Memento Mori. That Latin phrase can be translated a few different ways, but the best version goes thusly: Remember that you are mortal. Those ancient words cross the screen during Persona 3: FES's introduction cinematic, and they set a properly mature tone for the deep and engaging role-playing that the game offers. FES is an expanded edition of last year's intense Persona 3, complete with a long new episode, dozens of new quests, and an impressive amount of other new content. However, this isn't just your standard collectors-edition fare. The extras in FES expand and deepen the core game, and the new episode, though disappointing, adds a good 30 hours of gameplay to an already-lengthy experience. This is the best way to play last year's finest RPG, and if the original release's short supply is any indication, you should grab a copy quickly before the game disappears from store shelves entirely.
Suicide is painless; it brings on many changes.
The core Persona 3 experience, titled "The Journey" in FES, revolves around the player character, a sullen young protagonist new to Gekkoukan High School. Although most teens need no reasonable excuse to power their adolescent angst, your own character witnesses events that would make most of us question our sanity. Every day at midnight, citizens get locked into coffins, and dark creatures roam the streets during a hidden hour that the public isn't privy to. As it turns out, you're not the only individual aware of this aptly named "dark hour." A group of students called the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad pulls you into its embrace, and the group fights to rid the city of its scourge--and hopefully the spread of a mental illness called Apathy Syndrome along with it.
Having to endure the dark hour may be a curse, but you and your classmates are blessed with the ability to summon personae, which are fantastical representations of your inner beings. Unlike your peers, you can summon multiple personae, though you all perform the same shocking action to call them forth: pulling out a pistol-like instrument called an evoker, pointing it at your head, and pulling the trigger. This sets the surprisingly somber tone for a compelling gameplay experience that weaves the mundane travails of academic life into the entertaining eeriness of the dark hour. For details on these mechanics, please refer to our review of Persona 3's original release.
The main addition to this impressive package is that of a new chapter called The Answer that takes place after the events of The Journey. Here, you take control of the robotic Aigis, who is struggling to make sense of the dramatic events that ended the school year. She and the members of the SEES find themselves trapped in the dorm in a Persona-style version of Groundhog Day, forced to repeat March 31 over and over. The teens are joined by another android named Metis that claims to be Aigis' sister. Thus the stage is set for a straightforward dungeon crawl that eliminates the academic sim gameplay and social links altogether, and focuses almost entirely on combat. Even the persona compendium is eliminated from the new episode.