Saturday, August 23, 2014

Persona 3 - Meet the Social Links

I've been playing more Persona recently, and I've also been writing more Persona recently!  This way-too-damn-long article goes into Persona 3's Social Links in detail.  Too much detail.  But hey, if you obsess about the Persona games as much as I do, then I'm here for you. 

Last year I went full-retard with the Persona series, beating Persona 4 twice and Persona 3 FES once in a three-month span, in addition to sinking some hard time into Persona 4 Arena.  Now it's 2014 and I'm only slightly less Persona-crazy, having beaten Persona 3: Portable (FeMC route) over the course of six months and having started ANOTHER run of Persona 3 FES.  Going for max Social Links this time, using a guide.  But that's a lot of Persona 3; if I finish that FES run in the next two months, then it'll have been my fourth Persona 3 run in 24 months.  So I'll use this blog to put a bow on my Persona 3 obsession with another Meet the Cast post, this time about Persona 3's Social Links.

Now, while it's true that I recently finished a run of Persona 3: Portable, I won't be talking about those special Social Links here.  This article only covers the 22 Social Links in Persona 3: FES.  I might write a future article about Persona 3: Portable at some point, but that time isn't now.  I'm going to break down each Social Link in Persona 3 under two criteria: Character and Personae.

The Character ratings are how much I enjoyed the dialog of the Social Link.  Basically good scores if I found the plot of the Social Link to be funny, dramatic, or interesting; lower scores if I found the character annoying or the dialog lacking substance.  I'll be honest, though - I love the dialog and characters in Persona 3, so I'm very forgiving here.  Except for Kenji.  Fuck that guy.

The Personae ratings represent how powerful I believe the Persona of that Arcana are.  If I liked using Personae of that Arcana consistently across my three playthroughs of Persona 3: FES, it'll be Solid or Beast.  If the Arcana doesn't have great endgame Personae or I consistently passed on using them in battle, it might get a Meh rating.  However, none of these Arcana are straight-up weak, and you can beat the game using just about any Persona.  You get the idea.  Here's how my hastily-constructed rating systems will work:

Character Rating System

STAR = Great, memorable character. One of the game's highlights.
ASSET = Good character. Welcome addition to the cast. Maybe not a favorite.
BENCH = Average character. One-note or not very interesting.
CUT = Bad character. So lame that you wish he/she wasn't there.

Personae Rating System

BEAST = Great Personae throughout the story. Worth maxing out.
SOLID = A few standout Personae. Max rank might be justifiable.
MEH = Overshadowed by other Arcana. Final Persona isn't worth it.

The Social Links of Persona 3

Location: The Fool Social Link is updated automatically over the course of Persona 3's story, usually on those full moon events.  It maxes out in December.  Not much else to say here.  

Character: I won't defend The Fool as a particularly interesting Social Link. Since it essentially covers important plot points of Persona 3, it feels like a series of benchmarks more than getting to know the characters; there's also no choice involved as you increase the S. Link.  Persona 3 has a great cast and solid story, though, so even the generic mandatory S. Link is pretty good. ASSET

Personae: Fool is a mixed bag of Persona, but most of them are quite useable for the appropriate level.  Black Frost and Loki are two particular favorites as you get them, as they're both above-average magic users, but the Persona you get from maxing the link, Susanoo, isn't one of the best - a physical Persona joining at a low-ish level with balanced stats. Could've been better, but still not so bad. SOLID

Location: The Magician Social Link gets its first rank automatically, when the MC's classmate Kenji makes friends with him in the first week of school.  Kenji's available on a few weekdays, and he's right there in the classroom.  Really easy to max - just be an encouraging friend, bordering on a sycophant.  

