Friday, May 30, 2008

Persona 3FES: Good Unusual Events

Shortly after I wrote my last post here, I saw a rather unexpected scene in Persona 3. Whether it was because the scene was added in the FES version or it is a scene that has to be unlocked somehow, I never saw it in my previous (incomplete) playthrough of Persona 3. Amusingly enough, that scene was just the sort of thing I was lamenting the lack of in my previous post, so it was a pleasant surprise (if rather ironic).

A few days after the typhoon, afternoon classes are canceled and the characters are instructed to clean up the decorations for the cancelled Culture Festival along with their classmates. The result is a unusual chance to see some of the main characters and the Social Link characters interacting and having a bit of fun. They argue a bit, chat a bit, the hero teams up with a classmate to perform an impromptu comedy routine, and many of the hero's romantic interests all show up at once to play up the love "triangle" social dynamics a bit (I guess it is not really a triangle since there are so many girls, but it isn't built quite like a cliche anime harem. At least it isn't quite a Ranma 1/2 love hypercube...). The scene has no plot relevance, and it doesn't really count towards building up Social Links, but it is a nice, fun scene that develops some characters and lets them interact in ways they normally don't. I really liked it.

As good as the scene was, though, it reminded me how much that kind of scene is really missing from the rest of the game. There are a lot of times when the plot can get really dreary for long stretches at a time and there is a constant burden on the player to make good choices and use your time wisely, so the game needs tension-breaking scenes like that one. After all, even the various Social Links tend to have fairly depressing plots (stress, bad injuries, heartbreak, tough living situations, divorce, dead loved ones, terminal illness...), so purely fun and humorous events don't show up a lot in normal gameplay. Of course, a lot of the dialog of characters standing around in school or your allies at the dorm is pretty funny and lighthearted, but it is hardly a replacement for good scenes.

Another thing that the scene reminded me of was how thoroughly the Social Links are kept separate and away from the main plot. Even though Social Links characters Kazushi and Kenji are both in the same class as the hero and allies Junpei and Yukari, this scene is the only time I have seen any of them actually acknowledge the existence of each other (with the exception of the hero and allies interacting a lot, of course). There has not even been anything as minor as a scene of Kenji saying hello to Junpei at any point, even though both are friends of the main hero (and also share similar personalities and the Magician Arcana). That kind of unnatural wall of silence between characters who should be rather familiar with each other is a noticeably flaw in otherwise well-designed and realistic characters.

The whole thing just makes me wish the Culture Festival didn't get canceled, really. It would have been a lot of fun interacting with a lot of Social Link characters and party members all at once, and getting a chance to do more things like the comedy routine.

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