|July 13, 2006|
|August 14, 2007|
|February 29, 2008|
- "Memento Mori. Remember you will die. Remember your death."
- —Persona 3 intro
An enhanced version of the game containing an epilogue called The Answer was released as Persona 3 FES, also for the PlayStation 2. This version is available on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3.
Because there is no definitive version of Persona 3, FES and Portable are both recommended for the full Persona 3 experience.
Persona 3 follows a group of high school students trying to cope with, understand and accept death in a world surrounded by it, as well as find their own reasons for living. They form a group called SEES in order to investigate the Dark Hour, a mysterious time period between one day and the next that few people are aware of. During the Dark Hour, SEES explores Tartarus, a large tower containing Shadows, creatures that feed on the minds of humans. To fight the Shadows, each member of SEES is able to summon a Persona, a manifestation of their inner self.
Set in 2009, Persona 3 begins with the protagonist returning to the city of Tatsumi Port Island ten years after his parents died from an accident. He is introduced as a transfer student that has just moved into the Iwatodai Dormitory, but arrives late (in the movie adaptation, it is revealed it was due to a suicidal subway train jumper). A mysterious boy, calling himself Pharos, introduces himself to the protagonist and asks him to sign a contract that states the protagonist will accept full responsibility for his own actions.
He is quickly brought into SEES (Special Extracurricular Execution Squad), a club at Gekkoukan High School which disguises itself as a completely normal after school club where nothing of supernatural significance happens, when his awareness of the Shadows and the Dark Hour is revealed. The Dark Hour is a secret hour which only a select few with the "potential" are aware of; the rest "transmogrify" into coffins. Shadows are also causing many people to become victims of Apathy Syndrome, a mysterious condition that puts them into a vegetative trance-like state in which they lose the will to live; victims are referred to as "the Lost."
The protagonist discovers that he can summon multiple Personas into battle. After awakening to his Persona ability, the protagonist is transported to the Velvet Room, which its proprietor, Igor, says is a realm between "dream and reality." Igor explains to him that his Persona ability is special: he is the only member of SEES capable of wielding multiple Personas in battle due to possessing the Wild Card. In-game, the Velvet Room is where the player may fuse two or more Personas to create a new one. Igor also encourages the protagonist to meet people and form bonds with them, known as Social Links. According to Igor, the power of his Social Links will determine his potential in combat.
With the help of their Personas, SEES is able to explore a mysterious tower called Tartarus during the Dark Hour which mysteriously manifests at Gekkoukan High School. They must also defeat Greater Shadows that appear every full moon and attack the city, believing that by killing all twelve of them, they will be able to end the appearance of the Dark Hour. SEES summons Personas using gun-shaped items called Evokers by shooting themselves in the head, an action reminiscent of suicide.
Members of SEES are all students attending Gekkoukan High School, sans Shuji Ikutsuki who is the chief director of the high school:
- Shuji Ikutsuki, chairman and adviser of SEES
- Mitsuru Kirijo, leader of SEES and heir to the Kirijo Group
- Akihiko Sanada, an orphaned friend of Mitsuru. His sister Miki burned to death in a fire as a child
- Yukari Takeba, a girl who forms a strong bond with the protagonist. Her father Eiichiro worked for the Kirijo Group until he died in an accident a decade ago
- Junpei Iori, a classmate of the protagonist and Yukari who resents his alcoholic father
- Fuuka Yamagishi, a girl being bullied by Natsuki Moriyama who replaces Mitsuru as the team's support member and navigator
During the Dark Hour, SEES begins to encounters a mysterious and somewhat hostile trio called Strega, consisting of Takaya Sakaki, Jin Shirato and Chidori Yoshino. Strega also has Persona summoning abilities and are Artificial Persona Users (can summon Personas without Evokers), and take Persona Suppressors (drugs).
After several of these Full Moon Operations, Mitsuru is forced to reveal to the team the origin of Tartarus and the Dark Hour which she has been hiding from SEES. Ten years ago, the Kirijo Group, a research company founded by Mitsuru's grandfather, began amassing and containing Shadows. They studied and performed experiments on them, in order to harness their power. However, the experiments went awry, allowing the Shadows to escape and assemble into twelve larger creatures. Each is affiliated with one of the twelve Major Arcana. SEES's leader, Shuji Ikutsuki, informs them that if they defeat all twelve of the greater Shadows, then Tartarus and the Dark Hour would disappear forever.