Character: The Magician link is easy to max and is very useful in-game, but holy hell is Kenji annoying.  He has a crush on one of your teachers, and is such a dork about it that it makes me a little angry (really).  I wish they had taken another angle with "male classmate who is a nice guy but kind of a dweeb." In Persona 3 Portable, the FeMC gets Junpei as the Magician S. Link, and it's so much better. I'm jealous.  CUT

Personae: Magician is one of the four "mage Arcana" that focuses on elemental magic offense, along with Emperor, Empress, and Fortune.  Most of the Magician Personae use fire magic (Jack Frost and Orobas are the exceptions) and are good sources for passing along fire boost, fire amp, or Agi spells.  Only downside is that these Personae peak early, with the final Persona Surt joining in the 50s.  Still, having good magic offense for the first half of the game and being able to pass around Surt's Ragnarok spell are reasons enough to max out that loser Kenji.  BEAST

Location: The Priestess Social Link is represented by Fuuka, the SEES field operator.  It can begin as soon as you join a culture club and have Fuuka wandering the halls of Gekkoukan, in early June.  She's only available on days the culture club doesn't meet: Monday, Friday, and Saturday.  However, in order to start the link you need to have your Courage stat maxed (rank 6).  Otherwise you can't muster up the politeness to try Fuuka's terrifyingly bad cooking.  IMPORTANT: getting far along with more than one girl at a time can cause serious problems.  Generally the way to increase the link most efficiently is to be honest and encouraging, like most of the girlfriend Social Links.  Speaking of girlfriend links, you better be careful: if you reach rank 6 with a girlfriend S. Link, DON'T WORK ON ANY OTHERS UNTIL YOU REACH RANK 10. If you two-time your girlfriends, then the links can reverse.  That's bad.  But once you reach rank 10 it's unbreakable.  So if you start dating someone, be sure to go all the way.  Eesh, not really feeling good about typing that.

Character: Priestess is a little tricky to get started since you need max Courage, but afterwards it's not that tough, since you have a ton of game-months to do it.  However, I think Fuuka's on the boring side.  I'm not a huge fan of her character type (Japanese wallflower schoolgirl whose lack of confidence is considered endearing) so having 10+ long conversations with her isn't my idea of great dialog.  BENCH

Personae: The Priestess Personae typically resemble those of the mage Arcana in stats, but they focus more on healing magic and will often lack elemental boosting passives.  This makes them useful more in menus than in battle, but still capable of being assets. Scathach, the final Priestess Persona, is a very good multi-tool mage with great healing and elemental offense.  SOLID

Location: The Empress Social Link is the realm of Mitsuru, one of the seniors on SEES and the president of the Student Council at Gekkoukan High.  It's one of the toughest Social Links in Persona 3 to begin and complete.  You need max Academics (rank 6); you need to have reached the top of the class on at least one midterm or final exam (four opportunities to do so, spread out over the game); and you need to wait until after the November school field trip.  If that wasn't enough, you can only talk to Mitsuru on days that Student Council isn't meeting (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  Empress counts as a girlfriend link, so you can't go above rank 6 without jeopardizing your other girlfriends.  On top of that, Empress is a very difficult Arcana to max since it has some counter-intuitive dialog choices when you're talking to Mitsuru.  Sometimes it seems like she wants to be condescended to and "rescued" like a damsel in distress; other times she'll interpret that kind of line as an insult. You get a little over two months to max a tricky link with a ton of prerequisites.  Good luck. 

Character:  I really like Mitsuru as a character.  Persona 3 explores the anime stereotype of "perfect girl" in an interesting way with Mitsuru's guilt, lack of self-confidence, clashes with Yukari, and giant motorcycle (!?).  The Empress link starts out as Mitsuru attempting to do normal schoolgirl things and eventually deals with an arranged marriage and the Kirijo Group's succession.  I love the Empress S. Link's twists and turns, so I think it's worth checking out. STAR

Personae: The Empress Personae are a huge mix - some physical, some magical, some healing, some defensive.  Really, though, the only ones that will be affected by your Empress rank are the late-game ones, which are powerful ice magic users.  Mother Harlot is a powerful magic Persona that uses Mudo spells, Skadi is maybe the best ice blaster in the game, and Alilat is a defensive ice MONSTER.  All three of those are good, but Empress is so focused on the late game that I can't give it the highest possible rating. SOLID

Location: The Emperor Social Link is for the student council, and disciplinarian Hidetoshi Odagiri in particular.  Again, the easiest way to max it is to take Hidetoshi's side in every possible statement and argument.  He's kind of a pompous dick.  You're granted access to Emperor very early in the game, when Mitsuru recommends you for Student Council in May.  It meets Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but is closed for exams more often than other school S. Links. 

