Persona 3 was one of the best RPGs released in 2007. Considering that it was the year of titles such as Final Fantasy 12, Mass Effect and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, that's saying something. For the full skinny on Persona 3, check out Worthplaying's review. Think of Persona 3: FES as a director's cut of Persona 3; it contains a plethora of new or changed features that weren't present in the original Persona 3, in addition to a brand-new minisequel starring Aigis, a fan favorite.
For a while, it looked as if Persona 3 FES wouldn't make its way stateside. The original title had already been released, the PlayStation 2 is approaching the end of its life span, and Atlus has already moved on to publishing titles for the next generation of systems. After a brief online marketing campaign, Atlus finally revealed that U.S. gamers would also get the chance to experience the definitive version of Persona 3 for the discount price of $29.99.
Persona 3 FES is divided into two segments: The Journey and The Answer. The Journey is a revamped version of the original Persona 3; while the basic plot and concept are functionally identically, there are a number of new storyline threads and bonus missions. Some gamers may be worried about tackling the original Persona 3 again just to see these new segments, but Persona 3 FES supports data carryover, so if you've already completed Persona 3, you can bring over your social stats, Social Link max-rank items, and your complete compendium, which should make traveling through The Journey a much easier task.
Gamers who are seeking more of a challenge can play The Journey in the FES-exclusive Hard mode, where enemies are stronger, faster, and can surprise your party more often; it's more difficult to escape from battles; and your compendium's costs are quadrupled. Even for Persona 3 veterans, this should provide a more than adequate reason to replay The Journey. Newcomers can choose to start on Easy or Normal mode and slowly work their way up to being "hardcore" enough for Hard mode.
While the basic gameplay of The Journey is functionally unchanged, almost every detail has received some sort of overhaul. The questions and quizzes in school have all changed, people have moved to new locations around town, and people often have different things to say. There are new stores, such as a video game arcade that lets you spend your free time playing a variety of games in order to increase the attributes of your Persona or boost your character's social stats.
Likewise, the Dark Hour has also undergone a number of changes. The way stamina works in Tartarus has changed. It now takes a bit longer for your chosen team to get tired, so you can adventure deeper into Tartarus even earlier in the game. However, the ability to battle forever without getting tired on the days prior to the full moon has been removed, so your team members don't leave Tartarus when they get exhausted on those days, but they'll remain in a "Tired" state. It's a minor change, but it prevents gamers from abusing the simple tactic of waiting until the day before the full moon to grind and level up; instead, it encourages gamers to plan out their days more carefully, unless they wish to take on Tartarus' bosses while using an exhausted party.
Persona 3 FES has also given the Social Links feature an overhaul. Some of them have been moved around to be more accessible, and the overall difficulty of increasing a Social Link has lowered, so it's now easier to max them out. You can even encounter your Social Link friends in new ways, such as taking Konomaru for a walk at night. There are special new endings for each Commu that can be viewed during the game's final chapter, providing much-needed resolution to some of the plotlines. By far the biggest change is the addition of a brand-new Commu, the battle android Aigis. Despite being a major character, Aigis was the only female party member with whom your protagonist couldn't form a Social Link in the original game. In Persona 3 FES, however, you can finally find out more about the mysterious android and her connection to the hero, as well as power up the brand-new Aeon Commu.
The addition of the Aeon Commu comes with a total reworking of the Persona themselves. While most of the Persona found in the original Persona 3 are relatively intact, a number of them have been switched around, moved to new Commu, been given new moves, or have brand-new resistances and weaknesses. However, there is also a sizable amount of new Persona, ranging from fan favorite and Shin Megami Tensei mainstay Mara to Orpheus Kai, an upgraded version of your nameless hero's default Persona. There are a lot of familiar cameos in these new Persona for Shin Megami Tensei fans, and if you noticed any familiar faces missing from Persona 3, you can be certain they'll show up in Persona 3 FES.
Not only do the revised Persona have the advantage of having new mores, strengths and weaknesses, but they can also be fused to your character's weapons. Located at the mall, the new Weapon Fusion allows your character to fuse one of his Persona with special weapons found within Tartarus in order to create exclusive new weapons with customized attributes. The forged weapons will vary both on the Persona's level and its Commu. Certain Commus create a weapon with improved evasion, higher critical ratios, bonus to HP or even boost all of a character's stats. Certain combinations of rare Persona even create special unique weapons that dwarf the power of those found in the original Persona 3! The cost is that one must give up a powerful Persona in order to get these exclusive weapons. Furthermore, there are a number of new pieces of non-fusion equipment in FES, and several bits of equipment have new features. Some pieces of equipment now even change how your characters look, putting them into bikinis or maid outfits.
After you've completed The Journey, or for those who've already finished Persona 3, Persona 3 FES offers a new post-game scenario, The Answer. It's impossible to discuss the plot of The Answer without ruining the plot of Persona 3, so suffice it to say that it's sort of a stripped-down version of the latter. There are no Social Links, Commus, jobs or school days, and the only focus is on reaching the bottom of the game's dungeon. Your entire surviving team from Persona 3 has returned, although all of them have been reduced to level 20 or so and retain only the most basic equipment. They manage to retain all of their Advance Persona gained during the storyline of The Journey. Also joining your party is Métis, Aigis' "sister" who decides to follow the party after being defeated by Aigis' new Persona. Métis functions as a powerful physical fighter, much like Aigis herself did in The Journey. Shadows have all been made faster and stronger, and the new dungeon features stronger enemies and more powerful equipment that isn't found in The Journey. While there is a small shop hidden within the dungeon, most of your equipment and weapons are going to come from defeated monsters.
The biggest change is to Aigis herself, who has inherited the The Journey protagonist's ability to switch Persona at will, although not his ability to change weapons. Aigis' Persona are slightly different in that there aren't four-Persona (or more!) fusions in The Answer, and she can create most Persona in the game from a two- or three-Persona fusion. At the same time, though, Aigis can't access the Persona Compendium, so when you sacrifice a Persona, it's gone until you track down another one. However, once you get the Persona, they function much like the Persona 3 protagonist's did, although Aigis doesn't quite have the same versatility. Without the Persona Compendium and the ability to switch weapons, you have to been a lot more careful and conservative.
Persona 3 FES is the ultimate form of Persona 3. If you've never played Persona 3, then FES is right up your alley. However, even if you've already mastered every element of Persona 3, FES still holds quite an allure. The expanded storyline alone would be worth the cost to a die-hard Persona fan, but the increased difficulty, new Persona, weapon synthesis and countless other new or changed features almost turn The Journey into a brand-new game. The Answer expands on the improved content, offers a new challenge for Persona 3 veterans and gives a definitive answer to the questions raised by The Journey's ending. This wouldn't be a bad deal for full price, but at the bargain cost of only $29.99, Persona 3: FES may be one of the best purchases you can make for your PS2 this year — even if you've already bought Persona 3 once before.
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