Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3

aka: Persona 3, Shin Megami Tensei: P3
Moby ID: 23178

Description official descriptions

Having lost your parents as a child, you lived in the suburbs with your relatives, until they decided to send you to a high school located on an island near the port city Iwatodai. But as you attempt to enter your new dormitory, you are attacked by a mysterious creature. As a result, you discover within yourself the gift to call upon a higher being, Persona, that grants you immense power. Your new ability makes you decide to investigate the strange world of shadows that has been plaguing the city every midnight, and to find out who or what is behind it.

This sequel in the Persona series, which is part of the Megami Tensei franchise, is not directly connected to its predecessors story-wise. The gameplay has also underwent significant changes, throwing an element of "school simulation" into the Megaten RPG formula. You get to live the life of a normal high-school student: you attend classes, talk to your friends, get homework, wait for the summer vacation, and so on. The game is divided into school days with their own schedule.

However, at midnight the real world freezes, and only you and your friends with the unique Persona abilities can feel the time flowing as they battle the shadows. The battles follow the classic Megaten model of demon-summoning. You can either attack with your weapons, or call a mighty Persona from within yourself. After the battle is won, you receive Persona cards, which can be fused to get more powerful Personae. Inspired by the system used in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, you are able to hit enemies' weakpoints with your magic spells. Taking advantage of these weakpoints means that you can perform devastating combo attacks while the enemy is weakened.


  • ペルソナ3 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (PlayStation 2 version)

148 People (141 developers, 7 thanks) · View all

Art Director
Chief Planner
Scenario Writer
Event Planning Leader
Event Planner
Social Link Planning Leader
Social Link Event Planner
Social Link Assistant Planner
Field Planning Leader
Field Planner
Battle Planning Leader
Battle Planner
Chief Programmer
Field Program Leader
Field Sub Programmer
Battle Program Leader
Battle Sub Programmer
[ full credits ]



Average score: 86% (based on 27 ratings)


Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 22 ratings with 2 reviews)

What does a Megaten newbie think?

The Good

  • It's long

  • It's very 'hip'
  • Interesting art style
  • Large cast of characters
  • Good blend of mature / innocent themes

**The Bad**
  • Story arcs don't mesh too well
  • Main character is more style than substance
  • Character designs can be uneven
  • Very Japanese, more on that below
  • Low pay-off to dating simulator, game concept wise it makes sense, but doesn't make sense in an emotionally rewarding way.

**The Bottom Line**
I loved Unicorn Lynx’s review of this game, because he comes into it with a perspective of being a Persona / Shin Megami Tensei fan. He’s got the insight into the progression of the series in various media and can comment on relative quality/improvement. I don’t. I didn’t even know what Shin Megami Tensei was about – I just like JRPG’s. First Impressions: My first impression was that this is definitely something the Japanese made for themselves that later got popular enough to merit over-seas release. It follows the whole Japanese idea that people still go to class even though they are involved with weird and world saving activities. Just analyze that for a minute: Everybody but you and a small group freeze at night and you inhabit an in-between dimension where you fight shadow monsters. And you actually show up to math class the next day. I’d be out stock-piling weapons and talking to quantum physicists, personally, because that’s Ghostbusters levels of weird right there. But the Japanese, they keep calm and carry on like nobody’s business. And it’s true, in their culture you do your damn job regardless of what else is happening. And there are a lot of quirks in Japanese games. Like the concept of ‘energy’ and its conservation. You need to conserve your energy by sleeping early, taking naps, and that kind of thing. If you don’t you’ll have to take several days off due to being sick, and that’s a problem because you’re on a schedule. They have ‘reasons’ in game for this, but it is a constant concern in Japanese games and I think it’s a real life thing for them. It’s bizarre, the Japanese seem to be on the cutting edge of healthy foods and supplements, and yet they seem to have really fragile constitutions. When I was in high school I stayed up most nights until like 3 a.m. (playing Ultima Online), and I wasn’t napping during the day. I guess the Japanese are just some stressed out people. But I like Japanese stuff, so it was kind of fun at first. A simple start for my character and his friends here in wonderland. Go to school, decide whether to fall asleep during the lesson, make sure to keep my energy up, it’s like a little blue-haired tamogachi really. The music is a weird kind of poppy jam that I can dig. The Battling: I’ve been exposed to several Megaten fans since I played it, like Noah Antwiler and apparently this game is awesome because it rewards good tactical thinking. I don’t really feel that way. I agree that beating a boss using a certain tactic really changes the difficulty, but I don’t think it’s anything that trial and error can’t achieve. It’s just based on win/lose element combinations and status effects instead of deductive reasoning. It’s more like Pokemon than chess is what I’m saying here. It’s a fun battle system but I wouldn’t exactly create a huge series around the premise. Dating Simulator?: Ever since I was an adolescent I’ve been pretty intrigued by the Japanese tendency to include dating simulators into JRPG’s. Not having a girlfriend, I maybe figured this would help me out. And I’ve got to tell you, Japanese Romance and Western Romantic ideals are some very different stuff. Every Japanese dating simulator comes with the same 3-8 stock Japanese women wearing different outfits. Are they fun to play? Yeah, they can be, but they are very limited in scope and if you don’t know the ‘types’ of women and what their preferred answer to a multiple choice question is you’re going to have stalled relationships. It’s the ‘gift’ system that always hangs me though, how am I supposed to know what they want? They barely have personalities (which is funny because the game is called Persona), just stock dispositions like: “Bad Past”, “Serious”, “The Under-age One”, “Robot-Girl”, “The Nerdy One”, “Sporty Girl”. Oh I know the answer to the question - it's all 'Blood Type' and 'Birth Date' divination related - which is just ridiculous to a western audience. I'm never going to get used to Japanese sexuality and dating, I've given up! So while it’s entertaining to try to progress in a relationship (and rewarding because it opens Persona level strengths), it all feels a little alien to me. It also doesn't make practical sense - you don't 'complete' a relationship with someone and move on to the next in real life. You stay in the relationship you have created until it dissolves or blows up. This guy must be a freakin' Casanova because he just romances and tosses girls out while they're still swooning for him! Story Line I fell off the plot rail-road because we kept switching tracks and honestly the battling wore me out. The game’s story kind of went in a bad direction in my opinion and it lost me. There were good moments, and I’m not sure why they tried to switch things up instead of working on one solid premise. And the worst part is that the settled on premises and twists were the same ones we’ve been seeing for about ten years now in anime. Bottom Line I don’t know how the rest of the series is, but as a stand alone this is an okay game with a big budget and slick visuals. Maybe I’m just too old to go back to high-school.

