Monday, August 29, 2011

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Sony Playstation Portable (PSP)
CREDITS: 2010 Atlus. Screenshots courtesy of

This entry has been updated and the screenshots have been replaced. You can scroll down to skip the preview and read the actual review.

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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is a single player, AI team-based RPG that brings the thought-provokingly addictive fun that made Persona 3 a runaway hit on PlayStation 2 to PlayStation Portable (PSP). The game contains most of the content from the original Persona 3 as well as some elements of Persona 3: FES, and features the new and crucial abilities to play as a female character and to directly control your teammates in combat. Additional functionality includes Skill Cards, part-time jobs, one-button menu shortcuts, streamlined team equipment changes and shortened load screens optimized for PSP.

Story: A teenager who was orphaned as a young child returns to the city of his/her childhood. Shortly after transferring to Gekkoukan High School, he/she is attacked is attacked by Shadows/creatures that feed on the minds of their victims. The assault awakens his/her Persona, Orpheus, his/her only chance at defeating these creatures of the night. He/she soon discovers that he/she shares this special ability with other students at his new school. From them he/she learns of the Dark Hour, a hidden time that exists between one day and the next, swarming with Shadows. He/she joins the Special Extracurricular Squad (SEES), and with his/her new friends, confronts this evil threat.

Preview >>> by skysenshi (06.20.2010, 11:59AM)
Because of my busy schedule, I never got a chance to sit down and play this on the PS2. In fact, I have missed a lot of PS2 games ever since 2005 (the year I entered my master's). Juggling work, school and exhibit calls demanded that I carry a PSP or a DS, should I want to keep gaming.

The sad part is I loved Persona 2: Eternal Punishment. That was one of the best games I have ever encountered. Plus, I totally dig the fact that it had a female protagonist, cub reporter Maya Amano, and interesting supporting characters in the form of Urara and Baofu. Well, it's been said that this Persona 3 for the PSP will have an alternate angle: You can now play as a female character. That alone is reason enough for me to get this come July.

The following features are listed in
  • Classic, thought-provoking Persona RPG gameplay in which players construct wieldable physical manifestations of their thoughts through their social interactions with characters in-game, later taking these into team-based battles against Shadow enemies in Tartarus.
  • Contains almost all the content from the original PS2 Persona 3 game, and elements from Persona 3: FES.
  • Significant improvements over earlier games including Skill Cards, part-time jobs, and ability to directly control your teammates in battle.
  • The important new ability to play as a female character, giving the player a whole new perspective on the events of the game and providing a dramatic impact on the game's intricate social dynamics.
  • Improved playability permeates every aspect of the gameplay experience. One button menu shortcuts, streamlined team equipment changes, incredibly short load times, and other tweaks and enhancements create an ideal pace for portable gaming.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is slated for release on July 2010 for the Sony PSP. You can read more of this game's features here.

Social Links need balancing. >>> by skysenshi (08.29.2011, 11:57AM)
As I have mentioned in the preview, which I wrote more than a year ago (that was how long before I actually managed to finish the game), I haven't been able to play the original Shin Megami Tensei 3 on the PS2. Apparently, a lot of the players of the original had many complaints about how toned down the features became (anime cut scenes were removed etc.) in order to fit the limits of a smaller yet more mobile platform. I guess I could say that the older one becomes, the less time for plugged gaming consoles one has. In fact, time at home as become a luxury. (No wonder they're saying that the iPad is a hit among grandmothers. Now I know what'll happen to me as a gamer 30 years from now...) In any case, the older a gamer becomes, I believe that the higher the tolerance should be for game features that may or may not be included in future games.

Many reviewers in have already raved about how this is one of the most groundbreaking RPGs ever released (and I concur), citing how the Social Links system made the game very much story-driven. I also agree that adding a female perspective for the PSP port was a splendid idea, since you'd be able to explore other dimensions to the non-playable characters' personalities. This is a boon since I was kind of turned off at some of the relationships formed by the male protagonist. I shuddered in horror when I realized that I was just about to form a romantic relationship with Mitsuru, one of the strongest and arguably the most beautiful among the female characters. I was already pairing her off with the equally handsome boxer, Akihiko, in my head, so seeing Mitsuru going all googly-eyed over my character made me feel sort of violated. Thank goodness, I ran out of time to develop that path and I ended up with half-baked friendly and romantic relationships on my first run.

This now leads me to my biggest -- and possibly my only -- complaint about Persona 3. On my second run, playing the female protagonist this time around, I opened a walkthrough, determined to max all Social Links because I badly wanted to achieve the ultimate Persona, Orpheus Telos. But I sort of messed up along the way, which left me with 2 Social Links that were close to max, at level 9/10.

Here's the thing: I don't like having to go through a very strict path (May I have the option not to hit on ALL of my female friends please? That's just bloody messy!), especially when it comes to RPGs. This is exactly what I hated in Final Fantasy X-2. If you're going to restrict exploration, you might as well not call it a role-playing game. My male character became a bishoujo game protagonist and my female character became so flirtatious, I started feeling bad for all the guys that professed their undying love for her. And if you want to get the niftiest in-game item, you have to date the dude that can give it. Gawd, that really makes me feel like such an awful person. (The funny thing is, I actually wouldn't mind being such a Lothario if this were an H bishoujo game.)

