New Game Plus is probably one of the coolest, most obvious, and underused features in video games today. There is no better way to get me to immediately replay your game than to give me every single item, weapon, magic, and point of experience that I finished the game with at the start of the my next playthrough. Yes, it makes everything Win Button easy, but it is so very satisfying returning to the boss the gave you so much trouble the first time and one-shotting him into oblivion. New Game Plus should be a required feature of every RPG and adventure game.
For the unaware, New Game Plus means starting the game over but loading your characters from when you last beat it. You generally retain most non-story items and weapons, and keep your existing level and stats. It's generally a nice reward for conquering a game, but as we'll see, can also be used for a variety of reasons.
It was just a few years ago that I was a Japanese RPG freak. In just one holiday, I asked for and received Persona 3 FES, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, and Rogue Galaxy. Three of the biggest JRPGs to land at the end of the PS2 lifespan. You know how much of those games I've played since? About 30 hours of Persona 3, the first hour of Rogue Galaxy, and I haven't even touched Valkyrie Profile 2; I blame it all on the games themselves.
If I were to make an exhaustive list of my all-time favorite games, it would undoubtedly be topped by Chrono Trigger, closely followed by Suikoden II and Final Fantasy VI, with Final Fantasy X somewhere up there too. All Japanese RPGs, and all very good games for varying reasons. I spent my college years playing more from what used to be my favorite genre, and watched my roommate play a ton of them including the original Valkyrie Profile, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, my copy of Xenogears, and pretty much the entire Xenosaga trilogy.
Maybe I was already burned out on the genre when I heard about how great Persona 3 was; how it was the ultimate JRPG and that a re-release of the game was going to put it into my budget again. By the time I started playing it, I even had Persona 4 in my possession already (which I also haven't touched). I knew without a doubt I was going to love this game.
Note: This post evolved from a rant on Persona 3 into a rant review on Persona 3, so while it's designated as a full review, I have not beaten either Persona 3 FES or Odin Sphere. No final scores will be given for obvious reasons.