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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Persona 3:FES - Review

I know I gave a review of Persona 3, but after finally completing FES[tival edition], I noticed how drastic the differences were. The FES storyline is completely different, not in a non-canonical way but in terms of story telling. Also, their fixes to the first game are worth noting.

You all know the storyline from my previous review and you all know about the shooting of selves in heads. Shut up. So I'll review what's changed in the original story and get right onto "The Answer" (the second part of the game).
First off, they let you transfer your game data over to FES, for the first game which actually made me enjoy the game a bit more. Now that I didn't have any qualms about time management, I could focus more on social links and finding hidden quirks in the game.
You're also allowed to start off in the special "Hard mode" difficulty. For one, I'd like to say that the hard mode is brutal. Following suit of all their previous games and current trend of ramping up the difficulty with better AI, hard mode simply makes the game harder. Not in the sense that they're higher levels than you, the REAL harder. They're smart. They exploit your weaknesses, they bombard you with stat modifiers and then take advantage of that. They use specific skills when necessary and some monsters now have the ability to heal. What's been keeping you alive is now one of their powers. The shadows move significantly faster and the the glowing red ones turn surprisingly fast. You can still bumrush the stairs and do all those tricks before (like hugging the walls) to avoid battle, but occasionally, I found a few that I just couldn't shake off. Oh, don't let them go first. If they do, they take their time killing you.

SEES AI was also improved as well. Each character now has a certain quirk in their AIs. For example, all characters now freely knock down monsters first if they can. So, you don't have to set them to "knock down" any more and hope that you'll be able to switch yukari back to heal, however Junpei will have a tendency to attack any monster he can kill via physical after he knocks it down. Mitsuru will apply mind charges and status ailment skills pretty often. Kinda annoying but you'll have to deal. Akihiko likes to do normal attacks. He'll use lightning ONLY when he needs to to knock down, and I haven't seen him use a lot of Polydeuces/Caesar's physical skills. Yukari loves her persona. She will cast Io/Isis for a garu skill more often than she will fire her bow.

I had some qualms before about the detail in Persona 3. Rather, how they talk about certain items but then never elaborate. Fixed. There's a handful of items including summer outfits and casual outfits that not only incite a response but now there's physical proof that incites their response. ACTUALLY having Yukari fighting in a maid uniform? Hilarious.

Everyone talks a lot more. If you thought they said a lot during battles, they talk even more now, and it seems that new lines were recorded. Aigis completely changes her script once she comes to self-realization. It's a short period of time that it's changed, but it makes battling with her so much more soothing. I understand the voice direction was to get a very robotic tone but I never liked how directors wanted broken tones as if it was synthed. The point of Aigis was that she seemed HUMAN, and thus with HUMAN tone emphasis. You could make her stand out by using a wide range of vocabulary that isn't in the vernacular but have a normal tone. That will still come off as robotic. Regardless, her script changed and with that, so did that robotic tone.

The first game now has weapon fusing, which is one of my favorite new features. You can fuse a persona into a blank weapon to get a new weapon with an attack value and effect that's particular to that persona. You can also get special weapons when you fuse specific personas. For example, you can get Mjollnir or Gae Bolg. Each special weapon also has it's own model. For example, Laevateinn is a giant two handed katana on fire. By the time you get to Nyx or if you imported your data, you'll have a party with overpowered, but cool, looking weapons.

Finally, rearrangement of personas, additional cutscenes, additional persona, and Aigis's social link: Aeon.

Now for FES.

(SPOILER ALERT. I suggest you beat persona 3 first. I will also reveal BIG key points in FES which I will label so that you can avoid them if you want.)

FES starts you off in a beautiful, anime cutscene with Aigis fighting Aikihiko. Corners are cut, but the style is still very distinct and there was a nice handful of good detailing that made it worth it. You'll also notice from the opening and music for the cutscene that Shoji Meguro changed up his style a bit for FES.

First off, the difficulty is set in hard mode, no questions, just deal with it. The story is now in Aigis's perspective and thus you won't have a silent protagonist. In fact, you really won't have a choice in terms of story line, it's quite linear.
At first, I thought FES would be that "filler" sequel where it just embellishes characters.

