Few developers have the audacity to go against the grain, but Atlus is one of the few that manages to get away with it consistently. In fact, their Shin Megami Tensei (Megaten) line of RPGs basically thrives on its distance from the happy go-getter fantasy worlds or angst-riddled, steampunk universes that comprise the overwhelming majority of today’s Japanese RPGs. And while some standard JRPG fundamentals worm their way into Persona 3, the game is certainly unique, both from other JRPGs and even from its Megaten brethren.
Anyone who has played one of the long-running Megaten titles knows, generally, what to expect, and Persona 3 does not disappoint. A large and diverse cast of weird demons? Check. Some irreverent and usually twisted historical, religious, or sociological allusions? Check. Combat strategy centered on exploitation of enemies’ elemental weaknesses? A lot of weird items to collect and quests to accomplish? An overly sardonic tone? Tons of abilities that work in tandem? Check, check, check, and check. Persona 3 has all of this; players familiar with Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, Devil Summoner, or the previous Persona titles will feel right at home here. After all, what other series would force characters to literally shoot themselves in the head with an Evoker (which looks exactly like a revolver) every time they want to use a skill or spell?
Newcomers, though, need not feel overwhelmed; Persona 3 features a few allusions from the Megaten and Persona series, but it is very much its own game. Likewise, Megaten followers will not feel as though they’ve already been down this particular road. In short, the game takes place over a school year. The protagonist and his allies all belong to a secret club in their high school devoted to repelling the shadows that infest the world during the A