The Great JRPG Character Face-Off: My top five

Last month, Pix1001 at Shoot the Rookie and Winst0lf started a month-long battle to determine the greatest JRPG characters, to be conducted by both bloggers and commenters making lists of their top fives with explanations. And I thought, hell, I like JRPGs, so I’ll thrown my opinions in. This is a list I might have thought up, written, and posted during a slow month, but I’m happy that I can use it to contribute to a community event like this. Hell, I can make a top ten or twenty list, probably. Maybe one day. I’d probably end up shifting a lot of these characters around and bumping some out of the top five as well, so fair warning that I’d be completely inconsistent about it. Sorry in advance!

For now, here’s my list. Also, there are probably some very, very general character arc spoilers for each of them, because I couldn’t really find another way to explain my choices.

5) Lyner Barsett (Ar tonelico)

Lyner might be the densest JRPG protagonist ever created, so god damn dense he’s about to collapse into a black hole. He’s a powerful warrior and all, but he also has a “just rush ahead” approach that gets him into trouble. And when it comes to women, he’s hopeless, or at least he should be. Ar tonelico centers on the relationships he builds with the three Reyvateils Aurica, Misha, and Shurelia, all women who can harness and use magical powers through singing. Poor Lyner has to largely rely on his own wits to progress his relationships with them to improve their compatibility in battle, and he will end up romantically involved with one of them in the end. That’s left to the player, so there is no “right” choice (the right choice is Shurelia, though. It’s Shurelia.)

Misha’s fine too, I guess. As long as it’s not Aurica.

What’s amazing is that he doesn’t strike out with all of them, because Lyner is an absolute dumbass. At one point late in the game, he and his party see a powerful forcefield that they can’t get past, and Lyner acknowledges it, and then he walks right the fuck into it getting hurt. When the other characters ask him what he was thinking, he can’t really explain himself very well other than to say he just likes to run straight ahead or something similar. You can’t just run straight through obstacles sometimes, Lyner. Lucky thing that he has women around him who are smart, and also Aurica.

So maybe it’s weird that I’m putting Lyner on this list. There was a time when he just irritated me. But now I can respect his drive, sincerity, and strong sense of morality. He’s a dense fucker, but he’s also a genuinely good guy, and one who gets thrown into a bad situation and has to make the best of things. Fellow protagonist Croix Bartel from Ar tonelico II is also a great character and a lot more capable, but it’s just that capability that puts him lower on the list of characters from #6 down that I’m not making. Croix also has a little sister to help him out in addition to his own set of Reyvateil companions. Those are advantages that Lyner doesn’t have, yet he makes it through all the same. Good man.

4) Etna (Disgaea series)

Make no mistake: even if Etna is one of my favorite JRPG characters, she’s probably not someone I’d want to know, and she’s certainly not someone I’d want for a boss. I’m not nearly that much of a masochist.

But Etna is still a great character. This prickly, vain demon girl was introduced by Nippon Ichi to the world in Disgaea 1 back in 2003, in which she was the “loyal” vassal to the young hotheaded prince and protagonist Laharl. Not really that loyal, of course — she’s extremely ambitious, and Laharl keeps a close eye on her. Etna also seems to enjoy beating up on the Prinnies, her penguin-esque servants who contain the souls of dead human sinners working off their debts in the afterlife. So she is pretty treacherous and mean on the surface, but as the story progresses, we learn that she does have a caring side to her. She loves to mock and needle Laharl, but she’s also genuinely invested in his becoming a great and caring leader in the mold of his deceased father, a man she sincerely respected.

If it weren’t for that other side of her, Etna would simply come off as sadistic and kind of annoying, but she does have her caring and forgiving sides, even towards those Prinnies she hauls around. She’s also carefree enough to make friends with humans and angels when they blunder their ways into the Netherworld. Etna pretty much does what she wants, and while she pretends to be evil, her whims usually lead her in the right direction. Eventually, anyway.

