previews\ Jun 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable preview


When it released back in 2007, Persona 3 was a critical darling, quickly becoming one of the highest-rated games for the system, and thrusting the series into the upper echelon of RPGs. A year later, Atlus released an updated version of the game, Persona 3: FES, which also met with great acclaim, and offered some great additions over its predecessor, including a new chapter. Now, Atlus is preparing to release the third version of the game, albeit in handheld form with Persona 3 Portable.

Coming for the PSP through retail and digital distribution, Persona 3 Portable condenses the original smash hit to fit on the system. There are some cuts to be found here and there; the extra chapter (The Answer) from Persona 3: FES is not on offer here, and the game’s anime cut scenes have been replaced with in-engine scenes and still images. However, most of what made the original game (and its subsequent upgrade) so great is on offer here, including the solid dungeon-crawler-meets-high-school-chat-sim hybrid gameplay and even some features that aren’t found in the PS2 versions. If you are a fan of the Persona games or you missed out on the original Persona 3 (twice), then this could be one that you’ll want to look out for.

For the uninitiated, Persona 3 follows a group of Japanese students as struggle to defeat evil forces every night during a phenomenon known as the Dark Hour, where people are transformed into coffins and have no recollection of the events that take place at that time. However, your group of teens isn’t affected by the Dark Hour, and instead utilizes creatures, known as Personas, to fight off evil beasts while discovering the machinations behind the events that are taking place.

Much of the game takes place through dialogue chains between your main character and others that he (or she) meets. Depending on the choices you make while speaking to other characters, you can earn special boosts called Social Links. These Social Links as they are called will also net you some performance boosts with your Persona as well, granting them higher stats.

The other side of the gameplay coin has you exploring the floors of the tower of Tartarus and taking on enemies. This plays out fairly traditionally, employing a turn-based mechanic for your character, while your cohorts’ actions are picked up by AI tactics that you can equip for them. Your Persona will give you specific abilities to use in battle, which can be upgraded as you progress and gain experience.

The biggest addition that Persona 3 Portable brings to the table is a playable female character. At the beginning of the game, you’ll choose to play as a male or a female character, offering up a different view of the game’s plot. The game’s storyline and gameplay elements are pretty much the same whether you go male or female, but this is nevertheless something that the PSP version has over its PS2 counterparts.

There are some corners cut in the handheld version, but for the most part, this PSP iteration nails what made the original PS2 game so great. Look for a full review of the game closer to its release.

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