December 15, 2011

Game review: Persona 3 Portable ~Girl's side~

Made by: Atlus
Genre: RPG, Stat-raiser, Otome, Adventure
Summary: Every night, between midnight, a secret hour takes place. Normal humans are unaware of this, but those who hold the potential can be awakened. Arriving to a new city, you get caught up in a mysterious organization called "SEES", a group of high schoolers with special powers. Together you search the labyrinth of Tartarus for answers and what the purpose behind the "Dark Hour" really is.

Original Persona 3 was released back in 2006 and four years later they ported it to PSP, adding a whole new story and the option to play as female. I finished the game last summer and totally forgot about the fact that you could play as girl, until now, that is.

The heroine doesn't have a name but is fan-named "Minako Arisako" after the male lead's name (Minato Arisato). You arrive one night to your new dorm where a small boy with hallow eyes asks you to make a contract with him. Since the heroine is tired from traveling and it's soon midnight, she thinks it's for the rent or something and signs it XD

Minako is, like everyone else in SEES, a Persona user. She can summon different Personas to help her battle the monsters they call "Shadows" inside Tartarus. The tower of Tartarus, with a staggering 263 floors to climb, only appears at the "Dark Hour" and in the exact same spot the school used to be. Those with potential of becoming a Persona user attracts Shadows and sometimes get kidnapped and thrown into the labyrinth. Minako and the rest of the SEES members tries to find and explanation to the whole happening and there seems to be a strange connection to Minako's parents death and the tower.

Since I wanted to focus on the visual novel part of the game, I'll only cover the guys you are able to date (sorry ladies~)

A loud, cheerful, laid back type of guy with lots of energy. When first arriving at school he is the first friend you make there and joins SEES right after you do.
Because of the storyline, the female protagonist can't become anything more than very close friends.

Serious leader-type of character who used to be a boxing champion.
Akihiko is very popular at school, but ignores the fangirls and simply says "annoying" if the topic is brought up. He is very protective of the heroine and at a certain point asks her to stop fighting, afraid that she will get hurt.
If you max out his social link and become his girlfriend, he will share his past and secrets with you, reviling why he is so anxious to protect the people he love.

Raised in an orphanage with Akihiko, Shinjiro is a shady looking character with a dangerous feel to him. He was the one who started SEES, together with Akihiko and Mitsuru but after an accident where his persona went crazy, he refused to work with them ever again. When meeting the heroine Shinjiro puts on a tough-guy attitude and swears a lot, but when getting to know him he is actually a very gentle person on the inside. When going his route he confesses that he loves her, but that it might be a big mistake on her behalf. Even so, Shinjiro asks her to trust him.

A young boy who join SEES to find the Persona user who killed his mother. Ken is surprisingly mature for his age (even more than Junpei sometimes) but acts very shy around the heroine.
There is a lot of character development in the game for Ken and in order to start his romance you need to have very high courage. Your confidence starts rubbing off on Ken soon and he gets pretty protective of you, making sure that Akihiko and the rest of the male cast knows that you belong to him ヾ(^∇^) Note that I'm not the type who likes shota characters, but Ken is an exception with his grown-up yet so easily embarrassed personality.

A flirty and mysterious character who transfers to school late in the game. He and the heroine hits off well and he quickly falls in lover with her. Knowing he hides secrets from her, the protagonist can't help but wonder why his sad eyes makes her heart ache. To him, their love is forbidden.

A new character who works as a attendant in the Velvet Room. He gives you different quest through the game and takes you on dates, saying he is interested in the human world. A very classy, handsome and polite man who soon finds you very charming yourself. Sadly his route doesn't go further than him confessing to you and thanking you for showing him so many wonderful things of the human world.

P3P uses conversation options, just like a regular VN, to improve or worsen your relationship with people

The majority of the game is map-based and it's also the way you get around in town. But when you inside of Tartarus the game changes from 2D to 3D. The battle system is turn-based and be prepared to grind a lot, because at the end of the game you WILL be needed to reach the top of the tower.

Every character got a special element focus such as ice, water, fire etc exept for you, who can change between Personas whenever you want. The game is day-based, but when Dark Hour comes you can stay as long as you like until your party members are hurt/fatigued. If you have a good relationship with a party member there is she/he will sacrifice themselves and take a hit for you.

To be able to create new Personas you must first get friends. By building relationship you also build social links that in the Velvet Room later can become Personas. The Velvet room is a special place which only you can enter and where you can talk to Theo, complete quests & get hints how to advance the story.

Final Score:
Story 7/10

I wish I could rate it higher, but I just can't get over the weird pacing in P3P. Having such a long story, the actual events to kick it off doesn't come until much later. The first half of the game is too slow and the last half is stressful. It's a bit of a roller coaster, but overall enjoyable.

Music 8/10
New in P3P is the heroine's music. I really enjoyed that they decided to change it since they easily could have re-used the original OST but decided to make a new one instead. The genre has everything from rock-ish battle theme to jazz in the shopping mall and relaxing blues when you're at school. The opening theme from the original game also deserves a mention and as usual the ending song is touching.

Art 8/10
The 3D models are a bit pixel-ish and the animation is nothing to mention. The classic Persona sprites on the other hand are the usual quality with different expressions and clothing options depending on season. I love the heavy shading and all the characters are

Voices 8/10
Looking at the VA list, we got a pretty nice lineup here. Hikaru Midorikawa plays the arrogant but later kind big-brother type. Kōsuke Toriumi (knowns from Vitamin X and Hakuoki) and Junichi Suwabe also got big roles. And if you are a fan of j-pop, Maaya Sakamoto plays an emotionless android in the game.

Total: 7/10
Even if P3P was unable to push Persona 4 of my top ten rpg list, it was still a fun experience to play as a girl this time around. The boys will argue over you and the heroine is a pretty kickass character who speaks her mind and can summon monsters at her will. If you're into rpg and want to play a VN at the same time, I would say Persona 3 Portable is just the thing. The system is easy to understand and you'll soon forget about real life when running through the labyrinth of Tartarus.


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