Character: Hidetoshi's S. Link isn't the most interesting, as it's just him acting like a jerk most of the time, but its eventual character turn is enjoyable and feels earned. Plus, it's nice having a character around that's a well-intentioned asshole learning the error of his ways.  ASSET

Personae: The Emperor Personae mostly focus on electricity offense, with lots of users of elec boost, elec amp, and Zio spells.  A few of its Personae are physical (Raja Naga, Barong) and another few use elements other than electricity (...pretty much only King Frost), but in general there's great Zio magic here.  Odin, at the end of the link, is an EXCELLENT mage Persona packing the best electricity spells AND the awesome Spell Master passive.  The only downside is that most of the Emperor Persona are found in the early-game, but it's a good early-game option in general and Odin's skillset is great.  One of my favorites.  BEAST

Location: The Hierophant Social Link is for the elderly couple of Bunkichi and Mitsuko, who own Bookworms Used Books at Iwatodai station / strip mall / shopping center.  You can access it extremely early (before the first full moon boss), and it's open Monday through Saturday with few exceptions.  You have ample opportunity to max it.  Just be polite to the old couple and sympathetic to their plight and you'll level it up easily.  Hierophant's a good one to get into on days when your school links are shut down (the week before exams, most of December, etc.).  To gain access to the Temperance Social Link, you need to get Hierophant up to level 3. 

Character: Not my favorite S. Link.  Most of the time Bunkichi and Mitsuko are a sweet pair of septuagenarians, and occasionally they mourn the loss of their dead son.  The scenario's inoffensive, but lacks connection to the greater story and is forgettable in the grand scheme of things. BENCH

Personae: The Hierophant Personae are a mixed bag, but are generally magic-focused with good defenses.  A few physical ones mixed in as well.  They lack the power of the mage Arcana, but a few of them are pretty good for when you get them.  Thoth is a mid-game favorite of mine, and the final Persona, Kohryu, is an excellent support Persona.  Daisoujou, a mid-game Persona fused at level 53, is an EXTREMELY useful Persona that learns Growth 3, Hama Boost, and Samsara (the most powerful Hama spell in the game); those three skills are valuable even just for late-game fusion.  Daisoujou and Kohryu alone make the Hierophant S. Link worth a look.  SOLID

Location: The Lovers Social Link is represented by Yukari Takeba, one of your SEES teammates and (coincidentally) the first character you officially meet in Persona 3, other than the MC.  You can start it once summer vacation is over, but Yukari's a really popular girl with multiple suitors - you need to have your Charm stat maxed out at rank 6 in order to start hanging out with her.  You can find her in your classroom on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays once you've begun the link, but she'll take time off for exam prep and if there is major shit going down in the story.  Generally being there for Yukari (and supporting her when she clashes with her mom) can get the link up; she isn't as complicated as Mitsuru.  Lovers is a girlfriend link, so be wary of juggling more than one girlfriend. 

Character: Yukari is a cute, popular girl that is 100% believable in that role.  She's nice to her friends (maybe a little jealous of Mitsuru at times), but will show some real moxie when things get tough.  Yukari's S. Link shows her more vulnerable side and puts her rocky relationship with her widowed mother to the forefront, and it's pretty good drama.  Yukari's a cool character and this sidequest does her justice. STAR

Personae: Lovers personae are similar to that of Priestess in that just about all of them have healing arts, but it's a little more balanced between physical and magic offense while Priestess is all about magic.  A few of them are good mages (Titania's great for when you get her), but the latter few like Raphael and Cybele (the final two Personae of this Arcana) lack a magical punch.  Balanced stats, with physical and healing?  Not awful, but not that good all around.  MEH

Location: Chariot is one of the earliest S. Links you can start, as it unlocks a few days after the MC leaves the hospital following the discovery of his powers.  Joining your choice of sports clubs (either track, kendo, or swim) introduces you to Kazushi Miyamoto, the club's top athlete.  Maxing it is kind of unusual: most of the time you need to be sympathetic with Kaz, and other times you need to tell him the rough equivalent of "quit being such a wuss and MAN UP!"  Hilarious.  Practice is four days a week, Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri, and is open almost every time that school is open (sometimes it's closed for exams).  Very easy link to max. 

