Monday, April 16, 2012
My Thougts on Persona 3 Portable Thus Far
So, as you all know, I've been playing Persona 3 Portable lately, quite a lot I should say, and I do believe I've officially hit end-game (and I don't think I'm being premature in saying that), so I kind of wanted to talk about how I think about the game to this point as well as offer my idea on how it's going to unfold. Either so when I beat it and I'm right, I can point at this post and say "I called it!" or, if I'm wrong, I can point to this post and say "Boy, I sure was off, huh?". Either way, it's fun to be had by all as I'm no stranger to saying things and then being completely wrong in predicting them, as we all know. It's kind of a running gag and all for this blog, so I know you're all familiar with it or will be. Regardless, since this will have quite a few Persona 3 Spoilers, I'm taking it upon myself to state that fact as well as using a page break as I have become accustomed to doing in situations like this.
So, below this point, thar be spoilers.
First up, to clear up any possible confusion, I am currently in December, the tenth specifically, so I am actually beyond the "We're going to fight the last shadow, absolutely nothing about this can go wrong!" false endgame. And come on, was anyone really surprised when the game -didn't- end after we killed the Hanged Man? Really? I imagine not. Regardless, I -do- think this is endgame now since the official end boss has been named (Nyx) and the big, hinging moment is quickly approaching (Deciding whether or not to kill Ryoji, which I don't think will be an -actual- choice). Certainly, "We're all going to die" seems to be endgame-worthy and I figure that the game will progress as per normal til New Year's wherein the Ryoji scene will happen and that will power the game into the final stretch. That...will probably consist of the game going on as per normal until Nyx arrives, likely on a Full Moon.
I gotta say, I like it. I really, really like the story and even though I picked some nits here and there with my buddy Haplo, that I will likely explain here, I like it overall and it's pretty much my entire reason for continuing to play. Because I really, really don't like Tartarus. I expected at some point it would grow on me, but I'm on floor 190 and, no, it has not grown at me at all and in fact, I dread going into it. Because I know that ever encounter could end up with me dying to a really unfortunate set of circumstances, like a Hamaon or Mudoon landing on the Main Character now that I am out of Homonculi, or just getting everyone fucking slaughtered from Blades of Fury for no real reason whatsoever. Since it seems to do an undetermined amount of random damage twice to everyone or sometimes just however much it feels like. And eventually it becomes a concern of either paying the clock at the entrance upwards of 300,000 yen to be healed up and good to go with SP (since why would I be able to buy SP-restoring items) or just...leaving to come back in a day or two. Which further interrupts my enjoyment of the good part of the game.
Of course, as I've said and alluded to, the story isn't -all- great. Something I'm really picking at and have been since I encountered it, is the Face-Heel turn from Ikutsuki and the sudden "You must all be sacrificed" theory. I've wracked my brain about it, Haplo's brain about it, and I've come to the conclusion that it was....just really superfluous. I mean, look at it this way: SEES was created at Ikutsuki's behest to hunt down the 12 Greater Shadows to bring them together in Death, either because he though doing so would summon Death, who would then get in on that or because he knew that Death was sealed within the main character and knew that if he killed all 12 Shadows (as he did), then they would join with Death within him to summon Ryoji as the Appriser. And, you know, whatever, it worked, and I can't really pick at that since there's just not a lot known that I can apply to that. He wanted those 12 shadows dead and they died, he won.
What he did directly after....I just can't figure it out. I don't know if he simply went insane in victory, which seems a bit weak, or if he was just -dumb- because there was really no reason to kill Kirijo, nor the Protagonist, or at least not one that we were handed. Sure, you can kind of figure that Kirijo would have Ikutsuki's ass the second he realized that everything got messed up, but I figure Ikutsuki could've weaseled his way out of it. Haplo said that if the Protagonist was killed, that Nyx's arrival would be almost instantaneous (as its his bond with Ryoji that gave Ryoji human feelings and thoughts and thus dampened his role as The Appriser considerably) but that's not really explained in the game, nor is there really a reason why Ikutsuki would know that. I can totally reason that Ikutsuki would know about the Death angle because he could look at Aigis' recording or whatever, but there's really nothing saying -why- he needed to kill anyone.
In all reality, he accomplished his goal. The Bell tolled to announce the arrival of The Appriser, meaning the World was now measured in months and days rather than millenia. His goal to have Nyx summoned was thusly 'in progress' in a sense that it is an unstoppable thing. Because the arrival of The Appriser is to announce to coming of Nyx to cleanse the world of life. There is absolutely no reason why he couldn't just then book it and wait out the end of the world because he knows it's coming. So the rationale seems to be, then, that he's offering the party and Kirijo as sacrifices to Nyx for special treatment. Specifically he mentions the Prince (who I assume is the Appriser) and then, after he's shot, he says he was supposed to be King of this world. Which.....doesn't make any semblance of sense. He was expecting Nyx to make him the King of the World of The Lost because he summoned her and killed a few people [a couple months ago] (assuming the 'killing the protagonist to instantly summon Nyx' thing is pure conjecture, but regardless) when, in reality, Nyx is the quite literal Bearer of Death?
I don't buy it.
But you know what? I get it. It's a JRPG that's quite close to an anime and thus, there is a necessitation for drama and insane reveals. It had to happen to further the story since "Ikutsuki is fucking -gone-" is kind of anti-climactic. But at the same time, they could've saved that with suddenly finding him before New Year's or something, maybe even working with Strega (since you cannot tell me he wasn't already) or something, so even if Ikutsuki had just disappeared like a smart person, there was the chance for drama later on. As it stands, I cannot think of one reason that makes sense within the story for the dramatic rooftop of Tartarus moment that is satisfactory. Even if he went 'crazy', he didn't seem to go crazy enough, so there goes that. He knows too much and initiated too much for the classic "Brain-washed cultist" angle, and the suggested angle of Nihilism is shot to hell when, as I said, his end goal was apparently to be named King by Nyx, unless that was just a throw-away line which it shouldn't have been because he literally said it before falling off a 180 story building to his death.
