Games for Lunch: Persona 3 FES
Release Date: April 22, 2008
ESRB Rating: M
Official Web site
0:00 All I really know about this game is that the guys from Penny Arcade liked it and that Atlus gave me a free copy of the recent "FES" update, whatever that means.
0:01 Japanese singing over a confusing, jump cut-strewn anime. Then an equally confusing English rap over more jump cuts -- there's one every second or so! Flashes of people walking around school, RPG-style battles, a girl in a French maid's outfit, a white tiger, a gun to the face, a shop, and much more that I don't have time to write down.
0:03 In contrast to the frenetic intro, the title screen is dressed in mild greens with a gentle piano soundtrack and a full moon outside a window.
0:04 My menu choices are "The Journey" and "The Answer." Um, I was actually looking for "New Game"" or something. I guess that's kind of like a journey.
0:05 There's "New Game," along with my old friends "Load Game," "Config" and "Return to Title." Whew!
0:06 The game offers to tell me about the new features in this game, but since I've never played a Persona game, I decline. Normal difficulty is for "experienced gamers." I will "be able to enjoy the normal challenge of battle, which requires a certain degree of strategy." I'm going to hold them to that.
0:07 A blue moth on a black background. "Time never waits. It delivers all equally to the same end..." A moon goes from white to red. It zooms out to become a light in a giant sign on a busy street. People play arcade games, listen to their MP3 players, and wash their hands in a constantly running sink. The camera lingers on some scary toy bears dangling from a suitcase. The hand-washer has a gun and points it at her head! She's breathing hard and closes her eyes, but she can't do it. The gun is labeled F.E.S. Very artistic, but very confusing. I'm trying to just go with the flow here.
0:09 On a subway now. An announcer apologizes for the delays. Jump to the blue moth again. As the clock hits midnight, all the power goes out and the clock starts bleeding? Even the portable music player is dead. The moon is green and the streets are littered with coffins and blood, but the guy with the music player seems nonplussed. He opens an ornate door. "You're late. I've been waiting a long time for you," says a creepy girl in a striped mime shirt. "Now if you want to proceed, please sign your name there. It's a contract. Don't worry, all it says is that you'll accept full responsibility for your actions. You know, the usual stuff." DON'T DO IT, YOU FOOL!
0:12 My first bit of direct interaction! I get to enter my name. I choose as "2+2=5" because I'm a jerk -- and a casual Radiohead fan.
0:13 "No one can escape time. It delivers us all to the same end. You can't plug your ears and cover your eyes. And so it begins." That mime girl is SO CREEPY! A woman in red arrives in the foyer. "Who's there?" She reaches for her gun, but another woman in a white blouse and huge bow tie tells her to stop. The music player comes back on.
0:14 No more anime, we're looking at some basic 3-D models now. Mitsuru, the one in white, says she didn't expect me to be so late. Yukari, the girl with the gun, says "Hey!" coquettishly. I'm given a few options for a response. "Why do you have a gun?" seems the obvious choice. "Um, well... it's sort of a hobby. Well, not a hobby, but..." Mitsuru jumps in, says it for self-defense and not real. Color me unconvinced.
0:16 Yukari offers to show me to my room, and she does. I ask her about the contract I signed, but she has no idea what I'm talking about. Bad sign!
0:17 Jump to the next morning. Yukari knocks on the door asking if I'm awake. A menu tells me I could ignore her, but I choose to open the door. She offers to escort me to school and I accept. Guess I'm not so much of a jerk after all.
0:18 Back to anime. We're on an above ground train under a beautiful blue sky. "Well, this is it." "Welcome to Gekukan high school! Hope you like it!" It's a white palace! I wish I went to school there.
0:19 Yukari points me to the faculty office: "And that concludes the tour." This is a good place to mention how exceedingly excellent the voice acting is. Really top-notch. "About last night... don't tell anyone what you saw, OK?" Yeah,sure. Why would I tell anyone about the STREET FULL OF COFFINS?!
