Atlus has released the portable version of their 2007 hit RPG Persona 3, now entitled Persona 3 Portable. Will this game become a toned-down budget version of the original, or will it even surpass the original version itself?
The setting is still the same as with the original; it takes place on modern day Japan where you take control of a high school student who’s part of a secret organization called the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) where the student involved in the group has the ability to summon the manifestation of their inner self which is called a Persona, they can summon their Persona by shooting a gun-like device called the Evoker into their heads. the SEES investigates the Dark Hour, a time which occurs only during midnight where beings called Shadows appear along with the giant tower called Tartarus where the Shadows reside.
The new addition in P3P is the introduction of a Female protagonist, on the original version, you only control a Male protagonist, now in P3P you get to choose between the two. Choosing the Female protagonist can alter some aspects of the storyline, such as having a different assistant in the Velvet Room and getting different Social Links.
Navigating to the world is now simplified with the exception on the dungeons, players now guide a cursor on the screen to navigate and interact with characters and areas, although this makes moving on different maps and interacting with characters much simpler and faster, it also lessens the feeling of experiencing the whole Persona world. Real-time cutscenes are now replaced with illustrations and character portraits, but they still retain the voice overs during the cutscenes.
The Battle system is still the same with some additions that were borrowed from Persona 3: FES and Persona 4. Gameplay is turn-based, in the original version, only the Protagonist is playable while the other party members are controlled by AI but they can be guided by using the Tactics command, now in the P3P version all members are playable. You can get an extra turn if you managed to land a critical hit or even exploit a weakness on the Shadows, knocking them down, if the whole opposition was knocked down, you can perform an All Out Attack; a special move where all of the party members will attack simultaneously, causing a ton of damage against your enemies.
Social Links is one of the best sellers of the game, during the day, you can interact with characters and make friends with them, creating a Social Link with them, continue interacting with them and your Social Link rank increases, with high ranked Social Links , you’ll be able to create stronger Personas.
And then during at night, at the time of the Dark Hour, you get to explore the giant tower Tartarus, which spans more than 200 floors and is separated with different sections. The maps in every floor of Tartarus are randomly generated, so every time you revisit the same floor, you’ll always encounter a different map.
Another good part in the game is that you have to balance between fighting Shadows and doing every school life and increasing Social Link Ranks, giving you options on which to prioritize first, focus more on dungeon crawling and you might flunk in school; focus only in day time activities and you’ll get a hard time defeating shadows and bosses, so you have to plan ahead on what you have to focus first. Also, every time you perform an activity, times passes on the game, so you only have limited time, but this doesn’t force you to rush on your grinding, as you can still enjoy a casual time despite having a time limitation.
The music in P3P is quite good, it has that funky beat with some mix of hip hop and Jpop, even the battle theme has vocals in it, and new soundtracks was added for the Female Protagonist story. Voice acting is also quite impressive, it makes you feel like you are actually watching an Anime series.
Overall the transition of Persona 3 to the portable console is quite good, it may not be a perfect transition, but it still retains the feel of the game. You can still enjoy a lengthy game even if you’re on a go. Newcomers to the game will still enjoy the game even if it was toned down just to fit it on the portable console, and old timers will still feel nostalgic on this one as it has new additions for more game time.
Game Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Persona 3 Portable was developed and published by Atlus.