While I was Googling for the correct pronunciation of the P3 animated scenes' director's name yesterday, I just happened to come across this Youtube video which covers the first half hour of the expansion, Persona 3 FES. The sequel and expanded version of this great RPG that I didn't find out about until later.
If you don't know already, P3FES (FES standing for "festival") is fairly much a sequel to the original PS2 RPG. A standalone and an expansion "append" disc version are available, both of which are currently only available in Japanese. FES is split into two episodes, "Episode Yourself" and "Episode Aegis".
Episode Yourself is basically the original game but with added content after Atlus took in feedback from the fans. This content are:
- New events.
- Hard mode.
- Weapon synthesis system.
- Special "costume" armour is reflected graphically.
- Fun costumes including the popular maid outfit.
- New social link for Aegis with arcana "Eternity".
- Maximised social links still have events.
- More requests from Elizabeth.
- New location, Naganaki Shrine.
- Faster loading time and tiredness system rebalanced.
That's a lot as you can see and I missed out on it all despite being LTTP. Should have done my research before diving into play.
And as you'll probably have guessed by now, Episode Aegis is the sequel that offers 30 hours of play according to the site. You don't have to play through Episode Yourself to start this but if you wanted to, you can load and inherit some of the original game's saved data.
As Junpei counts up how many evokers they have, Aegis comes in with the last one. She never needed one to summon a Persona but she had kept a certain evoker for "him" ever since that incident. Everyone is unsure about what happened. After falling asleep peacefully, He never woke up again. Nothing was wrong with the rest of His body either. Fuuka wonders if he used up all his power when he tried to protect all of them during their fight with Nyx.
Everyone sits looking down sadly while Junpei tries to cheer them up. "He" probably wouldn't have wanted to see them this way. Moving on, the friends soon learn Aegis won't be joining them in the third year of high school because she has chosen to return to the lab. She's truely enjoyed her time with them but she feels she has to find her own "daily life". But they'll be able to see each other again whenever they want to.
The party was turning a bit sour and it really wasn't the reason they gathered together. Mitsuru suggests they should have a big, happy meal for the night because she has ordered some top class sushi.
Later that evening, as the friends were enjoying their sushi, the news report that the number of people who had caught the mysterious Apathy Syndrome were now decreasing rapidly. Junpei checks his phone and notices it was soon approaching midnight, what used to be the Dark Hour. It brings back a lot of memories for the friends even though they were sure it was all finished. The countdown to midnight soon begins on TV but just as it ticks into what used to be the Dark Hour, the former SEES members all sense something strange.
Thinking the Dark Hour was back, Junpei rushes over to the window to check outside but nothing was happening. Aegis notices something odd about the news. It was reporting the date as March 31st even though it was already past midnight. Junpei wasn't really surprised. It was probably just a mistake or something. Ken checks his mobile and finds that it too displays the very same date. The friends decide there it wasn't something worth worrying over so they decide to tidy up and call it a night since it was getting late. What a strange event to end their last day at the dorm. Aegis returns to her room because she has a lot of packing to do. Mitsuru decides to let Yukari and Akihiko know about what happened anyway just in case.
An hour later in Aegis' room, she thinks about the events of the day. Everytime she closes her eyes, she remembers the last moment with "him". Leaving school, the friends headed back to the dorm carrying the sound asleep him but there was something worrying them. The next morning, he never woke up and they soon realised what had worried them. He had left them. Ever since then, Aegis has been having the same dream every night, running and calling after "him". Aegis had promised to protect him, deciding that it was proof of being "alive". Now it wasn't possible anymore and Aegis soon mysteriously found the dream going away as she returned to her old self when sleep was something she never needed.
Aegis found she couldn't sleep again tonight. She wonders if she can continue to live on the way she is now. Lost in thought, a blue butterfly appears, landing on her hand then disappearing. Suddenly, a loud noise is heard and Fuuka is knocking loudly on her door. Something has appeared in the lounge. Together they rush downstairs.
Downstairs in the lounge, Aegis finds everyone hurt and a dark figure before them but it wasn't a Shadow. It appeared to be an android just like Aegis. The dark coloured android introduces herself as Metis, here to "protect" Aegis. She claims Aegis' friends are a threat to her and thus, she must eliminate them. Aegis refuses to let to her do that and they break into a fight.
