The lights are on
In the PlayStation 2 era, role-playing games reigned supreme. It was nearly impossible to keep up, but I always finished off one and moved on the next seamlessly. Jumping from RPG to RPG started to take its toll. By 2007, it felt like I had seen it all, and RPGs weren't surprising me or doing anything that drastically different from the next. Then came Persona 3.
Persona 3 was a breath of fresh air. Seven years had passed since the last entry in this cult series, so I wasn't even sure what to expect. But when I loaded it up and saw the characters put the gun-like evokers to their heads, I knew this game would be drastically different. Watching regular people transform into coffins during the mysterious Dark Hour was like a warning: death is all around you. This entry also marked the debut of social links; chatting with classmates and locals became one of my favorite parts. What I loved so much about social links is how they represented so many different struggles and let you feel like you helped these people through the tough times.
Additionally, Persona 3 has one of the best RPG casts to date. I love the banter between Junpei and Yukari and how Akihiko and Mitsuru work so hard to be great role models. I dungeon crawled my way to about 88 hours my first playthrough. I would get so lost in the world and scenery of Iwatodai, with its realistic setup of everyday shops, a movie theater, and a night club. And doing the simple things like attending class only to get quizzed on the material and hanging out with friends on the weekends had a normalcy I appreciated.
I wasn't expecting the ending to hit me as hard as it did, as it struck hard about the human condition and how sacrifices happen for the greater good. Although as soon as I finished, I wanted to play again. Some social links are impossible to unlock on the first playthrough because they require certain personality traits at a particular tier. I waited until the FES expansion came out, since it featured bonuses like new scenes and the ability to take Koromaru for a walk and my save would carry over with my enhanced abilities. I anticipated getting through quicker this time around, but still put in an admirable amount of time, hovering around 77 hours. I'm glad I played again because I found my favorite social link: Mitsuru Kirijo; her story about standing up to her family and choosing her own path is admirable.
After experiencing all the social links, you would think I'd be done with Persona 3. However, when Persona 3 Portable came out, I played through it once again. I couldn't resist the opportunity play as a female character and chat up modified social links like Akihiko and Junpei. Call it being a completionist or seeking the thrill of battle and finding new personae to fuse, but I can honestly say Persona 3 ranks up there as one of the games I logged the most hours in. I'm not one who replays games very often, much less in short amount of time, but Persona 3 changed everything. How telling is it that I've ventured into Tartarus for close to 300 hours?
To this day, Persona 3 remains one of my favorite games. I still contend it has some of the best video gaming writing, and even as writing this piece I'm reminded of some of powerful moments like Chidori and Junpei's relationship and watching how all the social links came together at the end in your epic battle. And who could forget the music? Embarrassing tidbit: I still have dance parties religiously to "Burn My Dread."
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Great game. I still need to finish P2 Eternal Punishment... that one's hilarious.
Awesome pick. Persona 3 and 4 are some of the best RPGs of all time. I've personally put about 150 hours into 3 and 200 into 4.
I'm still in my progress of finishing this game and I'm at January. Spent 110+ hours overall so I'm going pretty slow and I have to play a 2nd playthrough yet I'm enjoying the characters, their personality, music, story, etc. Really enjoying it!
I've never even given a second glance to games like this, but the more you talk about these, Kim, the more I want to play them! Great article!
As a HUGE Persona 4 fan, I feel really bad about never having played this game. It's just so intimidating to jump back into one of these incredibly dense games, lol. Persona 4 was an AMAZING experience, but I'm frightened by the idea of losing that much of my life to another game, albeit a little bit excited by it. This article has inspired me to finally go after this game online or something.
I knew Ms/Mrs.(not sure) Wallace would post this story and this style of game love is one reason many GI readers are keen on Kim.
My take: I AM HAPPY ABOUT IT! Persona 3 changed my life! (by taking 90+ hours from it and getting me all emotional)
Yeah, until Persona 4 came around- 3 was not only my favorite, but the one I'd dug the most time and effort into.
I didn't play this game until P3P, and when I bought it I didn't know much about it. It is now easily one of my favorite games of all time, and one that I've spent over 120 hours on.
about 17 hours in, great game so far. i've played golden and loved that. the only annoying thing is the one hit kills the enemies sometimes get. love the storyline so far, much much darker than P4G however the evokers are pretty badass.
Persona 3 bumped off the entire Final Fantasy series from my "favorite game of all time" list, right away.
I think I had something of an addiction to the Portable version in particular. I've clocked about 500 hours across the different releases so far; just hearing the menu sound makes me want to play it again.
amazing game i agree.....but persona 4 is far superior in every way :)
This is just my layman's perspective, but the Persona games seem to be the ones that people usually go to if they're into just the stories or writing. That's not bad, per se, just not for me.
I'm currently playing this and Persona 4. Great games so far.
ah~ one of my favorite's!
Persona 3 was one of my favorite of the later PS2 RPGs and it was my first foray into the MegaTen franchise which now includes too many games for me play....addicting. I still think persona 3 is the better of 3+4 Mitsuru and aigis my two favorite characters. please Altus if your ever read any forums please make a vita version. Oh and for anyone a fan of the series play persona arena!
i found a copy of this game when I was in Afghanistan. Someone from another unit left it at our fob, oh well their loss.
Persona 4 is also amazing
I guess it is a good thing I picked up the Persona 3 FES PS2 classic recently. After hearing so much about the Persona series after Persona 4 Golden released, I decided I needed to play one of the games, and since I don't have a Vita, Persona 3 FES it was. I haven't played a deep, engaging RPG in awhile, and P3 will be the most Japanese/Anime like JRPG I've ever played, so I'm rather exited to get into it :)