Persona 3 Portable

I finally finished P3P! I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit, but thought I’d put off writing anything about it until I finished it, for now, here’s write up which is in need of a clean up, but should be presentable enough.

If you are reading this blog, you are probably familiar with P3 and its 2 spin offs FES and Portable, both of which are better than the original in different ways, but build off the original game in different ways.

FES is an expansion on the original adding an extra chapter to the main story at the end called “The Answer” which supposedly stars Aigis and features an interesting, grindtastic story that feels like a fan fiction, a good fan fiction, but fan fiction. I’ve never played FES or just P3, but I have it on good authority that one of the more interesting things about The Answer game play wise was that it really pushed the rules of the game, as Persona 3’s knock down system was abuseable, but also forced you to wrestle with AI, which was very predictable and thus the battles were puzzles which the goal was to make your party AI get into the right flow. This can either be interesting or insanely annoying depending on how you felt about the AI in the first place.

P3P takes a very different approach, and ditches the added “Answer” but keeps much of the extra content it added for the main game. However P3P changes up a bit aswell. Aside from adding the Female main character, which gives the already deep and well written P3 cast more depth it also changed the battle system quite drastically. It basically drags P4s battle system and places it into P3. To those who haven’t played p3 like myself, this feels pretty natural. However it does change the dynamic of the game a little, shifting from setting up the situation you want to just doing what you want (p3p allows manual control of party members). This coupled with the change to the stamina system which in p3 was designed to prevent you from grinding too long in the Tartarus basically doesn’t exist in p3p. You can become tired by having a character die and be brought back to ground floor dead, or by going to the tartarus every night many nights in a row.

That change prompted yet another change to P3 which is times, in p3 you had your afternoons, evenings, and late nights free to do things, this allowed extra study among other things, however, given that in a single Tartarus trip you can get through a lot more of the tower your Late Night time period is simply removed from the game. This can make getting Academics harder to get to max than it was in previous P3 games, however, as a plus, the fact you don’t need to worry about stamina as much makes the game far more accessible.
The change to a portable, also creates one extra change to the gameplay, the over world is gone and the game outside of tartarus is simply moving a cursor over people and things to interact with them, rather than exploring 3d environments, this drastically improves pacing for these times, but does reduce atmosphere, and the game feel more like a visual novel during these moments (which can be a good or bad thing depending on who you are.

In persona 3, your character has the ability to fuse and use multiple personas, making him the jack of all trades, switching and fusing persona is requirement to playing the game outside of self set challenges. Fusing Personas together creates new persona, however, even though you can often see you could make a new persona which are much higher levels than you, only those with a base level lower or equal to yours can be created. However, there is a way to get around this, and it’s through the system that makes persona 3 and 4 some of the more unique RPGs in a long time; Social Links.

Social Links are a really clever and neat system for many reasons. These links are on a purely mechanical level, just give a persona of the same arcana as the link an XP boost which might cause them to level up multiple times right after making it. However, the social links also help create interest in the world around you. They provide both substantial mechanical advantage, and also the the main tool the game gives you to spend time with the well written and interesting NPCs, which in most games would go totally ignored. A social link is made up of 10 ranks, covers a significant issue for the character, and often results in being best friends or a relationship. While the structure is simple, and quickly becomes apparent, these characters stories not only serve as a great foil for the fantastic adventure you are on, but they are genuinely believable characters (mostly), with slightly exaggerated but still quite real issues.

The desirability of these social links create a tension though, in order to get many of the links you’ll need to have high courage, academics or charm, which require a lot time invested either in the evening when you could be training in the tartarus or the afternoon where you could be developing social links. This creates, in theory, a bunch of interesting choices for how players choose the manage their time between all these activities. However, it is possible to max out all the social links and stats in the game, but you’d need a guide to do that.

Persona 3 really relies on the fact you are shifting between all sorts of different things though, as the school days and social links can get tiresome when done for hours, as can climbing the tartarus. However, when you’ve got the flow going, and the ease to switch between all these interesting but tiresome activities, you have a game that is able to change it’s tune when you need it too, and that, is possibly one of the strongest things about it…

You’ll notice at this point I’ve covered very little of the plot, and that’s mainly because anything in the plot worth saying is either really obvious, makes little sense out of context, or will ruin the surprise. The plot is however well told, with the core cast being an interesting diverse group of people who’ll you enjoy being around even if you don’t like them all. They all raise a lot of questions about life, and social interaction, and while it does get a little melodramatic at times, the characters remain believable as possible given the rather bizarre life thus to onto them. If you’d like to have a good write up on the plot, http://gamecareerguide.com/features/908/game_narrative_review_persona_.php

is a good one.

I’ll probably clean this up later… but I think it’s good enough to post for now. Suggestions welcome in comments, as well as questions on what I haven’t addressed well enough.

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