Gamestyle Archive intro: When asked about a great gaming series Persona always springs to mind. Right through the PlayStation 2 era the franchise was hitting 8’s and 9’s and these scores were never given out lightly. Even today if we had a moment to return to the Persona world it would still be remarkable and like very little else that had gone before or arrived since.
We have some content from 2007-2008 deposited in the archives. This includes the initial entries in the Silver Screen series where Gamestyle looked at the growing popularity of video game titles making the transition to the big screen. Expect that soon.
Format: PlayStation 2
Published: November 2008
Only nine months have passed since Gamestyle reviewed Persona 3, which is already established as one of our PlayStation 2 highlights of 2008. Here we are faced with an enhanced version of that title, complete with a new bonus storyline. Is Persona 3 FES a warranted package or a needless expansion?
We’ll leave the storyline of Persona 3 aside and you can refer to our review of the original. This critique is still very relevant, as the changes to the main storyline are for the majority only from a technical standpoint. However in FES you have the option to play this under the mode dubbed ‘The Journey’, whilst the new mode is available as ‘The Answer’. Originally released in Japan in 2007, FES was originally conceived as a bonus disc before slowly replacing the popular Persona 3.
Those of you who picked up Persona 3 and never completed it, will have mixed feelings about the existence of FES, however we should be thankful that KOEI has seen fit to release this extra content in the UK. This new version does utilise your existing game save, but unfortunately only to transfer your Persona creations, social links and statistic levels. Its very much a case of starting from the beginning once again, and luckily the gaming experience is strong enough to warrant this approach.
So what do you get? You could think of the original mode in this version being the directors cut. Atlus have returned to what made Persona 3 so enjoyable and added new Personas, enhanced the weapon system and implanted new cut scenes and side quests including new social activities. More cosmetic enhancements exist with the ability to change clothing, which fits ideally with the social aspects of this unique role-playing experience. Anyone looking for a challenge can also return and take on the new Hard Mode, which is suitably named.
For fans the main attraction is unquestionable what is called ‘The Answer’, a new Persona episode that picks up just after the conclusion of the original. You should only head here once you’ve completed the previous storyline. Not only will the opening twenty minutes (comprising mostly of cut scenes) make more sense, but you will be able to tackle the increased difficulty and appreciate the character development. Far from being a dumbed down expansion pack, this new episode expects players to utilise their skills and hit the ground running, from almost the first fight.
You take the role of Aigis, still recovering from the final battle, as are most of the surviving members of the team. A fierce intruder shatters their well-earned downtime, but this soon turns out to be the least of your worries when time ultimately freezes. Your only way to escape the cycle and leave the sealed dorm is to tackle the dungeons of time that have appeared below. The premise is brilliantly devised, not because of the plot dynamics, but simply because it immediately rules out any social links or exploring the nearby town.
It is a huge risk by Atlus to remove several of the distinctive elements that made Persona 3 so enjoyable first time around. With such a move, the new episode is more focused on combat, learning the battle system and creating a new range of Personas. The standard difficulty setting has also been tweaked, prompting more focus on behalf of the player and tactics. This is no easy ride, as progress is difficult and all the more satisfying for it. Using the Rush function, sitting back and watching the action unfold is not recommended this time around.
Given the time frame between releases, much as been achieved in FES but it is clearly based on the previous instalment in the series. The new dungeon (for want of a better word) is just Tartarus with a fresh lick of paint, featuring the same designs and style of layout that proves all too familiar. Even the music is extracted from Persona 3, although in remixed form it remains a joy to hear. Ultimately these limitations explain why we have this expansion rather than what may have became Persona 4.
Unquestionably if you did not get around to buying Persona 3 earlier this year then this is another opportunity and one not to be wasted. The game works perfectly fine on the PlayStation 3 and trounces any RPG’s currently available for the more powerful platform. Having played the original release earlier this year, Gamestyle believes this enhanced package is a justifiable purchase despite the new episode following a more traditional RPG experience.
Gamestyle Score 9