0:20 It took 20 minutes, but I'm finally in control! I can run around and talk to people. Kids are looking for their class assignments, a teacher is arguing about pork cutlet sandwiches at the shop, a guy is getting scolded by a girl for wearing sweats outside P.E. class. You know, a normal high school scene.
0:21 My character runs around leaning forward with his hands in his pockets. It's so cute!
0:23 I stop by the men's room on the way to the office. The game cuts away and I hear a flush, plus the washing of hands. "You relieved yourself. Your condition has become Great!" What is this, "Married with Children"?
0:24 Into the office. Ms. Toriumi welcomes me. She looks at my files and sees that something happened to my parents ten years ago, in 1999. Anyway, I'm in her class: 2-F. There's a welcoming ceremony starting soon.
0:25 The principal drones on from the stage of the ceremony. "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well." Blah blah blah. Cut to my seat, where the student behind me whispers a question about Yukari's boyfriend status. I tell him she has a beau, just to be a jerk. "Man, I knew it. I mean, why wouldn't she"?" Indeed.
0:27 Jump to After School time. Some random student greets me with "'Sup, dude!" He's Junpei, a transfer student since 8th grade. "I know how tough it is being the new kid, so I wanted to say, 'hey!' See how nice I am?" Yukari comes up. She's not a Junpei fan. "Did you ever think you might be bothering someone"?" "What? I was just being friendly!" Oooh, sparks!
0:28 Junpei gives us a hard time about me and Yukari walking to school together. "Seriously, don't say anything about last night, all right!" she says. Junpei's shocked face flies by in a comic panel. "Wait a minute... don't get the wrong idea. Listen, I just met him yesterday and there's absolutely nothing between us.... you'd better not start any rumors." Hoo boy.
0:30 The game decides I should go home with Junpei, for some reason. Time jump to the evening. I save my game on the sign-in sheet at the counter. I'm not sure why -- I haven't really done anything yet!
0:32 I find another men's restroom. *FLUSH* "You feel great!" This is seriously one of the most momentous choices I've made so far.
0:33 My choices at the vending machine are "Cielo Mist," "SoBay" and "Mad Bull." Subtle! I spend 120 yen on a Mad Bull.
0:34 I go inside an empty classmate's room. It's an empty room all right: a bed, a desk, a dresser and NOTHING else. Boooooring.
0:35 The next two empty rooms are equally boring. I decide to go to my room and get some sleep. Why? Because I am Mr. Excitement!
0:36 A "confident-looking student" (the game's words) talks to Mitsuru in the lobby. People are developing "Apathy Syndrome." "They say it's due to stress but..." Mitsuru trails off. "It has to be them," CLS replies. "Otherwise, it's not worth my time." He walks off. "This isn't a game, Akihiko." I'm getting Apathy Syndrome from not PLAYING at all.
0:37 Fast-forward a day. I overhear a conversation about a first-year who sits at home muttering, "It's coming... it's coming" all day. Will this be on the test?
0:38 In class, the game makes sure I'm listening to the teacher's droning by asking me to repeat what she just said. I take a guess and get it right. I wasn't really listening! I was just skipping text until something interesting happens! My charm level increases because the students are impressed I paid attention. That would never happen in an American school.
0:40 I walk by a "Wild Duck Burger" and a "Bookworms Used Books" in the strip mall! The game tells me it's lively in the evening. Not that it will let me walk through it myself, or anything. Nope, it's just ANOTHER cut scene.
0:41 In the lobby of the dorm, Shuji Ikutski introduces himself. He's the chairman of the school. He apologizes for the confusion about my accommodations. They seem OK to me.
0:42 I try to tell Shuji about the strange stuff I saw. "You were probably just tired. I wouldn't worry about it." His voice acting is pretty bad, actually.
