Persona fans are always ready to throw down to defend Persona 3 as the greatest game in the series. Sure, Persona 4 and Persona 5 never fall far behind, but the third entry in the series seemed to touch people on a deeper level. (Let’s be honest–Revelations: Persona, Persona 2: Innocent Sin and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment never come up, whether they were good or not. And yes, they were good.)
While JRPGs had been kicking around in the west for decades, Persona 3 was a whole different animal, introducing more simulation aspects to the series. As it turns out, making friends as a means to gain power is a pretty memorable mechanic. Persona 3 managed to mix together a supernaturally charged battle system, high school drama and buckets of emotionally traumatized characters. Count me in.
Within the last few years, plenty of people have begun to either rediscover the Persona series or discover it for the first time due to the wonders of Persona 5. While Persona 3 might not display the same graphical capabilities as its most recent successor, it carries the same extremely deep story and the same groovin’ soundtrack. Once you go back and give it a try, you’ll realize that no love affair with the Persona series would be the same without it.
Oh, and to summon your Persona this time, you don’t just hold up a card or ‘wish’ it out with your thoughts. You shoot yourself in the head. Seriously. And that’s the kind of crazy emo nonsense that should immediately convince you to get started.
The Characters of Persona 3: The Members of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES)
- The Protagonist – While the manga adaptation makes the protagonist name Minato Arisato and the film calls him Makoto Yuki, it’s up to the player to decide in the game. A transfer student at Gekkoukan High School, he starts the game by moving into the Iwatodai dorm and getting involved with SEES, a group of students who hunt down otherworldly Shadows that terrorize the town each night. Players control his daily life, including handling extracurricular activities and time spent with friends and classmates. Typically seen as stoic and calm, the player can truly change his personality by making certain decisions throughout.
- Junpei Iori – The typical comic relief character, Junpei is the protagonist’s best friend. Though he’s a poor student and has a habit of hitting on the ladies, he is a skilled fighter and is determined to better himself over the course of the game. As it turns out, he’s only a class clown to mask his lack of self-esteem, and he wants to be a hero to make up for the many failures he’s guilty of in his life.
- Yukari Takeba – Another SEES member, she’s extremely popular in school due to her good looks and positivity. Yukari is excellent at getting information and making friends, which helps out the group as a whole–she is also a romantic option for the protagonist, and relates to him due to also being an orphan. She also hides a terrible secret related to the Shadows haunting the world…
- Mitsuru Kirijo – A gorgeous honor student, Mitsuru is the student council president and is the unofficial leader of SEES. Fighting Shadows since she was a small child, she is guilty of hiding a number of facts and details from the rest of the group throughout the story, and feels a huge amount of guilt over her involvement in the Shadow’s creation.
- Akihiko Sanada – The captain of the school’s boxing team, Akihiko is mature and hard-working with perfect grades to boot. He is one of the original members of the group and helped to create SEES after Shadows were responsible for the death of someone close to him. Akihiko is fearless, and rushes into battle without hesitation.
- Fuuka Yamagishi – While extremely quiet and unremarkable, it turns out that Fuuka is a Persona user–and a competent healer at that. Bullied and depressed, she finds a reason to live again after making friends with the members of SEES.
- Aigis – Yes, this game even has androids. The last surviving model of her class, Aigis was built to fight the Shadows, and comes fully stocked with everything from machine guns to rocket launchers. Over time, she begins to become more ‘human-like,’ learning about emotions and becoming attached to the SEES members, especially the protagonist.
- Ken Amada – Ken is the youngest Persona user in the entire franchise. An elementary school student, his inner power was awakened after he lost his mother two years prior. He joins SEES as a fighter despite the age difference, and he fights with a spear to make up for being, you know, a tiny child.
Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES: Japan’s Best RPG of 2006
Persona 3 was released in 2006 for the Playstation 2, and was met with massive success. Critics called it the best RPG of the year, and applauded the stylistic changes which had been made from earlier Persona titles. In 2010, it was named the Top RPG of the Decade by RPGamer, and IGN included it in a list of the Top 100 RPGs of all time.
The music in the game, as with other popular Persona titles, was done by Shoji Meguro. I don’t believe that I need to say anything more than that–if you’ve played either Persona 4 or 5, you know what kind of quality to expect.
In 2007, Persona 3 FES was released for the Playstation 2. This added new content to the main story, along with a special epilogue which allowed the player to control Aigis. It was released in North America in 2008, and is available on the Playstation 3 store. If you’d prefer a Playstation 2 copy, Amazon has got you covered.
Changes Were Made for Persona 3 Portable
An enhanced version of Persona 3 was released on the Playstation Portable in 2009 in Japan and 2010 in North America. Persona 3 Portable did something players didn’t expect–allowed you to choose to play as a female protagonist. It also alters some of the story depending on the gender you choose, and adds two new difficulty levels.
In the original Persona 3, the player can only control the protagonist in battle–all other characters are controlled by the computer. However, Persona 3 Portable allows full control over all characters, which also became the norm in Persona 4 and Persona 5.
The game also includes 10 new tracks from Shoji Meguro, and also features cameos from characters from Persona 4 and Catherine, another Atlus game. If you somehow still own a PSP, get a copy. You can also play it on the Vita. (I know, a console port would be amazing.)
A Four-Part Movie Adaptation Came in 2012
After a 26-episode anime series based on the game was aired in 2008, it seemed that that would be the end of Persona 3 on TV screens or, goodness forbid, movie screens. But in 2012, it was announced that Persona 3 would not only be made into a film, but it would be released over four separate movies. Fans, as you would expect, lost their minds. Understandable.
The first film, Persona 3 The Movie: No.1, Spring of Birth (slides right off the tongue) was released in 2013, and was produced by AIC, the company behind Tenchi Universe and Armitage. The following three films were produced instead by A-1 Pictures, the studio responsible for Fairy Tale and Space Brothers.
All voice actors from the original game reprised their roles in the film, and Shoji Meguro, of course, created the incredible soundtrack.
Persona 3 The Movie: No. 2, Midsummer Knight’s Dream was released in 2014, and received more favorable international reviews than the first film. Persona 3 The Movie: No. 3, Falling Down hit theaters in 2015, while Persona 3 The Movie: No. 4, Winter of Rebirth was released in early 2016.
Those movie titles are ridiculous, but you should watch them after playing the game. They are available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, while Blu-ray versions and Special Editions are also available for purchase.
Persona 3 Dancing in Moonlight: Because the Music is Too Fire
I’m a massive rhythm game fan, and even if you aren’t, the music in Persona undoubtedly lends itself to remixes and dancing the night away. When fans first saw a trailer for Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight, we were all supremely pumped–the game was still fresh in our minds, and Persona 4 had received a dancing game for the Vita years prior.
But where did that leave Persona 3? Why was life so unfair? How had it been skipped over, when it had so many loyal fans?
Atlus actually listened, and right after Persona 5 received its rhythm title, we were blessed with the announcement of Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight. The first time we all saw the trailer, there might have been spitting out of water and emotional tears. No shame.
Released in the US in 2018 for the Playstation 4, it’s worth a playthrough for the remixed tracks. It also includes a VR mode, which allows you to peek into your favorite characters’ rooms–and believe me, if you played the original games, this is more exciting than you’d expect.
All in all, Persona 3 is one of the best RPGs ever made–that’s not up for debate. Even if you’ve only played Persona 5 and haven’t jumped into the past titles, pick up one of those listed. You’ll fall in love with some new characters, get addicted to some new songs and stay up all night fighting Shadows–just like our protagonist.