Ok. I know have complained a lot about Persona 3 recently, and how I grew tired and bored with its slow pace and plodding narrative. Now that I'm into December (when the game ends in January, I think?), the narrative has really ramped up. As such, I'm a little more involved in the story, and actually look forward to reaching the next full moon as quick as possible in order to see what happens next. But this renewed interest in Persona 3 doesn't mean that other aspects of the game don't stand out to me as problematic.
Since the beginning of the game, in fact since the first time my character died and I had to reload the game, one glaring flaw of the battle system has annoyed me to no end. When a character dies in battle, there a re a couple of ways to revive them, usually by using either a Revival Bead (item) or the spell Recarm. Then, the character is revived with some amount of health, and you hope they survive until you can heal them. This is a standard revival technique, found in nearly every RPG in some form or another. And it works very well, usually. Unfortunately, in Persona 3, the only character that cannot be revived, at all, is the main character, who also happens to be the only one you directly control in battle.
If the main character (MC from now on) loses all his health, he dies. Game over. No chance to revive him in the same battle. You then must spend several minutes watching scene, going through the title sequence, reloading, and backtracking. This is particularly annoying if you are stuck battling a difficult boss or guardian. Perhaps the reasoning for this aspect of the battle system is that since the player does not have direct control over his teammates, if the MC dies, it's Game Over because you can't bring yourself back from death. However, all of your teammates are capable of using items in battle, including Revival Beads. I've seen them revive each other before. At least one character, who usually serves as my party's healer, has the Recarm spell. Why, when the MC falls in combat, can one of the other characters not revive me? If they can revive each other, it makes absolutely no sense that they cannot revive me also?
Each party member can have a battle tactic assigned to it. So, for example, I could assign my strongest attacker to go all out attacking an enemy, or have another character target an enemy's weakness. If I have programmed all my teammates to attack, then I understand that they might not revive the MC. However, if, as I regularly do, I have assigned one character to always heal the party, why would that character not be given the chance to also revive the MC? There's no reason not to. When a simple stroke of bad luck (such as one of the frequent instant death spells being successful) conspires against you, it's not only unfair to instantly have to restart, but it makes no sense within the logic of the game world.
Finding myself very near the end of the game now, I find this inability to revive the MC a particularly glaring fault as I learn more about the themes and point of the narrative. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that the theme of Persona 3 revolves around death, and seems to be focusing on the characters' ability to accept and understand death. Perhaps, when I finally complete the game, I will be able to come up with some thematic reason as to why the MC is so fragile and able to be permanently killed. Until that point, it just adds to the tedium that sometimes pops up in this game.
I wonder if Persona 4 addresses this problem. I know that game gives you full control over the entire party, so perhaps the death of the main character does not lead to an instant game over. Does anyone know? I'd be very curious to find out.
I'm near the end, so my ranting about Persona 3 should come to an end soon, and I can move on and complain about something else.