Sometimes games can be more than just fun
Persona 5 just released in the United States after nearly 4 full years of delays and push backs. Pretty much everyone in the Hey Poor Player office is excited for the next game in this groundbreaking franchise and discussion has been ramping up as the release date draws ever nearer. I in particular have been eagerly awaiting the day that I can get my hands on it. Heck, I even went a bit overboard and got both the premium edition for the PlayStation 4 as well as the standard PlayStation 3 edition – even though I know full well that the only major difference is shorter load times. I have a personal connection to the Persona series. Persona 3 Portable kept me from doing one of the stupidest things a person can do, which we will get into later. I’ve talked about this in a little detail during various episodes of the Hey Poor Podcast, but with the next installment coming up tomorrow, I thought that I would share it with everyone now.
Note: this article will have some spoilers, but I can’t tell the story without them. It’s nearly a decade since the release, so I don’t mind saying anything.
During the end of 2011, I was in a massive state of depression. Without going into too many personal details, I was working a dead end job that was draining on me, I dropped almost every friend I had in high school, I wasn’t continuing my education, and by the end of the year I was spending my nights alone in a car. Forget about playing video games, I wasn’t even able to keep myself afloat. Fortunately, my closest friend knew a bit about my plight and lent me his PSP and a copy of Persona 3 Portable, knowing that I have been a massive fan of RPGs since childhood. Begrudgingly, I started my first playthrough.
Boy, from beginning to end, I was hooked. From the very first time I booted up Persona 3, the funky rap-rock soundtrack and the vibrant anime-ified graphics immediately captured everything I love in life. While nowadays the “Teenagers having to fight to save the world” plot is cliche, Persona 3 found its own niche in the genre with Social Links (connections with NPCs in the game) and a time management system that was revolutionary. No two playthroughs of Persona 3 are going to be exactly alike, as each time you may want to focus on different Social Links to power up your Personas. See, In Persona 3 you get Personas: your true feelings turned into a Shadow killing machine that can be powered up as you make friends during the game. Spending a lot of time with the elderly book-loving couple can rank up a whole branch of your monstrous alter egos. If you disregard the kindly old geezers to help maintain your high school’s order with the Student Council, then you’ll rank up a separate branch of personas entirely. You can’t spend all of your time socializing, as you also have to study, get part time jobs, and clear the ever-growing tower that your school mutates into at night.
As I played through the extremely long Persona 3 Portable, it was obvious that my depression was slowly changing. From seriously planning to jump off a cliff to ever so slightly feeling able to move again without hating myself. Every step of the story in Persona 3 had me getting better mentally. The characters in Persona 3 go through their own personal hell while the game continues. A character loses his first love, family members get killed, and a betrayal rocks the group’s core on why they even fight in the first place. However, no one gives up. No one quits , not even when Shinjiro gets shot and is unable to be saved. The game continues, and the main characters gain new confidence in themselves and awaken newer, stronger powers. Once the final boss is set to be defeated, you must sacrifice yourself to save the entire world. While this has been used a few times before, the finale of Persona 3 rocked me to my soul. I remember when I finally ended the game and the final credits rolled with a song that broke the camel’s back for me. I broke down and cried.
I am not entirely sure how Persona 3 did it, but once that finale rolled on the PSP screen, I felt better than I had in years. I was able to find the tiny light that I still had within me to finally get my life back together. As the year ended and 2013 came in, I got over my doubts and got a job that could feed me, I connected with newer, healthier people than those I lost the year before and I thought less and less about wanting to end it all. Persona 3, and its portable counterpart, is the greatest video game experience I’ve ever had. No longer do I scoff when people say that a game has “saved” them, nor do I take life as the most unbearable thing in existence. I still suffer through bouts of depression here and there, but I know now that I can continue on going through life without looking for a ledge to fall off of.
This is why I am always willing to give Atlus my money when the next Persona game gets released. While I can’t say that Persona 3 will affect everyone the same way it did me, I do encourage everyone to play it if they have the chance. Who knows, maybe it will make you feel just a little like I did only a few years ago.