Character: Kaz is struggling with a knee injury at a time when he's expected to be a top performer on the team; it's weighing down on him a lot, since Kaz is competitive to the point of self-destructive.  Amusingly, there is no difference at all between track team, kendo team, and swim team - it just changes what room you train in and what clothes you and Kaz wear.  Kaz's story has a nice gimmick for a Social Link, and occasionally it's pretty interesting.  I won't hate; Kaz is a decent dude. ASSET

Personae: The Chariot Personae are almost exclusively physical.  I tend to prefer magic Personae in Persona 3, but it helps having a high-strength Persona around for normal attacks, and these are okay for that at least.  Thor, the final Persona available, is actually great for physical attacks and electricity offense if you can get him at an appropriate part of the game (when your MC's level is in the late 50s).  Still, physical-only, low levels; I can't give it a great score. MEH

Location: You can start up the Justice Social Link as soon as you meet Chihiro Fushimi, the treasurer of Gekkokan High's Student Council.  Just bring the Emperor S. Link up to rank 1 and she'll be in the hallway of the 2nd floor on days when StudCo doesn't meet (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, just like Mitsuru).  Before you start the link you have to chat with her in the hall a few times, as Chihiro's terribly shy.  You can start this as soon as early May, and most of the dialog in the S. Link is supporting Chihiro and being nice to her.  Not that hard to pull off.  It is a girlfriend link, so be mindful of that. 

Character: I like Chihiro more than Fuuka or Yuko, but she's not my favorite type of anime/JRPG character.  Chihiro's painfully shy, and dating the MC has her gain confidence and get out of her proverbial shell.  Kinda similar to Fuuka in that regard.  Chihiro loves manga and art books, so I guess that's something.  The end of her Social Link gets pretty dramatic, with Chihiro being forced to defend herself against accusations of embezzlement from student council funds.  Damn.  We see Chihiro again in Persona 4, where she looks basically the same but is poised and charismatic as the Student Council President during her senior year.  Good on you, Chihiro. ASSET

Personae: The Justice Personae stick to lower levels (like Magician, Chariot, and Emperor) and are your best source for Hama spells in the early going.  Overall, they're a mix of physical and magic,  with Hama skills as a uniting factor.  The penultimate Justice Persona, Throne, learns all of the best Hama spells (minus Samsara) plus some other magic, while the final Persona, Melchizedek, is a pretty good physical Persona that for some reason lacks those light spells signature to Justice.  Those two are decent, but for the most part the Justice lineup of SMT angels isn't that great. MEH

Location: in late April, before the full moon boss on the train, Junpei gives you one of his old computer games, Innocent Sin Online.  On Sundays and most holidays, the MC can play Innocent Sin Online and interact with "Maya," an internet person that is a veteran of the game.  Whenever the MC plays the game, it uses up the WHOLE day and prevents you from doing morning, daytime, or evening activities.  You know, just like a real MMO.  The link's best dialog choices aren't always obvious, but it's not a super-tough link to max as you have a ton of vacation days and basically the entirety of Persona 3 to work on it. 

Character: The MC and Maya connect over playing the game together, which is a beautiful thing.  Hanging out with the (mostly) amusing Maya and slowly realizing that the MC knows her in real life is a pretty cool character gimmick, and meeting her in person is probably the best scene in the Persona 3 epilogue.  I gotta say: Hermit is one of the most fun and unique Social Links in the game and I definitely recommend trying it out, even if only for the story. STAR

Personae:The Hermit Personae are a little on the low-level side, with the final one, Arahabaki, joining at level 60.  Typically the Hermit Personae have balanced stats with a focus on status effects and defenses; similar to Hierophant, but with less offense and more passives.  That's not that great.  At least Arahabaki is immune to like six damage types. MEH

Location: Heh, the Japanese art book or game guide or wherever these Arcana images came from probably needed an extra round of proofreading. Anyhow, you can begin the Fortune Link by joining one of the culture clubs (art, photography, or music).  These clubs begin recruiting new members on June 17th, and regardless of which one you pick the president is Keisuke Hiraga, a senior who can't decide between going to college to be an artist or a doctor. You can rank up the Social Link by attending meetings on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays, but they're usually closed the week prior to exams.  Hanging out with Keisuke is mostly agreeing with his decisions and giving him the courage to make a decision about choosing what to study at university.  It's not a hard one to work out, and you get more than half of Persona 3's school days to do it. 

