Title: Persona 3 FES
Publisher: Atlus (USA)/ Koei (EU)/ Ghostlight (EU) PSP version
Format: PSN Store
Type: Game, Single Player
Genre: Supernatural, Action J-RPG, Shounen
Lead a group of high school students with a dangerous extracurricular activity: exploring the mysterious tower Tartarus and fighting the sinister Shadows during the Dark Hour, a frozen span of time imperceptible to all but a select few. However, the end of their quest is no longer the end of the story. Witness for the first time the aftermath of the final battle and the students’ struggle to find meaning in their new lives.
This popped up on the PSN store at the beginning of February, and after some deliberation i picked it up. For me the concern was if it was going to be an upgrade from the PSP version which I’ve already completed, and loved. So after some though, and everyone’s assurances the game was way better, i picked it up. Besides it’s only £7.99, which isn’t to bad a price IMO.
However, after playing for 20hours I’m hear to say that the PSP version is the superior version, by a long margin!!
So yes, the FES version of the game has two very nice elements that add to the game. Firstly, and most importantly IMO are the anime cut scenes. These are frankly awesome and greatly improves on the PSP version. The opening on the FES version is significantly better than the PSP version. Through out the game we get a lot of anime cut scenes that make the game more alive and give context to the game.
However, on my TV, a 40” Toshiba Full HD, it looks really BAD. The game hasn’t aged well and neither Sony nor Atlus/Koei did anything to the game to improve the look and feel of the game. The only option you get is ‘smoothing’ which frankly does nothing, I’ve no idea what they were trying to do with this option but it doesn’t improve game in any way.
Graphics aren’t the be all and end all of a game admittedly, however in a game like this with heavy cut scenes they do become a large factor. Now, even though it looks bad, it’s not unplayable bad. truth be told i rather enjoyed the beginning of the game. So i have to admit, that while it’s not a great looking game, it’s not going to fall apart due to the graphics.
However i have to say the graphics on the PSP version are significantly improved. While we lose the anime cut scenes and get a lot of visual novel style reading in it’s place. Graphically it’s better looking. The images seem to have had an upgrade and seem sharper and more crisp than they do on the FES version.
The next part that made me interested in FES was that the game came with a ‘expansion?’ built into the game, this meant that after you completed the game you played the next part to get a full conclusion. However I’ve since been told it’s a terrible part of the game, requiring a lot of grinding, and i do mean a LOT, even by Persona standards.
The main aspect i loved in this game, in both the FES and PSP version, was the story. Like Persona 4 and it’s older sibling Persona 1&2 P3 has a damn good story. This story was really well written and flows perfectly. What’s more i really loved almost all of the characters, the more time i spent with them the more i grew to like and care about them. Which IMO frankly makes this game a success!!
The soul character i hated however was in the FES version, and that’s the main guy, who is frankly annoying. For the most part he’s an apathetic prick who shuts out the world with his headphones. Over the course of the game he builds more social links, and even gets a girlfriend, which you would think would change his personality significantly. However this isn’t the case, from start to end he’s an apathetic prick who uses the social links purely for the power it gives him. Frankly, on the playthrough i did i ended up with Chihiro, the treasurer from the student council. She’s terrified of men and over the course of the social link progression we see her change. she goes from a cowering scaredy cat to someone who stands up for herself. While she always has that ‘rabbit caught in the head lights’ feel to her, she does grow up some. Sadly the protagonist doesn’t, and I’ve felt a lot of times that i want to give the guy a slap or three.
In the PSP version however we get an entirely new protagonist who I’m playing in my current playthrough. this new protagonist is female, peppy, perky and frankly has personality of her own doubled with the personality the original guy was supposed to have. This new protagonist makes for a whole new vibe from the game, one that’s frankly way better in every sense. For the first time in my playthrough’s I’ve found i actually like the main character. It’s also changes the relationship dynamics and adds a lot of humour. Yukari becomes the new ‘friend’ instead of Iori, and he also becomes the focus of the jokes from the two. This change in focus breathes a lot of life into the game, and makes it interesting to play, and makes me eager to play it. Unfortunately the expansion, The Answer, isn’t available on the PSP version which is a shame, however it’s not an essential thing to play it.