As the year continues, the group adds a few more Persona-users to their team who have the "potential":
- Ken Amada, an orphaned boy whose mother died two years ago
- Koromaru, a dog whose previous carer died
- Shinjiro Aragaki, Akihiko's foster brother who was also orphaned
- Aigis, a female android. While vacationing in Yakushima, SEES encounters her. She is a robot who had recently escaped the laboratory where she was kept, despite having been deactivated for years. For reasons she cannot explain, she has a need to be near the protagonist, even breaking into his dorm room at night to monitor him.
On October 4th, Shinjiro meets Ken at the site where Ken's mother was killed, during the October full moon mission. Two years earlier, Shinjiro had accidentally caused the death of Ken's mother when his Persona went berserk while on a SEES mission. For this reason, Shinjiro distanced himself from SEES and began taking Persona Suppressors, consumed by guilt. Ken only saw him as a murderer, though, and had only ever joined SEES for the sole reason of getting revenge and killing him in return. Shinjiro had no intention of resisting Ken's attempt to enact vengeance, but he warns Ken that if he continues, he could end up just like him.
However, the two are interrupted by Takaya while Ken struggles to go through with his plan. Takaya reveals that the Suppressors that Shinjiro was taking would inevitably kill him anyways, rendering Ken's plan for revenge moot. He draws his revolver and shoots Shinjiro to incapacitate him, questioning the two as to the whereabouts of their navigator. Ken falsely tells him that it is himself. Takaya then prepares to shoot Ken as well, citing the boy's intentions to take his own life when his revenge was done as excuse enough.
Takaya attempts to shoot Ken but Shinjiro jumps in front of him, taking a second, fatal bullet and sacrificing his own life. Just before he dies, he tells Ken to make his own life matter and tells Akihiko to take care of Ken. With his last strength, Shinjiro stands up and takes a few steps away from SEES, telling them "This is how it should be." and collapses on the floor. This final sacrifice earns Ken's respect and inspires Akihiko's resolve. SEES falls into a period of depression; Mitsuru and Akihiko take the loss of Shinjiro hard, and, ironically, Ken as well. Mitsuru and Yukari also begin to bond closer together.
On November 3rd, SEES fight Takaya and Jin, and they apparently kill themselves by falling off the Moonlight Bridge. They also defeat the final Greater Shadow. However, while celebrating their victory on November 4th, SEES realizes that the Dark Hour still remains. SEES learns they have been misled by Shuji Ikutsuki; by destroying the Greater Shadows, they have freed parts of a being called Nyx who will bring about the end of the world if it is fully restored. It is revealed that the Kirijo Group was attempting to do this ten years ago, but Nyx was released prematurely in a laboratory accident that also created the Dark Hour and Tartarus. Aigis, a robot designed to fight Nyx, battled the being but was unable to fully defeat it, instead dispersing parts of it into the Greater Shadows, and installing the last part into that of a young boy nearby, revealed to be the protagonist.
Ikutsuki programs Aigis to capture the party and he takes them to the top of a tower where he hangs them on crosses and attempts to sacrifice them using Aigis. Ikutsuki shoots and kills Mitsuru's father, Takeharu Kirijo, and orders Aigis to kill SEES, however, Aigis' will proves too strong and she frees them instead. Ikutsuki falls to his death (it is ambiguous if it was an intentional suicide or him forgetting that there's no footing behind him).
On November 9th, SEES encounters Ryoji Mochizuki, a mysterious teenage boy who has enrolled at Gekkoukan High a few days after the defeat of the final Great Shadow. Aigis seems to be wary of Ryoji, claiming he is dangerous.
On November 22nd, Fuuka senses a Strega member outside Tartarus: Chidori. Throughout the year, Junpei and Chidori have entered a sort of romantic relationship. Junpei runs to Chidori, and the rest of SEES follows. Chidori turns hostile and attacks the party. Takaya and Jin arrive and reveal themselves to be alive, and Takaya claims Chidori has been "poisoned" by them. Takaya shoots Junpei and Chidori saves Junpei's life using her Persona's healing powers, but she dies in the process.
On December 2nd, Ryoji and Aigis face off at the Moonlight Bridge. Aigis is heavily damaged by Ryoji and is no longer a playable character for this month. SEES meets Ryoji and Ryoji tells them he is the "Appriser" who has been born from the union of the twelve Shadows. Ryoji tells SEES that he is Death incarnate, the Harbinger, and that if they do not kill him by December 31, he will unwillingly usher in Nyx and the end of the world, known as the Fall. Ryoji also reveals that a decade ago, he was defeated by Aigis on the Moonlight Bridge and he has been dormant in a child (the protagonist) - this was also how the protagonist's parents died.
