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Persona 3 FES: split personality

Persona 3 FES wallpaper
(Original image source: Atlus.)

I haven’t gotten that far into Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES but it has already amazed, baffled and unsettled me.

This really is two different games in one. One aspect of P3FES, the part I find most appealing, is a mostly unremarkable dungeon-runner (tower, actually, but up … down … small difference) while the other is a high school sim.

This unlikely melding of two disparate genres amazes me and makes me wonder what other bizarre, off-the-wall hybrid games might be in the offing. Should we brace ourselves for a historical wargame slash rhythm dancing game titled Dance Dance American Revolution?

School daze

The high school sim portion of the game is just weird. The game’s main characters are teenagers so it makes sense that school would be a big part of their lives. However, it’s not necessarily something I would be interested in playing. Juggling relationships, studies and afterschool activities is a bit of a pain, and being engaged in incredibly bland teenager conversations is very painful. Yeah, I really want to listen to your gripping tale of unrequited love, stalker girl.

Thus far, I can’t think of a single reason why the high school life sim had to be tacked on. Oh, the designers did provide one — your combat abilities improve as you build and improve social links — but it’s scarcely a compelling reason for me at the moment. I could be saving all of humanity from monstrous threats but no-o-o, I have to study for my mid-term exams instead.

The dungeon crawler part of the game involves ascending a tower level by level, combatting monsters in a turn-based battle system, acquiring loot and experience. It’s so straightforward that it’s mostly unremarkable.

Jung guns

The complexity in this game (and the main reason I find the game appealing) involves its crafting system. This is based on personae subsumed within the self until moments of distress. In P3FES, these moments of distress are typically self-inflicted by shooting the self in the head. Oh, the Evoker is not really a gun but watching these schoolkids place one to their temples and pull the trigger is deeply unsettling. The M rating was no doubt meant to prevent impressionable young minds from doing the same.

Each summoned Persona is capable of a variety of feats, making them essential in battle. These Personae level up in the same way as characters and in doing so, gain new abilities. This, too, is straightforward.

The complexity comes into play because a Persona can be fused with another, creating a new Persona with abilities of its own as well as abilities inherited from its parent Personae. Here then is the game’s most intriguing and engaging system, and the aspect that both requires and rewards the most thought and care.

As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t delved too deeply into the game yet but what I’ve experienced so far has left me looking forward to my next session of the game and planning my Personae fusions in the meantime.

Link

The Intro. The game has multiple intros but this is the one that plays when you first begin The Journey, the core of P3FES. It’s suitably odd and unsettling.

Posted in Games, Persona 3, PS2.


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