Character: Keisuke's not the coolest cat.  He's a bit of a milquetoast to begin with, and his defining characteristic is... that he likes to play doctor?  Unironically and not in a sexual way?  Huh.  Well, Keisuke isn't as annoying as Kenji, but he's not a very interesting dude either.  If you play Persona 3 just for story reasons, you can probably pass on Keisuke.  BENCH

Personae: Fortune probably has the most one-dimensional collection of Personae in the entire game: they're all wind magic glass cannons.  Every single attainable Fortune Persona focuses on Garu spells, with increasing power and variety as you go up the line.  The final Persona, Norn, learns Magarudyne, a bunch of helpful passives, and the ultimate wind spell, Panta Rhei. That's a one-trick pony with a very useful, powerful trick.  Norn joins at level 62 (low- to mid-level for a final Persona), and will be your best source of wind damage for the rest of the game unless you get creative with Persona fusion. Good times.  BEAST

Location: You start the Strength link by raising the Chariot link to at least 2, and then asking the team manager, Yuko Nishiwaki, to walk home with you.  She'll reject you once, then relent the second time.  After going home with her the first time, you can hang out with Yuko on Wednesdays or Saturdays, when the sports club doesn't meet.  The Strength S. Link is pretty straightforward; it's going out for food with Yuko, being nice to her, and eventually helping her train a group of elementary school kids that challenged some of their upperclassmen to a race.  Yuko's S. Link isn't convoluted like Mitsuru's, but it's still a girlfriend link so you must remember only to date one girl at a time.  Otherwise you got trouble. 

Character: Yuko's... okay. Not annoying or unlikeable, but just kinda... there.  I like her more than Fuuka, but not as much as the other female characters.  Seriously, you get into conversations with her about not doing well on exams and if she's gaining any weight.  That kind of small-talk bullshit is kinda true to life, but not very interesting.  BENCH

Personae: Strength Personae are extremely similar to Chariot: almost all physical.  Sure, they might have occasional magic offense or a healing spell, but in general these are physical Personae with a slightly more offensive / critical-hitting bent than Chariot, which are more balanced / defensive.  The final Persona, Siegfried, is a pretty good physical Persona that has some nice passives and starts at level 59 (on the low side).  Overall, not different enough from Chariot to matter.  MEH

Location: You begin the Hanged Man Social Link by meeting Maiko, an elementary schoolgirl that hangs out at the playground the Naganaki Shrine every day of the week other than Sunday - she's unavailable during some pre-exam weeks and vacation days, but this Social Link's availability is very high in general.  After you meet her, she'll only continue conversing with her if you give her a Mad Bull (a soda in a vending machine in your dorm) and a Takoyaki from the stand at the Iwatodai strip mall.  It's not a tough Social Link to master; it'll take more than 10 days, but generally being nice to Maiko and taking her side will get the link moving along. 

Character: Maiko's Social Link is a little heartbreaking.  Her parents are getting a divorce, and she feels like she's the one to blame.  You see it firsthand when Maiko attempts to run away and her parents search for her.  That's a shame, because she's basically a nice, normal little girl that quickly attaches to the protagonist.  This wasn't one of my favorite S. Links, but it's got some good plot points in place and is a good character contrast to the rest of Persona 3's cast. ASSET

Personae: Hanged Man Personae are a confusing bunch, but typically have good defenses and resistances, similar to Hierophant or Hermit Personae.  Vasuki learns some Light spells and status attacks, Hell Biker is a fire blaster with a relatively low Magic stat (?), and the final Persona, Attis, learns some healing magic, some death spells, and is excellent at preventing killing blows.  I favor offense over defense in Persona games, so I'm not very high on the Hanged Man Arcana. MEH

Location: The Death Social Link is represented by Pharos, the mysterious boy that occasionally meets you in your dreams.  The Link is increased incrementally over the course of Persona 3, maxing out in early November, after beating the Full Moon Shadow on November 3rd.  You can't miss it, so you don't have to worry about setting aside time for it. 