3) Ryudo (Grandia II)

I always like a character who can make light of a bad situation. Ryudo is the mercenary protagonist of the classic Dreamcast JRPG Grandia II, and he makes this list thanks in part to his dark sense of humor and his frequent quips. Like the other characters on this list, Ryudo really is a good guy, but he also buries his sense of honor deep under a thick layer of sarcasm. By putting up a bitter, jaded front, he tries to protect himself. His talking bird partner Skye sees right through it and calls him out occasionally, but it isn’t really until Ryudo takes a job with the big church organization to protect the nun Elena that that shell starts to break. That emotional front is something that helps me connect with this character, even if I wouldn’t last five seconds in the kinds of battles he gets into in Grandia II.

Bread and coffee and nothing else at every meal, that’s Ryudo’s way. I can respect it, though I’d prefer to have Mareg’s dinner (the beast guy on the far right.)

Grandia II doesn’t have the most original plot, and a lot of the story beats and especially the big twist at the end can be seen coming from very far away, especially by players who are used to standard JRPG tropes. I still really like the game’s characters, though. The game builds a real sense of camaraderie, especially during its dinner conversation scenes in which the character make small talk. Why don’t more games include those?

2) Esty Erhard (Atelier Arland series)

If this were a top list of JRPG characters who are unlucky in love, Esty would absolutely be my #1 choice. We meet Esty early on in Atelier Rorona — she’s a bureaucrat for the Kingdom of Arland and helps the alchemist player character Rorona fill orders. She’s also a knight, however, and together with her fellow knight-bureaucrat Sterkenburg, she can join Rorona while in the field hunting for ingredients and fighting monsters.

Esty makes the list mainly for her dedication to her work paired with her somewhat carefree attitude. She makes a great pair with Sterk, a bulky knight who’s extremely serious most of the time. Unfortunately, her work doesn’t leave her much time for relationships, so when she shows up in the third Arland game Atelier Meruru, still single, she’s a bit on edge about it. But not enough on edge that she isn’t still one of the best characters in the game to take along into the field. Esty’s balance between serious dutifulness and relaxation is something to admire, especially when she shows up in Meruru to encourage/intimidate her younger sister Filly.

Moments later, a sword is ready to be pulled.

And yes, it’s Esty Erhard. That’s her last name in the JP versions of these games. No, I’m not just being a big weeb here as usual: the localizers at NISA changed it from Erhard to “Dee” to create a hilarious joke. Esty Dee. Get it?!?!?! Truly, they can fuck off. I like Esty. She’s honestly one of the most likeable characters in these games, which is saying quite a lot. If Atelier games had Persona-style dating sim mechanics, she’s the one I’d go for, absolutely no question. There, now someone can go on Twitter and call me a simp for Esty, or whatever the stupid term is they’re using now.

1) Aigis (Persona 3)

Once again, no surprise here. Aigis is certainly one of my favorite game characters period, largely for her character arc in Persona 3. A weapon created to fight Shadows, Aigis goes through the old “android discovers human feelings and love” plot but in a way that isn’t nearly as tired and cliché as that might sound. I can’t say much more about why Aigis is so great without posting major spoilers for Persona 3, though, so I’ll leave it at that. Just play Persona 3, either FES or Portable — I preferred FES, but they’re both good choices.

I do hope this isn’t considered a cop-out to excuse me not being able to explain myself. If WordPress had spoiler tags, I’d use them, but it doesn’t. So blame WordPress. Hey, WordPress admins, maybe consider adding spoiler tag solutions that also work in the Reader/don’t require a plugin or a paid subscription to use? A lot of us write about fictional works on your platform if you haven’t noticed.

Those are my entries. If you also want to join the party, be sure to check out the links at the top of the page. These community events are a nice break for me, and I hope they continue to catch on.

Two new artbook reviews (and an announcement)

I went to an anime con recently and came back weighed down with a few new artbooks. These are my only real vice as far as buying things I don’t technically need to live. However, I would argue that having these increases the quality of my life in a real way — reading through them and seeing the art inside, alongside a cup of coffee or strong tea, makes me feel better and helps calm me down after a stressful day at work. I used to use whiskey for that instead. I’d say making that change was worth dropping some money on.

