Tag Archives: RPG

Game Comment: “Persona 3” (PS2)

23 Oct

Info: Atlus Co. (Developer); Koei (Publisher)
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: M

Started: July 2008
Finished: October 2008
Playing time: ~ 110 hours (a couple of hours are due to not being able to pause the game and only two save points)

Links: Official Website; Games: Playing Right now;
Games: Playing “Persona 3” (PS2) with video

The Persona series is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei series. In Persona 3, you’re playing an unnamed orphaned male teenager who goes back to the city where he grew up. Shortly after you arrive in the city, you’re attacked by Shadows, beings that feed on the mind of people, leaving some of them ill. Thanks to the awakening of your Persona, a kind of other self from deep within, you’re able to defeat them. It turns out some of the other kids you go to school with have the same ability. They are part of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES), formed to hunt Shadows. You join SEES, and from then on, spent your nights defeating Shadows.

Shadows appear only during the Dark Hour, a time between times. It exists between one day and the next and appears every night at midnight. SEES members and a few other people are aware of it but most people don’t know. In order to hunt Shadows, you (and the other SEES members) have to go to Tartarus, a huge tower which only appears during the Dark Hour and which teems with Shadows.

The game follows a (Japanese) school year, and as the year progresses, you learn more and more about Tartarus, the Shadows and the Dark Hour. Your goal is to defeat all Shadows, or at least to make the Dark Hour go away, because more and more people fall in a state of unconsiousness because of it. Of course, it isn’t as straightforward as that and you encounter some twists and surprises on the way.

There are two distinct parts to the game: the dungeon crawling during the Dark Hour and the day-time activity with going to school, school activities and making and meeting friends. Persona 3 is a mixture of RPG elements and dating sim elements, although dating means you meet all kind of people, not just love interests, and try to establish a relationship with them (called social link).

What I liked:

  • story
    This is the part where Persona 3 really shines, IMO. Persona 3 features a story that tackles serious subjects in a much more thorough way than you normally see in other (RPG) games. Essentially, it’s a look at the meaning of friendship and love, and it asks questions about free will and fate. Each member of SEES has his own story and reason for fighting the Shadows, and when it comes to make the ultimate decision on New Year’s Eve – which comes down to a choice between free will and fate – their story influences the way they decide. Other games *coughFinalFantasyXIIcough* could learn a thing or ten from Persona 3 in regard to character development.
    Persona 3 has two endings; which one you get depends on your decision on New Year’s Eve. What is called the “bad ending” practically ends the game on New Year’s eve. You get to see the rest of the school year but you can’t play your character anymore and you won’t have to face the obligatory final boss fight. The “good ending” opens up another dungeon, you can continue to improve your social links, acquire new Personas, and you get to beat the final boss.
    The funny thing is, I wasn’t really sad after seeing the “bad ending” whereas after watching the “good ending” … oh my. The “good ending” expresses the “message” of the story most clearly and is therefore more powerful. It’s also the best example of how this game combines game elements (social links, fighting) and story and character development in a not-often-seen way for games.
  • mixture of RPG and dating sim
    Persona 3 is an unusual mixture of game genre elements. What makes it even more special is that these elements are linked to and influence each other and the story. For example, each person you can befriend and establish a social link with represents a Persona class called Arcana, modeled after Tarot cards like “Lovers,” “Judgment” or “Death.” The main character (you) is able to create (fuse) Personas, and since each Persona is part of a specific Arcana it’s: the higher your social link with a person, the higher the benefits for fusing a Persona that’s part of the Arcana that person represents. And the link between a Persona’s Arcana and Tarot cards connects this game play element with one of the main themes – fate – of the story. Neat.
    Also, each element is able to feed my compulsive nature like whoa (meaning there are lots of possibilities to max all kinds of things).

