It’s a high school brawl as Tiger and Rabbit clash head-to-head to see which Persona game reigns supreme. Is it Persona 3? Originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2007, it received an ultimate edition called FES in 2008 and a PlayStation Portable release in 2010. Or is it Persona 4? First released in 2008 on the PlayStation 2, it was later remade as Persona 4 Golden on PlayStation Vita in 2012. Both games are similar but have striking differences. Tiger and Rabbit set out to prove which Persona game is the best.
Tiger: Persona 3 or Persona 4, which one is better?
Rabbit: This again? We’ve had this conversation multiple times.
Tiger: Exactly. I thought it was time we finally put this on tape and officially battle it out.
Rabbit: ^crosses arms^ You know I’m going to win this one, right? That’s the only outcome possible.
Tiger: *shakes head* Keep dreaming, there is no way my beloved Mitsuru could lose to your Rise.
Rabbit: She’s so old though.
Tiger: She’s awesome but I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Rabbit: In this edition of Versus Mode, Tiger and I will be fighting over which Persona game is the best, Persona 3 or Persona 4? I, obviously, am choosing Persona 4.
Tiger: And Persona 3 is the game I’m going to use to pulverize you with.
Rabbit: I dare you to try.
Tiger: While the games are very similar, after all they are from the same series, there are some major differences.
Rabbit: They’re both developed and published by Atlus, both directed by Hashino Katsura, share the same artist in Soejima Shigenori, and the music for both games was composed by Meguro Shoji.
Tiger: They both appeared first on PlayStation 2 before getting expanded versions. The two games also share the same in-game world with cameos of Persona 3 characters in Persona 4. A lot of the characters from both games also appear in Persona 4 Arena and Ultimax, the fighting game spin-off series.
Rabbit: We’ll be focusing on Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden in this Versus Mode.
Tiger: Persona 3 takes place in Iwatodai, a city built and managed by the Kirijo Corporation. There’s this strange event called the Dark Hour, a period of time that separates the days. It results in the majority of people turning into coffins, unaware of what happens within this hour. During this time, reality is changed with creatures called Shadows, roaming the city and preying on the minds of those who are still conscious. Being attacked by Shadows in the Dark Hour leaves the victim in a catatonic state outside of this time, which the media refers to as Apathy Syndrome. The local high school, Gekkoukan High School, also is affected by the Dark Hour, transforming into the labyrinthine tower known as Tartarus. All of these events lead to the creation of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad or SEES, a group of Gekkoukan High School students who are determined to solve the mystery that is the Dark Hour.
Rabbit: Wow, that’s kind of depressing.
Tiger: To me, Persona 3 is the darker of the two stories, even though 4 centers on a bunch of murders.
Rabbit: That is true. Persona 4 is located in the rural town of Inaba, where unexplained murders have taken place. This usually peaceful town is now plagued by strange fog and bodies being hung from television antennas, to which the police have no known cause of death. During this time, students at Yasogami High School hear a rumor about the Midnight Channel. If you watch a switched-off TV during a rainy midnight, you will see your soulmate but so far, the only people seen on this channel have turned up dead.
Tiger: See, how is that happier? People don’t really die during the Dark Hour; they just get turned into vegetables.
Rabbit: But Iwatodai is a depressing location, especially as the game progresses. Eventually the entire city is covered in garbage and doomsday graffiti.
Tiger: There is an “end of the world” vibe going on at the end of the game, that’s for sure. Even with the murders though, Inaba stays pretty upbeat. I don’t know, I like the characters and all but I just found Persona 3’s group to be more grounded. I mean, a teen idol, really?
Rabbit: Persona 3 has a death robot that is obsessed with the main character. And what about your best bud falling in love with the enemy?
Tiger: At least there is an actual enemy in Persona 3, I disliked Persona 4’s ultimate bad guy. Yes, it was fun not knowing who the murderer was at first but eventually, I felt that we got strung along in the end.
Rabbit: I do feel that Persona 4 has the best characters, like Narukami Yu.
Tiger: Point of order, we’ll be using the Anime names since the protagonists can be renamed by the players and because some of the manga use different names as well.
