Overview :: Battle System/Dungeons

Persona 3 uses a battle system and dungeon concept that isn't typical for the series. As such, to ease some confusion, these aspects will be covered below.

Battle System

To avoid confusion, we will use the term "turn" to refer to choice of a single character or enemy. The term "round" will refer to a period in which all characters and enemies have taken their turns.

Knock Outs and Rush Attacks

Persona 3 uses a turn-based system, like its predecessors. The major difference comes from the influence of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga. Namely, the so-called "press turn" system. Much like those games, exploiting a weakness will give either you or your enemy an extra turn. The difference is that these terms are no longer counted as "half turns", nor can they be used by other characters. The resule is the "One More Turn" system.

When exploiting an enemy's weakness, it is "knocked down". In this state it is unable to attack and the character that attacked it will be given another turn. At this point he or she can move on to another enemy and try to exploit their weakness to gain an attempt at another turn. Attacking knocked down enemies will not result in another turn, regardless of whether or not the attack exploits their weakness. You will be given as many extra turns as enemies you are able to knock down.

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If all are knocked down, you will be asked if you will like to perform a group attack. This attack causes all characters to bum rush the enemy and hit all of them for extra damage. The amount if based upon your relative strength, but also upon how many are in your active party. As you can imagine, this attack requires you to have more than one character in your party in order to execute it. You may also Relent and instead use the extra turn normally... this isn't a bad idea if you're more interested in healing or using a spell instead of a group physical attack.

Obviously, enemies can also knock you down. This can be especially damaging as your characters, just like the enemies, will not get up until the following turn. If an enemy is able to attack your main character's weaknesses over and over, he simply won't even have a turn in which you can access the menu and the rounds will just restart without your input. Being prepared to switch Personae to prevent this is of the utmost importance.

Artificial Intelligence

Persona 3 is also unique in that you only have direct control over your main character. You can tell him to attack, use or switch a Persona, use items, wait for his next turn (mostly of benefit when examining enemies) or escape. Your other characters will essentially do as they please based on AI models which you may set during battle from the Tactics menu. These Tactics include options such as healing, direct attacks and so forth. You will learn more as the game continues and you raise your Social Link with your teammates.

It is worth noting that the AI in this case is better than RPG fans are likely used to. While you will run into situations where you wish your healing member would just use a Dis-Poison instead of healing you over and over, for the most part it works out very well. If a character uses an attack or spell and notices it is blocked or absorbed, he or she will stop using it. Conversely, if he or she notices something is a weakness, it will be taken advantage of. Unless told to concentrate on a specific target, they will simply attack the one that's been hurt the most so far.

On most settings they seem interested in not wasting SP as well. For example, if you fight an enemy weak to Zio (electric), it will be used to knock it down. If the character can defeat it with a basic attack during his or her extra turn they will do so. Certainly better than casting Zio twice for no reason.

You may also press Triangle to enter Rush Mode. Rush Mode simply forces all characters to physically attack enemies over and over. This is particularly useful for weaker enemies you just want to blow through.

Personae

In order to do anything beyond physical attacks, characters must use their equipped Persona. The Personae for your friends is preset and you can not change it. The main character, however, is special in the sense that he may carry several Personae with him at once and change them at will. During battle, you may only change your Persona once per turn. Thankfully, after changing it, you are still allowed to make another move (such as attack, use an item, escape, etc.).

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This awards the player with the ability to mix up healing and attack Personae within a single battle, something that wouldn't normally be possible. It also gives the possibility of knocking down more than one type of enemy in a single round. For example, say you enter a battle full of both Bufu (ice) and Agi (fire) based enemies. If you start with an Bufu-based Persona, you can knock down the Agi-based enemies with Bufu attacks, then switch to your Agi-based Persona and attack the Bufu-based enemies with Agi spells. In this way you can knock down all enemies in a single turn and then perform a group attack on them, creating some major damage before the turn switches to your next character.

Experience is only awarded to the Persona you finish the battle with. Its status will list the required experience necessary for the next level up as well as the level it will learn its next move. It is also possible that one of its moves will be changed at this point, which you may allow or cancel. This is something to be very careful with as the change does not imply that you will learn a better version of the same spell or attack, but rather a completely random one. It can be better or far worse.

