a killing blow for the protagonist after going out for a soda after school once.
Well, actually, point of fact. The reason all team members learn that skill at the first rank is because all party member first ranks are part of the story and not optional, if I remember correctly.
Without spoiling anything, this was basically necessary.
As for the fool arcana, I feel like you're kind of missing the point. I dunno if you've played the entire game, but a major theme is that there is no ONE TRUE representation of one's self. We are so defined by both intrinsic, environmental, and social variables that having these different personas is simply natural. You act different, even slightly, around different people.
Maybe I am missing the point. However, most of the cast I find genuinely sympathetic (even if I do think the writing is pretty damn hammy at times (Ryotaro is my man though)), but it's noted plenty of times how the protagonist is "different". Of course he's supposed to be a blank slate character the players can project themselves into, but combined with the Social Link mechanics he just looks like a manipulative bastard to me. Either that, or Ayanami Rei. Actually, that would somewhat explain how half the female cast falls for him. An empty vessel to mirror your fantasies seems to rock the socks off some people.
While many of the other characters' arcs deal with accepting themselves for what they are, the "real world" portion of the game seems to carry a message of society's needs over an individual's. There's no room for dissenting opinions (hell, equipping a matching Persona is integral to raising Social Links), and your worth (or power in this case) is measured in how well you can blend in. Your popularity is directly proportional to the amount of blood, sweat and tears you put into it, and popularity is your lifeline, your way to a better position. It's almost like high school! The protagonist is bound to succeed, because he has no personality of his own to cause conflict. Seriously, look at his eyes. There's nothing there!
It's up to the player whom they wish to hang out with, and the game in no way requires or even encourages, really, getting all the links on the first play through. There's no huge reason to.
Oh, I've no doubt that most people didn't max all Social Links on their first playthrough, not without a guide at least. But the game definitely spurs you on to abuse your Links for all their worth, to fuse stronger Personas, and to increase your stats so you can impress your peers and get them to like you...to fuse stronger Personas. A game is a game is a game, but this feels an awful lot like gold digging instead of a genuine relationship.
Mass Effect 2 has a similar mechanic, where interaction with your squad directly affects the end result of your mission, but I never felt like I had to play different roles to earn their trust. And more importantly, the relationships weren't a statistic. Maybe the only difference is that I didn't need to swap my "equipment" to socialize in ME2, I don't know. This might be a petty complaint to some, but it bothers the shit out of me. The implications of it I mean, not the act itself.
It probably looks like I'm bashing the game for the hell of it, but I really did want to enjoy it, and I can see why others did just that. I just don't think it lives up to the hype, with all the little things I perceive as flaws in writing and design. I guess I might just be opposed to relationships as a game mechanic on principle.
Though honestly, I identify with my Pokémon characters more than I do with Narukami Yu.
Everyone else has said it, but... Persona 4 for some aspects, and Persona 3 for others (Namely P3P). Persona 4 did everything better except for some of the atmosphere, and the final boss. Persona 4 had better gameplay, characters, social links, and overall was just more like-able. I liked the idea of solving a deeply rooted mystery with characters I liked rather than everyone being so damn depressing in Persona 3. That was just too glaring for me, so I give Persona 4 the tip of my hat.
For Persona 3 though, the dark atmosphere and contrasts between the school life and spending time in the Dark hour were also interesting. And the end boss, holy shit... the fight with the Nyx Avatar was just incredible. The best final boss theme I've ever heard, a great final boss fight itself, and hearing words of wisdom as you slowly drain his health... It was all an INCREDIBLE hour long boss fight for me, and I'll never forget it.
Soooooo... yeah, that's my two cents :3
It has to be Persona 4. I kinda sorta absolutely despised the main character in Persona 3 and I can't turn down a good mystery story so yeah. Persona 4.
I can't remember if Persona 3 had the mechanic where a party member would take a killing blow for you but it's probably my favourite game mechanic ever. Saving you from restarting and making you more attached to that character? YUP!
I was starting to think that I was alone in hating the main character of Persona 3. But yeah, I hate the main character to the point that it actually kind of ruined the game a bit for me.
My answer though, is Persona 4. I just generally think that it was an all round better game and the likeable characters and storyline created a really phenomenal experience for me. Also, the ending was much better (I know a lot of people disagree with this) than the ending to Persona 3, in my opinion.
EDIT: I realize this thread has been dead for a really long time now, but I thought I'd post anyway.