Persona 3 Portable Review
In what was a turning point for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, ATLUS sought to break free of the antiquated corridor formula that shackled them in prior iterations of the Persona series. Persona 3 was set to break boundaries and pursue a new way to experience the Japanese Role-player. Taking the player from a first-person perspective to a fully rendered 3D universe in third-person traversing, it expanded the way the campaign was delivered entirely. From NPC interactivity, investigation of Tartarus but also everyday tasks in general, it had the makings of rebooting, re-introducing and revitalising a flailing subsidiary that sat idly alongside many overlooked Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series. Persona 3 changed the archetype for how the JRPG should be experienced in a modern age title.
It spearheaded many titles that were inspired by its sleek and user friendly mechanics, that fans of Persona 4 Golden could easily roll-back to the prequel without any qualms – a major statement toward Persona 3, laying foundation to both Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal’s core engine. The franchise continues to trailblaze its ongoing popularity by introducing remastered versions to multiple platforms. Given its popularity for the PlayStation 2, it was only fitting the title landed alongside Revelations: Persona and Persona 2: Innocent Sin in 2011, with Persona 2: Eternal Punishment following its release by increasing popular demand. The revision was met with scepticism, after it was revealed that some of its traversal elements had been streamlined, but without knowing it was the perfect fit for quickening its pace, retaining imperative story elements while trimming the unnecessary fat.
A Way of Life...
Persona 3 initiates the player with a nameless protagonist in which for the first and only time in the ongoing series, allows you to choose one of two available genders. For my playthrough, I chose the Male protag, canonically known as Yuki Makoto. Makoto returns to his native town of Tatsumi Port Island, a decade after his parents had died from an accident leaving him an orphan. Scheduled to meet with other students of the Iwatodai Dorms, he encounters a child named Pharos, asking Makoto to sign a contract which inherently states he will take responsibility for his actions. After the strange interaction, he is confronted by members of the SEES (Special Extracurricular Execution Squad), a high school club that is known for researching supernatural activity. Yukari Takeba and Misturi Kirijo introduce themselves as ordinary students that live in the dorm, but are visibly perturbed.
Mitsuri instructs Yukari to lead our protagonist to his room, not before asking if Makoto had experienced anything out of the ordinary on his way to the dorm but quickly deflects the topic and leaves our protagonist for the night. The next day, the pair travel by subway to Gekkoukan High School to which Yukari pleads Makoto not to speak of events the night previous. It’s from this point we gauge the Persona 3 Portable navigation experience as it were in its compact form on the PSP, only now the entire experience has been upscaled for newer platforms. A mapped out terrain gives the player a speedy point-and-click experience to quickly interact with other NPC’s within the vicinity, ultimately removing fluff from the title – a polarising feature that some say negates the true Persona 3 experience, but can be a welcome addition for others looking to get to the action.
Laid out in a static approach, it gives the player a chance to investigate areas freely without having to traverse from one side of the map to other. Yes, it takes away one imperative format introduced in the main entry, but not entirely. Indicative dialogue is retained so no beats are skipped within P3’s lore. Meeting new friends, dialogue choices and other features are all present, they’re all simply given a portable overhaul which may seem odd on PlayStation and XBOX, but on PC , Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch will be undoubtedly a non-issue. The omission of cinematics is certainly a grievance the devout initially had on the PlayStation Portable version, and unfortunately it carries over to the remaster. It takes moments of intimacy away from the player that connect us in a relatable sense, showing character and personality that’s undescribed through static slides.
However, once you reach the beginning the title’s core gameplay which asks the player to explore Tartarus alongside the SEES, it lifts Persona 3’s original framework and translates it into a seamless third-person experience that’s only differentiated by how the in-game camera is faced. Battles with Shadows and demons are exactly how they were in the original with almost zero mechanical changes other than its widescreen aesthetical presentation. As you begin your journey upward Tartarus’ many floors, you will encounter a slew of demons that come in many shapes sizes and forms. Unlike previous entries in the Persona franchise, your Persona is awoken forcefully by using Evokers – depicted as a gunshot to the temple. Igor, the master of the Velvet room returns to aid you on your journey of awakening your Persona, a manifestation of your psyche as it’s explained in this chapter. You will begin your campaign with a Level 1 Fool Persona, Orpheus.
✔️ Excellent way to experience P3 in quick fashion.