As i said I’ve put in a little over 20hours (12 of them in a single sitting lol) and I’m unlikely to carry on playing the FES version. This is due to a very annoying mechanic of the game which cripples you in the PS2 version, but was removed from the PSP version.
That is getting tired. The more time you spend in Tartarus the more tired you get, if you ignore getting tired and press on there’s greater chance of you missing attacks and taking damage, also if you keep going you’ll get sick. This system was put in so as to stop you spending all of your time in Tartarus, and forces you to balance it with spending time on the social aspects of the game. Frankly i have no issue with that, it’s a great system that was well implemented in the PSP version, however in the PS2 version it was stupidly handled.
In the PSP version effects are applied to the characters after you leave Tartarus, so you could spend ages in the dungeon fulfilling Elizabeth’s requests, farming persona or items you need for crafting. Once you left it would then say you were tired/sick and depending on the status you’d have to spend the next few days outside of Tartarus recovering. this of course giving you the time to focus on the social aspects.
In the PS2 version however they have the status effect you while in the dungeon, and in a stupid way. what i found was that i wasn’t able to go more than two floors without one or more of the party keeling over from exhaustion. This makes the game very hard to progress early on, and the time pressure really does get to you. The only way to get around this is to completely ignore the early levels of the dungeon. The dungeon is split into sections and for the first 3 you simply ignore everything and just plough on through to the boss fights. My complaint about this is how the frack are we supposed to know this? I only found out about this from reading forums.
Even now, after getting into the third section, having improved a lot (supposedly) we still can’t go more than a floor or two without keeling over.
This makes things nigh on impossible when you’re trying to complete Elizabeth’s requests, which require you to farm items from certain monsters in the dungeon. I found the only way to do this was to enter combat and then flee, even though i knew i was capable of winning the fight. It felt to much like wasted game time, this was especially true of a request i was trying to fill at the moment. I had to get 5 things from a creature in the second tier. After 2 hours of trying the monster hasn’t spawned a single time, and this wasn’t just over a few floors, we’re talking 15 of the damn things. Again checking on forums i found this is not unheard of, in fact one guy spent 6hours trying to get them. Rare mobs are all well and good, but when you’re wasting time on that scale, it’s a badly implemented mechanic. Thankfully the PSP version doesn’t have this, the spawning time is significantly less.
Finally we have the biggest pain the ass of all, Death. This is a uber powerful persona who wanders the dungeon and the only thing you can do is run away from him. You get into a fight with him before your ready your dead in one hit. The problem with the PS2 version is that once he spawns that’s it, game over for that night. He’ll follow you around for the rest of the night and you can’t avoid him, which makes for a very frustrating waste of time. Again this was tweaked in the PSP version where if you went back to base camp it reset Death and he disappeared until another night.
This wouldn’t really be such a big issue on the FES version of the game if the items you use to escape dungeons were more common. Unfortunately they aren’t, in fact the only place I’ve gotten any from (so far) was from the rare chests.
Granted this is a personal preference, but for me the PSP version is by far the superior version, hell it’s even natively wide screen and just looks better. The problem is not everyone wants to play on the small vita screen, which i can understand. However when Vita TV comes out, which I’m hoping will be some point this year; we’ll get a Vita on TV so it’ll play a lot like the FES version currently does. Also means you’d get to play the full Persona series 1-4!!
So, in conclusion, Persona 3 Portable freaking awesome, almost as good as Persona 4 Golden and almost looks as good as P4Golden. Worth every penny and the time invested in it, and i say this despite it being a cut down version of the original. Cut down as in No animated scenes at the beginning of school, or anime cut scenes. These are replaced by a visual novel approach which works well.
Persona 3 FES, i wouldn’t bother with. It has some nice additions, such as the anime cut scenes and the Answer expansion. Given the price it’s hard to say don’t buy it, but just bear in mind it’s a frustrating version of the game and as such not as fun as the PSP version.