So I thought why not briefly review these books for the benefit of the interested reader? You might see something you like here. If you’ve been following my site for a while, the books I chose to buy will come as absolutely no surprise to you.  I do want to apologize for the shitty, awful-looking glare in a few of these photos though; I don’t have anything like a professional setup here, but I hope these give you an idea of what’s in the books anyway.

Finally, I’ve got a massively important (well, to me anyway) announcement to make that you can skip down to right away if you don’t care about the artbook stuff.

Shigenori Soejima Art Works 2004-2010

I’ve been looking for an affordable copy of this artbook for years now, and I finally have it. The Japanese version was originally published several years ago, but it must have gone out of print for a while because I never could track down a copy under 80 dollars or so, shipping included. Even after I managed to get Shigenori Soejima’s second artbook, 2010-2017, on Amazon for a deal, this one eluded me. Thankfully, both this and 2010-2017 have gotten full translations and are now being sold at cons and on Amazon and eBay for prices that won’t give you a stomachache thinking about how you’ll pay the electric bill this month. This book is full of great artwork by Soejima, character designer and chief artist of the modern Persona games. Most of the pieces here are of Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters — if you want Persona 5 or Catherine art, you’ll naturally have to spring for 2010-2017.  There’s also an interesting interview with Soejima in the back of the book dealing with his history, his general approach to art, and the unusually detailed cover art of Aigis. I wish more artbooks had interviews like this one.

Side-by-side comparison of the first volume English and second volume Japanese Soejima books.

The only real complaint I have about this book is that it lacks both the dust jacket and the additional protective clear cover that the Japanese version has. Above you can see the difference between the English version of the first volume and the Japanese version of the second, which is modeled after the first. Not sure why we get short-changed like this, but maybe such cost-cutting measures are necessary to sell these books in the West at a profit. At least I can read the interview in the English version, which is nice, but if you can read Japanese I’d consider buying that version unless there’s a big price difference between the two.

DISGAEArt!!! Disgaea Official Illustration Collection

I’ve seen this book around for a long time, but until finding it at the con and reading through it, I avoided it out of a fear that it would be duplicative of the two Takehito Harada Art Works volumes I already own. While there is some overlap — probably unavoidable considering how much material is in those books — there’s also work in this volume you won’t find in those. As the name suggests, DISGAEArt is full of promotional and character art from the series, covering Disgaea 1 through Disgaea 4. There is a separate artbook dedicated to Disgaea 5 that I want to get, but it will have to wait for a while.

A Mage being a real asshole to some Prinnies. What’s her problem, anyway?

This book is a bit smaller than most other artbooks, more the size of a typical doujin work, but it’s also priced a bit lower than those oversized artbooks — I got mine for less than 30 dollars. Not a bad deal for an import. And no, there’s no English version of DISGAEArt as far as I can tell, but there’s so little text in it that it doesn’t make much of a difference unless you really need to be able to read the index in the back listing the source of every illustration.

If you’re a fan of Harada or Disgaea in general, this is a good book to look out for.  I do still like the two separate, larger Harada Art Works books better, especially Vol. 1, which got an English translation a while back.  However, they’re long out of print, and even the newer English version of Vol. 1 is selling in very good/like new condition for around 75-85 dollars as of this writing, whereas you can get DISGAEArt for less than half that price.  An easy choice to make if you’re concerned with money, which most of us are.

***

That’s it for the artbooks.  But I did promise an announcement, didn’t I?  It’s one of those good news/bad news deals.  I don’t know whether anyone will actually care enough about any of this to be that emotionally affected by it, but I’ll start with the bad news anyway: I’m dropping the Seasonal Anime Draft stuff I was working on.  I just don’t have the time to keep up with running series that may or may not turn out to be any good.  Sorry about that.  But if you want to follow bloggers who write great beat-by-beat reviews of currently airing shows and/or weekly review posts, check out Irina at I drink and watch anime, Cactus Matt at Anime QandA, Scott at Mechanical Anime Reviews, and Jiraiyan at Otaku Orbit.