PlayStation 2 · by Kyle Levesque (905) · 2013

Repeat... repeat... repeat...

The Good
Persona 3 is part of the large Megaten franchise, namely of its sub-series that has always been somewhat of a "compromise" between the religiously themed, fairly abstract Shin Megami Tensei and the melodramatically-minded mainstream Japanese RPGs. Like its predecessors, Persona 3 is set in modern-day Japan, and is a combination of realistic setting and all kinds of supernatural, demonic events going on behind the curtains.

There are quite a few interesting ideas here. The leveling up of personae through social links is one of them. As in other Persona games, you can "equip" power mythological creatures, modifying your attributes and gaining access to different spells. The additional touch is that the personae you fuse will be more powerful if you develop the "social links" of a correspondent persona type. Hang around with a friend a lot - the next persona of a certain type you fuse will be more powerful. Cool idea, and the execution is okay as well. Developing social links is probably more exciting than anything else in the game.

Since there are many links to develop, there is quite a lot of dialogue in the game, and many NPCs with whom you can talk and who actually say something interesting. There are also plenty of choices to make, which is important for an RPG and which Japanese RPGs have rarely paid attention to. Of course, those choices have nothing to do with the story, but it's good at least to be able to make basic decisions: should I study or go to a karaoke bar? Should I go on a date with a girl or just stay in the gym? There is one major decision point in the story, which ends it prematurely, leading to a "bad" ending. That's a tough decision to make, and I liked it that the choice was available to me.

There are no random battles in Persona 3. You can have advantage in battle by striking an enemy first. I'd take visible enemies over random ones any time of the day. You can also split your party and order your party members to explore other parts of the dungeon, which is a neat idea, even though it doesn't matter much.

The story starts really well. The intro is absolutely cool and I got interested in the plot from the get-go. Even though the story has its problems, it was actually quite interesting all the way through - I would have enjoyed it infinitely more if it wasn't stretched over endless hours of uninteresting gameplay. It's a bit of a mixture between the traditional Megaten style and the more emotional common Japanese approach, although I must say that the latter prevails.

The dialogues and the voice acting are surprisingly good. I've noticed that Japanese RPGs have been getting decent translations lately. It's finally possible to digest those dialogues without cringing. Sure, the combination of Japanese reality and American slang is a bit weird, but I don't think there was another way.

The Bad
With all its neat ideas, Persona 3 is just way too repetitive to be fun.

I'm talking repetitiveness of gigantic proportions here. The first ten or so hours of Persona 3 are just fine. You get involved in a cool, mysterious story. You discover the social links. You fuse your first persona, childishly proud of your efforts. You walk through the random dungeon, hitting enemies where it hurts most. You try to realize how Yukari was not expelled from the school due to unacceptably short skirt. You feel happy.

