I've had a mixed relationship with Japanese role-playing games. The "Final Fantasy" series started to bore me ever since "Final Fantasy VII." The cinematic storylines turned stale, even as I sought to defeat the ultimate badass, Sephiroth.
But when I first saw "Persona 3," I fell in love with JRPGs again.
I first saw one of my dorm room neighbors playing the game. I was actually waiting to play some Capcom fighting games with him and a couple other friends. While we were waiting, he popped in a PS2 game called "Persona 3."
I'd never even heard of the RPG at the time, so I thought this was one of those cheap rip-off games, like "Star Ocean: 'Till the End of Time." However, the first cinematic scenes of the anime characters took my breath away.
I didn't have time to play my PS2 and I didn't have much money in my bank account at the time. I had to save up my funds to eventually purchase this anime masterpiece. After playing through the first few hours of the game, I just couldn't stop playing. It was like I was actually playing the part of my favorite anime protagonists.
It wasn't just the anime cut-scenes that stole my heart. It was the offbeat dialogue trees. You actually had some control over what you could say to the other characters. "Persona 3" didn't just look like an anime game, it immersed me into an incredible anime world, where I could live next to some amazing anime-style characters. I could even have illicit relationships with the girls if I put enough effort into my social links.
There were times when the game irritated me. The dungeon music of Tartarus sounded extremely repetitive and the floor designs looked a little stale. However, this was an insignificant price to pay for the experience of becoming your own ultimate Japanese badass.
I then broadened my horizons by starting "Persona 4." At first glance, this game looked even more like a timeless pop icon for the 00s decade. After a few days, though, it struck a much deeper chord. It took me on a serene vacation in the rural areas of Japan. On some days during the summer vacation period of the game, the music stopped completely. I could only hear the beautiful sounds of the small-town environment and the chirping cicadas.
And the music was excellent. I don't know how the game's composer did it, but he packed in all the J-Pop-styled music that I really love to listen to. Of course, "Persona 3" did the same thing, but "Persona 4" songs sounded like actual songs with singers and rich instrumentation. I honestly didn't think it was possible to pack that much high-quality music on a PS2 until I played this game.
I'd never even heard of the "Shin Megami Tensei" games until "Persona 3" and Persona 4" came into my life. Now I'm on a quest to buy as many "Shin Megami Tensei" games as I can find. I could go on and on about all the amazing educational value of "Shin Megami Tensei," the foreign religious icons you can summon and the cultural importance of the "Persona" games in my life. I'm sure I sound like a walking advertisement, but the "Persona" games will always stay in my heart forever.