High-contrast gameplay reinvigorates the role-playing game
Platform: Playstation 2
If we’re talking Jung, the term “persona” refers to the duality between the true nature and the mask one presents to others to satisfy the demands of a situation. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 exploits this bit of psychology against the backdrop of a razor-sharp, stylishly animated RPG story, which pits a crew of achingly hip Japanese high-school students against an ever-encroaching, nebulous evil known only as “Shadows,” who appear in the mysterious Dark Hour, between midnight and 1 A.M. To ?ght them, the kids will have to use their Personae—terrifying and beautiful alternate selves summoned by a self-in?icted gunshot to the head.
By day, though, the protagonists are normal kids, navigating school politics and academic stresses. The genius of Persona 3 is that these everyday elements—studying, forming friendships, joining clubs—form the basis of the growth system, taking your character from timid, charmless boy to empowered agent of salvation. It’s up to the player how to spend each in-game day; when good hygiene and proper courtesy result in physical strength gains, it almost feels like a life lesson in time management—and, despite the fantasy backdrop, a joyful exercise in true character building.