Rabbit: While his parents work abroad, Yu moves to Inaba and stays with his uncle, Dojima Ryotaro and cousin, Nanako. While attending Yasogami, he befriends fellow Inaba transplant Hanamura Yosuke. Yu is also joined by two of your classmates, Satonaka Chie and Amagi Yukiko. They travel through a TV and find themselves in the world of Shadows. Later on in the game, they are also joined by biker-esque Tatsumi Kanji, mascot Teddie, and idol Kujikawa Rise, yay for Rise, and detective Shirogane Naoto. Together, they race against time to stop the murders of those who appear on the Midnight Channel.
Tiger: I thought I would like Yukiko a lot more than I did. She looks like your typical yamato nadeshiko. A shy girl who’s elegant and popular at school but doesn’t realize it yet and she has some odd quirks.
Rabbit: Like her laughing fits that seem to happen at strange times.
Tiger: I gotta admit that her Shadow was one of my favorite moments. Pretty funny stuff.
Rabbit: Yes, all of your teammates have to face their Shadow selves in the TV world before they unlock their Persona. This Shadow represents their darker selves with a lot of personal fears and anxieties manifesting themselves in overt ways. Kanji’s is the best by far.
Tiger: Yes, that one probably takes the cake. I thought most of them were very well done except Naoto’s Shadow. That entire character felt rushed and to me, Naoto appeared a little too late in my opinion. So, I know Rise is your favorite but do you have a second fav?
Rabbit: I think Chie is my other favorite, she’s the most normal out of all of them and I really enjoy her can-do attitude. I actually thought she would’ve been my top pick, since I usually don’t go with the Idol type but Rise won me over in the end. Plus, she’s actually really helpful in combat, unlike Fuuka.
Tiger: Yeah… but the rest of the Persona 3 cast are awesome! Yuuki Makoto is also a transfer student but unlike Yu, his parents died in an accident in Iwatodai ten years earlier. He naturally has the ability to function in the Dark Hour, which is revealed when he first arrives at the SEES dormitory. There he meets classmate Takeba Yukari, and upperclassman Kirijo Mitsuru. Mitsuru’s classmate, Sanada Akihiko, lures a powerful Shadow back to the dorm, which overpowers the SEES members. Yukari takes Makoto to the roof, in hopes of saving him, only to be attacked herself. Makoto then picks up her Evoker, a gun-like item that summons Personae, and uses it to defeat the Shadow. After that, he officially joins SEES along with fellow students Iori Junpei and Yamagishi Fuuka, android Aigis, ex SEES member Aragaki Shinjiro, elementary student Amada Ken, and the awesome dog Koromaru.
Rabbit: I LOVE Koromaru! He’s the dog's woof!
Tiger: Of course you would love the dog. He is pretty great. He was one of my mains and did very well until the last freaking boss.
Rabbit: *giggles* You also love Mitsuru, I don’t get that.
Tiger: She’s very cool and mature. She also is an Ice Queen and can heal. I probably would have liked Yukari more if she wasn’t an absolute idiot in battle. Speaking of which, this is where I feel the games are the most different. In Persona 3, you can only control Makoto which can be bothersome.
Rabbit: Persona 4 isn’t like that at all.
Tiger: *sticks out tongue*
Rabbit: So who were your mains during your last playthrough?
Tiger: Makoto of course, with Koromaru, Yukari, and Mitsuru. I could destroy every enemy with ease, even Death I had no problem with, until the last freaking boss. Apparently, according to a few guides, Koromaru and Mitsuru are the worst characters to bring with you to the final battle, go figure.
Rabbit: Here we go; another Night Queen rant.
Tiger: *throws up hands* Yes! Another Night Queen rant, freaking Night Queen! That move is unfair on so many levels! Not only does the final boss get to throw out attacks two turns in a row, freaking Night Queen can charm, enrage, and panic all of your characters!
Rabbit: And we all know what happens next.
Tiger: I tried to beat that boss so many times, I eventually had to backtrack to an old save, replay almost two in-game months worth, and then face the boss with my newly leveled up characters. Do you know what happened then?!
Rabbit: We all know what happened next.
Tiger: *waving arms in air* The boss didn’t use freaking Night Queen once on me, not once! I did all that work for nothing!
Rabbit: You did finally beat the game though.
Tiger: All that time grinding so I could defeat that move and Night Queen was never used.
Rabbit: At least in Persona 4, I never had any issues like you had where Yukari refused to do anything, even though she could have healed you because, in Persona 4 you can control everyone. Yay!
Tiger: It also makes the game much easier, where’s the challenge in that?
Rabbit: Persona 4’s support member is also a lot more useful. Rise can tell you enemies’ weaknesses, tell you party members’ status, and even join in on the action.
