My Year of JRPGS: Persona 3 Portable

Persona 3 Portable is so close to being great. So damn close, and yet so far. P3P is the first Persona title I’ve played, and I like it enough to toy with the idea of trying out some other Persona games, but it manages to screw up enough that I really have no interest in other games that follow this specific formula. Let me take a step back for a minute.

The JRPG mantra these days seems to be to merge some large amount of mindless repetitive actions with some discretionary amount of something that is actually why you’re playing the game. Usually, the latter aspect is non-interactive, rendering the whole experience stupid.


Persona 3 Portable (PSP [Reviewed])
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Release Date: July 06, 2010
MSRP: $39.99

Persona 3 thinks it’s being funny by winking at convention by making the grind wholly separate and an almost arbitrary addition to the main story gameplay, but that just makes the grindy side that much more painful and annoying. As painful and annoying as it already is, it’s even more painful and annoying because it takes time away from the high school fun time simulator that is the “other” part of the game.

The reason people like this game, and the reason this game could have been great, is the simulator side. You go to school, listen to lectures, join the track team or whatever, take music club, work at the coffee shop, chill with some old people, go on class trips, walk the dog and bone a very human-looking lady robot. This stuff is all awesome, even if it’s quite silly most of the time. I mean, the main character is a emo-goth kid, and I managed to get him in bed with like five different girls, none of whom are of the emo or goth persuasions, and one of whom is, as I mentioned already, a robot.

If that’s all the game was, or if the combat side weren’t so intrusive, this would be a brilliant game.

Unfortunately, Atus’ idea of balance is to have the player spend equal amounts of time living life and grinding through some massive tower to try to save the world by shooting yourself in the head/face/chin — each character has his or her unique suicide move — over and over again to conjure up a spirit (the titular “persona”) that can battle monsters. The battle system is a pretty basic turn-based deal, and it’s not as if it isn’t fun in spurts — it’s just stupid that the tower has nothing to do with progressing through the story until the very end of the game. The stated purpose of going to the tower is actually to level grind.

For a long time, I tolerated it. I suffered through many hours of mindless battles and item hunting that interrupted the parts of the game I actually enjoyed. I’m going to need to be all powerful and s–t at some point, right? OK, I’ll take a break from going on dates with this robot and getting into shenanigans at bathhouses to wander through this stupid tower maze. I felt like I spent enough time in the tower — the game takes place over the course of a school year, and at every full moon the main characters have boss encounters, and I’d breezed through those.

But as I approached the end of the game… oops, I’d only made it a third of the way up the tower. F————————–k you, game.

At least the ending was cool enough that I wasn’t still totally furious once it was all over.

Originally I planned to re-play the game and do a second review, since P3P also allows you to play as a female protagonist. I’m not gonna do it, though, and the reasons for that change of heart should be obvious. If I’m gonna waste 50+ hours on a grindfest, it sure as hell is gonna be a grindfest I haven’t played before. Life is too short!

Final score: 65/100

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2 Comments on My Year of JRPGS: Persona 3 Portable

Nikolai

On May 20, 2011 at 9:48 pm

You write a nice review Phil Owen. You make me want to play a negatively review game. That happily shows what a spectacular reviewer you are. Now after rambling on about how great you are PHIL OWEN I will proceed to play games.

Michael

On May 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm

“The reason people like these games, and the reason this game could have been great, is the simulator side. You go to school, listen to lectures, join the track team or whatever, take music club, work at the coffee shop, chill with some old people, go on class trips, walk the dog and bone a very human-looking lady robot. This stuff is all awesome, even if it’s quite silly most of the time. I mean, the main character is a emo-goth kid, and I managed to get him in bed with like five different girls, none of whom are of the emo or goth persuasions, and one of whom is, as I mentioned already, a robot.”

Persona 3 is the first Persona game to have a simulator side like that bro, gotta do some research before you assume stuff.