December 11th, 2007

Made by the same people who brought you Odin Sphere–the game Heroine Sheik just couldn’t shut up aboutPersona 3 promised to be a sex and gender goldmine. Released at the end of this summer, fellow sexy games dorks heralded it as both awesome and damn interesting. I finally got around to taking my review copy for a spin the other day though, and I have to admit I was underwhelmed.

The premise, I’ll admit, oozes with creepy promise. Somewhere between a traditional RPG and a Japanese dating sim, Persona 3 lets you save the world from evil monsters by night and climb to the top of the high school social ladder by day. Right off the bat you’ve got the “teenagers with demons” metaphor we Americans know so well from “Buffy: the Vampire Slayer.”

Persona 3 also gives us the added twist of pseudo-suicide. In order to switch “personas”–and thus fighting abilities–characters blow their brains out with revolvers. In the end everyone’s okay, but the effect is still unsettling: perhaps even more so because, as a player, you get used to it.

Still, despite the creepy points it earns, Persona 3 remains pretty dull from a sex and gender perspective. There are the normal, archetypal school girls who appear regular in anime and Japanese games: the quiet but pretty classmate, the large-chested class president. A few of the personas themselves takes the form of cool female monsters. And I suppose you could point out the slim, sightly effeminate main male character–but that seems to be a Japanese trope as well. I’m thinking of Shinji, for example.

What’s the deal? Am I missing something?

Tags: new games, reviews, sex/gender imagery

8 Responses to “Persona 3 is Underwhelmingly Sexy”

  1. John Hummel Says:

    Probably not. I was rather torn – the two female characters (especially the elder senpai) I thought was attractive, and “dark skinned sports girl” was rather cute (but then again, I’m going through a dark skinned girl fetish right now – next month I’m sure I’ll be hot for red heads again).

    But – in a way, I’m actually more pleased that the characters *weren’t* hotter. I can sit down with my 8 year old daughter, and yeah, blood on the floor is creepy, but nothing in the game (that I’ve run across so far, but then again, I haven’t finished it yet) is really so objectionable.

    So I’m all right with high school kids not being teh uber-sexy, if for no other reason it keeps my wife from going “Uh – is that D-cup girl in high school? Is *that* why you wanted me to wear the schoolgirl outfit?” And really – who needs to explain that to your spouse?

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    It’s true, the female characters aren’t super sexualized. I guess what I more mean is that there’s nothing particularly unique going on in the game in terms of sex and gender imagery, overtones, implications, symbolism, etc. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but even realistically-breasted school girls could still be a little more sexually interesting

  3. Woodstock Says:

    I haven’t played the game, but I think the fact that there exist “archetypal school girls who appear regular in anime and Japanese games” to be pretty interesting. In the west, we have one or two ‘looks’ that mainstream culture judges to be sexually interesting, but I wouldn’t say we have archetypes. Although maybe I’m too close to the culture to see them, or perhaps they’re just not as explicitly categorized. I’m sure a long hard look at my porn collection would reveal some interesting truths.

  4. darkpen Says:

    Woodstock: Archetypes are more often found in animation and storytelling than simply in what kind of looks are appealing to whatever culture or demographic. That’s really what Bonnie was going at, as opposed to archetypes of styles and looks.

    In Japanese Otaku culture, archetypes of both men and women are disturbingly well categorized and labeled, which leads to dull characters and predictable behavior (even the unpredictable has a label, i.e. “yangirekko”).

    As for the topic at hand, never played Persona 3 despite 1up’s massive praise of the game, and from the sounds of thing, I was right on the dot about what the characters would probably be like.

  5. nectarine Says:

    I thought it was interesting because of the social interaction as a significant and interesting gameplay mechanic. It’s like card deck building, but the twist is really, we are compelled to seek out these social interactions not because we want more friends, but because we want a stronger persona in some arcana. The motivations are interesting, it’s like a guilty pleasure to use these people for my own gains.

    It’s an interesting idea that the personas we have are reflections of the people we are tied to, then who am ‘I’ really? Since the personas are simply masks we swap in and out whenever we need them.

    I think I see the whole game as a clever play on the teenage identity crisis. Or even just the modern identity crisis as a whole. That is simply put, awesome. How often do we get to play out things like that with such individualism in any medium? Most teenage movies for example, are angsty vomit inducing rites of passage.

    Instead of being preached to about identity, we are free to create our own identity from various personas. Yet while personas let us explore various identities, they ultimately are just projections of imagination. Meanwhile all the characters around us are dealing with identity issues of their own.

    I love it.

    By the way, your feed links now work right, huzzah for the site upgrade!

  6. nectarine Says:

    Uh.. my comment makes the game sound a lot more thinky than it really is. It’s firstly a fun game. I just appreciate it’s potential for purposeless analysis.

  7. nectarine Says:

    Basically, it’s not a sex/gender interesting game, it’s an identity interesting game.

  8. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I think I see the whole game as a clever play on the teenage identity crisis. Or even just the modern identity crisis as a whole.

    That’s not an angle I’d considered approaching the game from, but I think it’s a really great analysis/point. I’m still not thrilled with the title as a whole, but that’s a perfect example of gameplay and mechanics people able to communicate a larger concept.

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