If you played Persona 3, is it worth your $30 to buy Persona 3 FES all over again? Yes. For everyone else, congratulations on not buying the first game, it's all included with FES - you are a winner. There are two Episodes in the game: The Answer, a new thirty-hour campaign taking place directly after the events of the original Persona 3, and The Journey, which is the original episode spiffed up with new features. FES has added enough new content to make a replay fun for Persona veterans, but if you'd rather just pick up where you left off, save files can be imported to the new game.
The most important part of the new content is the new campaign. You now control a new hero, the android Aigis, and you've become trapped inside your dorm reliving the same day over and over with all your best buddies. Once again, it's your job to harness the power of Personas, which are powerful creatures that level up with you and give you stat bonuses, weaknesses and tremendous attacks related to their attributes. Chapter one sent you through a dark tower controlled by shadowy creatures, now you have to explore through the Abyss of Time, also controlled by shadows - same great game, but now you go down instead of up.
The new chapter takes the difficulty up, making combat in a challenging game downright hard. By the time you reach the second storyline, you should be a hardened veteran and we were glad to have a tougher challenge. For sadists looking for even more pain, you can replay the first chapter with the new Hard difficulty setting. Be sure before you select it because the difficulty can't be changed once you've started playing.
Aside from the story, there are a bunch of new Personas that can be created and won through a card shuffle, after battles (the shuffle is also harder - now cards tend to fly off the screen). Collecting up to 170 of these summonable creatures is at the core of why we can't stop playing this game. New Personas are useable in either chapter of the game, and so is the new crafting system, which lets you fuse them into new weapons for your heroes to use.
When not powering through the dungeons, you'll still be getting stronger. Personas still inherit and gain powers based on how strong your real-world relationships are. Going to school and building strong friendships is still a huge part of the game, so your links with friends have also been enriched. This lets you tap into even more power if you make the right social choices during the game. You can pretty much push everything past what you could in the first game.
In many ways the only thing preventing FES from being a true sequel is the title. There's a ton of new content, but the story is an immediate continuation of Persona 3's storyline, so we're glad FES still shares a name with the first game. The back and forth balancing between high school friends and investigating mysterious dark forces with slick anime-style teens is addictive. The game still keeps you baited along with the promise of a stronger bond with your friend or the chance to get one level deeper into the Abyss. We'd say that this game is even worth looking at for people who are turned off by the idea of a social simulator (as some of us are). The game makes you want to use each day efficiently. There's not really a wrong way to do things, but maximizing your time requires careful strategy, and strategy is fun even if you hate the idea of having to play a game set in high school.
If you aren't turned off by the virtual high school experience (and it's a very good virtual school), the only thing we can't really recommend is the soundtrack. It's the kind of hip hop that had to be hand-picked by someone in a corner office, trying to appeal to "the kids." You'll turn the sound down the sound before showing your buddy how the game works.
It's too bad that there are a couple of aspects of the FES that could keep some gamers from giving it a chance. It's easy to get an earful of J-pop, buy flowers for a videogame girl to literally get the relationship to level 4 and decide that this game isn't for you. Still, if you're after a challenging and engaging game that'll reward you with a huge well of gameplay with polished style, and - we'll just say it - you're not afraid to nerd out, Persona 3 FES is an all around quality title that it'd be a shame to miss.
Apr 21, 2008