Following that, thanks to the way that Portable's Ryoji reveal is handled, I was literally confused for hours until Haplo and I chatted about it earlier and managed to make sense of it. You see, in non-Portable version of the game, there is apparently a video that shows Death, not Ryoji, fighting Aigis which makes sense because, well, they did fight and Aigis sealed him inside the protagonist. In Portable, you just get the two sprites talking to each other and saying all this stuff that I imagine they say in the video. If there's a screenshot or something of Death fighting Aigis, I missed it, and certainly introducing Ryoji as Death is a sure-fire way to confuse the -hell- out of everyone. Because Ryoji is not Death, he is The Appriser which is Death plus Hanged Man, Lovers, Hierophant, etc. etc. combined. Ryoji is a being of 13 Shadows, given Human form from the time spent in the protagonist. So he -is- Death in the same breath that he is the other Twelve Greater Shadows, and that's something that eluded me for a while because of the presentation.
I imagine I have a few other nits about the story to this point, but those were pretty much the main things here. Now, my main concern is just voicing what I think the story is leading up to. And....I gotta tell you, I'm not looking forward to it if I'm correct. (Clearly, don't tell me if I am or not in the comments because if you spoil it, I will hate you forever) So, let me point out a few things that I think are worth mentioning in my view of the ending here. First off, the whole Chidori angle, what with culminating by Chidori giving life to prevent death in Junpei thing. Second, the fact that they keep bringing up that goddamn contract in a way that's not even letting me try and forget about it. "I chooseth this fate of mine own free will." with the caveat added by Igor that "You have to pay the consequences for your actions!". And thirdly, the fact that, well, the protagonist accidentally doomed the world to extinction by carrying Death within him and slaying the other twelve Shadows to join them together with Death, thus making The Appriser. Of, technically, his own free will.
Now, basically, I'm pretty sure this is going to culminate in fighting Nyx in an incomprehensible amount of forms (or, like, two or three, whatevs) with the general theme being "Shit, we can't kill the inventor of Death". From which the main character will have to then give his life to give life back to the world in the form of cancelling out Nyx, the Bringer of Death. 'I chooseth 'this fate' of mine own free will'. 'You have to face the consequences of your actions!' It's all just a little too close in proximity for me to -not- consider it as the end-all option here. I imagine the only reason he's able to is because he had the presence of Death within him for ten years and, in a sense, gave rise to The Appriser as well, suggesting a Duality. Or maybe just part of that or, hell, maybe he's just fucking special since he can switch Personas which is either the result of Protagonist Magic or because he had a Greater Shadow in him for ten years. Either way, I'm hedging my bet on the Main Character dying to get rid of Nyx, and I am incredibly annoyed at that prospect.
Just in a purely mechanical sense this pisses me off because I don't like when games give you a Protagonist that is, in essence, on borrowed time because of this. (Speaking only of games with a group of people and not one man against the world scenarios or similar) The game makers know he's going to die and thus they -insist- that he cannot die until that point where they want him to die. Which, in a sense where a whole party is knocked out, I can accept death as a thing that happens (not considering games that don't explain why, in a group of 11-108 people, only three or four of them fight at a time) and that's not so bad. But when I can't let my main character get knocked out (because that is fucking exactly what happens to everyone else) even -if- the other party members who are stocked to the brim with revival methods, yet he's going to die at the end of the game? NAH. Not to mention that, well, the protagonist in Persona 3 gets knocked out at least three times as part of the narrative. So it's not even consistent within itself.
I'm not really sure what to expect out of the rest of the game besides that, however. I don't know if we'll eventually kill Strega, they'll kill themselves (for real this time) or we'll come into a shaky alliance. Nor do I really care, to tell the truth. Takaya is an interesting character for only so long, because eventually he just starts going into CRYPTIC BULLSHIT mode, thanks in no small part to that little asshole Jin, and they just seem to show up to make you think about things that are then ham-fistedly exposed to you when, in all reality, it would be a lot fucking easier if they'd just not be so damn cryptic. Or murderous. Or assholes. And....really, they're kind of the only non-party members that matter anymore. Since Ikutsuki is dead. Dead, I say! And if he's not, then I call shennanigans of the highest order.
Now, I just have to hope that I can tolerate the Gameplay enough to -get- to the end of the game. As I've said several times, I just hate Tartarus, and exploring it is becoming a chore. A chore that could end up with me losing hours of progress in a sitting. A chore that could bring me endless amounts of rage that I won't know what to do with. It's not 'tee hee it's just hard, I like a challenge', it's "Goddamnit, if you fucking use Mudoon on the Protagonist and kill him after I've grinded for an hour, I will track down your parents and end them with a butter knife, you son of a bitch". It is literally anti-fun. I'm at a cross-roads where I have to grind so that I won't die but I could die while grinding because fucking everyone knows instant-death attacks. If just -one- of them hits the protagonist in a particularly long grinding session, done. And I don't like the thought of fighting a couple battles, returning to the entrance and saving, going back up, fighting a few, returning to the entrance. Yet, if I want to reliably gain and keep progress, that's exactly what I'll have to do. This is not good design.
Ugh, the things I do for a good story.