Character: Pharos is a weird little kid, whose existence is a bit of a mystery that totally makes sense once all of Persona 3's proverbial story cards are on the table.  Pharos is creepy, but he has a real purpose in the story so I won't say he's unnecessary. ASSET

Personae: perhaps unsurprisingly, Personae from the Death Arcana have a lot of instant-death magic attached.  Almost all of them learn Mudo spells.  Thanatos (the final Death Persona) is a pretty strong, balanced option for battle, learning some physical attacks and Hama spells and likely inheriting a bunch of Mudo stuff; the real star is Alice, the level-56 Persona that packs Mudo Boost, Repel Dark, and Die For Me!, the most powerful darkness spell in the game.  Great skills to pass around.  Alice and Thanatos are both really good. SOLID

Location: Heh, another misspelling.  Ah well.  The Temperance Social Link is Andre Roland Jean Gérard, or "Bebe." Bebe is an exchange student from France who is a serious weea... uh, Japanophile.  To start the link, you need to get the Hierophant Social Link up to rank 4 to meet Bebe at Bookworms.  Then visit the home ec room during the daytime with an Academics stat of at least 2 (so you can read Bebe's French script).  That will fire up the first Bebe conversation, and from then on you can find him on the classroom hallway at Gekkoukan on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  You can start Temperance as early as one week after starting Hierophant.  It's an easy one to max - just be encouraging to Bebe and insist that he should make every effort to stay in Japan. 

Character: Bebe's a little annoying, in no small part because his accented speech can be tricky to read.  Not as bad as mole-speak in a Brian Jacques novel, but somewhere in the same ballpark. Bebe's character arc has to do with his love of fashion and garment-making, his greater love of all things Japanese, and his struggle to afford continuing his Japanese sojourn.  I don't hate Bebe, but he's not as interesting as most of the other S. Links and his accent doesn't help his case. BENCH

Personae: The Temperance Personae are all over the place, with just about every elemental magic found somewhere (all except Mudo, I think), and all-around average stats.  Temperance isn't quite as reliable as a mage Arcana like Fortune or Emperor, but any of the Temperance Personae are worth it if you fuse them at an appropriate level.  Okuninushi and the four Guardian Beasts from Digital Devil Saga are all mid-game Temperance Personae, and are five rock-solid mages.  The final Persona, Yurlungur, has some nice magic offense, great healing, and Growth 3.  Very nice. SOLID

Location: Devil is convoluted to start, but easy to finish.  You need to get the Hermit Social Link up to rank 4, and Maya will mention meeting a rude businessman at the mall recently.  After that, you can meet President Tanaka (a CEO who runs a home-shopping business) near the arcade at Paulownia Mall during the evening (YES! FINALLY SOMETHING TO DO AT NIGHT BESIDES STUDY!).  THEN, you need to have your Charm stat up to at least rank 4; otherwise he's not interested.  Tanaka will ask you for investment money a few times (totaling 40,000 yen over a couple of nights) and then you'll finally start the Devil Social Link.  Luckily, it's easy to max.  Once it begins, you can max it in 10 or 11 days even without packing a Devil Persona in your inventory.  Just play to Tanaka's ego a little bit. You'll have a ton of free nights over the course of the game. 

Character: Tanaka is amusing.  He's incredibly egotistical, self-serving, and (more than a little) disdainful of people under him.  He thinks you're quite charming for a teenager, though, and views your conversations as himself investing in your future career (that he would normally charge hundreds of thousands of yen to do so).  Tanaka's character arc, if you can call it that, seems to resolve with him doing something surprising, but not really changing as aperson. He's funny and different from your school Social Links, but not one of the best ones. ASSET

Personae: The Devil Personae are mostly magic-focused, with balanced stats and every elemental magic type except for Hama found on at least one Persona.  Abbadon and Vetala are the exceptions, with the former being a pretty strong physical wall and the latter being an early-game attacking Persona.  Near the end of the line, Succubus, Pazuzu, and Lilith are all very good magic users and Beelzebub is a hella-good mage Persona, packing Mudo boost and multiple elemental spells.  Lots to like here. SOLID

Location: Tower is probably one of the longest and trickiest Social Links to finish, but luckily it's an evening Social Link (one of two in the game, the other being Devil) so you have ample time to complete it, even if you start late in the game.  Once you reach Rank 4 of the Strength Social Link with Yuko, she'll mention seeing a weird monk at Club Escapade.  If you head to Escapade on any Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night after hearing about the monk, you can find Mutatsu in the back room.  You can only talk to him if your Courage stat is at least rank 2, and even then he won't talk to you unless you bring him some liquor.  To do that, talk to the bartender, complete the dialog mini-game he gives you (it's a memory puzzle about remembering customers' orders), and talk to Mutatsu again.  Whew.  

