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- "Labyrinth that appears during the Dark Hour, brimming with Shadows. Perhaps some answer lies deep inside..."
- —Persona 3 FES Dictionary Entry
SEES is formed in an attempt to discover the true nature of the tower and defeat the Shadows. This location is the only place where the player can fight Shadows, except when they appear in outside locations during a Full Moon Operation.
Because it "grows" out of the ground each night, the layout of the tower is assembled randomly, aside from certain key floors that never change. The tower consists of 6 blocks, where every section contains a specific Arcana's Guardian blocking anyone from climbing to the top. Each new block is inaccessible until the Major Shadows are defeated on each full moon, thus limiting the progress through the tower.
There are 264 floors in total, including the roof and excluding the optional Monad underground dungeon which consists of 10 floors.
According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod's Theogony,is both the name of the third primordial deity that represents deep darkness, as well as a location described as being far below the earth. It is a deep abyss - even far below Hades - where divine beings that pose a threat to the gods of Olympus ie. the Titans were imprisoned. It further served as a dungeon of torment for mortal souls, as divine punishment for their wicked deeds in life.
- Persona 3 / FES / Portable
- Persona 4 Arena Ultimax
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
The first exploration of Tartarus by SEES is a simple test run, where the newer members were given light briefing and real-time battle advice by Mitsuru, the only member able to perform outside support. With Ikutsuki's blessing, SEES ventures further up the tower with the protagonist as the exploration leader, retaining the position even after Akihiko fully recovers. As Mitsuru's ability to support the party slowly wanes, the rescue of Fuuka Yamagishi was a significant boon. She had better range for support, given that her Persona is more attuned to shadow movements even without the help of special electronic devices. With Fuuka taking over the support role, Mitsuru returns to the front line of the exploration movement.
It is later revealed that Tartarus, which was also known as the "Tower Of Demise", serves as an edifice to summon Nyx once the twelve shadows were subdued and reunited to manifest as Death. Ikutsuki manipulated the SEES members to do so, as he also shared the destructive sentiments of the former head of the Kirijo Group.
Death manifests itself as Ryoji Mochizuki, who enrolls at Gekkoukan High School as a transfer student, his memories still not clear even after fully developing. A fateful encounter with Aigis at the Moonlight Bridge however, made him remember that he was the Death shadow developed by the Kirijo Group ten years ago to serve as the Appriser that would summon the maternal being Nyx and bring about The Fall. However, During the time he spent sealed inside the protagonist's body, his outlook has greatly changed, and while he knows fully well that Nyx cannot be defeated, he presents SEES with two choices: To kill him and delay the advent of the Fall, or to let him live and face Nyx. If Ryoji dies, the memories of the SEES members will be erased, and they would go about their daily lives like nothing ever happened, blissfully unaware of when the Fall will occur. If Ryoji is allowed to live, his purpose as Nyx's Appriser will be fulfilled, and the SEES members will be forced to fight a battle where the chances of victory are close to nil.
If the protagonist opts not to kill Ryoji, the SEES members all agree to face the impossible odds, and will come to be known as the Nyx Annihilation Team. Their bond grows stronger the closer they get to the true peak of Tartarus, awaiting the promised day when Nyx would descend. Ryoji would meet them when the time comes, having fully manifested his form as the Nyx Avatar. Even if the Nyx Annihilation Team succeeds in defeating all of his Arcana forms, he merely shrugs, lamenting that the righteous will of a few is not sufficient enough to quell the nihilism inherent in the majority of human hearts.
Nyx would soon appear, and her imposing presence would render everyone paralyzed. The protagonist will be summoned to the Velvet Room, where Igor tells him that the bonds he has formed might make a difference towards a being considered impossible to defeat. The Universe Arcana is forged from the combined feelings of friendship and love, giving the protagonist the means to change the fate of the world. With the power of his bonds encapsulated in the card and the spiritual support of the Nyx Annihilation Team, the protagonist fights the sorrow, depression, and apathy of humankind, and uses the Great Seal to finally imprison Nyx.
With Nyx gone, the Dark Hour disappears, and Tartarus reverts to its original form as the Gekkoukan High School building, never to emerge again.
In the Persona 3 epilogue, The Answer, it is revealed that the creation of Tartarus also made a dimensional cove below Port Island, known as the Abyss of Time. The Abyss of Time extended itself underneath the Iwatodai dorm, attracted by the grief and depression of the SEES members after the protagonist passed away in his sleep.
The site of Tartarus was originally that of a research facility on Port Island owned and sponsored by the Kirijo Group, which was performing experiments to harness the power of shadows after learning of their existence from researching the Plume of Dusk that had come into the possession of Kouetsu Kirijo. It was soon found out that shadows can be used to influence time and space, so the research eventually leaned toward creating a time manipulation device. The discovery of The Fall, or the end of the world, was to be the ultimate result of their efforts. Following their employer's nihilistic wishes, the scientists worked on developing the Death Arcana shadow to serve as the harbinger of the phenomenon, believing that it was for the good of mankind.
However, the Fall was thwarted by Eiichiro Takeba, one of the senior researchers who opposed the move. While Death was in an incomplete state, he interrupted the experiment and dispersed Death into twelve parts before they could consume each other. The fragmented shadows went berserk, destroying the lab and everyone within it. This soon brought about a series of time-rending events: Tartarus was formed, and in turn brought about the advent of the Dark Hour.