What I didn’t like:

  • game control
    I thought the handling of the menus a bit cumbersome, the loading a bit slow and there’s only minimal info on things like abilities. When your Persona levels up, there isn’t any info about what the newly learned ability does. This is especially annoying when there’s no free slot available for the new ability (each Persona can have up to 8 abilities at the same time) and you have to choose which one to delete. There are A LOT of abilities and most of them have names that give you no clue what they do, like for example “Me Patra” (provides recovery from Panic, Fear, and Distress, targets all allies). You also don’t get info about the already learned skills on that screen, making this really hard and annoying. Really, I think the days where you had to play with a notepad beside you and write EVERYTHING down are gone.
  • game balance
    While I thought the mixture of RPG and dating-sim elements interesting and intriguing, it also can lead to some dull periods during the game, mostly depending on how much attention you pay to the social links part of the game (and how good you are at it). You can either have lots of extracurricular activities or periods where you just press a button to advance to the next day. How much you must fight depends in part on the rank of your social links. If you screw up there, it means more fights, and they and the dungeons are not all that exciting (Persona 3 is much more forgiving than Lucifer’s Call). I thought the balance was off there.
    Also: screwing up the social links is very easy. In fact, it’s said there’s only one way to max all social links in one go. For that, you have to follow a very detailed time-table and do everything in the right order. One mess-up to do something on a certain day, and all was for nothing.
    In Persona 3: FES, which comes out in Europe at the end of October 2008, the social link element is supposed to be easier (more opportunities to max the links), making the game better balanced in that regard.

Would I recommend this game? occasional player: not necessarily; (consloe) RPG players: yes

Would I play this game again? Yes (to max all the missed things)

Grade: 4 – / 5


Game Comment: "Dragon Quest VIII" (PS2)

5 Feb

In Dragon Quest VIII – The Return Of The Cursed King you’re playing a male hero who travels with his king and the king’s daughter to find the one who cursed them so that the curse can be reversed. It’s a very linear story, there are side quests of course, but basically you move from one place to the next. This is especially true for the beginning. Later you get means to go back to places already visited. There are random enemy encounters which follow a some kind of turn-based system.

What I liked

  • the world: The developers created a beautiful world for this game. There are lush green landscapes, deserts, and snowy parts. There are night-and-day changes and yes, I took the time to watch the sun come up on the ocean.
  • the bonus dungeon: There’s a bonus dungeon after you finish the game for the first time where you’re getting some background information about the hero. It’s here that the boss fight of the boss fights take place.
  • a loooooong ending sequence

What I didn’t like

  • story:
    Dragon Quest VIII tells a generic story. You’re a no-name hero and nothing to say. You accompany your king and his daughter on their quest to find the one who cursed them. He leaves a path of destruction so that’s easy to do. Which means that you’re goal now is not only to find Sephiroth him but also to stop Sephiroth him. The last dungeon in the game (not the bonus dungeon) reminded me strongly of a location in Final Fantasy VIII so the similarities between Final Fantasy and this game don’t end with the Sephiroth-like villain and story.

    The story starts really slow. I was bored and it was only after playing for a considerable amount of time that I was developing some interest in the story.

    The characters in your party are also pretty generic. After their lengthy introductions, which slowed the start of the game even more, the interaction between the characters was nearly non-existent.

  • cumbersome controls:
    – There’s a lot of dialogue to save your game. I know it’s keeping this element in the story – you talk to a priest for saving – but it takes about 30 seconds to do it and that gets annoying in time. For each dialogue box you have to press a button to get the next one.

    – The same is true for your alchemy pot. A lot of dialogue to get your ingredients in the pot and before that some button pressing to even get to the pot.

    – There’s a skill that draws enemies to you. Useful, when you have to level up, and you’ll do in this game. But to use it, you have to – yeah, you guessed right – press buttons. 4 in all. For each fight. It nearly takes as long as running around and waiting for a fight to happen on its own.

  • game balance:
    – Levelling up. Levelling up is slooooooow (see investment and reward). And to make things worse, the characters in your party don’t need the same amount of experience points from one level to the next. Jessica (level 53) needs nearly twice the experience points Yangus (level 56) needs right now. Why?
    There’re enemies which are supposed to help here. You get a huge amount of experience points when you beat them. But, 1) they have to turn up first; 2) they have to stay for the battle (they tend to flee right away); 3) you have to kill them – taking only one or two life points away or hoping for a critical hit (and they can always flee at the last minute). If you want to beat the last dungeon, you’ll know what you have to be prepared for: hours and hours of mindless and boring fights.

    – Investment and Reward. Also known as running around (and fighting) with no end to it only to finally reach the treasure chest with a healing herb you’re able to get in the first shop of the game. Or: fighting dangerous random battles to get a small amount of bucks and experience points which translate into fighting a lot and a lot and then some more to get one more level for your character.