On December 30th, after recovering from her injuries after fighting Ryoji, Aigis returns to SEES as a playable party member.
On December 31st, the player is given the option to kill Ryoji at this point.
If the player kills Ryoji, the members of SEES lose memories of the last year, such as the Dark Hour and their relationships with each other. They lead normal lives, living in blissful ignorance, until the inevitable end of the world occurs and all of humanity dies. The protagonist, Yukari and Junpei see Aigis watching them, but forget who she is and believe she is just some girl who lives in the same dorm. The same goes for Akihiko, who they simply know as the captain of the boxing team who lives in the dorm, and Mitsuru, who they only know as student council president. Mitsuru's memories are tampered to her believing her father died from sudden illness, which is ironically what the Kirijo Group covered up his death as, and since those in the Dark Hour forgot their memories, it seems no one knows the truth of how he died. The protagonist, Yukari and Junpei also enjoy their final time singing karaoke. This ending is non-canon.
If Ryoji is spared, then the game continues into the month of January.
Takaya Sakaki creates a religious cult centered around the coming of Nyx and the Fall as a salvation, with himself as the high priest of this religion and Jin spreading rumors around the network. Takaya begins using his preaching and his religion to manipulate and control those who are emotionally vulnerable, full of fear and scared of their impending death. In a newspaper interview, Takaya claims that the world is in a state of turmoil, and that there is little chance for hope. He then claims that a magnificent being is the only salvation for humanity, which is identified as Nyx. Takaya then states that he has received a blessing from Nyx, and has learned of her divine power. He further manipulates the public by stating that there are also 'those who have been blessed by Nyx' that use this 'blessing' for their own selfish goals. SEES deduces that Takaya is attempting to make the public hate SEES by stating that they are, in fact, the ones responsible for everything.
Throughout January, the mental conditions of Tatsumi Port Island residents goes hectic. The amount of Lost drastically increases and Apathy Syndrome is everywhere. Graffiti, litter and trash fill the streets, no one caring to clean it. Takaya's followers begin distributing brochures and pamphlets about the impending apocalypse and Nyx's salvation.
On January 31, 2010, SEES climbs to the top of Tartarus to face Nyx. They are faced by Jin and Takaya along the way; both are defeated in order for SEES to reach the top. On the top of the tower, SEES encounters Ryoji, now in his true form of the avatar of Nyx. Though they defeat it, the avatar is able to still call forth Nyx; the moon splits open revealing a strange device that begins to kill people across the Earth. The protagonist uses all of his Social Links gained from SEES and other friends to create a seal to lock Nyx away forever, though sacrificing himself to do so.
The world returns to normal, though the memories of the past year are lost to the SEES members. As they finish school, they come to realize that they each promised to gather on the school's roof should they make it to graduation day. There, they find the protagonist lying in Aigis' lap, smiling at the brief reunion with the other SEES members. Aigis tells the protagonist that she will always be by his side, protecting him. The protagonist peacefully drifts into sleep.
- Note: The Answer is exclusive to Persona 3 FES. It does not appear in the first release of Persona 3, or Persona 3 Portable. The Answer is also canon.
The events of The Answer begin on March 31, 2010, a few weeks after the end of The Journey. During the opening sequence, it is revealed that the protagonist peacefully died in his sleep while he was resting with Aigis. A confused SEES can only speculate that his death is related to him using his life force to defeat Nyx. The school year has ended, and the dorm is to be closed down soon. Aigis reveals to the group that she will not be attending school next year.
During their last dinner party, the SEES members discover that they are trapped in their dorm, and that the day March 31 is repeating itself. Later, a large door-like hole opens in the floor of the dorm, and SEES is attacked by Metis, an anti-shadow weapon similar to Aigis. In the midst of fighting Metis to protect her friends, Aigis's Persona, Athena, transforms into Orpheus, the original Persona of the protagonist. She also gains the protagonist's Wild Card ability. Aigis is able to subdue Metis, whose actions were an attempt to end the time skip and save Aigis, who she calls her "sister."
Underneath the dorm is the Abyss of Time, the cause of the time skip. The Abyss contains seven doors, the insides of which contain multi-floor dungeons, similar in design to Tartarus; it is in these areas that the game's combat takes place. At the top of each dungeon, SEES witness an event from the past of each member. After seeing several of these flashbacks, SEES discern that the event shown in each door relates to how that member had awakened to their Persona.
