Persona 3

According to some Zen books I’ve read, our ego grows a mask of sorts, an interface with reality that grows as we streamline quick ways to get what we want.  However, in doing so it limits us, preventing us from seeing the truth of the situation by being unable to see past our own interfaces.  The task of an enlightened individual is to transcend this, to destroy our masks and face life truthfully and with consideration for every moment.

So it’s interesting to see the interpretation in Persona 3, my most recent GameFly rental, where these self-limiting masks become entities which can be summoned and used to do battle against shadow fiends existing in a hidden 25th hour between the days.  These masks are the Persona in the title.

I think at the very heart of Persona 3 is an appreciation of one facet of the original Diablo: the idea of a randomly generated dungeon beneath civilization that the protagonist will continually return to until it is conquered.  However, there’s a great deal more around it.

The majority of the game actually takes place outside of the dungeon, as the protagonist goes about the life of a high school student, attending classes, meeting friends, shopping, and so on.

  • The purpose of most of the activities is to bolster three stats (Academia, Charm, and Courage). This makes it easier to achieve certain things in one’s daily schedule, as well as boosts the strength of your Persona in some ways.
  • The purpose of forging friendships is to bolster one’s affinity for a tarot card that represents a body of Persona.  This affinity increases the levels of those Persona when they are freshly fused together.
  • The purpose of shopping is to replenish your consumable items and equipment – a fairly standard RPG mechanic: sell loot, buy gear.

The days play out remarkably quickly, perhaps an artful jab at how quickly we spend our real life days.  On simple white letters across a black surface, you see the words “Morning” “Lunchtime” and other such times simply passing by, and if something significant happens during that time then a scene is shown.

“After School”  you usually are permitted to take control, choosing how to spend your day.  This involves freely wandering about doing your shopping and such before dedicating it to one activity that consumes all time before evening.  You automatically return to the dorm in the evening (choosing to go there will trigger evening prematurely) and at that point decide if you and your dorm mates are in a good shape to go to the dungeon.

It’s almost as though the developers were looking for a good excuse to force exclusion from the combat aspects of the game.  Perhaps they were aware (as many burned out RPG players are) that simply grinding away in a dungeon is a meaninglessly repetitive experience, so they keep the players away from that for the most part.   Then, only when the players have had an amount of time away from the grind, are they allowed to dive into it again.

Overall, a thoroughly interesting game.  Maybe I’ll see it through to completion before sending it back.  If nothing else, it is interesting to see what Shin Megami Imagine Online, the online game based on the series, has in common.  (Answer: disappointingly little – but better something than nothing.  If I were them, I’d investigate a change in music.)

It’s so good to have something to drag me out of the forums.  Frankly, I had been hanging around them so long that I was a complete cantankerous grouch today.  It’s not that I necessarily want the kids off my lawn so much as I was encountering difficulty bearing the ignorant on the face of the universe.  There’s no solider contempt than one so all-inclusive that you yourself are not spared.

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