Burn My Dread
So much of the game's appeal comes from the visual designs, however. Not being a hardcore fan of the MegaTen games, I wasn't especially distressed to know that their character designer wasn't making a return here, especially because I saw a lot of familiar faces. Most of the enemies and Personae in the game follow some basic themes, with the latter often pulling heavily from Japanese or Hindu mythos, and all of them are incredibly creative. The tone of the game as a whole has an anime bent (an in fact there are some absolutely gorgeous anime cutscenes sprinkled sparsely throughout the game), but the character art is so damned clean and slick looking that I couldn't help but fall in love.
That's not to say the game itself isn't worth praising. The framerate never dips, the texture work, though mostly tile-based for the randomly generated Tartarus floors, is wonderfully interesting and the game makes ample use of really subtle overlays like rainbow-colored shafts of sunlight that creep in from the corners of the screen or the random, splotchy emerald-tinted look of the Dark Hour. Things like motion blur are used to fantastic effect and I really can't say enough good things about the visuals in the game. They just lend such a level of polish and detail to everything -- even the menus -- that the game gets a nice bit of ocular oomph.
For the most part, the same goes for the audio. The soundtrack a mixture of piano-laced, slightly electronica-fused loops runs the gamut from pensive solos to so-bad-it's-good quasi-hip-hop (yes, there's actually rapping in the game, and it's about as hilariously bad as you'd expect, though not outright annoying). What's more, many themes are recycled and tweaked as you experience different times of day or moods. The music in Tartarus is really just one theme, but with each new section of the tower that is unlocked, that theme morphs, including or dropping percussion and shifting timbre subtly. The effects, too are usually relegated to footfalls on different surfaces, shattering glass and grunts, punches, kicks and growls, but all of them have a clean, polished sound.
The only area where the audio really falters is going to be in the voice acting. The localization and translation of the game is, as is Atlus' hallmark, absolutely top-notch, and the give-and-take between some characters is amazing, but certain performances, like meek little Fuuka can be painful at times. Luckily, the voice actor that gave pipes to Junpei, is so damned good that it more than makes up for any sagging VO bits. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that with the different personality shades they gave the guy and the way the lines are delivered, it's damn near one of the best bits of voice acting in any video game. Once I heard Junpei tell his ghost story, I was absolutely sold.
Persona 3 does so many things right while delivering a world that I would want to explore that I won't hesitate to recommend the game to just about anyone. Even my roommate, who has had questionable success with most role-playing games, ended up playing through the game more than I did. There's just so much polish and such a wonderful self-assurance in the way the game presents itself that it was impossible for me not to love. Sure, it's a MegaTen game, so it's not going to be a cakewalk and there is a bit of tedium, but the storyline, characters and gameplay more than make up for it.
This is an absolute must-have RPG, and the fact that it's landing on the PS2 seven years after the system came out and still deserves that kind of praise is a testament to the strength of the library. Run, don't walk to pick this one up.