Now for the good news.  I’ve said for years that I need to learn Japanese, this language that’s in so much of the media I consume in some form or another.  Well, I’m doing it.  I recently learned that I can make a lot more in my current field if I qualify as fluent in Japanese, in part because so few American attorneys (or Americans in general, I guess) know the language.  And of course, if I learn to read Japanese fluently, I can play Japanese games without having to wait forever for ports or worry that we won’t even get a port.  I’ll also be able to read the text in all these god damn artbooks I own that aren’t translated.  I can be a king among weebs, most of whom don’t seem to know Japanese probably because it’s so damn different from English or their own native languages.

I might also be doing it to understand all those kanji-based jokes I’ve seen

Yeah, learning Japanese is a big project.  Thankfully, I already have some basic knowledge: I know my hiragana and katakana, about a hundred kanji, and some very basic vocabulary and grammar.  It will still take a hell of a long time, but I think of it this way: if I’d started studying Japanese the day I started this blog, I probably would have been fluent three years ago. Even the difference from English seems like more of an advantage than a disadvantage to me.  Over the years I’ve taken Spanish and German, and while I’ve kept bits of those languages, for all the classes I took in school I’m nowhere near fluent or even conversational.  I think part of the reason I had issues with those was that my brain didn’t easily separate them from English — after all, English is a Germanic language with Romance elements in it, and so it has some basic similarities with Spanish and a whole lot with German.  Japanese, however, is such an entirely different language system that my brain says “hey, this is different!” making it easier to set aside in its own compartment if that makes any sense.

So fuck it — I’m going for it.  I suppose this is what I’m doing now instead of watching currently airing anime, but I’m willing to make that change to learn the language.  However, I’ll still be posting here on a regular basis, so don’t worry about that.  The deep reads posts and the occasional reviews will still be coming along with whatever angry rants and caffeine-fueled late night legal analysis I happen to think up.  In fact, I might try to find a way to incorporate my Japanese-learning odyssey into the blog, especially if anyone’s interested in taking the plunge and learning along with me.

Soundtrack review: Burn My Dread: -Reincarnation: Persona 3-

As usual, legal work has taken away almost all of my time, and I spend most of the remainder drinking and being angry or depressed.  Not the healthiest lifestyle, to be sure.  But I’ve at least had time to listen to a few more albums I bought last month cover to cover.  And now I’m reviewing them over the course of the next week, because now this is apparently a video game music/figure review site.  Hell, I haven’t written a review for an actual game in probably over a year now.  What’s wrong with me?

Anyway, this CD is titled Burn My Dread: -Reincarnation: Persona 3-. I have to guess those stupid dashes are part of the title of this album of Persona 3 soundtrack remixes.  Otherwise why would they print them on the cover?

I don’t have much else to say about this album, actually.  It’s a Persona 3 remix album.  It only has twelve tracks, though, and I could easily leave more than half of them.  Not that any of the tracks on Reincarnation are bad, but most of them don’t get my blood flowing.  P3 already has a great soundtrack, and most of the remixes here are inferior to the originals.  I especially miss the whispery female French vocals in “Changing Seasons”.  I know it’s a remix, but for fuck’s sake guys.  It was the best part of the song.

Now for the good: The piano and vocal-only “Poem for Everyone’s Souls” is nice; so is the harder-edged “Battle for Everyone’s Souls”.  And I really like the smoother version of “Deep Breath Deep Breath”.  Even if I’m not the biggest fan of Lotus Juice’s rapping, it sounds all right here.  If you’re a huge fan of the music of P3, this album is worth getting, but… I don’t know.  Don’t pay too much for it, even though it’s an import and you will pay too much. At the price I bought it for, it gets a rating of 4.

Finally, I’ve got to make special mention of “When the Moon’s Reaching Out Stars”.  Not because the remix is that great, but because it keeps the lyric You gotta tell me your love came all over me.  It sounds dirty, doesn’t it?  The rest of the song doesn’t, but this one line does.  Maybe I’m just a pervert.

