Persona 3 Portable Review – Still a Classic Despite the Blemishes
Persona 3 Portable Review
We’ve got a lot of Persona this month (what year is it?!), and we’re starting with Persona 3 Portable (seriously, what year is it?!). The game, or more specifically, this “Portable” version, was released way back in 2009 for the PlayStation Portable and has remained there pretty much ever since. Until now.
Persona 3 Portable is back and remastered for modern consoles. The game is already considered a classic by all definitions of the word, and we’re one of the many who would wholeheartedly recommend it to both fans and newcomers. We say this despite some reservations about some content not being included in the package.
We’ll elaborate in a bit, but now let’s hop into our review of Persona 3 Portable!
Beware the Dark Hour
The Dark Hour is a mysterious phenomenon that occurs every midnight where, during a hidden hour before the next day, everything goes dark, people are transformed into coffin-like objects, and shadows roam the streets. It’s also when a mysterious tower called Tartarus appears. Pretty spooky!
You are a transfer student to the prestigious Gekkoukan High School, and not long after you arrive, you experience the Dark Hour and are soon recruited into S.E.E.S. – a group of high school students tasked with fighting off the Shadows and uncovering the mysteries of Tartarus.
These students are thrust into this fight because of their ability to summon Personas, their other selves, which give them the power to fight the Shadows. As a recent recruit of S.E.E.S., you have the unenviable task of protecting humanity from the Shadows while making the most of your student life.
Life Ain’t Easy
What you’re getting with Persona 3 Portable is pretty much a JRPG/school simulation type of game. As a high school student who also happens to be able to fight otherworldly beings, you’ll need to balance out your school life with your duties. Doing this will see you go through your entire school year, and whether you decide to study, hang out, or fight Shadows in Tartarus will be completely up to you.
Such decisions will be thrust upon you every day, and you can’t count out the fact that, as a student, you have exams and school activities like clubs to deal with. It’s all so surprisingly well crafted that it’s a title worth replaying just to see what other outcomes your decisions will have.
What’s school life without some socials on the side?
Persona 3 Portable was notable for introducing the Social Links mechanic that’s been a staple in the Persona series as of late. You will meet various characters during your school life, both on and off campus, and it’s by spending time with various individuals that you can strengthen yourself in the fight against the Shadows.
Each person you meet will have an interesting story, and how close you get to them will depend on your decisions, with some possibly reaching romantic levels. Social Links were a major and fun mechanic in Persona 3 Portable, and part of the fun was finding them all and challenging yourself to complete them.
A New Perspective
One of the most striking features of Persona 3 Portable is the option to play as the female main character. It’s practically the same as playing the original male protagonist, albeit with a few tweaks to school events and Social Links. Notably, in contrast to romancing the female leads like Yukari or Mitsuru, playing as the female lead will let you get together instead with some of the guys like Akihiko.
In its entirety, Persona 3 Portable remains practically unchanged from its original counterpart, even down to the UI. As a PSP port, there were some limitations to the hardware, which is why Persona 3 Portable still has some remnants of the past like still images and a cursor, in contrast to seeing your character move around your school and its surrounding areas.
Nonetheless, the game still looks smooth despite said limitations, and during more action-oriented scenes like exploring Tartarus and fighting Shadows, you can definitely notice the enhanced visuals and smoother gameplay. Character models look smooth and fluid despite using the same outdated ones from before. It truly is a mix of the old and new, for better or for worse.
Gameplay wise, all difficulty levels are playable from the start so you can make your exploration of Tartarus as easy or as difficult as you want. If you find save points so far in between too, then you make use of the quick save feature which lets you save anywhere and lets you resume from that point.
Overall, players won’t need to worry about Persona 3 Portable (2023) and its faithfulness to the original. It’s so faithful, in fact, that there may be a hint of disappointment for some fans.
What Could Have Been?
Prior to Persona 3 Portable, fans were treated to Persona 3 FES (short for Festival). Not only was it an enhanced version of Persona 3, with new features like additional content, but it also contained “The Answer”, a campaign that acts as an epilogue that practically gives closure to the main Persona 3 storyline.
For newcomers, Persona 3 Portable may already feel like an entire meal, but FES would have been the full course because of its additional features, especially the epilogue campaign. Longtime fans will definitely notice the difference, especially when paired up with another Persona release this month, Persona 4 Golden.
What we liked:
- Faithful port of the original game
- Enhanced visuals
- Quick Save feature
What we didn’t like:
- Lacks features that Persona 3 FES had
Verdict: Buy it!
Persona 3 Portable is still a title worth playing, despite the missing content from the FES version. The game is already complete in and of itself, featuring hours and hours of gameplay and tons of replayability.
It’s a solid title in terms of the fun turn-based mechanic, the nearly addictive dungeon exploration of Tartarus, and meeting a cast of colorful characters that you will surely be attached to by the end of your campaign.
Persona 3 Portable is certainly worth it simply based on how much you’re getting out of it when considering the price. We encourage you to burn your dread and grab this title and later on, reach out for the truth as another adventure awaits you in another title by the name of Persona 4 Golden.
*Persona 3 Portable was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 with a review code provided by the publisher.