|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Atlus||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Aside from the dungeon crawling during the Dark Hour, there's the other half of the game: a Japanese high school simulator. At first this seems like a not-so-enticing offer, but it helps break up the level grinding and there are plenty of incentives to interact with other characters. Since the time in each day is limited, your social choices matter. Will you attend Student Council or track practice? How about going to the mall to eat ramen with your friend as he talks about his taste in older women? Each of these affects your Social Link, which in turn levels up aspects of your various personas. One complaint can be leveled against these activities: they're all merely a series of text boxes and nothing more. Going to track practice doesn't start a fun mini-game, but rather you just talk to a friend for a few minutes and your social link increases.
Set immediately after events in the first game, The Answer finds members of SEES in a peculiar situation: the date is stuck on March 31, and they can't escape their dorm. They quickly discover a desert of doors beneath their dwelling that connect to particular dungeons. This quest is on a harder default difficulty, and to help, Atlus starts new players on a default level of 25. If you have a save file from Persona 3 you can transfer stats over. Aside from the difficulty (it's pretty rough - you will die during random battles), there are two complaints.
One is the omission of the high school aspect. The Answer is purely a dungeon crawler, and while it will satisfy those who like the Pokemon-style collecting of Personas, it may strike others as too much grinding and not enough socializing. Also, the new main character uses a gun to target shadows before battle, and this can be flaky, resulting in lots of missed opportunities to get the jump on enemies. But amidst these problems there is the bonus of an enhanced tarot card shuffle system. You'll occasionally be given the opportunity to double up, which means you can select two cards instead of one. You may come away from a battle with two new personas or one persona and a new weapon.
As a whole, the game is more about style and slick presentation in the audiovisual department. While the in-game character models and environments aren't highly detailed, they are extremely clean and well-done. Where Atlus shines is where it always does: in the 2D art department. The anime-inspired cutscenes are top notch, and the character artwork has a great manga flare. Audio, on the other hand, is a more difficult case. The voice acting is actually quite well done, but the soundtrack is a bit of a dilemma. Vocal numbers are mainly pop oriented and can get repetitive rather quickly. However, the instrumental work has been given more thought, and its delicate nature matches the tone of the game much better.
So, here's the big question: if you haven't played Persona 3, should you pick up FES? The original game carries a higher price tag, but comes with an art book and soundtrack. However, Atlus tends to release games in very limited numbers, so chances are you'd have to pick up a used copy. Persona 3 FES lacks the memorabilia, but packs more in-game content at a cheaper price. The newer version offers a chance for Atlus to recruit new MegaTen fans and should be enticing enough even for those that picked up Persona 3 last year.
CCC Freelance Writer