I’m not sure where to start on this game.  If you’re a hardcore RPG fan (specifically JRPG), than you’ve heard of the Megami Tensei metaseries and probably know about the persona games that go with it.  This is the first one I’ve ever played, so I can’t really compare it to others in the series, but from what I hear this one is most peoples favorite.

Although, I say it’s an RPG, but it has many elements you won’t find in an average game.  It has a High School Sim and a Dating Sim packed into it and it actually works.  If someone was to have told me before playing that I have to go to school, study, worry about balancing my time between friends, relaxation, and working, making sure my characters get enough sleep, and fitting in time to crawl through a dungeon fighting shadows, I’d probably have never tried this game, but thanks to Boston from That Video Game Podcast, I looked more closely into it.  The game received 9’s and 10’s on it’s rating when it came out a year and a half ago and is still sold out at almost all the game stores.  Even on Amazon it goes for around $45 bucks used (retail is only $39.99)!  I was lucky enough that a GameStop a few cities over had one (I broke my no buying from GameStop pledge for it!)

It’s a real good thing I played yesterday because if I had not, this post would have been very different.  I will warn you, the “intro”, if you will, takes a while.  I’ve probably clocked in over two hours and only 30 minutes or so has had any RPG elements at all.  So the story starts as you being an exchange student his first day at school. You arrive a little after Midnight by train and as you walk to your dorm, you notice that the whole city seems to be deserted with all the lights off.  There also seems to be coffin-like boxes all around the streets.  When you reach the dorm, you meet some of the games characters, but they just kinda force you to go to bed.  Over the next few days in game, you get acquainted to school and meet a few other people.  You also realize (although your character doesn’t) that the people living in your dorm are watching your every move, and that you have the “potential”.  The next night, one of the main characters brings something evil to the dorm and you wake up to be told about your “potential” and about the “Dark Hour” (an hour that occurs between midnight and 1AM in which the majority of the world never remembers, those that do have the potential).

So after all that, maybe 35 to 45 minutes, you get a glimpse of your first fight.  It’s an easy fight that lasts only a few seconds, but it leads to you learning about Persona’s and your powers.  Think of a Persona as a summon.  More than that, Persona’s level up and also determine what stats increase when you level up (or maybe it just adds stats when you have that persona equipped, i’m not sure yet.)  The next game day is back at school and not much really happens.  As a matter of fact, I think it’s another two in-game days before anything happens.  This is where I stopped on my first session, over an hour in and NOTHING has really happened.

I was a little frustrated because not for a single second had the game let go of my hand to let me actually play the game.  I was hoping the game wouldn’t be like this the whole way because I like to explore and do things on my own time, not be told what to do every inch of the way.  I didn’t get a chance to play it the next day, but finally picked it up again yesterday morning.  Of course, I turn it back on and things start to happen.  I literally saved it right before you go into your first real Dark Hour!  It still held my hand, you could only explore the first floor of what I found out to be a 263 floor tower!  It also often stopped me to tell me how to play, which is fine.  That lasted only a few minutes before we were recalled.  The next day, I got free roam over the school for the fist time, although  there really wasn’t anything there.  On my way out of school, one of the main characters told me to meet him at the mall.  I did so, also had free roam over there and for the first time got to choose how to spend my evening.  I could work (get money), use one of the services (+ stats), or just got home.  That night I got to go back into Tartarus (that’s the tower I was talking about), this time I was told I had to get up two more floors.  I explored the first floor, had a lot of fun, but then…I died…I saved right before going in, but it was still a good 20 minutes of game play and I didn’t feel like doing it again at that moment.

I’m not going to stop, I really enjoy the dungeon crawling of it, like the Persona aspect, and even the other social aspects of it seem really interesting!  I hope to have a better idea of what the game will be like soon.  I’ll be talking about it more on here, I’m sure.  Remember that any time I use the jump to, that means there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t played this game and are going to, don’t read!

Oh, and one last thing.  I’ve looked into which version of this game is the best (I think there are 3 or 4 out there) and have come to the conclusion that this one, for the PSP, is it.  It has improvements brought on by Persona 4, adds a second version of the game in the Girl main character, and has a refined city map (although I’m not sure how I feel about it yet).  either way, I’m having fun.