Monday, May 26, 2008

Persona 3 FES: Unusual Events

Since it is relevant, current game completion is about 45%.

One thing that has bothering me about Persona 3 is the way it handles unusual events that break the game's normal routine. I am not talking about plot events or story scenes (though I may write about that another day), but rather the kind of normal annual events that break up the usual routine of going to classes and hanging out with friends after school. A number of these events have occurred in my playthrough of the game so far, but most have been disappointments, for a number of reasons.

One such event is the Summer Festival. There is a bit of build-up before the event itself, such as Aigis asking Mitsuru to take her to the festival a few days ahead of time, and it is one of the very unusual things to happen all summer, so I was under the impression that something interesting might happen there. Instead, all that happens is a chance to go on a fairly uneventful date with one of the girls from school. Going to the festival with a girl doesn't really have any kind of special significance, it just makes it easier to reach the next Social Link level like any other date. If you don't go on a date, it is pretty much a normal day and all that happens if you go to the festival is a short scene in which you see Mitsuru and Aigis talking.

A much better example is the Culture Festival that is supposed to be held at the school early in the second term. Various students talk about that event for over a week in advance, and there is some discussion of what some of the major characters are going to do at the festival. When I first heard about the festival I was really curious about it. I wanted to have a chance to explore around school and see all the odd things that might be happening at the festival. Instead, the festival is canceled when a typhoon hits, dashing my hopes. All was not lost, though, since the arrival of a typhoon was itself pretty interesting. I imagined that it would be a chance to see how the people in the dorm dealt with the typhoon, and possibly get a chance to jut see some more good character interaction, like a somewhat more confined version of the Yakushima trip (one of the few such events that is handled very well, if it was a bit short). In the end, though, even those hopes were dashed. The hero gets sick when the typhoon hits and sleeps for three days, waking up when the typhoon has passed. Nothing happens at all.

Events like the Summer Festival and the typhoon should have been chances to do things unique and interesting. They should have been events that would break up the usual routine with a rare opportunity to see something out of the ordinary and do something fun. Instead, such events are treated like unwanted intrusions into the game, and they tend to be short and uneventful or almost completely ignored. Every holiday is just treated as a day off, and even particularly notable Japanese holidays like the Tanabata Festival get glossed over completely. A lot of time in Persona 3 is spent running through a usual routine, and it would have been nice to have some fun breaks from that routine on holidays and the like, but the game doesn't really provide a lot of that, making this one of the few really bothersome flaws of the game.

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