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Review: Persona 3 Portable [Gamepass]

After 14 years, the revolutionary title is making its debut on New Generation consoles. Delve into the twisted halls of Tartarus, face your fears with the mysterious shadows, and all in time to finish mid-terms.

I hope you’re awake, because the Dark Hour approaches. This is Persona 3 Portable.

Persona 3 Portable Game Review | Gaming - Empire

Life Must Have Meaning

Originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2006, Persona 3 was the next step in the Persona JRPG franchise that moved away from its PlayStation 1 predecessors. A shift in design, gameplay, and themes that captivated audiences. A year later, Persona 3 FES (Festival) would be released, with an additional 30 hours of gameplay as well as a new hard mode. In 2009, the final iteration of Persona 3 Portable would combine these things and bring them to the Playstation Portable device.

It is this iteration that has been remastered. Whereas Persona 3 (FES) had animated anime-style cut-scenes, Persona 3 Portable has what is effectively a visual novel style: still images with limited moving and a few changed pictures. Additionally, the explorable over-world has been replaced with highlighted locations that you can select and go to instantly. While this is faster, it kinda takes away from the experience as a whole.

I won’t rag too hard on these features, as ultimately, they don’t impact the gameplay itself. However, it should be expressed that the re-release of Persona 3 Portable on new gen consoles is by no means how the game could and should look like. This is heavily signified with one of the first major moments in the game. Avoiding spoilers as best I can, we have the protagonist facing off against the monstrous shadow, summoning their persona. What was a fully animated cut-scene is instead the low polygon models making the same motions. Perhaps most disappointing is the crunchy and old audio that was used. It wouldn’t be near as noticeable if the rest of the game hadn’t been updated in audio quality.

People Hear What They Choose To Hear…

But how does the game itself play? Where does the story take you? There is a LOT in Persona 3 Portable, so let’s dig into it. Starting with the Dark Hour, every night as the clock strikes midnight, time is frozen for one hour. During this time, normal people are unaware some are being replaced by coffins wherever they are and locked away from world. Monsters known as shadows roam the Dark Hour, taking all kinds of twisted forms as they hunt. The few who are lucid during the Dark Hour are vulnerable to these shadows, but some also have the power to fight back.

Our protagonist is one such person. As a transfer student new to the area, you will be thrown into the thick of things, encountering the Dark Hour on your first day at the new school. Soon you are invited to join the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.) made up of fellow students. Together you investigate Tartarus, the tower that appears during the Dark Hour. As time passes you will go to class, make new friends, better yourself through study and training. This is all efforts to become stronger during the Dark Hour.

The relationships you form throughout the game are represented by Social Links. And the more you spend time with these individual links, the stronger they become. In turn, they will strengthen their associated Tarot Card. Given the finite amount of time you have in the game, it can be quite challenging to juggle all the different events and moments it takes to level up all of the Social Links, and thus get the most out of your Personas.

…And Believe What They Want To Believe

The gameplay of Persona 3 is split into two layers. The first is the aforementioned social life, going to class and so on. The second takes place in Tartarus and fighting the shadows. Every floor is randomly created, creating a maze to traverse and survive. You can go as a group or send your party out to explore and find items and a possible exit. However, be wary, as any monsters they encounter they will have to face off against them on their own. At certain points during the climb, you will find teleports back to the entrance, allowing you to regroup, heal, and swap out party members.

A major point of interest of the staging area is the door to the Velvet Room. Here you will find Igor and his assistant Margret, two mysterious beings who seem to exist outside of the Dark Hour and is only known by the Protagonist. Aside from his functionality with fusing and creating Personas, you can also speak to him to gain access to the DLC missions of the game once they are available. He also plays a few minor roles throughout the story. So it’s worth checking him out from time to time outside of Personas.

Perhaps the most interesting mechanic in Persona 3 is the Personas themselves. As you play the game, you will have opportunities to add monsters to your party, each having a unique Tarot assigned to them. Your social links will affect how strong these creatures can become, so leveling up relationships are very important in the long run. Having a strong stable is key to survival, as each enemy can have it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

Time Flies When You’re Having A Good Time

Persona 3 FES was and is a great game. The transference to portable on the PSP was, at the time amazing. Being able to play the newest game in your hands was something many people had longed for. The difference is that now, so far after the release of Persona 4 and 5 and the additional side games, that this feels painfully dated by comparison. Not by the game itself, but from what was taken out from the portable platform.

The lack of animated cut-scenes, replaced by smooth low-poly models is honestly painful to see. The crunchy audio in dialogue stands out when the soundtrack itself is crisper than the original on the PS2. The entirety of free roaming of the world map is turned into essentially a visual novel aesthetic. The addition of difficulty changing, and quick saves are nice and welcome, especially in the new generation of gaming. But to me, I would give them up to have the feel of the old game back.

If Persona 3 Portable’s rerelease is your first exposure to the title, or the franchise as a whole, you’ll have a good time. It’s a good game on its own. However, it will forever be in the shadow of its former glory in my eyes.

Persona 3 Portable is available on PC (Steam), Playstation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, and Games Pass.




Persona 3 Portable is a port of the PSP title. In game-play, music, and quality of life the game delivers. But with what was cut from the game the experience may be slightly disappointing for veteran fans.

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