Mutatsu is a hard-drinking, cynical, depressed old man whose questions and answers are all over the place.  Sometimes he wants you to agree with his bleak worldview, and sometimes he wants you to say comforting words that might remind him of his son.  It's a slow-moving Social Link with answers that don't usually make sense for giving players the largest bonus, but whatever.  It's at night so you have plenty of time to max it out.  

Character: Mutatsu seems like a comedy character at first, a pious monk that treats his faith like a business and clearly doesn't give a shit about Shinto or Buddhism or whatever his practice is, and also enjoys a strong drink and a big cigar. He seems amused with you as he dispenses what he considers sage advice.  Eventually it's clear that Mutatsu misses his estranged wife and their son very much, and his behavior is a coping mechanism.  Mutatsu is a weird Social Link that isn't like any of the others in Persona 3, and it's definitely worth exploring. STAR

Personae: You want power?  I got your power right here.  All of the Tower Personae are geared towards big physical damage.  It's just like the Chariot Arcana or Strength Arcana, except that the Personae start at higher levels and they pack more punch.  Masakado, Mara, Shiva, and Chi You are all excellent and good enough to fight the final boss (...maybe not Masakado, but those other three for sure) and all four are required for fusing ultimate weapons!  Why WOULDN'T you do this Social Link!? BEAST

Location: After the last two this one seems easy.  The Star Arcana is represented by Mamoru Hayase, a star athlete (...heh) at one of Gekkoukan's rival high schools.  The link unlocks in early August, after you complete your week of training with your chosen sports team and compete in the regional competition.  Then you find Mamoru hanging out at Iwatodai station shopping center, and chat him up.  You need a Courage stat of at least rank 4 to initiate the link. 

Character: Hayase's arc isn't the most interesting.  He wants to be the best athlete ever (I say that because his sport depends on what your sport is), but is a little hamstrung by his family situation.  It's an easy link; just be encouraging and push him to work harder in both athletics and at home.  Hayase's link is a bit similar to Kaz's, but I find it a little less interesting. BENCH

Personae: Well damn, now we're in the second half of the game, so we're hitting some strong shit.  The Star Personae are a fair balance of physical and magic attacks, leaning ever-so-slightly towards the physical.  Saturnus is more magic, Kartikeya is more strength, and the final Star Persona, Helel, is a balanced powerhouse that is definitely one of the three or four strongest Personae in the game.  Not a joke.  Helel packs insane physical offense, magic offense, AND support skills. BEAST

Location: The Moon Arcana is represented by Nozomi Suemitsu, an overweight, food-obsessed student known as the Gourmet King throughout Tatsumi Port Island.  To meet Nozomi, you need to get the Magician Social Link up to rank 3; Kenji will mention the Gourmet King, and Nozomi can be found sitting by the fountain in Paulownia Mall.  If your Charm stat is at rank 2 or above, Nozomi will engage you in conversation, but won't begin the link until you answer some food trivia questions (concerning the menus of a few of Persona 3's restaurants) and give him something he's never tasted before.  Passing him an Odd Morsel or Rancid Gravy from Tartarus will disgust him, but also have him begrudgingly admit defeat.  And you're in.

Character: Nozomi is a disagreeable sort of guy.  He'll simultaneously condescend to you and look up to you, but he gets angry if you suggest that he change his lifestyle.  Look, Nozomi isn't likeable.  His story has you pity him eventually, but mostly it's just a drama of how awful he is.  Yeesh. CUT

Personae: The Moon Personae are a pretty good, balanced set, with my favorite probably being Seth, a solid late-game fire blaster with lots of protections.  I managed to get Seth to inherit Fire Boost and Ragnarok, then made him my fire guy for the entirety of my first Persona 3 playthrough.  Sandalphon, the final Moon Persona, is a pretty good Hama spell user and the likes of Baal Zebul and Dionysus are very good magic users for the time you get them.  You can do a lot worse. SOLID

Location: The Sun Persona is represented by Akinari Kamiki, a young man in his early twenties suffering from a debilitating disease.  You meet Akinari during the Rank 4 Hanged Man Social Link, as he's another acquaintance of Maiko's.  You can meet him on Sundays near the shrine, but you can't start the Social Link until you reach rank 4 in the Academics stat, talk to Akinari and hear about his missing pen, and return his pen to him.  The pen is in Koromaru's mouth, which you can get during any evening after Koromaru joins the team.  It's a pretty easy link to max out - you don't need to have Sun Personae in your inventory, and as long as you aren't a raging asshole you can max it in ten days.  The only annoying limitation is that Akinari's only around on Sundays. 