At the top of the seventh and final door, SEES fights a Shadow-like version of the protagonist. After defeating it, each of them obtain a key. By combining the keys, they would be able to end the time skip and leave the dorm. However, Metis presents SEES with an alternative: instead of unlocking the front door of the dorm, they may also use the keys to travel back in time, to before the fight against Nyx and the death of the protagonist. Yukari wants this alternative because she wants another chance to save the protagonist and Mitsuru supports her, however, the rest of the team feels this is too dangerous.
Now unable to agree on how to use the keys, SEES determine that they must fight each other to decide. Aigis, Fuuka and Metis claim all eight keys, which fuse into the Final Key. Yukari attempts to steal the key from Aigis, but Metis reveals that it's impossible. Yukari finally admits her grief over the protagonist. She made a promise as well, but unlike Aigis, it was to herself. She promised to try to change the world into a peaceful one to make people stop wishing for the Fall, but admits she can't be that person and doesn't care about anything but seeing the protagonist again. The party, feeling her sorrow, comforts her. With her resolution strengthened, she decides to respect Aigis' decision of leaving the past the way it was.
After debating on what to do now, they discover a third, new door in the Abyss of Time, which the group uses (without the Final Key) to travel to the moment the protagonist sealed Nyx from the world. Metis explains that the purpose of the seal created by the protagonist was not to seal away Nyx herself (who is not inherently evil), but to prevent humanity's despair from calling out to Nyx and bringing about the Fall once more. The subconscious will of mankind to despair and wish for death constantly rebirths a monster called Erebus that summons Nyx to destroy the world; Metis implies that Erebus's contact with Nyx is what caused the Fall (that was prevented by SEES). SEES realizes that the wishes that created Erebus also came from them, and so they fight it, and are able to defeat it. Mitsuru points out that Erebus will return, as humans will never stop wishing for death.
After breaking the time skip and exiting through the front door of the dorm with the Final Key, Metis, Aigis, and the rest of SEES are summoned to the Velvet Room, much to Igor's (pleasant) surprise. It is here they learn of Metis's true origins: that she is a manifestation of a part of Aigis's personality. Distraught over the death of the protagonist, she no longer wanted to live like a human, and wished to return to being a machine. However, after being set free from the Abyss of Time, Aigis changes her mind, deciding to continue to attend school, something she had chosen not to do earlier.
- Main article: List of Persona 3 Characters
- Protagonist: The silent protagonist of the story. He is an orphan, his parents having died in a tragic car accident 10 years before the beginning of the game's events. The protagonist transfers to Gekkoukan High School on Port Island as a second-year.
- Yukari Takeba: A popular second-year girl at Gekkoukan High School. She is the first one the protagonist meets upon arriving at the dorms. Her father was a researcher for the Kirijo Group before his death 10 years prior to the game's events.
- Junpei Iori: An energetic and perverted second-year. Though he flirts with most of the girls in his grade, he finds a genuine love interest in a girl named Chidori.
- Mitsuru Kirijo: The elegant and bossy heiress of the Kirijo Group, a third-year at Gekkoukan. She was the first to awaken to her Persona. She and Akihiko lead SEES, and she is the initial provider of outside support during battle.
- Akihiko Sanada: A third-year with Mitsuru. Competitive and ever diligent, he devotes much of his free time to his boxing and Shadow-fighting training. He grew up in an orphanage with his younger sister, Miki, and his foster brother, Shinjiro.
- Fuuka Yamagishi: A shy, introverted second-year. She eventually replaces Mitsuru as the outside support during battle.
- Aigis: A robotic Anti-Shadow Weapon. She states early on that her highest priority is to protect the protagonist. Later, she attends Gekkoukan High School as a second-year and begins to develop human emotions.
- Koromaru: The loyal dog of the local shrine. Although his master has since died, he still walks the route his master would take with him, and he continues to guard the shrine.
- Ken Amada: A young grade-school boy. Though mature for his age, he feels insecure about his size and age and tries to compensate for it in every way possible. His mother was killed in a Shadow-related incident two years prior to the game's events.
- Shinjiro Aragaki: A shady loner type, Akihiko's foster brother. He was once a member of SEES alongside Akihiko and Mitsuru in the past, but has since abandoned them following an accident that claimed the life of a civilian.
Before starting a game, the player must choose between difficulties (Easy/Normal in the original release of Persona 3, or Easy/Normal/Hard in FES) which can not be changed later (only on a New Game Plus), meaning that the player should be careful as the difficulty will remain for the remainder of the game. If someone has never played Persona 3 before, it is highly recommended to start on Easy, since Normal has been proven too hard for many players.
