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Critical Reception: Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES for PlayStation 2, an expanded version of last year's critically acclaimed Japanese RPG Persona 3 that critics describe as "an all
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES, an expanded version of last year's RPG hit Persona 3 that critics describe as "an all around quality title." Originally released in North America in August of 2007, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 established itself as a niche favorite, and ranked as one of the year's highest-rated RPGs across all platforms. Positive critical buzz and word-of-mouth ensured that the title saw steady sales for months after its release, and by the holiday season, Persona 3 had become an out-of-print rarity that routinely fetched premium secondary market prices. This week is set to see the release of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES, a pseudo-sequel that includes the original Persona 3 in its entirety along with newly expanded content and an additional storyline chapter featuring more than 30 hours of gameplay. Persona 3 FES currently earns a Metacritic-averaged review score of 87 out of 100. At Games Radar, Paul Ryan rates Persona 3 FES at 9 out of 10. "If you played Persona 3, is it worth your $30 to buy Persona 3 FES all over again? Yes," he assures. "FES has added enough new content to make a replay fun for Persona veterans, but if you'd rather just pick up where you left off, save files can be imported to the new game." "For everyone else, congratulations on not buying the first game," Ryan continues. "It's all included with FES - you are a winner." Ryan finds that the added content in FES makes a purchase worthwhile for those who enjoyed Persona 3. "The most important part of the new content is the new campaign," he writes. "You now control a new hero, the android Aigis, and you've become trapped inside your dorm reliving the same day over and over with all your best buddies. Once again, it's your job to harness the power of Personas." The additional chapter can be expected to offer a challenge for those who completed Persona 3. "The new chapter takes the difficulty up, making combat in a challenging game downright hard," Ryan warns. "For sadists looking for even more pain, you can replay the first chapter with the new Hard difficulty setting." Ryan finds that FES' unique style and gameplay mechanics may be a turnoff for some gamers. "It's easy to get an earful of J-pop, buy flowers for a videogame girl to literally get the relationship to level 4 and decide that this game isn't for you," he admits. "Still, if you're after a challenging and engaging game that'll reward you with a huge well of gameplay with polished style, and - we'll just say it - you're not afraid to nerd out, Persona 3 FES is an all around quality title that it'd be a shame to miss." IGN's Jeff Haynes authors a Persona 3 FES review scored at 8.8 out of 10. "When it was released last August, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 combined dungeon crawling, monster collection and dating sim mechanics to make one of the best RPGs of the year," he begins. "But that wasn't nearly enough for Atlus, who decided to revamp the game in just about every way and make the definitive version of the title with the recently released Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES." "Much of the gameplay has received significant enhancements across the board," Haynes notes. "The first and most immediate change that owners of the original Persona 3 will discover is the ability to transfer portions of their save files to the new game." "The pop quizzes and tests that the students go through throughout the year are completely new, as are the locations of some of the characters that you'll interact with," Haynes continues. "There's a larger assortment of equipment, as well as the ability to change outfits and even gain new weapons based on different fusions of Personas." Haynes feels that an emphasis on difficulty makes FES' post-game "The Answer" chapter less enjoyable than it would be otherwise, however. "While this harkens back to a classic, more hardcore RPG experience of fighting and grinding, it's done at a detriment of the elements that made Persona 3 so intriguing in the first place," he explains. "The interaction that you have with other characters is practically non-existent; apart from adding or removing S.E.E.S. members, you barely talk to anyone else in the game." In addition: "The Answer doesn't have any social links that you develop or use via interactions to unlock new Personas. In fact, there isn't even a Persona Compendium that you'll have access to." Haynes finds that these problems amount to little in the end, though. "Persona 3 featured a lot of replayability and tons of depth. Persona 3 FES blows that out of the water, with hours upon hours of additional content, redesigned gameplay and an epilogue that fully concludes the story," he says. "While it still suffers from some of the same battle issues that plagued the original and the epilogue tosses many of the social links and date sim elements aside in favor of hardcore dungeon crawling, the large amount of additional content far outweighs these negatives." Over at GameZone, Louis Bedigian awards Persona 3 FES a score of 8 out of 10. "Persona 3 was one of the few games that captured the essence of the PSone style of RPG development – story first, gameplay second," he writes. "Persona 3: FES, an upgraded version of the original, comes packed with an all-new journey that continues the last game’s gripping saga." Bedigian notes that Persona 3's semi-automatic battle system remains intact in FES. "Once again, additional party members are treated as weapons on autopilot. You can direct but cannot entirely control their actions," he describes. "For me, this was the clincher last time around. I'm used to RPGs that allow you to control each character individually, and now that I've experienced the alternative, complete control is what I prefer." "Having said that, the game is still fun," he continues. "The rush feature returns to double your battle speed, eliminating some of the genre’s most annoying components, and controls battle actions automatically at the same time." "If you loved Persona 3's gameplay, the new content is a must-own affair," Bedigian asserts. "The enhanced edition of Persona 3 is not to be missed." According to critics, Persona 3 FES holds significant value for first-time players, and its low price point and the depth of its expanded content make a purchase worthwhile for Persona 3 veterans. Its difficulty and occasionally eccentric gameplay mechanics could sour the experience for some, but otherwise, FES remains a critically praised and recommended experience.

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