Persona 3 is about character. In my final days I lost the will to climb Tartarus. I knew I was strong enough to take on what was to come. Instead, I spent my days spending time with friends I hadn’t had the time to fully develop my relationships with.
I slurped ramen with Nozomi, helped work things out with Mamoru, and grew close to Yukari. At night I spend time drinking with Mutatsu and watching a bummed out Vincent mope around.
Some nights I would work at the Chagall Cafe, hoping to work up the courage to stomach Fuuka’s cooking.
As I grew closer to some, I knew that I was at the peak of our relationship. I’d never spend another moment with them that would be new or unique. Yukari would love me no matter what, and Mamoru disappeared with his family, looking for a way to support them.
When the final call came, I reflected on the people I would likely never spend any more time with. Fuuka and I came so close to becoming more than simple friends, and I’d never know how the business with Bunkichi and Mitsuko worked out.
I regretted it more than the time I didn’t spend training, all of Elizabeth and Margaret’s endless side tasks I left incomplete. I actually felt that I spent too much time doing them. I felt like the father who is consumed by work, isolated from his family.
This is what Tartarus was to me. Work.
By the final days, I dreaded every encounter in Tartarus, every floor I had yet to climb. I half-heartedly tackled Margaret’s challenges and looked only for the fastest way to ascend each tower, ignoring the piles of treasure to be found.
In my mind, Persona 3 would almost have been a better game without combat. While the Social Link system provides motivation to interact with others, and gives a tangible measurement of the strength and growth you achieve with the help of others, it oftentimes is drags on too long. Aside from the thematic considerations of the removal of combat, I found that mechanically it was simply an accessory to the experience.
P3 is a different beast than its predecessors. Its a character driven story shackled by the dungeon crawling origins of the Shin Megami Tensei series. Arguably, the Persona series could do well to minimize, or even eliminate it’s combat system and still carry it’s core engagement. The JRPG genre is generally could use a reexamining of the role of its combat systems (an argument covered in more detail by Extra Credits’ Western vs. Japanese RPG series ).
I fought to end Tartarus. Not because it took a thrill from doing so, but because it was dividing me from the time I wanted to spend with my friends. Catching only a glimpse of what a world without Tartarus would look like, I can only dream of the times I could have had with the others.