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Persona 3 FES: One for all, all for one

Persona 3 FES: Aigis
(Image source: Persona 3 FES ending.)

There are moments when Persona 3 FES, a game from a Japanese developer, seems very Japanese.

That the writer(s) were concerned with the way Japanese society was heading is clear from the allusions in the game to the hikikomori and Aum Shinrikyo. And it’s telling the game’s attitude towards The Lost, the hopelessly apathetic victims of the Shadows, is handwringing about the effect on society rather than heartfelt concern for the individual victims themselves. The collective comes before the individual in Japan, and self-sacrifice as a means to protect others is a recurring and another very Japanese theme in P3F.

But there are also moments in the game when the player is faced with more personal yet universal concerns. There are few games that leave you contemplating life, death and what it means to live with the knowledge of its inevitable end.

Persona 3 FES: Player
(Image source: Persona 3 FES ending.)

The themes brought up are heavy but they aren’t explored in any great depth and the writing is mostly sophomoric. In a game that deals mainly with sophomores and is probably targetted at that demographic, this is perhaps no censurable failing. But gamers whose teenaged years are but a memory will find themselves rolling their eyes frequently — there are moments in P3F right out of Leisure Suit Larry games — and will need reminding they aren’t the intended audience and must simply accept the game on its own terms.

Still, as the hours of gameplay pass, the characters will start to get under your skin because there’s an endearing earnestness and sincerity about them that’s typical of Japanese pop culture. No cause is hopeless, no obstacle insurmountable because they believe in you, they believe in each other and they will do their very best until the very end. In different ways, they will each find meaning in their lives and discover the strength within to continue fighting even in the face of oblivion. It’s hard not to cheer as these kids stare death in the face and exclaim with steely determination, “I won’t lose!”
Persona 3 FES: SEES
(Image source: Persona 3 FES ending.)

Simple tugging on heartstrings leads to an affecting and memorable ending. It’s a very Japanese ending as the Japanese seem to understand and accept that all things must come to an end and the happy Hollywood ending is a lie.

But then living isn’t about the final destination; it’s The Journey.

Posted in Games, Persona 3, PS2.

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