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.