Hey, I’m finished with finals! Now to go play that game where I roleplay a kid…going to school. Huh.
I’m about on the 10th Floor of Tartarus right now, going along at what I suspect is a rather slow pace. I’m playing on the easy setting, and perhaps as a result the battles haven’t progressed beyond “Hit dudes and try and exploit a weakness now and then.” Battles are moving at a good clip though; I’m appreciative of the “rush” mode they give you. The battle system isn’t blowing me away yet, but it’s still early.
But what really separates Persona 3 is what happens outside the game’s one dungeon, isn’t it? JRPGs have a reputation of giving you a fully realized character at the cost of developing a role to your specifications. True, P3 it doesn’t exactly have a deep and varied character creation system or anything, but it has a more subtle way of letting you define your character. You’re defined by the company you keep.
The term “dating sim” is usually thrown out every time the game comes up, and it’s not an wholly inaccurate description. But the game goes beyond that to be a “social sim.” I may have only so much control over the plot, but I can define the protagonist’s personality by having him be around the people I choose; turns out the main character is a faithful member of the kendo team who hangs out with the old couple who runs the used-book store from time to time. He’s dating Yuko because hey, sporty girl in a track suit.
Of course, there’s a cache of statistics lying under all of these friendships. If you’re committed to playing the game as a game, these relationships are no different than grinding for experience in random encounters. If I want to be as powerful in battle as I can be I have to stop treating these social links as an element of the game’s mechanics as opposed to a narrative element. RPG fans probably instantly recognize this relationship system for what it is: a take on stat-building that could be dressed up in any other metaphor. But for someone like me, someone taking in everything at once, I’m intrigued by a game that lets me define my character in such a unique narrative fashion. But like I said, I’m on in easy mode, so I can forego the statistical benefit that playing “out-of-character” would confer.