Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!
I’ve been feeling under the weather for most of the week, so I haven’t done much in the way of gaming. I did put a few hours into Super Metroid and I’m on my way to the wrecked ship to tackle Phantoon, but that was over the course of one day. Mostly, I’ve just been failing at sleep while having irrational stress and anxiety freakouts and super fun IBS symptoms. It… hasn’t been pretty.
What little hours I invested in gaming this week have mostly gone toward Persona 3 FES on PS2 (I’m playing the digital version on PS3). With Persona 3 and 5 getting their own dancing games, similar to Persona 4: Dancing All Night, I wanted to get a nice refresher of Persona 3 in the meantime. There are currently three versions available — the original on PS2, Persona 3 Portable on PSP (which lets you choose between male and female protagonists), and Persona 3 FES on PS2 (which includes another 30+ hours of story content by way of a new epilogue chapter) — and this, in my opinion, is the best of them.
For those of you unfamiliar, the Persona series focuses on groups of school kids who mysteriously obtain the ability to summon powerful guardians called “persona” and typically use them to prevent some sort of world-ending catastrophe. Each contains their own storylines, but take place in the same Shin Megami Tensei universe and mythos.
Persona 3 centers around a concept called “the dark hour,” which occurs every night when the clock strikes midnight. The majority of the population is unaware of its existence because they’re transmogrified into coffins for the duration. Monsters called “shadows” are unleashed upon the world during the dark hour, and anyone who hasn’t been transmogrified is either killed, goes insane, or inherits the ability to summon persona. You’re one of the latter. And if you want to know how “out there” the game is, characters summon their persona by shooting themselves in the head with magical guns called “evokers.”
Your character is recruited into a shadow-busting division disguised as a school club, called SEES. It’s a silly acronym I can’t remember and everyone in the game just calls them SEES anyway. Shortly after discovering the existence of shadows and the dark hour, and obtaining the persona Orpheus, you’re given a cryptic message by a creepy little boy that only you can see: “the end of everything” is coming. Cool. And you can try and stop it by entering a colossal tower called Tartarus that appears in place of your high school during the dark hour. Also cool.
You’re a high school student, though! So Persona 3 FES is just as much about dungeon crawling through Tartarus and collecting new persona as it is making efficient use of your free time. You can hang out with friends and build up their affinity, leading to stronger created persona, or increase your social stats by singing karaoke and playing arcade games. Or you can take your fellow SEES members into Tartarus in your downtime and grind out XP. However, time works differently in the tower and your characters become increasingly fatigued the longer you stay inside. Fatigued characters hinder you in battle, so it’s yet another thing to micromanage (and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense).
Having just finished up Persona 5 at the end of last year, I’m noticing a lot of similarities with Persona 3 FES that I never caught back in 2008-ish — the ever-changing tower dungeon, for starters. I often find that revisiting these great RPGs after an extended absence is almost like playing a new game. It’s familiar, but the dialogue serves as more than a basic refresher.
I’m only a few hours into Persona 3 FES and I’m quickly remembering why it’s one of my favorites. The characters, the story, the stylish aesthetic, the super rad jazz/hip-hop fusion-filled soundtrack… Persona 3 is when the series really came into its own. I’ll always prefer Persona 4, but man, what a game this is. And playing it on PS2 really makes me wish it had gotten the remaster treatment by now.
I’m not sure what else I’ll get into this weekend. I did download World Heroes Perfect on my Switch, which is one of my favorite SNK fighters. It’s one of those ACA NEOGEO ports, though, where the difficulty is cranked to 11 and there’s no training mode to get your feet wet. Like many other ACA ports, it’ll do in a pinch. I’ve been in a fighter mood lately, so I also installed King of Fighter XIII and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax on my PS3. The console was on, I noticed they were on my backlog list, and here I am!
Speaking of which, I’m trying my best not to add to my backlog, but GOG’s summer sale (which ends on the 18th) has quite a few classics available for pocket change and I’m not sure if I can keep my finger off the checkout button. I’m eyeing up Ultima I-IX, Ultima Underworld 1 & 2, Nox, Anachronox, Noctropolis, Call of Cthulhu: Prisoner of Ice, and Call of Cthulhu: Shadow of the Comet. Most are old-school RPGs, but Noctropolis is a weird, campy FMV point-and-click about vampires and I am here for it. The Call of Cthulhu games are point-and-clicks as well and they look right up my alley.
What about you, folks? Any gaming plans this weekend?