(SPOILER:highlight for spoiler)
And it really did seem like it too. For a good portion of the game, you're just seeing pasts. The only time the story picks up is during the commentary after those pasts. An interesting thing to note. Aigis is obviously based off of Zeus's shield as the "protector." Metis is a bit harder to explain. The greek term of Metis actually means wisdom. The titan Metis is also the birth mother to Athena, goddess of wisdom. Metis's name really follows the greek language as she is the voice or logic and reason throughout all of this commentary. Not only that, she's surprisingly cunning. Just goes to show you Atlus means to put a lot of effort into the games they develop, as if the compendium wasn't enough.
(end Spoiler)

It's only by the end did I start to realize this was so different than what I expected. I'll admit, the exposition and the build up for this was very very long. It covers a good portion of the game. It's fun, and exciting and the bosses piss you off with their really good AI but it was still climbing action. At points, I felt I was just playing it to progress the story. After that though, there's a grand climax and hardly a denouement. It packs all the plot twists and action all the way through.

If you played Persona 3 "properly," you would've learned that Yukari falls in love with the main character (ie:Max social link, Beach scene with Junpei asking "what's your type?", Beach scene with only Yukari, Christmas scene...etc). As opposed to the other characters who have a deep affection or gratitude, Yukari seems to be the only character who actually falls in love. It shows in FES, a great deal. Her love for the main character by the end is so prevalent that at points that it I felt it actually overshadowed Aigis who won his affection (which reminds me, now that I DID see the Aeon social link, it's hard to see the extent of who Aigis really is without it....) I thought little about when finishing the Aeon social link since I thought it was just part of the game, but I realized that the relationship that existed for the main character was much more complex than I expected. Persona 3 requires at least one play through maxing out different links to fully see the environment the main character creates.
(Spoiler end)

In terms of gameplay, it's fairly similar to the original game. The exception is that each "level" is much shallower than the massive Tartarus. Oddly enough, some of the levels were labeled after the levels of hell in Dante's Inferno. Interesting....

Bosses are hard on an unimaginable scale. Fighting each boss truly felt "epic." Almost always the bosses had something up their sleeves. Each boss could successfully support the other in terms of weaknesses and strengths. Certain bosses had specific movesets that is weak alone, but devastating when combined with other skills from the other bosses. All the bosses required a calm mind, lots of thinking and a handful of luck. Sometimes, you had to pray to the Random Number Generator that it wouldn't screw you over. (spoiler:Then there was fighting the main character. Nyx was nothing. we're talking about an enemy that changes persona constantly mid-battle. That's frustrating...Now I know how it feels to be a boss )I ended up actually AVOIDING some of the glowing enemies simply because they were hard. They felt like bosses. Atlus claims it's 30+ hours of game play for FES compared to the 80+ for Persona 3. It isn't that they've copied Persona 3 and made a smaller version of it. They compacted 80+ hours of gameplay into a 30+ game.

The thing that bothers me about it is how it seems to have been built off of the original Persona 3 and not the remade version. Aigis's battle dialogue was that of the old Aigis from P3. The annoying one, but then you could hear the new dialogue when she calls her persona or during certain attacks. I frown a bit to that. Atlus remakes Persona 3 with a new coat of awesome and then you get recycled material in the Festival edition. Oh well.

P.S. It's only around now that I realized Maaya Sakamoto was the voice for Aigis in the Japanese version. That's enough to make me slam my head against the table. Besides being well known, it's clearly obvious that the voice director knew what he was doing. Besides having a gorgeous singing voice she has a lot of voice acting talent as both a blank character and a passionate character. Examples: Hitomi Kanzaki in Vision of Escaflowne, Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran Highschool Host Club, Misho Amano in Kanon (the girl who talks to Yuuichi about Mikoto), Aura in .hack (all of them), Aerith in Final Fantasy VII and Kingdom Hearts (all of them). I honestly believe that she is up there in terms of acting skill with Aya Hirano. Great. Now my fanboydom will kick in, and I'll probably end up importing a copy... Someone shoot me now.

1 comment:

Dalton Wordlaw said...

Persona 3 was one of the best games I've ever played, and the release of Persona 3:FES aka Director's cut made me love it even more. The main reasons I love the game are the Social Links, graphics, battle gameplay, and the story itself.