Surprised by Metis' powers, Aegis is briefly immobilised. As Aegis watches Ken about to be killed before her eyes, she suddenly feels a burst of power from within. She summons her Persona but to everyone's surprise it changes into Orpheus, "that person's" Persona. Orpheus manages to stop Metis and Aegis passes out just as she hears Metis calling her "Nee-san (Big Sister)".
A few moments later, Aegis finds herself welcomed by a man named Igor to a place known as the "Velvet Room". She learns that "Wild", a power that allows one to switch between Personas, has awakened within her thus, she is now under a contract. Igor mentions "him" too much to Aegis' surprise. Igor continues saying that "he" has found the answer to life and the Aegis was about to go in search of an answer for herself too. By that, Aegis realises she will be seeking for answer to "death".
Thoughts on Persona 3
Persona 3 has been a great RPG with excellent presentation, storyline, little level grinding, fun teamwork AI members, random dungeon maps and a bit of freedom to roam the exotic (if you live outside of Japan) in-game world. The English version has clearly decided to stop with the localisation approach and leave all the Japanese in for those familiar with a fair bit of the language from watching all those episodes of fansubbed Anime. The "all out attacks" are hilarious and wouldn't it be great if dorms were really that extravagant? I wouldn't mind living in such a stylish place!
Much of the freedom part of the game was created by mixing in a "dating sim" (AKA, the "Social Links" system) element which I didn't really like when I first started out. The element felt as if it slowed down the pace of the game and broke up the mood. If I really wanted to play a dating sim, I would have went to play one. However, it does give the RPG a unique experience and I found out it plays a major role towards the end of the story which I'll cover later.
I call the high school sim half of P3 a "dating sim" because it's pretty much the whole idea of simulating a high school environment. Levelling stats such as academic, intelligence and charm by choosing a certain activity for the day is nothing new since it pretty much originates from a game such as Tokimeki Memorial. That said, I'm sure it's another element that really makes it stand out in the West where such games aren't so commonly available like in Japan. Without the right exposure, you really wouldn't know anything about them. Anyway, I digress.
On the other hand, they actually teach you some real facts in P3 during the classes such as the tarot card arcanas used in the game. They should really teach more this way!
It was a depressing turn of events in the last month of the game. After all that hard fighting it was just to help summon Nyx in the end. Took me half an hour to beat this last boss and the initial 12 forms were completely pointless. Hated when I knocked Nyx's final form HP down to a tiny drop left and then what does he do? He pulls of "Night Queen", manages to charm Aegis and replenishes full HP. Not exactly a great last fight but good visuals.
I think what really helped the impact of the story at this point was the social links part of the game where you get to interact with characters, building on relationships and getting to know them. Once you've met all those people, been through events in life and then learn about the world's going to end soon, you kind of think back "What was all that for?" Bit of philosophy? Maybe but it's a theme that's not uncommon in Japanese entertainment.
There was two endings to P3. The first ending where you kill off Ryoji was the most depressing one because everyone's forgotten what they've done together, acting like strangers and going about their lives until dooms day. Second one was a bit better but then they added in that cheezy "Never give up!" Japanese thing. I have nothing against determination and will power but they just go overboard sometimes. It's like the characters are invincible in some stories.
In the end, it was still a great 70 hours of gameplay and story. I actually haven't played the previous Persona games but earlier MegaTen games such as the GBA one didn't really keep me playing for long. This one kept me playing until the end. Now after watching that half hour video of P3:FES Episode Aegis, I'm eager to find out the rest of the story. Only problem is the expansion doesn't seem to work on Swap Magic so, I might not be able to play it until Atlus USA decides to release it West. If they don't however, I may still probably buy the Japanese standalone version.
I thought the English cast done a brilliant job apart from Fuuka and after Aegis became more human. Tara Platt actually sounded better as Mitsuru than Rie Tanaka.
Well anyway, until something's sorted out I guess Enterbrain's P3:FES Fanbook will have to do me for now which gives a detailed diary account of both episodes of the game. Play-Asia won't be shipping it until the 15th or so but I'm sure it will be a very nice book to read over rather than spending another 70 hours through the game again for the story. You can view some of the scans on Dokuganryu's site although he hasn't scanned in the info sections of the book. I've also put in an order for the P3 Drama CDs so can't wait!
I'm hoping to see an original Persona / MegaTen game on the PSP that's as good as P3. A port of the game would do too!