0:43 Shuji tells me to go to bed as he makes his exit. "As they say, the early bird catches the bookworm. Please excuse the pun!" "You'll get used to his lame jokes," Yukari tells me. I hope not -- I love lame jokes!
0:44 Late night, cut to some sort of monitoring center with Mitsuru and Yukari at the console. Shuji walks in. "The dark hour is approaching." Wha? Back to an anime cut scene, where some young people are hanging out on the street at night. Midnight hits again and I see the giant coffins and blood. I grab my head and scream.
0:45 Shuji talks about the Dark Hour. "During this time, an ordinary person transmogrifies into a coffin and is oblivious to all that occurs." What? Even though I'm sleeping, I'm still dreaming about this horrible transmogrifying, apparently. Shuji think I have "the potential." Yukari feels kind of bad spying on me. As well she should!
0:46 Cut to a dark room with a spinning clock. "Welcome to the velvet room my dear young man," says a hunched, Mr. Burns-like figure at a table. "My name is Igor. I am delighted to make your acquaintance. This place exists between dream and reality, mind and matter." I signed the contract, so I'm welcome here, he tells me. I am "destined to hone my unique ability." OK. So stop talking and let me DO IT!
0:48 Igor gives me a velvet key before I wake up, so I can come back when I'm awake. The next day, Junpei is full of energy and I tell him so. He has a secret and catches himself before he blabs it to me. Intriguing.
0:49 In Classic Lit class, the game asks if I want to close my eyes for a few minutes. In real life or in the game? I decide to stay up, so my Academics level increases.
0:50 I walk home with Junpei again. As the dark hour hits I'm asleep and being monitored again. "The same as last night," Yukari says "Hmm... very interesting," says Shuji. NO, IT'S NOT! IT'S EXACTLY THE SAME! Oh wait, I'm interesting because I'm NOT exhibiting the usual symptoms of those with "the potential." Whatever.
0:52 Akihikio (the confident looking student) calls in to the montoring station. He's being chased by something huge. It's following him home. Can we keep him? They're gonna prepare for battle. YES! FINALLY!
0:54 Yukari is instructed to take me out the back way. She barges in to my room. "I don't have time to explain. We have to get out of here now!" She gives me a short sword. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I can almost taste the action. Will we make the hour deadline?
0:55 Yukari gets a call from Mitsuru. There's a second enemy. It's banging on the back door! We pull back. Oooh, I can feel the battle approaching!
0:56 We retreat back upstairs. I'm not sure why -- there's no way out up here, as far as I know. "If we don't get out of here we're going to die!" Thanks for the update, Yukari!
0:57 The game won't let me go downstairs and into the obvious battle, so I head further up. Nice driving piano/synth music here.
0:58 The monsters finally find us out on the roof. An anime cut scene shows sweat drops falling from Yukari's face under a green moon. A thousand or so hands reach up over the precipice. One carries a disembodied white mask, the others have swords! "Those monsters! We call them shadows!" Is that really important right now? Yukari puts the gun to her head again, but is disarmed by a sword before she can fire.
0:59 "Go on," a voice whispers to me. So I pick up Yukari's gun, whisper "Per-So-Na" to myself and then SHOOT MYSELF IN THE HEAD! HOLY HELL! I get a wild-eyed look on my face. A white dragoon/angel creature emerges behind me. "Thou art I and I am thou. From the sea of thy soul. I am Orpheus, master of strings." Who knew shooting yourself could be so useful? I now see why this game is rated M.
1:01 Orpheus cuts down the shadows easily, leaving a gibbering, steaming mess of hands on the ground. I can tell the battle is about to start for real now, but I'm over the time limit, so I can't tell you about it. Sorry, arbitrary rules are arbitrary rules.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Um...
Why? Seeing how I've played for an hour and not actually PLAYED anything, I have no idea. I'm liking the story and the voice acting, though. I'd watch it for more than an hour, that's for sure.
This column was based on a gold master provided by the publisher.
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