My first encounter with Persona came courtesy of an online gift exchange in the waning days of 2008. I knew next to nothing about the series in those days, only that it was an RPG about teenagers who shot themselves in the head to summon demons. It was my first introduction to a series that I would come to really love.
Ten years later, it's the 10th anniversary of the North American release of Persona 3 FES—the enhanced version of the original game featuring more Personas, a hard mode, and the ability to take the dog Koromaru on walks (the original Persona 3 was released in North America in 2007). It also includes "The Answer," a 30-hour bonus episode that picks up after the conclusion of the original story.
Like its better-known successors, Persona 3 is the story of a handful of Japanese teenagers who find themselves drawn into bizarre and supernatural events. In this case, they are trying to solve the mystery behind The Dark Hour—a strange period in which humans become coffins, shadows appear, and a dark tower called the Tartarus replaces their high school. When they aren't climbing the tower and fighting demons, they're attending classes, clubs, and yes, dating.
Persona 3 was a dramatic reinvention of the first two games, popularizing the now familiar day-by-day format found in the later games. It isn't as well-known as its successors, though, mostly because it's not very accessible. Persona 5 has versions on both PS3 and PS4, and Persona 4 has a splendid definitive version on the Vita. Persona 3, however, is split between multiple versions on outdated consoles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Curious newcomers can either choose between FES, which is available on PSN but suffers badly from being locked in standard definition, or Persona 3 Portable—the PSP port that bears a closer resemblance to a point-and-click adventure than a free-roaming RPG. Each has features that the other lacks. FES has the extra chapter and open exploration, making it feel more in step with other games in the series. Portable lets you play primarily as a girl and directly control your party. Combine these features and you might have the single best Persona game ever made.
Instead, Persona 3 languishes in the shadow of Persona 4 and 5, which is too bad because it has a lot to offer over its successors. Its dark examination of fate contrasts mightily with the sunnier Persona 4, and its dungeon exploration and day-to-day schedule meshes together better as well. It's not as complex or beautifully realized as Persona 5, but it's also not as bloated. It's even possible to say some nice things about the Taratarus—the randomized tower that you must climb day by day through the course of the story.
A proper remaster for the Switch or PlayStation 4 (or the Xbox One!) would allow these qualities to shine again. It would bring together the disparate elements of FES and Persona 3 Portable into what could finally be called a "definitive version." And most importantly, it would allow a whole new generation of fans to properly experience Persona 3's story for the first time.
We roll our eyes at remasters, but they play an important role in connecting gamers with the medium's history. I don't personally care for Shenmue, but given how hard it's been to access and play over the years, I'm glad that it's getting an updated re-release for new generation. It's the equivalent of taking a movie that's only ever received a home release on VHS and putting it on Blu-ray and Netflix for the first time.
Persona 3 is more accessible than Shenmue (or Valkyrie Profile!), but it gets a little harder to play with each passing year. Without some sort of updated release, it will eventually be lost to all but the most hardcore fans.
A decade on from Persona 3's original release, the format that it helped pioneer is more popular than ever. It's time to let a new generation see where it all began.
This Week's Notable Releases
- BattleTech [April 24]: BattleTech returns to PC in this updated version of the original board game. Developed by the original's creator, Jordan Weisman, it's a turn-based strategy game firmly grounded in the universe of the FASA series. This has been a long time coming for MechWarrior fans, who haven't seen a proper video game release for their favorite series in a very long time. Hopefully it lives up to the legacy of the original.
- South Park: The Fractured but Whole [April 24]: A port of last year's follow-up to Stick of Truth lands on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow. We were reasonably positive in our review, and it feels like a good fit for the Switch. Of course, South Park is a very particular taste these days. You'll know right away if you're down to spend 20 hours with its brand of humor.
- Frostpunk [April 24]: A new city-building survival sim by the creators of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, Frostpunk is about building a civilization amid the brutal elements. It features a beautiful art style not to mention some very interesting strategy concepts. Definitely a game to check out if you're a fan of the individual elements it blends together.
- Gal*Gun 2 [April 24]: The infamous rail shooter returns on the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4. To quote its Wikipedia article, "The player fends off waves of female classmates using the pheromone shot, a power granted to the protagonist, Houdai via the cupid, Ekoro. If the player shoots the girl, the pheromone shot will give them euphoria, subduing them in process, thus preventing them from confessing their love feelings to the player that will damage player's HP if they succeed." The original was a bit of an odd cult favorite, and the sequel is apt to appeal to the same audience. I really want to see the uncomfortable looks when someone brings it on a plane with them.
- Super Robot Wars X [April 26]: Super Robot Wars is back on PlayStation 4 and Vita this week. While it's technically a Japanese release, a localized version can be found on most import sites. This version includes appearances by mechs from Gurren Lagann, Gundam ZZ, and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, as well as the debut of Reconguista in G. If you want to know more, you should check out my (admittedly old) guide to the series. Small piece of advice: Check out Super Robot Wars V. Depending on your tastes, it might have a better selection of robots, and it's apt to be cheaper too.
Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Theme of Simon (Castlevania: Bloodlines)
No one's ever called me out on how infrequently I highlight Genesis tunes on Note Block Beat Box, even though I thoroughly deserve to be called out. I guess I just don't have a lot of nostalgic feelings for twangy Genesis music (outside of Sonic games, which really knew how to make that FM synth shine), even though Sega's 16-bit soundtracks carry an indelible signature.
Well, let's finally give the Genesis' sound chip the credit it (sort of) deserves. Outside of the aforementioned Sonic games, Konami's Theme of Simon from Castlevania Bloodlines might be the best example of the Genesis' capabilities put to full use. It also has a twin: Theme of Simon from Castlevania IV on the SNES. Theme of Simon on the Genesis plays around a lot with the well-loved tune, and the experimentation works brilliantly, but Theme of Simon for the SNES has dat bass. I still favor the SNES iteration, but I won't say "no" to the Genesis version of Theme of Simon on a spooOooOooOky Halloween night.
Mike's Media Minute
I could just write "INFINITY WAR" over and over again in all caps and it would be accurate for this week. A Quiet Place grabbed number one at the box office again, ending Rampage's short reign, but everything is really just counting down until Avengers touches down like a thunderbolt.
Let's talk numbers. Avengers: Infinity War is currently estimated to take anywhere from $235 million to $255 million at the domestic box office this weekend, according to the analysts at Box Office Pro. If it hit the upper end of that range, that would put Infinity War ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the biggest opening weekend of all-time. Surprisingly, the analysts don't see Infinity War reaching the heights Force Awakens, Avatar, or even Black Panther with its domestic total, which is estimated at $650 million on the high-end. Superhero films usually aren't leggy performers, tending to be more front-loaded than most. Films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman are more the exception than the rule.
Unfortunately, this also means there's not much to talk about in terms of film this week. It's a matter of seeing how far Infinity War will go and what is going to round out the rest of the Top 10. Assuming A Quiet Place continues its strength, that could easily take second place, with Rampage falling to third. One interesting potential move is Black Panther, which was #7 this past weekend, but could see a bump from Infinity War's release. Could Marvel's tentpole push Black Panther to $700 million domestic? Doubtful, but that'd be interesting to see.
Caty's AltGame Corner
I've had my eye on Knuckle Sandwich, the adorable Earthbound by way of WarioWare RPG that's in development from Andrew Brophy, for quite awhile. The project hit Kickstarter last week (and has already hit its funding goal), and a little bit after that, got its own free demo on itch.io too. Knuckle Sandwich follows the life of boy who moves away from home to a new city, and finds himself embroiled in some mysteries. While what's only available right now is just a small sliver of all the zany minigames and other activities the game will have to offer, the demo is well worth the download for PC and Mac.
This Week's News and Notes
- I'm in the process of saying goodbye to my PlayStation 2 at the moment, and I find myself unexpectedly wistful about it. I bought it way back in 2005, modded it with a fliptop in 2007, and have subsequently spent hundreds of enjoyable hours gaming on it. It's resided in a storage basket over the past year, mostly because I can't plug it into my current TV. Part of me wants to find a way to make it work through a Framemeister or another solution, but another part knows that it's time to let go. Nevertheless, I'm holding on to my copy of Super Robot Wars Alpha 3. You never know when it might come in handy...
- Quantic Dreams is in the midst of a nasty fight with the French press, and Matt has this explainer of what exactly is happening. Suffice it to say, the accusations leveled against David Cage's studio are ugly, and they cast a long shadow over the impending release of Detroit: Become Human.
- Like everyone else, I'm currently in the midst of playing God of War. It's still too early to have a real definitive opinion of it, but I have to say that it features some of the best use of HDR I've seen this generation. It even puts a lot of Xbox One X games to shame. In the meantime, I'm making use of our God of War walkthroughs whenever I get stuck, which is more often than I'd care to admit. Stupid traversal puzzles.
- How realistic is the life of Kazuma Kiryu? Reid McCarter returns to break it all down in this fantastic look at the real gangs of Japan as they relate to Yakuza 6.
- In a surprise announcement, Campo Santo revealed that they were acquired by Valve over the weekend. This whole Valve making games thing is really happening, isn't it?
- Random Monday Musing: Here's how I would fix Monster Hunter: World's endgame. Right now it basically shows its entire hand from the start, then has you fight more powerful versions of every monster for the endgame. If Capcom wants to keep people playing, it should have something to shoot for, like a handful of unique Elder Dragons. As it is, I'm struggling to find a reason to keep playing outside of the fact that it's fun and I don't really want to give it up. Fix your endgame, Capcom! I really need an excuse to put another hundred hours into Monster Hunter: World.
- The USgamer Podcast: On this week's USgamer Podcast, Caty, Nadia, and Mike mourn the death of both Kazuma Kiryu and Call of Duty single-player campaigns while talking Rampage, God of War, and more. Subscribe here!
- Axe of the Blood God: In this week's Axe of the Blood God, Nadia and I finally get a chance to really give voice to our frustrations with Ni No Kuni 2. Spoilers ahoy! Subscribe here!