For the longest time, the Persona series has only been available on PlayStation, now though, Persona 3 Portable and the other modern Persona titles are now available on all modern consoles and PC. While Persona 4 Golden has already been released on PC in 2020, fans can finally play (or re-play) Persona 3 Portable without having to buy an old PSP and hunt for a physical copy of the game.
Though it’s interesting to see that Atlus went with a remastered re-release of Persona 3 Portable instead of FES. Re-releasing Golden makes sense given that the PS Vita was able to render the PS2-era world without any issues. But the PSP’s hardware limitations meant that Portable had to feature more visual novel-style navigation and presentation.
But Portable can be seen as Persona 3’s definitive version. After all, not only does it include a female protagonist which adds essentially double the replay value, but it also lets you control all party members in battle – something that can’t be done on FES and the OG version.
Despite these, the game is still very much a PSP title as it is mostly unchanged for this re-release, except for resolution improvements and some changes. Given this, is Persona 3 Portable worth getting, especially for those who have yet to play any iteration of the game? Here’s what we think.
Visual Novel Presentation
As mentioned above, Persona 3 Portable is presented kind of like a visual novel. Instead of having a character to move around and explore the town, players are stuck with moving a cursor through a 2D space.
Coming from Persona 5 or even 4, this is a change that might affect your immersion. After all, a large part of the appeal of Persona games (at least for us) is how you can explore a virtual Japan.
Going from exploring Shibuya in a stylish 3D environment in P5 to this flat 2D map in P3 Portable is a jarring change for sure. Thankfully, the game’s dungeon-crawling section lets you play in 3D, albeit with some slightly clunky default controls.
Speaking of dungeon-crawling, the game’s dungeon system works differently if you’re coming from P5 or even P4. In Persona 5, there are palaces with different styles while there’s also Mementos with randomly generated levels that players can opt to explore. Persona 4 doesn’t have a Mementos equivalent, though its Midnight Channel features dungeons with specific themes but have randomly generated floors.
But with P3P, there are no handcrafted palaces. Instead, there’s Tartarus which works pretty much like Mementos. Instead of completing a castle, your goal is to get to a certain floor at the end of a time period.
Because of this, exploring Tartarus isn’t as fun as clearing Palaces in P5. In fact, there were times that I got a bit tired of clearing Tartarus levels as they all looked mostly the same.
From what I’ve said so far, I might be giving the impression that P3P did not age well because of its visual novel style and repetitive dungeon. Make no mistake, Persona 3 Portable still holds up as it is still presented with an impeccable style. And, if you stick with it, you won’t be disappointed when it comes to gameplay.
Still the Persona You Know and Love
While Persona 3 (the original PS2 version) is nearly a decade old, I was impressed to find out how well the game aged when it came to gameplay.
Coming from Persona 5, I was surprised by how similar the two games play. That’s not a knock on P5 mind you, I was just struck by how the core modern Persona gameplay loop that fans know and love was pioneered by P3.
While some mechanics are more complex in the later games, P3 still has the satisfying elemental weakness-based combat, the deep social links system, the Persona fusion mechanic, and more.
While the presentation and its age may take some time to get used to, once you do, you’ll no doubt have a lot of fun with P3P if you loved playing Persona 5 and 4, I do not doubt that you will enjoy it, and be engaged with P3P from a gameplay standpoint.
Plus, if you do stick with the game, you’ll be rewarded with possibly my favorite story in the Persona series.
A Dark and Grim Story
Sure, the Persona 4 Golden cast is more loveable, and the Persona 5 story is more socially relevant, but if you ask me, Persona 3 is my favorite when it comes to the story. And a lot of that has to do with the darker tone.
While the other Persona games do explore some darker subject matter, I’m sure many fans will agree that Persona 3 is the darkest when it came to its atmosphere. At some points, the almost apocalyptic vibe of the game reminded me of anime like Evangelion – impressive for a game that’s technically made for the PSP.
This atmosphere is sustained thanks in large part to the visual style of the game, as well as its banger soundtrack. Of course, the arcs of the characters also take some dark turns, but they’re all incredibly compelling to play through.
By the end of my playthrough, I’ve very much gotten attached to the game’s cast, especially because of how well-thought-out their backstories and character arcs are. And while it would’ve been nice to see deeper romance mechanics, I still enjoyed the social link stories overall.
As for the main story, I won’t spoil anything, but it is the most effective and memorable among the three modern Persona titles. While the dark and grim story may not be for everyone, for fans of these types of works, P3P is highly recommended. And even if you’re not typically into darker stories, Persona 3 still has some lighter moments that you can enjoy as it’s not all dark and depressing.
Another thing to mention is the fact that there’s a female protagonist option. While the game progresses the same, many character moments are different between the male and female protagonists. For instance, romance options are expectedly different for these two options. Because of this, P3P has lots of replay value. It’s also highly recommended for those who played the original on PS2 as they can experience it from a different perspective.
Final Verdict – 8/10
It’s a bit difficult to recommend it as someone’s first Persona game though as the visual novel presentation and randomly generated levels might make it a bit boring to some. Fans who jump right in from Persona 5 might also need some time to adjust.
But if you can look past this, Persona 3 Portable is easily a must-play, especially if you love Persona 5 or 4. It’s also recommended for those who have played the original P3 or P3 FES on PS2. This is because the game, while it aged a bit, still very much plays like a modern Persona title, complete with a compelling story with memorable characters.
This review was made via a PC code provided by the publisher.