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Review | Persona 3 Reload

"A new Persona 5, called Persona 3, is waiting just in front of your doorstep. If you want to experience Atlus in its prime when it comes to turn-based JRPG experience, this is just the perfect game for you!"

by Foggy, 08-04-2024, Edited by: No one (yet!)

You might wonder, which Persona 3 version is for you. We have: Persona 3, Persona 3 FES, Persona 3 Portable, and Persona 3 Reload. The first Persona 3 PS2 version came as a Shin Megami Tensei spin-off, coming with a focus on social simulation that wasn’t in Shin Megami games.

FES version is the base game + The Answer epilogue (with Aegis), plus some new weapons, personas, higher difficulty and some minor differences.

Portable version is just a downgraded version of vanilla version, but this is the first version where you could control all party members in the fight. It also came with an additional protagonist (that differs in social links and revamped soundtrack).

Finally, Reload (full Remake) version is not FES, nor Portable version, but it’s completely remade, with animated cutscenes and fully voiced. The main dungeon is also different. The Answer DLC will be sold separately, and probably the female protagonist DLC comes a bit later (or we will have to buy that as well).

You might think why the hell is the last version the vanilla version, but don’t worry – 80h or 90h of gameplay is enough for start (it took me 90h to finish almost everything).

The game is released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on February 2nd, 2024.

Welcome to Persona 3! Enjoy the visuals, the music, and sign the contract (with Igor!). There is so much to love here. I love the dark atmosphere, the coffins and the details on every step of the way.

I love Persona 5. It’s one of the best games ever. For sure it’s the best one on the previous generation of consoles, and probably more. Hearing about Persona 3 remake which is “based” on Persona 5 made me happy. And that happiness proved to be correct.

I’m a simple gamer – I love me some turn-based JRPG’s with good social aspect and fusions. This game is exactly that. If you’ve played Persona 5, you know basically everything. The setting here is a bit darker though, but that is a good thing! On your journey towards saving the world you will go through couple of semesters, passing exams, learning the lives of your teammates, and bunch of other regular life stuff (chores at times). Some might feel pressured with games like these, where you can spend limited actions during days. I love that. I love the fact you need to think carefully which friendship to nurture, when to visit the main dungeon… There is just something about that casual, slow burn flow.

I love the story, and the characters. The only issue I had was the pacing, maybe not the pacing itself, but the main plot is so slow. Everything evolves at the end, and the last 2 months of the game are simply brilliant. That is maybe the only minus I have story-wise. The rest – I loved everything about it. The dark tone of the game is a big plus for me, and I can’t find other flows to add them to the equation, except maybe the dungeons itself. It can get a bit tedious at times, which Persona 5 fully solved with introducing palaces that serves as story dungeons (which is not present here).

Of course, some social bonds are more interesting than the others, but the game have a strong emphasis on character development – both main and side characters. I think that this is where the games like these shines the most. Well, not everyone wants to pass exams, work part-time or spend time with different people in the town – but I just do. Persona games are just casual and awesome.

You can find a certain amount of lore references. I always love these! The school life is not that bad (when you have a killer soundtrack). It's really awesome how the game makes you feel "at home", which I don't usually feel in games. Some scenes are hillarious!

You will hunt shadows and learn about the different version of the world after midnight. People are being “hit” with a weird mental illness that happens during the Dark Hour (after midnight), and you and your team need to take care of the situation. Of course, not everyone knows about Dark Hour. And of course, you are the only person that can hold and summon multiple personas.

Personas are like a subconsciousness that gets triggered by emotions. They reflect a person and gathering/fusing different personas evolve around bonds in the real world, which ultimately unlocks more fusion options. They are your main mean of progress and arsenal.

Velvet Room and Tartarus will be your main visit locations – a room only visible to you, where you fuse and create new personas. Personas are your main way to attack, use magic and basically everything in battles. There are so many personas you can fuse; it makes me happy just thinking about it. Tartarus is a multi-floor dungeon with many challenges and random floor design on each visit. Your goal is to reach the top while following the story to unlock more floors. Usually, you will do the social aspects during days and evenings, visit Tartarus on some days and trigger story events every month or so (much like in Persona 5, just without the palaces). What the story brings, how the bonds relate to Velvet Room and Tartarus is solely on you to discover (no spoilers here!).

I was never bored with any of the above points – there is so much love put into every segment of the game, and with the fully-voices cutscenes the emersion is high. You can find hidden lore and additional (optional) scenes to make the exploration worthwhile, but even with just spending days to bond and raise skills/links will be more than enough.

At one moment you are bonding and working on socials skills and links, at the other - you are hanging from the cross. That's Persona 3 for you! I wish there was more scenes like the one in the last picture, although there will be plenty. Don't quit on the game - it may start slow, but it's a slow burner, worthy of your time and investment.

The combat is also improved in this version – there are special attacks called Theurgy attacks that are introduced only in this version. They kick ass! I love all kinds of limit breaks. Maybe they make the game easier, but I just love the animations and visuals. The combat is so much fun, every enemy, boss fight – they all come with different strategy, so you always need to think how to fight.

The main idea is to find the weakness and attack with that element (or critical) to gain an extra turn. When you attack all enemies with their weakness, you can perform an all-out-attack that will usually obliterate them. That also triggers Shuffle time – a choice of timed buffs that last during your Tartarus visit. Sometimes getting extra EXP or money is just what you need.

With so many different de-buffs, buffs, elemental attacks, and like 80+ different personas – buckle up and enjoy. You will love the progress of your team. Also, having different team members also provide different battle strategy. There is just a lot to love.

My favourite moments are boss fights, and mid-floor checkpoint boss fights. The Monad Doors and stronger enemy variations. Always preparing with different strategies is an unlimited pool of inspiration when it comes to battles.

Tartarus is the main in-game dungeon. You will spend most of your time there (when it comes to exploring and battles). I miss more environments and dungeons for the main story flow though. Nevertheless, you can find sexy outfits in Tartarus, so maybe that can make you forget about the somewhat dull dungeon.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to drag this review too much. For everyone out there that loved Persona 5, this is the next best thing in the Persona universe. It comes with Altus’ badass turn-based seal of awesomeness. The soundtrack is otherworldly, although I’ve heard complains that the atmosphere in Reload version of the game is a bit “brighter” than in the original. I have no idea; I’ve never played the original version. From my point of view, I had no issues with that aspect.

If you accept the slow pacing/slow story development, you are in for a good time. I’ve dated Mitsuri, just to mention that! You can choose who to date, there are plenty options. For me, Persona 3 is the next best thing in the modern gaming history, just steps after Persona 5. I think they’ve just perfectioned everything there, but this was an awesome baseline!

"A well-done remake and an awesome Persona game. There is just something about that school life and social aspect that Persona games seems to nail down perfectly."
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