Being that this is my first Persona experience, I must say that it is a rather unique one. For some reason, Persona 3 reminds me a lot of RPGs that I played back on SNES and PSOne as it possess the same amount of emotional impact. Built more around story than gameplay, this title will often have you listening to dialog more than fighting monsters. RPG’s like this are few and far between in modern day gaming simply because of the recent exploding popularity of First Person Shooters and sandbox titles.
Persona 3: FES can actually be considered Persona 3.5 as it offers more gameplay options and modes. The new quest, The Journey, has each character fighting personal demons and heavy emotions from what happened at the end of the original journey. Featuring new characters, a higher level of difficulty, and new gameplay options, this mode should be played by all players of the original game.
Battle sequences are a little on the unusual side. While you control the main character, all secondary characters are basically on autopilot. This is such a strange concept as I am used to having complete control over my comrades in battle while playing traditional menu driven RPGs. For the most part, friendly AI acts accordingly, but I still would have preferred complete control, especially considering just how difficult the new gameplay mode really is. Healing and saving often are a must if you want to survive.
Acting comparably to a Final Fantasy summon technique, fighting involves “Personas.” New Personas are unlocked by collecting cards that appear after battles while the specific abilities and stats are determined by the personality of your character. If you pay attention when in school, your academics increase which can increase the stats of said Persona, for example. This means that talking to NPCs is almost mandatory, not only to get the most out of the story, but to create relationships which could directly affect a battle outcome.
For an RPG on the PS2, the graphics are about what you would expect. They don’t really raise the bar, but at the same time, it doesn’t really have to. However, the voice acting is really what makes this game’s storyline engrossing. Each character is voice acted so well, you will think you are watching a movie even though narrative scenes are mostly static. On occasion, characters will converse through on screen text only – no voice narration. During these brief instances, you will realize how much you miss the voice acting.
The biggest kicker about this FES version may be the new quest, but that is no reason to not play through the original quest again. New Personas, Persona interactions, and even new Social Links have been added to the original quest, making the entire adventure even beefier than before. And if you played the original disc, you can transfer over data from your save file into this new disc so you do not have to start over from scratch if you don’t want to.
The bottom line is simple: if you love true RPGs, then you need to pick up this game. For the smaller price point of $30, there is no reason not too. Fans of games that are packed with emotion and story will definitely love this game’s darker and more mature theme. Although the combat system is not perfect, it is definitely passable and offers something a little different while the superb voice acting really gives this game its personality. If you didn’t play Persona 3, this is the perfect time to purchase this upgraded title.