How Persona 3 Retroactively Fixes Persona 5’s Biggest Problem


Before I begin, I think it’s important to contextualize my experience with the Persona series. I, like many others, got into the series with 2017’s Persona 5. I’m a huge fan of Persona 5, so much so that after my second playthrough of Persona 5, I went back and finished both Persona 3 FES and Persona 4.

It also marked my interest in JRPGs and turn-based combat, as well as being a gateway into the wider Shin Megami Tensei franchise.

It was while I was still what you would consider a teenager, that made Persona 5 (and the series itself) really important and formative to my teenage years.

So that’s given some background. Now you’ve already read the title, I don’t mean to imply that either game is bad by any means. Indeed, they are unusual titles. It’s just something that I think is a prevalent problem in recent Persona games.

Even when I played Persona 5 all those years ago, this was something I saw often, and it was a problem I encountered with Persona 4 as well. good

While Persona 4 and 5 are monumental leaps ahead of Persona 3, one important aspect has been lost in the transition. And now that Persona 3 is relevant again… thanks to the somewhat poor remaster of Persona 3 Portable, let’s talk about it in detail.

A social crisis

Personality 5
Kichijoji Shopping District in Persona 5 Royale

Social interactions are one of the most important parts of a Persona game. This gives the player something to work on during the slice-of-life segments of the game. Building and strengthening your bonds throughout each game’s story is one of the core themes of the Persona series.

Each game does this to a different degree, while Persona 4 and 5 give you full reign to focus on a specific party member of your choice. Persona 3 makes it so that your party members’ social connections are tied to your progress in the main story.

Think of Goro Akechi’s confidant in Persona 5, except it works for almost everyone in Persona 3.

And from a gameplay perspective, yes, it’s a bit frustrating that you can’t maximize your party member’s social connections by yourself. This takes away much-needed agency from the player and removes a huge aspect of Persona’s social sim.

However, the problem with recent Persona games stems from how social interactions are integrated into the story. While the quality of the social interaction itself generally ranges from pretty neat to pretty good, it tends to become too detached from the game’s main story.

For example, Ann’s and, to a lesser extent, Ryuji’s character ends in the main story after the game’s first castle, where you encounter Kamoshida. After that, while they have an entirely separate character arc left, it’s independent of the game’s main story.

This is a recurring problem in all games. What should add to the game’s story instead feels detached. Ryuji getting over his shock over the track team incident should be given more attention than he gets, and is never brought back into the story after the Kamoshida incident.

Persona 3 eliminated this problem by integrating the social interactions of many party members into the main story.

This is why characters like Junpei Iori and Akihiko are so memorable. Junpei in particular starts out borderline unlikeable, but he develops throughout the game to become one of the best companions in the series. It’s a slow progression that takes about half the game until it finally pays off in a spectacular conclusion.

His development feels real, and by the end of the game, he feels like a significantly different character than he started out. This is something that is genuinely earned over the course of 70 hours of play.

It also makes the finale more interesting. Without spoiling what happens, it makes for a very satisfying contrast to the antagonist’s goals while making complete sense. It fortunately strikes a perfect tonal balance between blissful optimism and stark despair.

The main issue

Personality 4
Rating Social Link in Persona 4 Golden

The above problem stems from a broader problem that exists in both P4 and 5, where the main character feels like the center of the universe. All the development is due to the intervention of the main character, it feels strangely patronizing.

Whereas in Persona 3, even the social connections that are separate from party members usually don’t do much more than interact with the characters as they talk about their lives. It feels incredibly real and a little healthy how these characters open up to a child who wants to talk. This is easily one of my favorite things about Persona 3.

You don’t change many characters for the better either. The Devil’s Social Link in 3 begins with you talking to a shady businessman who’s pretty much a scary person, and ends with him being a slightly less scary person.

Persona 3 Portable
Naganaki Shrine in Persona 3 Portable.

It also appears that everyone always has a schedule open for the main character. While the characters in Persona 3 would occasionally turn down the player’s offers to hang out because they had things to do.

It made both the world and the characters in the game feel more grounded. I wouldn’t say that the characters in Persona 5 feel “artificial”, because I think that’s a ridiculous thing to say about a game where I have characters that I genuinely love, but this Things feel less immersive.

I don’t mean that Persona 3 is perfect or even my favorite Persona game (it’s Persona 4). Exploring Tartarus can be excruciating, the gameplay is often frustrating, and the randomness of the AI ​​makes combat feel like a gamble at times, though it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be.

Despite this, Persona 3 is a standout entry that deserves a lot of love and praise. It has one of the best and most mature stories in the series with an absolute banger soundtrack that deserves more credit than it gets.

While Atlus fails to deliver the stellar Persona 3 experience that encapsulates the best of all its editions, it’s a unique outlier in the franchise that manages to strike a great balance between the mainline Shin Megami Tensei series and the Persona series. Manages.

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