Then slowly, but surely, the game reaches its icy hand and grabs your throat. You realize with horror that it has set you on a path and won't let you stray from it. You'll have to crawl through the game no matter what. It has a real schedule, so you'll have to go through every day of the year. And what will you be doing all the time? Investigating the mystery day by day, putting pieces of the puzzle together? No. You'll be busy talking to unimportant people, strengthening your social links, taking part in yawn-inducing high-school activities, and walking through a huge random dungeon.

Maybe it's just me, but I like exploration. I like it when locations change and when you don't know where you go next and how that new location will look like. But in this game, there is no such thing. You'll be stuck in the same location, and the only place you can explore is the huge dungeon, Tartarus. Which, for me, was absolutely pointless to explore: it's just a randomly generated monstrosity, a bunch of pointless corridors with a totally abstract theme, just a meaningless 3D exercise that can't even be called a real location.

What kills the game is not just the unbearably slow pace, not just those endless days spent preparing for exams and eating noodles with stupid classmates, until finally, finally, something happens - it's the knowledge that nothing will ever change. The entire game is a school year. You know for sure you won't move from your place. You know for sure that the only dungeon in the game is the faceless, abstract, cold, boring, random tower of Tartarus. You know for sure that you'll spend your entire time doing boring stuff in your school and fighting equally boring battles.

The graphics are really bad. Seriously, Persona 3 is one of the worst-looking games PS2 games I've seen. The graphics are just drab, the backgrounds lifeless and primitive, 3D character design is non-existent (they had to use anime portraits, same way they did ten years ago). And we are not talking about a game with a large world - the entire Persona 3 is confined to a tiny set of locations, with a randomly generated dungeon on top. Each area loads separately, there is no continuous world of any kind, and the repetitiveness of all those floors is just nauseating. For me, this is just design laziness, nothing else.

The battles you have in the pitiful excuse for a dungeon seem somewhat fun at first, but the inability to control your party members very quickly gets on your nerves. Worse even, your companions develop completely on their own. Japanese RPGs should be all about party and its customization. When you are able to customize only one character, it quickly gets boring. So many times I wanted to elegantly spread my newly fused personae among my party members to create an efficient team, but all I could do was carry them all by myself and switch them at every turn. Besides, I think I've had enough Japanese-style turn-based combat for this life. After the reform conducted by this game there is really no reason to get back to that simplistic style of gameplay.

The game also noticeably lacks the strange and somewhat disturbing atmosphere of its predecessors. The combination of the mystical backstory and the upbeat high-school life would be cool only if the mystical stuff gradually appeared and then took over. But when the high-school simulation occupies nearly half of the game time, and the other half is just dungeon crawling without any story whatsoever, the remaining one or so percent dedicated to the story suddenly seems out of place. It is just strange to leisurely attend high school, develop social links, clean up the cozy random dungeon, and spend days over days without anything happening. I think the game would have been better if it were just cut in half, if all this terrible high school routine were just thrown out, and the story developed at a normal pace.

The constant need to lead a normal high school life is also a real atmosphere-killer. Persona 3 tries to tell a serious, "mature" story, but it is dissolved into the merry-go-round idiocy of the high school. Accompanied by annoying upbeat pop music, most of the game is just plain vanilla. But that's not because the idea was bad. There is nothing wrong with setting a game in a high school. Look at Bully: there is a game with more modest ambitions, it was just trying to be an over-the-top parody, but turned out to be a more realistic (not to mention a way more exciting!) high school "simulation" than Persona 3. Studying for exams, "socializing", really harmless dating - is that all? Where are the malicious pranks, the complex psychological troubles, the unstoppable hormones? Not in Persona 3...

The Bottom Line
I wanted to like this game. I kept saying to myself: "have some patience, you can do it". I gave it more and more chances. But at some point, I asked myself: "Why am I doing this? Why am I still playing this game? Don't I have anything better to do"? And then I gave up.

For me the key word for every game is fun, and the fun stopped somewhere in the middle of the monotonous high school routine and the unexciting random dungeon exploration. Once I realized that my own high school life was more interesting than Persona 3, I understood that I'd better go and play something else.

PlayStation 2 · by Unicorn Lynx (180476) · 2014


Subject By Date
Shouldn't be in the game to TV series group Donatello (453) Jan 8th, 2013
Ratings DreinIX (10480) Jul 15th, 2008
Gamespot's choice for "Best RPG" Donatello (453) Dec 31st, 2007


1001 Video Games

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


  • GameSpy
    • 2007 – #2 PS2 Game of the Year
    • 2007 – PS2 RPG of the Year

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  • MobyGames ID: 23178


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Unicorn Lynx.

Additional contributors: Foxhack, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added July 17th, 2006. Last modified November 13th, 2023.