Well Of Course I Saved The World: Thoughts on the Ending of Persona 3

(Spoilers for Persona 3 follow.)

Well, Persona 3 duped me. I honestly thought that I’d get my ass kicked at the final battle, since that’s what the game told me. That’s not what the protagonists thought, of course–they were confident that they were going to defeat death somehow. Crazy kids. I thought they were just being stupid, but no, they actually did it. We kicked Nyx’s ass and saved the world.

I just feel as if there was such a huge missed opportunity here: why not make it impossible for me to win? Why not make that the ending, the fact that we went up against death itself and lost? Yes, this is seriously what I am saying: that the game should make the player fail at saving the world. Sure, Persona 3 sort of did this: Ryoji gives you the option of forgetting about everything, and if you do so, then you fail at saving the world. But, I doubt very many people chose this option–why should they, when the other choice promises the “better” ending, where you get to save the world once more? It’s really more of the “I’m a terrible person, look at me not care about what happens to the world” option, which only utter, utter dicks took.

Yes, having us go up against death, losing, and then having the world end would have been mightily depressing. Who wants to play that? I guess I do. It would play heavily with my expectations of what I should be able to do in a game, and very few games toy with that notion. I’d be tempted to say that perhaps this approach shouldn’t be taken by Persona 3, but then again, what better game to present such an ending? The entirety of the game is depressing. We are continually reminded that humanity “asks” for its death, that we long for it, what have you. It’s not as if the themes of P3 are particularly uplifting.

The only way this could work, though, is for the rest of the game to become worth it. FES calls that first part of the game “The Journey,” and, if the journey is the entire point, then this ending wouldn’t have been so offensive. Yes, I ended up caring a lot more about my friends in acquaintances once I knew exactly what was at stake–and this was me thinking it was all futile. But, it was sort of a “you poor, poor saps. you have no idea of what’s going on, do you?” I’d be lying if I said I thought that the relationships the game offers you are good enough to sustain this proposed ending. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re decent enough for me to care slightly, but after playing Bioware games, my standard of “engaging interaction” was not one that was met by what Persona 3 offered. So, the relationships are not particularly special–and they’d need to be striking and engaging in order for the whole idea of the “journey” to hit home. Yes, you’re going to die. Yes, you can’t do anything about it. But you have all these things to show for it, you’ve made all these fantastic connections, and maybe, just maybe, everything was worth it anyway. The only way this could work is if the writing and characterization was excellent, and right now, they’re just okay.

Of course, this is just all idle speculation. I don’t know if Persona 3 would be any better by giving you the ending I’m proposing. Still, it’s an interesting idea, no? I’ve never seen a game that denies you the opportunity to be the hero, I don’t know if such a thing exists. Ultimately, saving the world isn’t really the point of the game. It’s about friendship and appreciating the small things in life–saving the world is just a pretense. And you know what they say, you don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I enjoyed Persona 3 as is, but I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t have loved it all the more if it had dared to do what no game would ever do.