Persona 3 combines elements of standard role-playing games and dating sims. The game takes place over the course of a Japanese school year. Each day goes by, broken up into several periods such as "Morning," "Afternoon" and "Evening," with the protagonist going to school and then participating in selected activities during free time. The player must try to balance high school life while trying to prevent the impending apocalypse that threatens to kill all life on the planet.
The player may opt to use the free time activities to buy equipment and items at stores, talk to other non-playable characters, or spend the remainder of the free time either to build a Social Link or to improve the protagonist's attributes, such as by gaining courage by singing karaoke. Thus, the player must manage which activities or Social Links to improve in order to build up the protagonist for the exploration of the Tartarus.
Certain in-game events will occur on prescribed days; Major Shadows will appear on full moons, there will be midterm and final exams within school, and school holidays give the player more time to work on other activities.
Tartarus and the Dark Hour
At night, the player may opt to enter Tartarus, or otherwise allow SEES to rest and recover. To enter Tartarus, the player must talk to Mitsuru or Fuuka at the Dorm. However, there are some days and times when it's impossible to enter Tartarus, such as during exams week.
Tartarus is a tower which the player must eventually climb by the end of the game - the player can expect to climb around 260 floors. Tartarus is broken into several "blocks"; each new block is inaccessible until the Major Shadows are defeated on each full moon, thus limiting the progress through the tower.
Most floors of Tartarus are randomly generated in a rogue-like manner, with a random distribution of treasure and wandering Shadows, but each includes a stairway to the next floor and many also include a one-way only teleport point that allows them to escape to the first floor. Other levels contain mini-bosses that must be defeated in order to progress; these levels also feature a fixed teleport point that allows the player to travel to any other similar teleport point that has been previously accessed, thus allowing the player to skip blocks when returning to Tartarus. The player may opt to keep the party together or have each member explore the level, recovering any treasure found and fighting monsters individually.
As the party explores and continues fighting, their health will worsen, and a member that ends up "tired" or "sick" will perform poorly in battle and may drop out before the battle is complete; the only way to recover from these states is spend one or more nights without exploring Tartarus. (See also: Status Changes in Persona 3.)
Combat is a turn-based affair. Each character can perform a standard melee attack with their weapon, summon their Persona to unleash an attack or spell, or use recovery and battle items.
The player only directly controls the actions of the protagonist. The other members of the party can be guided through specific tactics assigned to each of them, such as maintaining the health of the party, or going all out with Persona attacks. This is because the developers wanted the SEES members to feel as if they have a unique personality of their own, although this decision was met with criticism, leading to direct control being available in Persona 3 Portable.
In a battle, every combatant has HP and SP; when a player loses all of their HP, that player is automatically knocked out of the battle, and if the protagonist is knocked out, the game ends (though in the easy difficulty setting, the player can use one of 10 special items called Plumes of Dusk to automatically fully revive the party when he is knocked down). As such, keeping the protagonist alive is one of the highest priorities so healing the protagonist when necessary is important. If a combatant is KOed, they can be revived with items called "Revival Bead" or "Balm of Life" -- specific skills can also be obtained later that revive combatants.
Each foe has strengths and weaknesses; by striking a foe with an attack it is weak against, it will cause the foe to be knocked down, and the attacker will gain one more immediate attack; this can lead to a chain of attacks against each foe if the attacks are selected appropriately. If all remaining foes are knocked down, the player can opt for an All-Out Attack, with the remaining members entering a cartoon-like fight cloud, inflicting higher damage on each foe.
Due to the popularity of Persona 3, several related media releases followed.
- Persona 3 spawned an enhanced re-release with an epilogue and its modified combat engine appears in Persona 4.
- An updated PSP port titled Persona 3 Portable was released. It now features a new female protagonist and a female version of Orpheus as her Persona.
- There is a loosely connected anime known as Persona -trinity soul- featuring Akihiko.
- Persona 3 was adapted into a four-part anime film adaptation called Persona 3 The Movie which covers The Journey from the perspective of the male protagonist. Persona 3 The Movie does not cover The Answer.
- A manga was released.
- There are several side games, such as Aegis: The First Mission, Megami Tensei Chaining Soul: Persona 3 and Megami Tensei QIX: Persona 3, but these are generally ignored because they are only in Japanese and are rare.
- A dancing game, Persona 3: Dancing Moon Night, is in production.
- There are also many Persona 3 inclusions in Persona spin-offs such as Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, Persona 4 Arena, etc.
North American cover
The protagonist and Yukari
The protagonist, Junpei and Yukari
SEES and their Personas
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