Character: Probably the most tragic Social Link in the game.  Akinari is dying from a genetic disease, and the Sun dialogue is about him struggling with the knowledge of his upcoming fate, all the things he wished he could have done, and his working on writing a book (a... sort of dark children's book that is eventually published and even referenced in Persona 4).  It's awfully heavy, but damn.  Sun is one of the most interesting and affecting Social Links in the game. STAR

Personae: The Sun Personae have balanced stats, but cover nearly every element in their skillsets and have several Personae with Growth passives.  Growth 1/2/3 are important for team-building, so the Sun Personae are great for fusing even if you don't use them much in combat.  The final two Sun Personae, Vishnu and Asura, don't learn Growth but are quite powerful and certainly endgame-ready.  SOLID

Location: The easiest optional Arcana in the game.  Just avoid the Bad Ending by making the right choice on New Year's Eve (avoiding spoilers...) and then get to the top of Tartarus.  The Judgement Social Link will increase in rank every few floors until you reach the top.  Boom.  Maxed. 

Character: Unlike the Fool Arcana, Judgement doesn't choose interesting conversations or important plot points to rank up.  You just march up the Tartarus staircases, Fuuka or someone else gives some words of encouragement, and you increase in rank.  Not that cool.  I wish they had done... something a little more to make Judgement a little more attached to the story.  But I guess that's just a flaw of the Tartarus dungeon and perhaps Persona 3's narrative in general. CUT

Personae: True, you only get to max Judgement in the last month of the game.  But, all of its Personae join at level 59 or above and it also contains the most powerful lineup of Persona available in Persona 3.  Michael, Satan, Lucifer, and Messiah are all AWESOME when fused at the right level, and each of them packs powerful attacks with good defenses.  And all of those either provide excellent fusion weapons OR give top-of-the-line endgame equipment as their heart item.  A few of them, however (mostly Lucifer) require fusions of some max link Personae to create, like Helel and Beelzebub.  It takes some work, but Judgement doesn't play fair. BEAST

Location: I apologize for the change in image type, but, well, it's not my fault.  Aeon has a different look than the other 21 Tarots and the same number as Judgement, but that's because it replaces the Judgement card in a different Tarot deck (the specifics of which I know nothing) and it's a new Social Link added to the FES version of Persona 3.  Your lady robot classmate Aigis represents the Aeon S. Link, and boy howdy is it tough to max unless you get right on it.  It's very easy to max if you set aside the time (I think you can do it in 11 days), but you can't start it until early January, and the game ends on January 31st.  Just be nice to her and you're good. Aigis doesn't count as a girlfriend link. 

Character: Echoing my comments on Aigis from my last long-form Persona post, I think she's a well-realized character.  Her unusual background is at odds with her student alias and struggle to understand human emotions, and the result is a dramatic Social Link that doesn't take any surprising turns, but is chock-full of, uh, feelings.  The last few scenes in particular made me go "whoa Aigis calm down." I enjoyed it. STAR

Personae:the Aeon Personae are skewed towards the endgame (just like most of the S. Links at the end of the timeline) and are typically balanced between physical and magic offense.  Several strong physical attacks, occasional elemental damage spells, and a preponderance of Hama magic.  The latter Aeon Personae have a ton of good resistances, with the final one, Metatron, particularly stout.  Overall it's an okay selection, but I can't give it a very high rating - you can't start the link at all until the very end and none of them are game-changing good. MEH


Well damn.  That was a big ending to my 2012-2014 Persona obsession.  Except that it hasn't ended.  Am I going to write more of these about Persona 4?  Probably.  How about a new P3 article comparing Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable?  Also probable. Now excuse me, I want to try and get some more writing done.  I barely got anything on the blog in May, June, or July, so I'm going to try and balance that out with five or six posts for August.  Onward! 

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