A new era of gaming has opened for me. I started playing the highly lauded Persona 3.
Persona games are known as some of the best JRPG’s of all time, and I have to agree. It has become one of my favorite video game franchises and I’ve only played one game in the series. But, as you can tell if you read this blog, I’m a bit biased because these games are very much my cup of matcha. I was curious and excited to begin my P5 adventure; I was downright giddy putting the P3 disc in my PlayStation 2 last week. It’s like starting a good book or sitting in the car on your way to a vacation. You know it’s going to be awesome. You just have to wait for it to happen. I love Persona 5, obviously. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. But I think Persona 3 has the potential to impact me more story wise; I’ve heard a lot of great things about this game and think it will pack an emotional punch. Definitely expect a full review of Persona 3 once/if I finish it (it’s hard), but before then, I thought it would be fun to jot down my thoughts so far and see how my experiences of the first 5 hours of these games are both very similar and vastly different.
So far, for me, P5 is winning in the character category. Not that this is a competition, but the difference in likeability of character is huge for me. I don’t really like anyone in P3 yet, besides me…which is a weird thing to say. The main character is cool and I love his dialogue options, but everyone else is either unfriendly or a tad annoying. Yukari and Mitsuru are a bit stand-offish, Junpei is a less entertaining Ryuuji, Akihiko needs to put down his jacket, and the manager of the swim team won’t walk home with me. My social life is in shambles! The P5 characters were way more fun at the start. At least Kazushi likes my outfit when we go to the mall…
Now, I am well-aware that I am only 5 hours into Persona 3 and character development will absolutely happen. I can already see the potential in the SEES crew. I’m just basing this off my initial reaction. Where Persona 5 is bubbling, Persona 3 is pensive— of course this would affect character introductions. I look forward to seeing how these characters will grow and who will be my favorite character (and waifu, of course).
Easy to imagine, the P5 and P3 battle systems are extremely similar at their core. However, they have individual nuances that keep them separate and exciting. In P3, you can only control the protagonist, which makes combat more challenging because you cannot predict how your party will react to certain scenarios. It also has the added dimension of slash and pierce physical attacks so even hacking and slashing has strategy behind it. Scanning an enemy for weaknesses takes a very long time which is debilitating in the beginning of the game because you have no information on anything. It is definitely a more stiff design than P5’s system, which invokes more player freedom (makes sense since that’s what the game is about).
In both games your parties can get “tired,” but in P5 they are revitalized the next day. SEES takes much longer, sometimes up to two or three days. Even the main character can get sick. Coming from the fast-paced play of P5, this is something I have to get used to. I find it aggravating that I can’t just walk into Tartarus and grind my way through. Yukari catches a cold, Junpei wants to go to bed. What whiny friends I have! It is not a negative per se, just a new game mechanic I need to figure out. (Side note: picking the cards for your after-battle reward is pretty neat).
I love how drastically different these games are in regards to tone. Persona 5’s plot has the potential to go totally dark— and at times it does— but for the most it stays light and lively. This is thanks to the vibrancy of the design, the enthusiasm of the characters, and the hope infused into the Phantom Thieves’ mission. There is none of that in Persona 3. Just look at both opening cutscenes. P5 starts with a cinematic casino heist with flashy colors, upbeat music, and a slick protagonist (looking cool, Joker!). Persona 3 starts with a character sitting alone in a room with a gun to her head contemplating whether or not she should pull the trigger while the people outside turn into coffins under a green, eerie moon. Yeah, that’s definitely a thematic statement.
The tonal differences also beautifully affect the character writing. In P5, the characters are bursting with energy and excited about their persona abilities and the chance they have to save the world. Every awakening is a personal triumph. In P3, I haven’t seen any awakenings yet and for good reason. Yukari and Junpei are afraid pull the not-metaphorical trigger. Joker, Ann, and Ryuuji must tear off the masks they wear in society to reveal their true selves; it is painful and bloody, but also a satisfying and cathartic reveal. But, at the end of the day, they can put those masks back on. The cast of Persona 3 literally have to kill themselves in order to truly be free. That’s metal, man. And the severity of that choice is never thrown aside.
I love Persona 5’s never-give-up-shonen-manga vibe and Persona 3’s sacrifice-everything-to-survive feel equally since they are both executed so well. Whatever they decide to do, Atlus goes all in on it and that shows in the quality of the product.
The music in both games is fire. There’s no winner or loser when it comes to this category, both games nail their vibe and genre so perfectly. The Persona series is known for its amazing soundtrack and rightfully so. Persona 5’s cool factor is amplified by Shoji Meguro’s acid jazz score and lyrics. Persona 3 is brought to life by hip hop beats and Lotus Juice’s super hot fire. My standouts from P3 so far are Kimi no Kioku and When the Moon Reaches Out to the Stars. My favorites from Persona 5 are basically all of them... I'm really excited to get more familiar with P3's music. So far, I am enjoying it immensely.
I won’t say much more because the music of Persona needs its own post but all you need to know is that the music is amazing in every installation. Listen to the soundtracks of P3, P4, and P5. You won’t be disappointed.
Persona games are known for having unpredictable twists and turns, so everything I think can easily be turned on its head. But, so far, I am really enjoying Persona 3. It’s stark contrast in style is refreshing, even after Persona 5’s near-perfect experience. I am not bothered at all by the P3 graphics or speed on the PS2; the Persona games are not fast-paced experiences in the first place, so load times and other issues do not hold much weight (although I wish there were more save points). I can’t wait to see where this crazy, nihilistic story goes and hope I’m a different person on the other side. The bar is high, P3. Step up!