Don’t drink and go to Amazon

So, some explanation is in order. I was out with a friend drinking on Friday night after a week at the legal grind, and we got a little farther gone than usual. I ended up getting home late and then drinking a lot of seltzer straight out of the bottle as I am wont to do when I’m in that state before passing out for good. The weekend proceeded normally. Monday morning I returned to work, and what should I have found when I returned home but a box from Amazon.

The problem: I wasn’t expecting a box from Amazon.

Yes, I ordered and paid for this Aigis (or Aegis, as she’s called here) figure in the “Parfom” line I bought through Amazon Prime on my phone that night, a fact that only came to my attention after I checked my order history on Amazon. I dropped $70 on it.

The Latin phrase In vino veritas, or “In wine, truth”, is a popular one. I tell outrageous and unbelievable lies about myself when I drink too much, so maybe it doesn’t apply to me in a certain sense. In a deeper and more profound sense, however, the saying is definitely true for me. I wanted to buy this figure of my robotic waifu from Persona 3, and I only had the nerve to do so when I was wasted.  Because fuck the electric bill.

The back of the box is interesting.  Mostly in Japanese, which makes sense – one of the few bits of English printed on it states that this product may only be sold in Japan, which… I don’t live in Japan, so I guess they aren’t enforcing this rule too closely.  Then again, it is in “like new” condition, so it must have been resold.  At any rate, Aigis had already made her way to the US when I ordered this, because it shipped over the weekend with Prime.  I won’t worry about it, though, because according to the box:

Now that’s some prime Engrish.  Will I receive a happiest moment, however?  We’ll see.  This figure was made by a manufacturer called Phat! in conjunction with Good Smile Company, the latter of which also makes the high-quality Nendoroid line of figures (a.k.a. those far far superior versions of Funko Pops that are also a lot more expensive) so I think I probably will.

Before we take Aigis out of the box, there’s one more piece of English text to examine here.

At first, I misread this warning and got sad and slightly ashamed of myself.  But then I noticed that there’s a period between “toy” and “for”.  You’ll see it if you squint.  See, Mom?  It’s not a toy, and it’s not for kids.  The box says so.  Just… just leave me alone!

After some struggling to get her to attach to the stand, here she is, looking ready for action.  This Aigis figure is sort of an intermediate design between the realistically proportioned Figma figures and the super-deformed Nendoroids.  Just like a lot of those figures, this one is extremely posable and comes with different faces and various hand attachments.  Aigis being a weaponized android, she has both regular hands and gun-finger hands, and also cannon, giant fist and rifle attachments for her right arm that I can’t figure out how to get on yet without breaking her arm clean off.  Let’s try changing out her facial expression, at least.

Is it a terrifying abomination from one of your nightmares?  No, it’s just Aigis without her face.  I wonder if she can canonically take her face off like this.  Nice trick to play on the SEES crew, though she might scare the dog.

That’s better.  Her other expression is a pretty cool-looking pissed off, but I like this one best.  Aigis is hanging out on my desk in this form now, keeping watch.

So, I guess the point of this post is to not log onto Amazon when you’re drinking.  Except I’m not really unhappy with the result of my boozed up Amazon misadventure because I actually really like this figure.  I do like Nendoroids a lot – the only two other figures I own are Nendoroids – and this is sort of a larger, differently-apportioned version of that sort of figure.  And I couldn’t ask for a better gift from my inebriated self than a figure of Aigis, even if that lousy fucker did spend $70 on it that I should probably have spent elsewhere.  Like on food.  It’s a myth that all lawyers are rich.  Good God do I wish it were not a myth, but it is.

Five Flaming Hotties (2D edition)

I don’t normally do these kinds of things, but after being tagged by fellow writer and friend of the site The Otaku Judge to take part in this “Five Flaming Hotties” blog post chain I felt motivated to do so. The rules of the game are as follows (quoted verbatim from its creators):

1. You must add the name of the blog who tagged you AND those of the 2 Reel Quirky Cats, Thoughts All Sorts and Realweegiemidget Reviews with links to these sites as given here.. and use the natty picture promoting this post (found later in this post).