    – Battle System. Or who goes first? You would think that in two battles which take place right after each other (and nothing changed), the order who acts when in your party would stay the same. Well, it doesn’t. There are sometimes fights where this order is messed up, messing up your commands in return and possibly even getting you into trouble.

  • skill system:
    You don’t know what you’re going to get for your (sometimes measly) skill points. You can easily end up with skills worth nothing at all and be unable to finish the game. I want to know what I get after all the fighting I had to do to level up. Is it any wonder I relied on a guidebook?
  • Casino anyone?
    This side quest is something that drives home the point that it’s not always good to want to do everything in a game and get the best. One would be hard pressed to come up with a more boring and luck-based thing. The hours I spent on this …

You might get the impression, counting the dislikes, that I didn’t like this game. That’s not true. I think it’s a good game. It’s just that is has so many small, irritating things and nothing that really made me go “WOW” that it seems I didn’t care for it.

Did I enjoy playing this game? Difficult to say. I had fun with it after playing for some time. After twenty hours? Or even more? I can’t remember. Maybe it was after I got more “freedom” doing things and I no longer had only the story line to follow.

Would I recommend this game? Probably yes.

Grade: 4 / 5

Game Comment: "Jade Cocoon 2" (PS2)

14 Sep

In Jade Cocoon 2 you’re playing a young boy named Kahu. He wants to become a beasthunter. Unfortunately, during his license exam someting goes awry and Kahu ends up being cursed by a fairy, Nico. Kahu can heal himself if he finds the four magical orbs hidden deep in the elemental forests. So Kahu sets off to save himself. Since this is a RPG you can bet there is more at stake than just Kahu’s health.

What I liked:

  • customizing and optimizing the beasts: this aspect of the game is similar to the fusion system used in Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer’s Call. Here it’s called merging. It’s always fun trying to get good abilities for your beast.
  • a lot of side quests: nearly always a plus

What I didn’t like:

  • slow levelling up: as much fun as optimizing the beasts is, it’s much less fun when you have to wait and wait for your beast to level up; and then level up again and up again … I thought the balance here was a bit off.
  • lots of confirm buttons to click: each and every action you have to confirm. It’s good to wait for confirmation if something changes, but I thought the confirmation that something did change a bit much, especially since each confirmation took around one second to register (or is that again just a problem of the European version?). Merging was really tedious because of this.

Did I enjoy playing this game? Yes.

Would I recommend this game? Depends on the person who’s asking; in general – probably no.

Grade: 4 / 5

Game Comment: "Grandia 2" (PS2)

28 Apr

Grandia 2 is an RPG. The story starts when Ryudo, a geohound (some kind of mercenary), is hired to protect a priestess of the church, Elena, during a ceremony. Something goes awry, and Elena now has to go to the head of the church to report what happened. Ryudo takes on the job as her bodyguard for the journey. Naturally, this soon turns into something more – a quest to save the world from evil.

Some facts:

  • Grandia 2 is a very linear game.
  • Graphics are nothing to shout about.
  • No sidequests.
  • The party consists of up to 4 members.

What I liked:

  • story: Sure, it is the standard story for a RPG: out to save the world. But I think the religious aspect of the story added some depth to it. Some nice character development. I especially like the banter (the typical romance novel stuff) going on between Ryudo and Elena. Bonus: long ending.
  • levelling up: There is a nice balance to the way you level up. After almost every fight you can improve something – moves, magic or skills. This makes fighting very rewarding.
  • battle system: The battle system has the option to cancel an enemy’s attack if your timing is right. Quite useful for boss battles.

What I didn’t like:

  • slow text messages: There is a lot of written text in this game. Unfortunately, the time it takes for the message to appear on the screen is too slow compared to the time it takes for you to read the words. You have to wait and there is no way to speed this up. Very annoying. Even late in the game, I wasn’t used to it and kept hitting a button to speed it up.
  • no map: There’s no map for the dungeons and the compass doesn’t really help. I found it sometimes frustrating trying to figure out if I already went down that way or not in a dungeon.

Did I enjoy playing this game? Yes.

Would I recommend this game? No for “average” players – there are better RPGs for the PS2. Worth a look for fans of RPGs.

Grade: 4 / 5