Tiger: Yeah, I will admit I found Rise a lot more useful than Fuuka.
Rabbit: My mains were Yu, Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko-
Tiger: Wait, you just stuck with the original four characters?
Rabbit: ^grins^ Yup, they’re the best! I really didn’t want to break them up once the other players became available, it would’ve been sad. The combat is the same as Persona 3 where you explore dungeons, fight Shadows in turn-based combat, can use physical and Persona attacks, and then you have your daily life gameplay. I like being able to fully control my party though, it saves me the headache of having characters sit there and do nothing when they could have saved you from defeat.
Tiger: I just realized we haven’t even discussed what a Persona really is.
Rabbit: Oh yeah, I’d describe them as cute little soul demons that you can summon to aid you in battle. All of the characters, expect the main protagonist, have a specific Persona which is like an alternate representation of their true selves. Each Persona also has a specific element which they use in their magic attacks.
Tiger: That’s the gist of it, though I wouldn’t have quite described them that way.
Rabbit: Like any high schooler, when you play a Persona game, you have to balance out your daily school life while fighting Shadows at night.
Tiger: I don’t remember having that dilemma when we were in school…
Rabbit: After fighting Shadows every night, you still have to wake up and go to school, study, hang out with friends, and even work a part-time job. These experiences create bonds with the people you meet, called Social Links, and through these connections; your character begins to grow in ability.
Tiger: The Social Link system really defines the Persona games. It’s quite complicated trying to find equilibrium between leveling up via combat and spending time with your friends. Plus, you have to choose wisely which Social Links you want to focus on, forget to hang out with someone for a few weeks and you might lose your connection to that person.
Rabbit: It’s these relationships that really make Persona games special. I love the non-playable characters in Persona 4. I liked hanging out with the old widow Kuroda Hisano and the mysterious Fox you meet at Tatsuhime Shrine.
Tiger: I really enjoyed spending time with Miyamoto Kazushi who is a member of your sports team. I also liked Bebe Geraux, a French exchange student; and Suemitsu Nozomi, the Gourmet King.
Rabbit: You have weird taste in friends.
Tiger: I’m not the one that hung out with a Fox. Anyway, both games are really great JRPGs but I’m still sticking with my guns on Persona 3 being better than Persona 4. The story is tighter, the characters are deeper, and the gameplay is challenging. Persona 4 is too light and bubbly for my taste.
Rabbit: Bubbly-ness is what makes Persona 4 so awesome. It has a great murder mystery, lovable characters, and I thought the ending was pretty good. For me, it was much more enjoyable than 3, plus I could take it with me on the go!
Tiger: You know what we haven’t talked about yet?
Rabbit: What’s that?
Tiger: The music of Persona 3 and Persona 4.
Rabbit: I guess that means it’s time for a Bonus Round!
Tiger: *yells* I WILL BURN MY DREAD!
Rabbit: Oh no! The best song from the Persona series has to be Your Affection.
Tiger: That song is so chill though. C’mon, Burn My Dread even has a rap in the Last Battle version! *puts sideways baseball cap on and raps* There’s a no man’s land, no man ever survived. Invisible hands are, behind you just now. If you ever win that, race against rage then, you’ll be king ‘cuz, it’s no man’s land.
Rabbit: Word to your mother. Your Affection talks about flowers though, awesome flowers! Ones that bloom in tears, turning misery into meaningfulness!
Tiger: What does that even mean?
Rabbit: It’s groovy. ^starts to dance^ You can’t help but groove to this song. Oh yeah, See’mon and dance Tiger!
Tiger: *Turns Burn My Dread back on* This has to be Meguro Shoji’s best song. It's sung by Kawamura Yumi and Lotus Juice does the rap vocals. There’s even a more relaxed version for you if you don’t like the Last Battle or Reincarnation versions.
Rabbit: Well My Affection is also Meguro Shoji’s best song and it’s sung by Hirata Shihoko. It also has a Reincarnation version that rocks, so there!
Tiger: It doesn’t rock at all. That’s why Persona 3 has the better soundtrack, the battle themes are the best. Persona 4 is just too lighthearted.
Rabbit: You may think that but Persona 4’s music is upbeat, it’s great driving music. It makes every day seem sunny and bright when you listen to it.
Tiger: I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
Rabbit: ^grins^ We’ll just turn misery into meaningfulness!