2 Reel Quirky Cats

Realweegiemidget Reviews

and Thoughts All Sorts

2. List 5 of your all time greatest hotties from TV or Film. ie crushes / objects of your affection.

3. Say how you were introduced to them, and why you like them (keep it clean)

4. Link to 7 other bloggers.

5. Add lovely pictures of those you selected.

6. Oh…and post the rules..

However, I have to add a couple of tweaks to the game. First, I won’t be tagging anyone, because as any reader of this site knows, it is a dead end as far as blogs go. The only guy I would have thought to tag has tagged me already, and the few other blogs I follow wouldn’t take an interest in this game.

And second, just like TOJ did, I’ll be picking characters from games and anime. Fantasy is better than reality, and anyway, I always honestly thought celebrity crushes were far weirder than fictional character crushes. Make fun of the whole waifu thing all you want, but none of the suicidally depressed forever-alones pining after their non-existent girlfriends will ever be arrested for stalking a flesh and blood human being because of it. Unless one of them goes after a voice actor or a female mangaka or someone like that. Stalking is serious business, people. Don’t do it.

Okay, I’m getting off track. Here’s my list:

5) Aika

Chances are decent you don’t know who the hell this is, because she’s a character from a Dreamcast JRPG released in 2000 that never saw a sequel. Today a copy of either the Dreamcast original or the Gamecube remaster of Skies of Arcadia is almost worth its weight in gold, they’re so hard to find.

If you do come across it, Skies of Arcadia is a great game about three friends who scour the skies in airships as pirates, but as the good kind of pirates who only attack and plunder bad guys. Aika is main character Vyse’s childhood friend, a fierce, tomboyish sky sailor. The game hints at a possible future love triangle where Vyse has to choose between Aika and the demure magical moon princess healer girl Fina, but the choice is obvious to me, even if the game suggests Fina has the upper hand. Well screw you game. Why are you so damn rare and expensive now anyway?

4) Tifa Lockhart

Are all the characters on this list going to be from old JPRGs? No, not all of them. But Tifa has to be included here. The third in the love triangle (this time a way more real and immediate one) with hero Cloud and fated-to-die Aeris was my pick. Hell, Tifa owns a bar. Did Aeris own a bar? No. She sold flowers on a street corner. Tifa is better. Case closed. That’s not even mentioning Tifa’s other assets, which are considerable.*

Now I’m imagining a path in Final Fantasy VII where Cloud gives back control of AVALANCHE to Barrett, marries Tifa, and hangs out in 7th Heaven all day every day. If the upcoming PS4 remake of FF7 doesn’t include this as an alternate ending I’ll be disappointed. (Of course it won’t – just another reason why I’m probably right that it will be lousy.)

3) Holo

Holo (or Horo, depending on how you read her name – “Holo” is official but either one seems legit enough) is a sort of minor harvest goddess who can take the form of a cute girl with wolf ears and tail or of a huge, menacing she-wolf who can tear people apart. As you might imagine, Holo is pretty popular and is probably one of the big reasons the medieval economics/romance adventure series Spice and Wolf has found success. A self-proclaimed genius with a vain streak, Holo can be annoying sometimes, but her charms definitely outweigh her irritating qualities, and she gets serious when the situation demands it. And she’s cute as hell. I don’t mind admitting that I’m kind of shallow.

2) Rin Tohsaka

TOJ included Rin on his list, and I have no reason to disagree with him. It’s probably my masochist streak, but Rin is my favorite out of all the Type-Moon characters. The only child and heiress of a great family of mages, Rin is required to take part in a battle for the Holy Grail against other mages, including the regular-guy-with-hidden-magical-powers player character Shirou. Rin is one of the first characters people think of when they think of the “tsundere” character type, which more or less means she pretends to hate you but secretly likes you. Or something. It’s a popular trope, and Rin is popular too. And why not? She’s a good character with an interesting backstory (see the excellent anime series Fate/Zero for some of that, and see the film Unlimited Blade Works for the rest of Rin’s story, or read the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel if you have 50 hours to spare.)

