By now, you should know of Persona 3 and the greatness of the title. It was released twice on the PS2 and each time the game, somehow, got better. The original version of Persona 3 was truly amazing, while the director’s cut made the game even better — which wasn’t thought possible at the time. Once again, Persona 3 is back to haunt our minds and takeover our lives with Persona 3 Portable. If you played Persona 3 or FES, you may say to yourself this portable version isn’t worth it and if you think that, you are dead wrong. With all the gameplay enhancements of FES, a new female lead character, and some slight alterations to the gameplay formula to make it friendlier for the portable market, Persona 3 Portable may just be the best way to play Persona 3.
If you played Persona 3 before, which is likely the case, you’ll find the same great story intact here. Since there is a slim shot that you didn’t play the game before, the basic background of the game is that you are a transfer student living in modern day Japan. Arriving at a boarding school and bunking with some unusual characters, you quickly realize you aren’t in a normal housing complex and these teenagers are everything but typical. Lots of weird things happen to teenagers at night, but your roommates do the strangest stuff. When midnight strolls around, everyone in the area turns to coffins and evil entities known solely as ‘Shadows’ appear through the land. To combat these evil beings, a select group of people are gifted with a power to stay conscious at midnight and they combat the ‘Shadows’. You are one of them and due to this reason you’ll find yourself as a member of SEES.
Much like the story, the gameplay is very similar to what you find in the two PS2 versions. There are a couple new additions, namely a new female lead character and cursor navigation. The new lead character offers a refreshing take on the same story with new dialogue and different interaction with characters. This allows for different social bonds to be made with your party members and gives you a different view on things. Third-person exploration through the school has been stripped away and everything is done via a cursor menu. This takes away some of the exploration feel of the game, but it makes things much easier and faster. With such a vast game now on a handheld some sacrifices had to be made and exploring the school and other areas of the locale with the cursor system really makes the game portable friendly.
The last change the game has undergone is in the battle system. Overall, the game’s battle system is still conducted the same way it was in the previous two entries, but this time you have the option of having complete control of your party. Instead of relying on the AI to make wise battle decisions, you can make the choices yourself and strategize in each battle. This minor change makes a world of difference when it comes to battles and using your Persona. Complete party control aside, you’ll still fight, level up, reach higher levels of Tarturus, and combine Personas to create more powerful ones. Outside of the darkness and core of the game, there are social activities to partake in, which help make your Persona stronger.
Most of the changes made to the game are for the better, but one change really makes the experience slightly less compelling and deep. Due to space constraints, the game has lost the animated cutscenes, which is a disappointment. It’s understandable as to why it had to happen considering a second storyline, loads of voiceovers, and additional content, but they were so nicely animated and composed on the PS2 that not seeing them in this version will sadden veterans. It’s not enough to ruin the game experience as the story is easy enough to follow on its own.
Persona 3 Portable is just as much a masterpiece as the original Persona 3 was before it. The vast majority of the changes make the experience better and more suitable for the handheld, but the lack of cutscenes is disappointing. At the core, the full game experience is intact and is something all Persona and RPG fans should experience. If you failed to play the game before, now is your chance and there is no excuse to pass on it.
Overall: 9.0/ 10
(Editor’s Note: Both stories were completed before reviewing. A total of 90hrs was put into the game.)