April 19, 2008

Burn My Dread

"Beyond the beaten path lies the absolute end. It matters not who you are... Death awaits you."
So, I finished it - Persona 3 - slightly faster than expected.

Overall, I'd say it's pretty good. I did spend over 80 hours playing it, so I hope it was. I'll admit I played on easy - reports of exactly how this works vary, but I know that easy gives you 10 Plumes of Dusk, non-obtainable items that resurrect and heal your party in the event that the Main Character dies, and may decrease the enemy's damage and defense - although unless it also decreases the effectiveness of the enemy's Hama and Mudo (light and dark, respectively, instant death) spell, it's still pretty unforgiving.

The hardest thing to get used to is that you only control the main character in combat, while the rest of your team is AI-driven. Luckily, shortly into the game you get enough "tactics" options to make them smart, as long as you use them. Combat is purely turn based and makes use of a variation of some of the other SMT games' "Press Turn" system. This variation makes it so that, if a character gets a critical or attacks a weakness that would've resulted in knocking down the opponent, they get an extra turn. Should all enemies be knocked down, you'll usually be given the chance to make an "all-out" attack, where all the standing members of your party attack in cartoon-like cloud. On easy, assuming this effects the damage, this is usually enough to kill any random encounter.

One thing that I'm not sure I've broached on here before is the way the game mixes night-time dungeon crawling with the daytime experiences of a Japanese high-schooler. The games lasts the duration of a standard school year in Japan (April - March), give or take the last two months. During this time you go through what's best described as a semi-dating-sim type of game, hanging out with some of your team members, other classmates, and adults as well as spending time studying, singing karaoke, and drinking "pheromone" coffee to raise social stats (Academics, Charm, Courage). These social activities are important to the dungeon crawling part as well: the personas you can fuse will gain bonus experience points on creation depending on what social-links you have built up.

Overall, a very engrossing enjoyable game, that is at times thought-provoking.
I will
Burn my dread
I once ran away from the god of fear
And he chained me to despair

Burn my dread
I'll break the chain
And run till I see the sunlight again