1) Aigis

Strictly speaking, Aigis from Persona 3 isn’t a woman, or even a human. She’s an android. But she would probably be my first choice for a partner. Before you definitely decide that I’m insane, consider the following:

– Aigis doesn’t have to eat or drink, meaning lower household expenses.

– Aigis passes for a human girl when she’s wearing clothes, so you can trick the judge into issuing your marriage license.

– Aigis is a super-weapon created by a secret military commission, and she comes equipped with fingers that retract into guns and and sets of various gun attachments for her arms. No need to plan for home defense when your wife is an entire army in herself.

– Best girl in Persona 3.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Hell, if you don’t want to marry a mega-weapon android girl after reading the above, I have to wonder what’s wrong with you. Sure, you’d never be able to have a kid with her, but you could adopt. There are plenty of abandoned children and orphans out there who need good families, even ones where Mom is a robot. 𒀭

* If you thought this was a reference to boobs, that really says more about you than it does about me.

Edit (8/23/18): I still support human-android marriage rights.  Fuck his opinion on indicting Donald Trump while he’s still sitting in the Oval Office as legal chief executive – we already know where he stands on that.  If I were a U.S. senator I’d ask Brett Kavanaugh his opinion on legalizing marrying an Aigis.  Such a question may well come up during his tenure as a Supreme Court justice if he’s approved.

Five interesting and bizarre things about Persona 3 Portable

p3p_mem_1280x1024

Note: I just realized that none of this post makes any sense unless you’ve played Persona 3 already. So maybe don’t bother reading this unless you have. And you should, because Persona 3 is a good game (albeit incredibly long. I hope you have free time.)

Persona 3 Portable is a title I’ve been interested in for a while. In 2006/7, I ran through Persona 3, and about a year later I played the expanded “director’s cut” Persona 3 FES, and then I was sick of anything Persona-related (until Persona 4 came out, of course.) It’s 2015 now, though, Persona 5 is finally on its way, and there was recently a sale on P3P in the Playstation store, so what better time to look back at the series’ past? Also, it was on sale for five dollars.

If you’ve played either console version of P3, P3P does offer some new material. The most striking aspect of P3P is the choice it offers between the original male protagonist and a new female protagonist, opening up most of the main male cast to P3’s dating game. It also throws in a few completely new characters for the lady protagonist to interact with. A few things about P3P strike me as interesting, in fact. Here they are.

P3PFemProtagonist

1) The female protagonist’s hairclip

The female player character’s hairclip (hairbands? whatever) isn’t something most people would look at twice. I certainly didn’t think about it at first. But there is something significant about it: it’s a mark of her identity. It takes the form of two X’s and two straight lines. Unless I’m crazy, I would say it looks just like the Roman numeral XXII.

The reason this jumped out at me was the tarot. Anyone who knows even two sentences of information about the Persona series knows that the tarot is one of its key themes, even going back as far as the old Persona games on the Playstation. And as Igor tells you near the beginning of P3, you, the player character, are 0, “The Fool”, the card that represents infinite possibilities (or something.) If you take a closer look at the tarot, however, you’ll find that The Fool is categorized both as Arcana 0 and Arcana XXII. Thus, the female protagonist’s XXII hairclip/band thing. There’s no way in hell it’s a coincidence, and it’s just one of the subtle details the artist/character designer quietly slipped into the game. I think this is pretty cool.

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2) Interlocking social link routes

If you played P3 vanilla or P3 FES, you should absolutely play as the girl first. Not just to fulfill your inner dream of pretending to be a schoolgirl (as was the case for me, obviously) but because the female protagonist’s social links are in part different from the male protagonist’s. Most of the links seem to be with the same characters, but much of the contents of the links are different because of the player character’s opposite sex. Yukari’s link is a good example of this: while she’s initially a little removed from the hero, she’s much more open towards the heroine from the very beginning.

