Crafting a persona

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.

10 thoughts on “Crafting a persona

  1. Well for me, “in character” has always been “what I assume the person wants to hear.” The “Persona” theme in this game relates more than anything to the idea that you don’t act the same around everyone, so I don’t view treating different people differently to be any sort of inconsistency.

    That said, the S. Links, though well more than worthwhile, aren’t strictly necessary to succeed in the game. (Unless you get some sort of weird, bad ending for having everyone reversed the entire game) I mean, you could always grind a lot instead of leveling them up. It’d be a terrible idea, but you don’t *need* any of the rank 10 Personas and you can cover up the Persona EXP deficit.

  2. Apparently I didn’t play far enough into Persona 3 before losing interest to get to the actual ‘dating’ aspects. I didn’t even know you could date. I really ought to get back to this game sometime…

  3. Good man, Johnny. Just wait until you get further in and see just how attached you (and your cultivated character) become to certain other characters. (For example, one S. Link is considered boring by a lot of people…but I grew attached to the guy and saw it through to the end anyway, because that’s who I wanted to be.)

  4. I’m pretty sure the only difference between Easy and Normal modes in this game is that you get 10 Continue tokens on Easy (versus the grand total of zero on Normal mode). In that case, the battles get harder once you enter the second block of Tartarus.

    As for the S-Links, I’m the type to have my Main hang out with as many people as he can. I’m not sure what that says about my character, but this way I find different people mean different things to me. For example, I’ll advance the Chariot and Strength S-Links, even though I have little use for their personas (I need Chariot for the Oumitsunu fusion request and for Thor, but other than that…), because I like Kaz and Yuko; meanwhile, I don’t find Keisuke especially interesting, but the Fortune personas have powerful wind magic, so I have my Main spend time with him.

  5. Having played Persona’s 3 and 4, I feel that 4 is as much an upgrade as a sequel. Everything is significantly better, especially the characters. If you’re really into the universe it’s worth playing both, but you’re better off sinking time into the fourth installment (I know you have this one, but 50+ hours of time is worth more than $30).

    In regards to your post, wouldn’t it be nice for someone to develop a really good language comprehension engine? The only game I’m aware of that’s really pushing that tech is that DS game where you can write any noun and get a working object to help you solve puzzles. On the one hand, you’d be talking vast amounts of dialogue; on the other hand, writers are cheaper to employ than artists and programmers. Probably could create a bunch of really well-fleshed out characters by employing all those Japanese women who write cellphone novels.

  6. The first floor is easy enough, but get used to exploiting weaknesses a hell of a lot. That’s P3’s whole thing, for the most part.

    Also, easy mode be damned, you’ve got the right attitude to approach the game with. Like you said, you can approach it as an equation, but that’s entirely missing the point of the game. Just take it all in and play the game the way you want to play it.

  7. I wanted to like Persona 3 — it’s a modern, non-sugar-coated RPG. But at the same time, I just wasn’t interested in the goth, dark themes. In the end, I think my favorite RPGs are the ones with a pre-1997 aesthetic: implausible stories of teen heroes who rescue princesses.
    Only a few weird fans like me openly talk about ren’ai games. There are so few pro translations that I recommend, and the fan translations require searching import stores. So if you want a genuine in-English dating simulation to look forward to, then be sure to search the web for “Shira Oka.”

  8. I kinda like the way dating is handled in P4 better. In P4 you can choose to be just friends and you’re not forced to go out with these girls just because you’re working on their S. Links. So far all the other girls I’ve met in P4 that aren’t in my party are pretty unattractive and there’s only one girl in this game I do want to date. In P3 I ignored the girls I didn’t like because I didn’t feel like dating them and as a result had a few Arcanas Reverse on me which is what happens when you ignore any S. Link for a certain amount of time.

  9. I definitely like 4’s female friend system better. Not only can you choose to just be friends, but apparently some stuff happens if you…*ahem* stretch yourself too far. I don’t intend to do so though, at least not on the first round (and there won’t be a second round for a good while, I learned my lesson on that one from P3). I am admittedly a little surprised that it got fixed though, because unfortunately, I have a bit of a hard time imagining that it got a lot of complaints from Japanese fans.

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