Sure, you can choose to be a decent boy/girl but you'd end up running out of time. You're only given a year to establish relationships and it just frustrates me that you can only spend time with ONE Social Link for half the day. There are group bonding moments, but they do nothing for your Social Links' status. I guess I'm just aghast that I only had two Social Links left to max and an additional week would probably have allowed me to fix it. The thought that I cannot stray from the walkthrough...well, I guess you get the picture.

But enough of the rant. Despite my bitterness over Social Links, Persona 3 is still one heck of a good game. I'd say it's among the rare ones that have soul and I'd never trade it for any of those new visually appealing "RPGs" with nonexistent gameplay (*glares at Final Fantasy XIII*). While P3 does have all your party members running on AI by default (which is common in recent games now), you have the option to turn AI off so you can do everything manually.

My favorite part? *SPOILER ALERT* That a dog, who's reminiscent of the legendary Hachiko, gets to be a member of your battle party. Heh. He's actually in my main party, along with Akihiko and Mitsuru.

Overall, P3 has a very high replay value, so I just might try and chase after those Social Links again. That is, if I find the time and there are no other games left to play.

COMPLETION TIME: 128 hours 57 minutes
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: 88 for female perspective, All S.Links maxed except for Yukari and Aigis
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 9; Story 8; Visuals 10; Characters 10; Sounds 9; Replay Value 9

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Revived Spotlight: L'arc~en~Ciel

This spotlight was originally posted on April 2002. We're re-posting it again now, since it's timely. L'arc~en~Ciel has been celebrating their 20th anniversary since the start of the year and has been doing concerts throughout 2011. The most recent, L'Anniversary Concert, was held last May 28–29, 2011  at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.

Here's Firesenshi's original April 2002 article. My updates are at the very bottom.

>>> L'ar~ En~Ciel
One of Japan's leading JRock groups joined other elite members of the Japanese music industry in putting up songs for the Rurouni Kenshin Soundtrack.
When Tetsuya was forming a band, he just thought the french word for "rainbow" sounded cool. He probably had no idea how fitting the name would be for their rock group. Their sound is as diverse as its members, and as colorful as their band name. It's a mixture of heavy metal, techno, rock and pop.

L'arc~en~Ciel (Raruku to their most beloved of fans) was formed in February 1991. Its original members were Tetsu (bass), Hyde (vocals/guitar), Hiro (lead guitar) and Pero (drums). When Hiro left the scene, Tetsu decided to phone longtime friend Ken, who was then taking up an architectural course in a university. Well, our beloved bassist and band leader Tetsu must have awesome powers of persuasion, because he did talk Ken into joining L'arc~en~Ciel. It was smooth sailing then for the band, because by November of 1992, they have already released their first single, "Flood of Tears". Unfortunately, though, by December, Pero left the band. It was then that Sakura came into the scene, becoming an official member by April of 1993. It was also this time that L'arc~en~Ciel released their first album, "Dune". Success was spelled out for the band, as they soon made tours, videos, albums, and concerts from left to right.

But in 1997, Sakura was arrested for illegal drug use. L'arc~en~Ciel's career came to a halt. Their single, "Fourth Avenue Cafe" was cancelled (but for a time, it was made into RK's ending theme, before the whole incident with Sakura). However, after a few months without any sign of the band, it suddenly rose to the surface with a concert in Tokyo Dome--and a new drummer in tow, Yukihiro (who was an old member of the band Die in Cries). To say that their fans welcomed them back with open arms is an understatement. Their tickets were sold out in a total of four minutes, breaking the record of ticket sales in Tokyo Dome.

As of now, L'arc~en~Ciel continues to be one of the biggest jrock names around. Not only have theysold over 500 million copies of some double albums, but they also continue in making over a score of hit singles, and quite a number of albums to their credit. To the anime, manga and RPG fandom, they are best known for their songs "Niji", "Fourth Avenue Cafe", "Blurry Eyes", and "Spirits Dream Inside". The first two songs were included in Rurouni Kenshin OSTs; the third was made into DNA2's opening song; the last one, was used as the theme song of the amazing Final Fantasy movie, "Spirits Within". It doesn't end there. They make themselves known outside Japan, too. Their song "Lose Control" was included in the asian release of "Godzilla" OST. Another one, "Passion Road", rocked the scene of a Toyota commercial which was aired in Asia.

To most bands trekking Japan's hottest pop and rock music scenes, this is as big as it can get. And it doesn't look like they'll be fading any time soon--if the years they've spent in the limelight is any indication.

Skysenshi's note as of August 14, 2011

After Firesenshi wrote the above article, the band went into hiatus for a couple of years, while the individual members went on to pursue solo projects. Proving that L'arc~en~Ciel can stand the test of time, they reunited in 2004 and released "Ready Steady Go", which was later used as the opening theme of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Perhaps one of the most interesting reinventions they did as a band was when they called themselves P'unk~en~Ciel. Though they have gone through incarnations as The Zombies and D'ark-en-Ciel, it was as P'unk~en~Ciel that they actually changed roles: Hyde on guitar, Yukihiro on the bass, Ken on the drums and Tetsuya on the vocals. Having Tetsuya do the vocals actually affected their sound so they really came out sounding more like punk than rock. This is surely a testament to their vast array of skills and versatility. Besides that, they're still looking good as ever. It's hard to believe that in other countries, they'd probably be considered old men.

We're definitely looking forward to more of their ingenuity for years to come! =^.^=
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