P3P does feature a few brand new links, though, and they dovetail nicely with the existing ones. Rio, for example, is the captain of the tennis/volleyball team (the only female sports teams at the school, apparently) with a longing for one of the male protagonist’s social link friends. Even characters who were talked about but never had lines in the old P3 make an appearance in the course of these new social links. And, of course, you can now date the dudes. (Unfortunately, you can’t really date the girls as a girl – no same-sex relations in the world of Persona.) These new social links, and the additions to the old ones, help make P3P feel like a fresh experience. They also make me remember how unlikeable some of those characters were, like creepy fuck Kenji shown above, or like main cast character Yukari, who honestly is annoying (but entirely realistic!) in parts.

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3) Your teachers are still incompetent

One of the common threads running through P3 and P4 (and P5?) are the goofy teachers. Who can forget the extremely crabby Japanese-with-a-New-York-accent Mr. Morooka, or the slutty mature lady teacher Ms. Kashiwagi, who came pretty close to showing her cooch to the entire class on her very first day? Even the less central teachers get weird personalities, though, and P3P continues that trend. The greatest standouts here have to be the math teacher who can’t seem to do math problems without getting three wildly different answers, and the Japanese history teacher who can’t shut up about the Sengoku era and breezes over whole centuries-long time periods in a couple of minutes because he only wants to talk about samurai and bushido and all that stuff. I’ve worked as a history teacher, and I can tell you that if I had skipped over 3000 years of world history just to spend three weeks on the Mongol conquests, I’d have been kicked out of my teaching position on my ass. It’s a wonder that P3’s Gekkoukan High and P4’s Yasoinaba High keep hiring these dipshit teachers – only a few stand out as competent. Oh well, they’re good comic relief.

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4) There’s a Ken Amada social link now, and it gets weird

If you played either P3 on the PS2, you probably remember Ken Amada. He’s the little kid of the P3 team. There are spoilerish reasons for why an elementary school student is on your high school shadow monster battle squad, so I won’t go into them. The important point here is that Ken is a little kid. Mature for his age, sure, but he’s still 10 according to Atlus.

So it’s kind of weird that you, as the female protagonist, can date Ken in your social link with him. You could argue that’s not quite what you’re doing, but you totally are. Nothing illegal is suggested, but the real litmus test in my opinion is whether the same scenario presented in this social link would have worked if the characters’ sexes had been reversed. My guess is that Atlus would have removed that social link the fuck out of the game as quickly as possible.

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5) Fanservice and more fanservice

The Persona games seem to be unique among the Shin Megami Tensei family for featuring a small degree of fanservice. These bits of fanservice usually sit out of the way of the normal course of the game (i.e. you need to do a sidequest or fulfill a certain condition to get the fanservice in question) and they aren’t featured in the plain vanilla versions of P3 and P4. In P3P, though, the fanservice is compounded by the fact that you can now play as a girl and run around Tartarus in a bikini, the same one you wear on the summer vacation part of the game. FES let you do this with Yukari and Mitsuru, and their beach outfits remain in this version of the game. You can also dress up all three in fantasy-style bikini armor, which is prominently featured in Tartarus early on in glowing yellow chests. Of course, I had to use this armor, because it was the best around at the time. That extra 12 DEF is vital, you know.

Okay, so maybe the fanservice isn’t all that surprising, but I wonder about the point of it. If you want the beachwear, you have to pay out the ass for it, like 300K each. It is fun to listen to Yukari complain about being forced to wear a bikini in battle when you talk to her, I guess, but that’s about it. To P3P’s credit, it also offers bathing suits for the male characters to wear in battle, so you can’t accuse Atlus of being misogynist. Though I’m sure the multitudes of Tumblr users somehow found a way to do so.

Anyway, P3P is worth playing, even if you’ve played P3 already. You’ll have to find some way to spend the time until Persona 5 comes out, after all.