✔️ The most influential entry that spearheaded the franchise into a new direction.
✔️ Shoji Meguro’s masterful soundtrack is retained.
❌ Continues to omit animated cutscenes from its remaster despite it landing on newer platforms.
Confrontation between the protagonist and demons are displayed in an arena format, with you and your party battling it out against the opposing swarm. Your UI will show respective HP (Health Points) and SP (Special Points) to which are utilised respectfully in Persona attacks. Melee attacks won’t drain either gauge, but are generally the weakest blow. Items collected in your travels can be used to replenish health or mana (SP), instate player buffs or eliminate enemy buffs. Demons will occasionally have an exposed weakness depending on a character’s attack which will grant you a bonus attack. In the same vein, your Persona will also harness certain attributes similar to demons, which may grant a demon a bonus or a miss.
Levelling up your Persona will grant them new abilities to use during battle, alongside their skillcard level. Opening fights of the campaign are easy and quick to grind through, but once you begin to trudge through Tartarus you’ll notice the strength of each demon in your encounter will grow. This is where it’s advised you grind as much as possible before you begin your plight toward each boss encounter. Bosses tend to show up every fourth, fifth, or sixth floor early on, then gradually become randomised on each floor further into Tartarus. Some may come in groups of three while others will be singular encounters.
Tartarus entails a total of 264 floors to investigate with some optional content along the way. Levelling is your best bet, with your Persona gradually growing stronger and evolving them by fusion. Fusion spells are calculated by level and arcana, which will help determine the Persona you will travel with later in the game, with Igor guiding you through the process. Unlike future entries into the franchise you cannot control other party members, only the main protagonist. You may adjust the game’s AI to your liking, and how the cycle of your party’s offensive order is sorted but it’s up to the CPU in how it attacks. Persona has always touched on sensitive subjects such as belief, Religion, life, death, sex and relatable worldly issues like politics, and P3P’s campaign is no different with many story elements grazing lightly across these compartmentalised issues – a polarising delivery that impacts how the player will perceive the title’s narrative and ingenuity.
Aesthetically, the remaster has some blemishes that become widely apparent when playing on a bigger screen. Stretched static images, and smudged environments are scattered but are inherently blurred to place focus on our character’s interaction during face-to-face conversation. Upscaled renders replace the perpetual personalities that rotate on-screen. Audibly, the title retains the sensational vocal talents of industry greats such as Yuri Lowenthal (Persona 4 Golden, Marvel’s Spider-Man), Laura Bailey (Persona 4 Golden, The Last of Us Part II), Liam O’Brien (Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, Catherine), Travis Willingham (inFamous: Second Son, Marvel’s Spider-Man) Paula Tiso (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Odin Sphere), Daniel Woren (Lupin the 3rd, Fire Emblem) and many more.
Persona 3 Portable retains the illustrious works of esteemed video game composer, and recently retired in-house artist Shoji Meguro. The signature hip-hop dance beats that were attached to the title are all here, but now include an additional ten new tracks for those that choose to portray the campaign as the title’s female protagonist. From Burn My Dread to Soul Phrase and A Way of Life, its influence on how the Persona franchise evolved was ground breaking. It was intent on setting the series free of being a dreary slog that had been critiqued by fans for primarily being a carbon copy to what the original Shin Megami Tensei series was. Setting itself apart aesthetically through audio-visual means was a marriage made in heaven for Persona 3 that became the blue print for later titles, and its overture was crucial to this statement.
Persona 3 Portable in 2022 is essential for newcomers to the series. If you’re a Persona 5 Royal fan, that’s just picked up the title and played through the entire campaign, this is a healthy dose of historic roots that transcended the franchise from a polarising viewpoint. It’s almost definitive, yet I would argue Persona 3 FES would be the ultimate experience. Regardless, P3P is an emphatically fantastical way to experience the campaign in a seamless, rapid format that forgoes any bottlenecking, yet ultimately inspires it sequels with drastic measures. It’s one of the greatest JRPG’s of all time, and surely will have the devout elated to revisit on their respective platform, or will newcomers abuzz on how pivotal its third entry truly is to what would become the biggest role-playing series, ever.
Persona 3 Portable Review
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Persona 3, released outside Japan as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, is a 2006 role-playing video game developed by Atlus. It is the fourth main installment in the Persona series, which is part of the larger Megami Tensei franchise.