166: A Gun to Your Head

A Gun to Your Head

"One of the basic tenets of Persona 3 is that in order to fight Shadows, monsters that plague the minds of humans and essentially turn them into vegetables, you must summon Personas, spirits manifested from your character's psyche. To do so, you put a gun-like device, called an Evoker, to your head and pull the trigger. Fans of Persona 3 (or P3 for short) know that it's not a real gun, of course, but to the casual observer, the imagery is unmistakable. Far less offensive symbolism has captured the attention of the national media - a fate which P3 largely escaped.

"The question is, then - why take the risk?"

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Excellent discourse on a game series I really need to get off my ass and play.

There is something absolute about the image of a gun at someone's own head. Like they're holding the maximum amount of control over their lives that they can ever hope to wield. The fact that there is little you can do with such power if exercised may be ultimately irrelevant, it is an act of establishing that it is even there.

Excellent article, although I might be biased for personally considering P3 FES one of the best games made, not only due to gameplay but for the interesting plot line and vast amount of themes well explored. Some explained outright, others in sub-levels of context (Like the Evokers, or even the bad ending which explores another type of social behavior).

Having finished P3 FES some days ago, this was just what I needed to read.

As a side note, for anyone who finished The Answer, there's an aspect of a certain moment in game where I have been trying to figure out if there is any meaning behind it or not. Sadly, there's nothing on the Internet that discusses it.
Anyone who has finished The Answer and thinks he/she understands the moment of death of a certain boss, which is not the final one (You know which I'm talking about), then please give me a pm.

Good article. It always interests me to see someone discussing a game not in terms of whether it's good, but in terms of what it is.

My understanding of the use of the Evoker "gun" is that in order to summon a powerful Persona into physical being one must break a psychological barrier within themselves, hence why the whole procedure of summoning requires one to go through the motions of "blowing one's brains out" with the gun. Too I kinda imagined some kind of limited charge/energy in the form of ammo to be necessary as well. At any rate summoning Persona is serious business.

Indeed it makes total sense that in order to strengthen and create new Personae one must strengthen and build one's own mind. Thus making new friends, strengthening your relationships, taking art classes, learning discipline through martial arts training, etc. would facilitate new and stronger personae. It's a wonderful premise for an RPG. It presents the idea that you can kick ass not by finding a BFG 9000 in a locker somewhere but by being a good student of life, by making friends and strengthening your relationships. Persona 3 presents gamers with the idea that it's good to do your homework and be nice to people. At times I've found the game educational, brilliant!

And now that we've got your attention, let's grind and grind and grind!

The imaging is shocking, sure - but after you've done it a hundred times to kill "rats" it loses its je ne sais quois. I found myself wishing Persona 3 was an anime I could rent without actually having to play the thing.

Many Japanese like their anime/games to be edgy, complex and deeply philosophical. The majority of the time they just put cool and edgy stuff in their anime/game for the sake of being cool and edgy, not because it makes sense. Sometimes a particular anime/game will successfully pull it off in a believable manner, and these are great when you can find them, but more often than not they overdo it and end up creating something that just comes across as unbelievable and lame. Persona 3 is definitely the former (a great game for those who love JRPGs).

I'm currently at the end of P3 "The Journey". I haven't played "The Answer" yet.

jdfristrom:
The imaging is shocking, sure - but after you've done it a hundred times to kill "rats" it loses its je ne sais quois. I found myself wishing Persona 3 was an anime I could rent without actually having to play the thing.

Actually there is an anime, Persona Trinity Soul, which is a sequel to the game. I haven't watched it yet though so I can't vouch for it's quality.

This makes me want to play this game. Hmm.

I probably won't, but still.

jdfristrom:
And now that we've got your attention, let's grind and grind and grind!

The imaging is shocking, sure - but after you've done it a hundred times to kill "rats" it loses its je ne sais quois. I found myself wishing Persona 3 was an anime I could rent without actually having to play the thing.

Going to be picky and say there's no "rat" like enemy in the game. But I understand what you mean. But let's not forget the game isn't all just grind. There's the social sim like part of the game as well. And there isn't as much grind needed with fusion. Status come from Personae, not your character. Leveling up just boosts HP/MP and allows you to have better Personae.

Still, it's a matter of opinion. I for once never got tired of them shooting themselves. Maybe I'm a bit sadistic, maybe I just loved to hear their shouts and hear the loud bang that came with it, maybe I still enjoyed on how each had their own way of shooting themselves. I don't know, it seems more immediate and eye appeasing than just having an aura suddenly grow around you as you start casting a spell.

Let's not spend too much time on the Persona 3's philosophy because we might forget to analyze the gameplay and graphics. I recently played Persona 4 so I feel that I can also talk about Persona 3 since they are pretty much the same.

