I think of all the games I’ve played, I’ve probably spent the most time with Persona 3. This is greatly influenced by the release of P3P where I can play the game wherever I want whenever I want. So I’ve clocked a lot of hours on it.
Personally I find Persona 4 the superior of the two games gameplay and storywise but I don’t rank it as my favourite of the two for a few reasons. It doesn’t quite have the emotional impact that Persona 3 gives. There are sad moments and there are happy moments and you really connect with all the characters but, at the end of the game you’re feeling happy and accomplished. There is a future for everyone involved.(This isn’t about Persona 4 anyway) In Persona 3, the happy ending is bittersweet at best.
Each character in Persona 3 has their own tragic past, Ken watched his mother get murdered, Yukari’s father was killed working for the Kirijo Group, Mitsuru feels the burden of a father who lives with the guilt of a parent who helped create the situation the world now faces, Akihiko is haunted by the loss of his younger sister, Shinjiro punishes himself for the accidental death of Ken’s mother. Even Fuuka and Junpei have skeletons in their closets, no one really starts happy when they join SEES.
But as the year goes on and further tragedies mount, all members of SEES become a family to one another and conquer their demons. By December 31st, every member of SEES is ready to fight the impossible and are looking towards a future where everyone lives and laughs. They see no other choice. Forgetting everything they’ve learned about themselves and others is not something they want. They want to fight and win. They’re all willing to throw their lives away for that chance.
And that’s just what the main character of Persona 3 does. The game does it so subtly too. Shit’s going down and it looks like it’s over. But the final battle theme is playing and a glimmer of hope is graced upon the player. There is one final skill they can unleash, granted to them due to their connections to the world around them and the future they want to see. The player sees the HP cost and it clicks…but at the same time it doesn’t. The connection is there but you just don’t want to see it and so you don’t think about it.
After the battle, the main character is reunited with their friends and life goes on. Eventually most people forget about their memories until March 5th. The player character is slowly becoming more and more tired, unable to continue on but they must, because of that one promise they made.
And so March 5th comes around and graduation takes place. The main character waits on the rooftop with Aigis and eventually the members of SEES regain their memories. And just when the player is smiling in earnest that they’ll all be reunited and be together in the future they helped build, the main character passes on, happy to know that their friends remember it all.
It’s heartbreaking. And even worse still is the knowledge that their soul is not at rest. Their great sacrifice wasn’t just death, they’ve chained themselves to protect humanity from its own wishes, forever punishing their soul and taking the blows to save a world the main character grew to love despite their own losses.
March 5th just reminds me so much of how we have to continue on no matter what. To make this world a better place and to cherish the people we love, even if we’re too embarrassed to say it. To never take people for granted and make the effort to remember them in our lives.
Persona 3 is just a game, but its lessons are something everyone must remember always. Don’t forget them.
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