your time on the PS2, a machine many would think died a long time ago. This game shows that there's innovation and life in the PS2 yet.