Let me tell you something. I am this close to breaking up with Persona 3.
I bought the game because I love Persona 4 so much, and I haven’t even actually played it myself. I’ve only watched the guys at Giant Bomb do the playing but I formed this weird attachment to the characters and I really wanted to play the game myself, but we haven’t had a chance to buy it. When I found Persona 3 at the game store I thought it was the natural thing to get so I could have a different Persona experience.
Boy, am I ever having a different experience.
The main dungeon (the only dungeon) is called Tartarus and it shows up at midnight every night. It has a zillion floors and you travel up them fighting all manner of terrible monsters in the way you do in JRPGs. There are two problems, though, and they’re both sources of stress to me. They’re also both The Reaper, a super-hard enemy/boss that can wipe out your party in one hit. One way for him to show up is if you draw a “cursed” card, the other way is staying on one floor too long. I spend a good portion of my time in Tartarus stressed out that he’s going to show up, wipe my party, and I’ll lose all the progress I’ve made for the last half hour or so. Did I mention there’s only two save points in the whole game?
My recent we’re-breaking-up moment came the other day when I was playing the “full moon operation” for this part of the game. I’d already had a seriously stressful time trying to beat one of the other bosses in the game and repeatedly getting wiped out, but I finally beat him and was super-excited about it. Then the full moon started and my troubles began. You see, you get to save the night before the full moon but not any time during it. This means that you have to either win the fight the first time around or get prepared to do the entire thing over.
Here’s the deal. I have played enough JRPGs to get wiped out by a lot of bosses. It happens. Depending on the boss, it can happen multiple times. What I haven’t had to deal with is 15+ minutes of unskippable cutscenes and maneuvering to get to the fight, during which I get wiped out and then have to restart and go back through ANOTHER 15+ minutes of the same cutscenes to get back where I was.
It’s not too much to ask for a save point before the boss battle, you know. Persona 4 has one. Games as far back as Chrono Trigger have them. Pretty much every JRPG in history has had them. It’s standard to see one beside a door and know that – oh, damn! – a boss fight is coming. It’s so standard it’s become a trope.
I’m not giving up on Persona 3 just yet because I like the story and the characters (even if Sexy Shirtless Akihiko from P4 Arena is three years younger, shirted, and kind of weedy here), but I’m getting progressively more frustrated with it as time goes on. Games are supposed to be fun, you know, not stressful, and I’m slowly creeping up on my breaking point.