I loved the social sim aspect of the gameplay because you can level up your personas without having to grind. And the fusion option is a major gameplay element in most Megaten games. But the battle system sucks. If your main character dies the whole game ends. You can't customize your persona skill set. Most personas are useless because there are only a few skills in any Megaten game that are worth using. You can only explore one generic looking dungeon. Persona 4 fixed this problem by allowing you to explore multiple generic dungeons with rooms that look exactly the same.

Persona graphics are not even PS1 quality. FFVII, FFVIII, Star Ocean Second Story, and Chrono Cross look ten times better than Persona 3 and 4. How is that possible? Isn't this 2008? Those games came out like 10 years ago. I know I am not being fair because Square/Enix is probably the best Japanese RPG company, but those are the types of games I grew up playing. No one on this board can say that Persona 3 has great graphics for a PS2 game. If you played FFX, FFXII, or even Shadow Hearts, I don't know how you can shell out $50 bucks and not be angry for purchasing a game with inferior graphics on a superior system.

Why not build social relationships in real life? The Sims is a nice casual, fun game but it doesn't suck you into some kind of fake real world like Persona does. You can pick up the Sims and put it down leaving you time to make real friends. Persona might be an evil game telling you to spend time making fake game relationships instead of real ones. Doesn't it feel like a substitute for reality? Whatever happened to the fantasy element of gaming?

Persona 3 is a game that never ends. You have to keep playing in order to get the true ending. There are multiple endings that you have to see. You are special in Persona. You make decisions that affect your life and the life of your digital friends. I stopped playing Persona because I don't want to run to "reality" I play games to be entertained and not to live my life.

Good article, and excellent counterpoint R.O. I'd like to see this game at least but after your description I think you saved me the time of actually trying to play it.

R.O.:
Let's not spend too much time on the Persona 3's philosophy because we might forget to analyze the gameplay and graphics. I recently played Persona 4 so I feel that I can also talk about Persona 3 since they are pretty much the same.

No, let's. This is an article about the philosophy of the game, not a review of gameplay.

R.O.:
But the battle system sucks. If your main character dies the whole game ends. You can't customize your persona skill set. Most personas are useless because there are only a few skills in any Megaten game that are worth using. You can only explore one generic looking dungeon. Persona 4 fixed this problem by allowing you to explore multiple generic dungeons with rooms that look exactly the same.

The battle system is quite ingenious. You die if the Main Character dies, and true that it makes me wonder why other characters can't just revive you, it does complement the idea you're in the role of that character, and not the party as a whole. Plus, the AI of your companions really make up for it. I only died 2-3 times in the game, even in hard mode.
And if you use the "fighting all the way to the boss and then dying, forcing you to go start over" argument, I do remind you P3 allows you to save right before fighting a boss, plus giving you a full heal.

R.O.:
Persona graphics are not even PS1 quality. FFVII, FFVIII, Star Ocean Second Story, and Chrono Cross look ten times better than Persona 3 and 4. How is that possible?

FFVII with the blocky characters? Star Ocean Second Story with the lack of any detail in backgrounds and characters? Surely you jest. I very well say Persona 3 graphics are good and a PS1 game couldn't reproduce it. You don't enjoy the graphics, which is different. Sure, compared to a game like FFXII it doesn't even begin to reach its detail. But one doesn't say an orange is tastier only because it is bigger than the rest. Simple as the graphics may seem, they are filled with style and personality. Plus, they're pretty much appealing to the eye.

R.O.:
Why not build social relationships in real life?

Why play driving games if you could just go drive your car? Why play sports games if you could just go play them in real life? Why play fighting games if you could just join real fighting tournaments? Why play army games if you could yourself join the Navy? If you're going by that logic, you're limiting yourself to very few games. But seriously, dude, you're not forced to play the game 24/7. They invented a terribly useful feature called "saving", which I previously mentioned, so you can put down your game without losing progress and go take care of other things you wish to do, in real life.
And you're using The Sims as a better example of a game that doesn't suck you away from reality? Again, surely you jest.

R.O.:
Persona 3 is a game that never ends. You have to keep playing in order to get the true ending. There are multiple endings that you have to see. You are special in Persona. You make decisions that affect your life and the life of your digital friends. I stopped playing Persona because I don't want to run to "reality" I play games to be entertained and not to live my life.

I'm pretty sure the game ends. Like in the end? After the final boss? Isn't that how most games function? You have to play it until you get to the ending? I don't really feel secure with buying a game that would allow me to reach the ending without having to play it.
And there are 2 endings, which you can easily save before making the decision of seeing the bad one, or continue playing the game until you reach the good one.

Did you really play Persona? Or games even? Almost all your arguments point out to you not doing the first and possibly the latter.

PS: The Sims? Seriously? You actually thought using The Sims as a counter argument to your "I dislike games that make you play a fake life" notion was a good idea? It's like saying that you rather have cotton candy over chocolate because chocolate has too much sugar in it.

PPS: So I stay a bit in topic, I'd like to mention the idea of whether or not the heroes are actually heroes per-say.

