When I first started playing Person 3 Portable late last year, I had no idea of what laid ahead.
I tried, and failed at the original Shim Megami Tensei. But it was interesting, nonetheless. I remember being highly intrigued by Persona 4 and even more so by Persona 5. After playing a teensy bit of Persona 4 for myself and missing the gist of what was going on, I knew that I needed a more stable base in place before tackling it. Persona 3 Portable seemed like the perfect place to start, both for that reason and because I needed something mobile to play on my daily commute. I figured I’d find something enjoyable in the title, as with any game, and that something exciting would come of the journey. What I truly didn’t expect is how emotional that journey would turn out to be.
110 hours and 10+ game months later, and here I am with Persona 3 Portable now complete. Let’s see how things played out.
Spoilers, spoilers, SPOILERS!
It’s January 20. 2010, and defeating Nyx – the ender of all things – remains the team’s primary goal. Ryoji, Nyx’s harbinger, remains alive, and the day of the final battle is January 31st. It’s mostly been business as usual for everyone. Jin, my protagonist, and his friends are all still going to school, but 1/31 looms, and it’s hard for them not to think about it. There’s a lot of talk about being prepared, and most of the team members’ Personas, save for Koromaru, have changed to new and upgraded forms. And with Ryoji’s initial warning that destroying Nyx would also destroy all their memories of Tartarus and The Dark Hour, the gang promises to meet at a specific place and time after the final battle. The remaining days in January are spent mostly in the upper most levels of the Tartarus.
The big day finally arrives – January 31, 2010 – and the final levels of Tartarus open. As there’s no time like the present, it’s off to the final showdown. Expecting nothing but meeting Nyx, it’s a little surprising when Strega members Jin and Takaya show up first. Since everyone’s decently leveled into the high 70s (the protagonist is at level 80), their battles are challenging but not overly difficult. It’s especially nice, still, that the team is allowed to heal between battles, because what happens when Nyx shows up is serious business.
As the most the universe’s most powerful being, Nyx has numerous Arcanas at her disposal, and she’s able to switch between them during battle. (I wish I could say how many different ones she used, but I lost count after ten.) The process of keeping up with Nyx each time she switches Arcanas is intense, and thankfully Fuuka’s able to do a great job at guiding the team through Nyx’s strengths and weaknesses. Thankfully, also, Jin had stockpiled enough healing items to keep the team alive through the thick of it.
Eventually Nyx switches to the Arcana Death, which seems pretty final…and it is. The Nyx Annihilation Team lives up to its namesake.
Hmmm, not so much.
Without so much as pause the “defeated” Nyx ascends into the night sky and into the moon, which itself opens up, showing its true mechanical form, to receive Nyx. In doing so, the giant, red-eyed “moon” started to descend towards earth, and Tartarus is revealed to the population. The end of days seems nigh. (Much to the delight of all the remaining “salvation” cultists.)
Meanwhile, at the top of Tartarus, a still-alive Takaya rejoices, too, this as the team is being both crushed by an unseen force and taunted by Nyx.
But all is not lost. As the team drifts into unconsciousness, (my) Jin travels to the Velvet Room where Igor imparts to him the power of the Universe, which is imbued with the power of Jin’s social links. With this new, singular power in tow, Jin is transported to the moon. As his friends throw out words of support, Jin summarily defeats Nyx. Eventually the team members, including Jin, find themselves back on Earth with Tartarus dissolving away. They did it! They saved the world!
With Nyx gone, the game skips ahead to early March. It’s graduation day, and just as Ryoji had said, no one remembers anything about Tartarus or the Dark Hour, except, that is, for Aigis and Jin. She approaches him about the group’s promise. Eventually everyone else remembers as well, and the team convenes on the school’s rooftop for a very bittersweet reunion. For, you see, Jin had fulfilled Pharos’s contract from the beginning of the game, the one that gave him free will to do as he saw fit, part of which was what ensued in order for him to defeat Nyx. And it had taken its toll. In Aigis’s arms and surrounded by his friends, Jin passed on.
That last act, even typing it out now, brings a few tears to my eyes. As I said at the beginning of this post, this is what I expected the least – becoming emotionally connected to the characters, to my character, to Jin, and feeling incredibly sad over his sacrifice. It invoked that old cliché of “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” and I didn’t. I really didn’t. Throughout this 100+ hour playthrough it never once occurred to me that there’d be anything more to Jin’s social links than leveling up. Hindsight being 20/20, the game wasn’t about saving the world at all. It was about friendship. What broke my heart the most was not necessarily Jin’s own death, but that fact that his friends had lost him after all that they had been through. I often questioned why the game frequently took the characters away from their main mission, sending them on field trips or making them hang out together.
Now I get it.
I’ll go ahead and list my final stats here, though they aren’t much changed from the last update. Thanks for joining me on this journey with this fascinating game! Now I feel ready to someday tackle a new Persona game…someday. I think I may start up a new playthrough as the female protagonist, but for now, my time with Persona 3 Portable is over.
Persona 3 Portable stats (final)
Character: Jin Arai
Play time: 110 hours
Date (in game): March 5, 2010
Social ranks attained (listed by Arcana):
(0) Fool – Rank Max
(1) Magician – Rank MAX
(4) Emperor – Rank MAX
(6) Lovers – Rank 2
(7) Chariot – Rank MAX
(8) Justice – Rank MAX
(9) Hermit – Rank MAX
(10) Fortune – Rank MAX
(11) Strength – Rank MAX
(12) Hanged – Rank 6
(13) Death – Rank MAX
(15) Devil – Rank 2
(16) Tower – Rank 1
(17) Star – Rank 4
(18) Moon – Rank 7
(20) Judgement – Rank MAX
(20) Aeon – Rank 3
Odin (Emperor) – Level 62
Melchizedeck (Justice) – Level 65
Skadi (Empress) – Level 80
Nidhoggr (Aeon) – Level 72
Saturnus (Star) – Level 80
Gabriel (Empress) – Level 69
All images taken by cary, Persona 3 Portable © Atlus, Sony (2009-2011)