Chaos reigns on the surrounding areas as blood pools form on the surface mirroring the color of nearby bodies of water, many people turn into coffins, and all electrical devices grind to a sudden halt. One of the incomplete manifestations of Death would later escape from the ruins of the lab, pursued by an Anti-Shadow Weapon created by the Kirijo Group. Unable to defeat the shadow, the weapon seals it inside the mind of a young child who was the only survivor of a car crash on the Moonlight Bridge.
To cover up the incident, the Kirijo Group rebuilds the ruined facility into Gekkoukan High School. Though mainly imprisoned during the normal time frame, shadows can still escape during the Dark Hour whenever Tartarus reforms, preying on human minds who are unprotected by coffin seals. The affliction in which the human victims of shadows can no longer talk, think or feel was identified by the media as Apathy Syndrome; Insiders of the Kirijo Group tag them as "The Lost".
The Kirijo Group, now led by Takeharu Kirijo, worked clandestinely during the phenomenon to find out how it can be stopped. They eventually discovered that people who can summon a Persona are the only ones who can effectively fight against the shadows. At the time however, only Takeharu's young daughter Mitsuru had the potential, and they were hard-pressed to get other people with the same rare ability.
Years later, a researcher named Shuji Ikutsuki was given the task of seeking out and gathering youths with the potential. Unfortunately, the search proved fruitless. Because of this, he secretly began conducting experiments geared towards creating artificial Persona-users in the hope that Tartarus may be formally explored. Out of the thousands of youths summarily subjected to it, only three survived. However, they were mentally unstable and required constant doses of suppressants to keep their artificially-summoned Personas from killing them. Whether or not they were used in an exploration mission is unknown, but the three youths later escaped from Ikutsuki's control.
Now in high school, Mitsuru took it upon herself to help in the search for those with potential, and was able to recruit Akihiko Sanada and Shinjiro Aragaki. As a result, the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) came into being. Ikutsuki was put in the Gekkoukan School Board and designated as the chairman/adviser of the group, officially listing it as a school club. A school-owned dormitory in Iwatodai became the SEES home base, outfitted with special equipment that can remain functional even within the Dark Hour.
However, during an encounter with a wayward shadow in the back alley of Port Island, Shinjiro lost control of his Persona and a civilian casualty was incurred. He left the group ridden with guilt, resolving never to use his power again. SEES would become inactive until Yukari Takeba comes along, led to Port Island by a letter she got from her late father. She reluctantly joins the group when it was found that she also had the potential, but the exploration of Tartarus would not formally start until the protagonist and Junpei Iori were added to the ranks. Possessing the unique ability to summon multiple Personas, the former is temporarily designated as the leader while Mitsuru handles outside support and Akihiko recuperates from recent injuries sustained from the first major shadow attack.
Tartarus is divided into multiple "blocks", each of which has its own unique architecture. With the exception of Monad, the name of each block is taken from the seven worlds of the Quabalah.
- Thebel Block: Floors 2-16
- Arqa Block: Floors 17-64
- Yabbashah Block: Floors 65-114
- Tziah Block: Floors 115-164
- Harabah Block: Floors 165-214
- Adamah Block: Floors 215-263
- Monad Depths: Optional Block which consists of 10 floors.
Because of Tartarus' unpredictable nature, it is not only the structure that changes shape with each expedition. Sometimes, random anomalies occur that can be either beneficial or detrimental to the party.
- Party members will emerge in separate locations after climbing a floor.
- No shadows are present within the floor. The amount of obtainable items might increase, but the time for The Reaper to appear will also decrease.
- There are a lot of Shadows present within the floor area. The kinds of shadows differ depending on the situation:
- All kinds of shadows may appear, and in greater numbers. Experience gain will increase, but the time for The Reaper to appear will also decrease.
- Glowing red shadows only. Experience gain will increase, but the time for The Reaper to appear will also decrease. In P3P, this change is specified and all useful Shuffle Time Cards such as an experience bonus will be cursed.
- Rare Shadows only. The time for The Reaper to appear will decrease. This change is specified in P3P, and will also include cursed Shuffle Time Cards.
- Experience gain will increase within the floor. (Portable only)
- Enemy item drops will increase within the floor. (Portable only)
- The floor will become dark, and auto-map assistance is temporarily disabled. (Portable only)
- The floor is not as hard to scan, and will instantly be fully mapped by Mitsuru/Fuuka. (Portable only)
Persona 4 Arena UltimaxEdit
The entrance of Tartarus appears as one of the new stages in the sequel to Persona 4 Arena. Instead of appearing in Port Island like before, it's now appearing in Inaba.
- A page of a researcher's document can be found at certain floors near sealed stairways. These are actually journal excerpts of a scientist who survived the lab's destruction and now runs an antique store in Paulownia Mall. Some of Elizabeth/Theo's requests involve obtaining these documents before a set deadline.
- In FES and P3P, the background music in Tartarus can be altered when Fuuka Yamagishi takes over outside support. The options consist of remixed tracks from past Persona games.
- In P3P, Elizabeth/Theo will ask the protagonist to rescue people trapped in Tartarus. Accomplishing these missions will grant rewards from Officer Kurosawa at the Police Box in Paulownia Mall. On rare occasions, non-party Social Links can be trapped in Tartarus, and if not rescued, can succumb to apathy syndrome, permanently reversing the link.