R.O.:
Let's not spend too much time on the Persona 3's philosophy because we might forget to analyze the gameplay and graphics. I recently played Persona 4 so I feel that I can also talk about Persona 3 since they are pretty much the same.

I loved the social sim aspect of the gameplay because you can level up your personas without having to grind. And the fusion option is a major gameplay element in most Megaten games. But the battle system sucks. If your main character dies the whole game ends. You can't customize your persona skill set. Most personas are useless because there are only a few skills in any Megaten game that are worth using. You can only explore one generic looking dungeon. Persona 4 fixed this problem by allowing you to explore multiple generic dungeons with rooms that look exactly the same.

Persona graphics are not even PS1 quality. FFVII, FFVIII, Star Ocean Second Story, and Chrono Cross look ten times better than Persona 3 and 4. How is that possible? Isn't this 2008? Those games came out like 10 years ago. I know I am not being fair because Square/Enix is probably the best Japanese RPG company, but those are the types of games I grew up playing. No one on this board can say that Persona 3 has great graphics for a PS2 game. If you played FFX, FFXII, or even Shadow Hearts, I don't know how you can shell out $50 bucks and not be angry for purchasing a game with inferior graphics on a superior system.

Why not build social relationships in real life? The Sims is a nice casual, fun game but it doesn't suck you into some kind of fake real world like Persona does. You can pick up the Sims and put it down leaving you time to make real friends. Persona might be an evil game telling you to spend time making fake game relationships instead of real ones. Doesn't it feel like a substitute for reality? Whatever happened to the fantasy element of gaming?

Persona 3 is a game that never ends. You have to keep playing in order to get the true ending. There are multiple endings that you have to see. You are special in Persona. You make decisions that affect your life and the life of your digital friends. I stopped playing Persona because I don't want to run to "reality" I play games to be entertained and not to live my life.

I agree that Persona 3 is very time consuming (I'm at 70 hours and I'm not finished), it's up to you to manage your time. If a game is ruining your social life then you're not doing a good job at this.

I agree that the battle system can be punishing at times, but I actually like the increased difficulty and focus on protecting your main character. Most RPG's these days are too easy (coming from me who can still remember the 8-bit days of gaming).

I agree that the art style might not appeal to everyone, being very much based on anime, but I don't see where the graphics are bad. I think your memories of the PS1 graphics are of higher quality than it was in actuality. There is no way Persona 3's graphics are as low or lower than the PS1. Besides, if you're not playing a game, especially an RPG, because the graphics aren't cutting edge then you're probably not a huge fan of RPG's in the first place.

I agree that the gameplay can become repetitive, being that the world isn't very large and the designated fighting areas don't vary a whole lot, but the world is full of interesting details and the social aspects keep everything from getting boring.

I agree that P3 isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy JRPGs, anime and/or a unique role playing experience, you should definitely give it a shot.

Impressive article, i find it intresting.

I recently bought P3 on a whim and am thoroughly enjoying it specifically because its so different from other JRPGs in all the ways that matter. People can dislike it for it's simplistic graphics and grinding but like the author says, it has a thematic depth that I have never seen out of a JRPG before. I hadn't even played one since FFX and Persona 3 is something truly different and interesting, even if the basic gameplay doesn't deviate much from the JRPG formula.

I'm surprised you managed to talk about the whole suicide analogy in terms of mental defense and finding ways to strengthen your own will to break past suicide, without once mentioning Strega. Strega is the opposite side of the analogy, and I think without them the theme would not have been nearly as strong.

A Gun to Your Head:
It's a life-affirming message: that partaking in society can give your life more meaning - and further improve your mental fortitude - than being a recluse and shunning your fellow human.

*coughYahtzeecoughcough*
Sorry, couldn't resist.

Anyway, I was really intrigued by this article. I have the game, but none of that ever occurred to me as I watched my dad play through it. On the other hand, I had always assumed the Atlus was just dark like that from the other games. But this article makes me doubt that's the case, at least in P3.

I loved the article. I'm yet to play FES (no time, sad), maybe by December I can play it along with Persona 4.

Good job at getting the point across without spoiling much of the game. Two thumbs all the way up. And for the record, I find Koromaru has much more personality than Cloud and Sephiroth COMBINED.

Loved the article. Of course, I love the game as well! I need to get off my bum (or on it I suppose) and beat it. I've been kind of ehh about playing it lately, as I like to play my games on the spare tv in the living room, I like to be around people. And I thought that Persona 3 would really scare off my guy's parents. But after reading this, getting that deeper understanding, so much more worthwhile and meaningful than throwing a fuss over "that looks like suicide!" I think I'm not so scared of playing in front of them anymore.

Divinegon: Hurrah for you! You made all the right points I would have made. So now I don't have to.

Frankly, I'm still not convinced that it's not all just so much shallow sensationalism. I don't want to reward the sort of impulse that will put something shocking in a game just to make it sell, because even if it's got the substance to back it up, its inevitable imitators probably won't. I'm not eager to see an arms race to see who can put the most offensive imagery in their game.

 

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