In Which I Don’t Review Persona 3


WARNING – MILD SPOILERS FOR PERSONA 3 & 4 IMMINENT

I frikkin’ love Persona 4. It stands as one of my favourite games of all time and every few months I get pangs to go back and spend time with those characters again. So I was really excited to crack open Persona 3 FES and experience another such game.

I didn’t get it.

Let me just say that if you’re a fan of the game that’s great. It just wasn’t for me.

Setting aside the slightly differing mechanics and the darker tone, the real difference between and 4 is in its narrative railroading. One could quite reasonably argue that 4‘s gigantanormously long introduction and fairly frequent and lengthy cutscenes are too much and there’s not enough time spend playing the game as opposed watching it, but in my opinion it used that time to make me care for the characters and set up clear goals and conflicts.

Persona 3 was, for the twelve hours I logged on it, a hell of a lot more vague about what was happening or why I should care. I hadn’t met any characters that I *really* liked or was interested in and I had no idea what the overarching plot was. But in about four hours of cutscenes and exposition at the start of Persona 4, I knew very clearly the personalities of each of the characters I’d been introduced to. I had favourites and quotable lines and despite being more than a little fatigued at all the cutscenes, I knew where I stood, what I was doing and why I was doing it.

The third playable character in is introduced a little over half an hour in and becomes playable at about the four and a half hour mark, by this point I know her hobbies, mannerisms, relationships with other characters and why she’s with the team. The third playable character in 3 is just brought to the dorm one day with Akihiko informing us he’s a Persona User and part of the team now. Sure, he was in one cutscene or so before where I learnt he knows Yukari and she doesn’t like him very much (very, very understandable). That’s it. We don’t even get to see his “awakening” to his powers.

I get the 3 is meant to be more of a slow-burner, plot wise, but in not yanking me by the leash and giving me a reason to care like 4 did, I didn’t form any attachments to it. It’s kind of like how I feel about sandbox games and games with customisable protagonists. If I’m not given a narrative or mechanical ‘hook’ early on and have to find my own somewhere down the line, I’m likely to just not find one at all and if that happens, I won’t care and I won’t play.

Sometimes a game needs that freedom. It took me quite a while to ‘get’ Fallout 3, but I love that game. But then again I spent about three or four hours wandering around the countryside in Oblivion with no idea what I was doing, how anything worked or why I sould care and, well, I didn’t care. I turned it off and never a backwards glance did I throw it.

And that’s why Persona 3 disappointed me so. It didn’t give me enough of a reason to care. Seeing as I was renting it and therefore paying to be unimpressed with it, twelve hours is all it got from me. Sorry Persona 3. Maybe you got really good at the thirteen hour mark, but I’m not willing to search any further to find the brilliance in you.

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