Examining

When exploring Tartarus, you will always have a guide. This guide has the ability to have a general idea of where you are within Tartarus as well as being able to inform you about enemies you face. In order to do examine an enemy, you can either press L1 or choose it from the tactics menu. This can take a little bit of time, so if you're afraid you'll kill the enemy before it is examined, it might be a good idea to tell every one to "Wait" until the process is complete. It usually takes a couple of rounds.

It's worth noting that examining will not give you any additional information for bosses.

Shuffle!

After winning a battle there is a high chance you will be brought to the Shuffle screen. Here cards will appear in a certain order. They will then be flipped over and shuffled, after which you may pick from the pile. This is largely a game of paying attention so you can pick up the cards you need the most. Cards may contain Personae (if you do not have this one in your party, it will be added), money, health restoration, experience bonuses or weapons.

The latter four are all based on the Minor Arcana and have a number associated with them. The higher the number, the better the bonus. These numbers will increase the farther you get within the game.

There is a rare chance that you will be given a chance to gain a second card from a new shuffle. One of these cards will be a "void" card and if you choose it, you will not receive any cards whatsoever. However, there is an even rarer chance that choosing a void card will result in yet another shuffle.

As you advance in Tartarus, the schemes used to shuffle the cards will change as well. The chance of you getting alternate shuffle types seems to increase. An example of this would be cards shuffled, taken off the screen and then shuffled again.

Sometimes you will also notice a skull briefly appear over a card. If you pick this one, Death will show up and begin to stalk you throughout the level. Try and get out of there as soon as you can.

Gaining Levels

In addition to Personae gaining levels, your characters will as well. The only stats in this sense are your HP and SP, which will both rise when you gain a level. All of your other stats are completely based upon which items you have equipped. This includes strength, defense and speed.

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Tartarus

Tartarus is another large change to the series.It is essentially the only dungeon in the game (although over the course of the story there will be other areas you visit in order to ward off enemies or whatever else). Thankfully, Tartarus is extremely tall, consisting of over 200 floors. It is divided up into blocks, each which contains a set amount of floors. Each subsequent block will contain significantly more dangerous enemies as well as a different graphical construction.

The entrance is where your characters can get their act together. Here you can change your party's equipment or advise them to go back to the dorm. You can also save, access the Velvet Room or use the transporter to automatically warp to certain, special floors.

A vast majority of the floors within Tartarus are randomly constructed. These floors, at the very least, will contain a set of stairs and a transporter. The stairs will let you proceed to the next floor, while the transporter will bring you back to the entrance.

Tartarus does contain some static floors, which largely exist for two purposes. The first are barricade floors. These floors will block you from accessing the next block until a certain date. The second are boss floors. The boss floors will contain a more powerful enemy (or enemies) that must be defeated before you can proceed. The transporter on these floors is different, marking places you can reach from the transporter on the first floor. This makes getting through Tartarus a hell of a lot easier than it could be.

A map is automatically filled out on the bottom of the screen as you make your way through each floor. It will display icons not only for the stairs and transporter, but also for enemies and treasure. Treasure is marked by a sparkle symbol and might include general cases or special rare item containers. Enemies are marked by red dots.

Enemies

Enemies in Tartarus are always visible. The game does not contain random battles whatsoever. You also have the ability to attack them by pressing X, which offers you some benefits. If you attack an enemy without it seeing you at all (generally, its back will have to be turned), you will have a very high chance of getting a "Player Advantage". You will get the first round of the battle all to yourself. Conversely, if an enemy sees you and charges into you first, it will receive an "Enemy Advantage" and get its own round.

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You will know if an enemy is fully aware of you because an exclamation will appear over its head and it will make a weird gurgling noise. If you manage to hit the enemy before it hits you, you can prevent the Enemy Advantage from taking place.

The appearance of enemies within the dungeon also signifies various things. The larger they are and the more hands they contain, the more Shadows will be in the battle. Ones that are glowing red are particularly strong. Gold ones are rarer enemies that will drop special items.

It is possible when you are revisiting a floor that it will contain nothing but gold Shadow. This can be especially helpful for some of Elizabeth's requests.