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Persona 3 Portable – review
My friend showed me the game Persona 3: FES for the PS2, and it was like a missing piece of my life clicked into place. An amalgamation of mystery, dungeon crawling, otome game and real life sim, Persona 3: FES began an addiction for me for weeks.
Persona 3 Portable, or P3P for short, is the PSP port of that game with a couple of changes. Instead of just having a male protagonist, the user can choose a male or female, and the controls have been tweaked to allow for the use of the thumb pad. Additionally whether you choose the male or female character changes the “Social Links” you can develop (but I’ll talk more about that later). They also took out the animated cut scenes and replaced them instead with static images and voice overs.
For the purposes of discussing my game experience I should say up front that I chose to be a female protagonist at “Easy” level (I had played P3:FES as the male at the “hard” level). It’s important to note that no matter what level you choose, it doesn’t affect the outcome, only how often you can regenerate and how hard the battles are. My character’s name is Chizumi; you can name your char anything you please.
Having played Persona 3 before Persona 3:FES, I can honestly say this was a more enjoyable experience for me. It’s not that I had any problems playing as a male character, but it was kind of uncomfortable for me to be chasing after the girls to eventually make one my girlfriend. The primary goal is to form Social Links with as many characters (or Arcana candidates) as possible. The higher you drive those Social Links (max is 10), the more powerful your Personas of that Arcana are, and the more bonuses you receive when fusing Personas of that Arcana.
Whichever gender you choose, the game will urge you, subtly and with a passiveness you can ignore, to bring at least one of your opposite gender Social Links to a romantic conclusion. Preferably with one of your S.E.E.S. team mates. This can get frustrating, since some Social Links require a certain level of Skill (Academics, Charm, Courage), some require you to have done prerequisites, others can only be completed on certain days of the week–you get my point. A lot of times you’re Social Link availabilities will overlap, so choosing which to nurture and which to leave off for another day requires no small amount of strategy and tactics. It’s in your best interests to build your Social Links to a Level 10 (the max), but good luck keeping the patience for that.
Another aspect of the game is the “School” time. This is really just a platform to form more Social Links and do something other than just fighting demons all the time. You can join clubs, sports, committees and the Student Council. Additionally, throughout the game you’ll take “exams” or pop quizzes. These also serve to help boost your Skill levels. While you can’t ignore this part of the game, don’t put all your effort into it.
The Dungeon Crawling/Mystery aspect is as important as the Social Links aspect is. If you’re like me and you prefer to just grind away until you run out of health/magic/items, the game has several different ways to keep you from achieving that goal.
One way is to sic the demon “Death” on you. He’s brutal, he’s terrifying, and unless you’ve got some heavy-hitters and level’ed as far as you can get, good luck kicking his butt. If Mitsuru (or Fuuka later) says “I feel Death,” run as fast as you can to the nearest teleporter and stop for the night.
Another way you are kept from burning out all your energy are the “boundaries.” Tartarus (the dungeon) is very, very high. Each “Block” spans anywhere from 15 levels to 30 levels. At the boundary between each Block, a magical field is up and makes it impossible to pass until the game says it’s time (usually after a major boss battle). If you finish this early on in the “month,” then you don’t really have to go back to Tartarus except to level your Personas and fulfill Quests from the Velvet Room.
It is hard to categorize this game for what sort of gamer would enjoy it. The action RPG’ers that enjoy Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts may find it tedious to have to do so many outside-of-story things to keep the story moving along. The Japanese RPG’ers, who are used to playing otome (dating sim) games or life-based games may get frustrated with the fighting aspect. It’s also not a game you can whiff through in twenty hours; even if you run full tilt and just keep marathon’ing and grinding and only doing the bare minimum on social links you’re looking at 40 hours. And that’s if you don’t toss your PsP across the room first.
As for me, I’m working on Social Link 12, got my character leveled to 42 and have almost built myself an in-game harem!