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Dungeon Crawler Can Get Tedious
on June 25, 2015
This edition of Persona is an enhanced port from the PS1 original, which, for North America, was heavily edited, featuring some completely different artwork, no references to Japan at all (the game was instead set in America featuring American names), and an easier difficulty level. An entire section of the game, titled the 'Snow Queen' sidequest, was entirely removed as well. This PSP port brings all of this content back for this North American release, fully translated and un-edited or censored. The port also features additional voice acting, new cut-scenes and a new UI. The gameplay is like earlier versions, a first-person dungeon crawler with an overworld map you can use to get around to other areas, visit shops, save, etc. I have to say the battle system is nothing truly involving, and it's almost a no-brainer. I say almost, because unfortunately you can have a character die very quickly if you're not paying close attention. So although you can skip battle animations and opt to put it on auto-fight, you might as well just fight manually. Because if a character goes down, the rest of the party can easily follow suit and you can lose a lot of progress in a careless instant if your party dies and it's been awhile since you saved in the overworld.
The whole part about collecting demons to use as your personas would be cool but they don't add very much to battles. At least not enough to stir interest to experiment extensively with. I feel this aspect had a lot of potential to further customize the gameplay that simply wasn't utilized anywhere near to its full capability. You will spend a LOT of time going through mazes of blank, unremarkable hallways that all look exactly the same no matter what building you're in. At the time this game came out this might have been par for the course, but by today's standards it is tedious. Also you will often acquire a new person to your party that will join at such a low level, if you want to utilize them at all, you will have to spend a lot of time grinding just to get their level up to snuff with the rest of your party. There is no quick way to tank a low level character...but don't worry, there are oodles of random encounter battles to slog through.
Aside from all the flaws, there's still something unique about the game that kept me playing it. It's not terrible. The characters are interesting, and there's something about the atmosphere that I like. If you can tolerate the endless corridors & frequent random encounters, and the mind-numbing battle mechanics, there's a cool story going on. The characters may not be the most profound personalities ever developed in a video game but they're all unique in their own way, despite some blatant (and unintentionally humorous) stereotyping.