Persona 3 Portable review
Ah Persona. An often forgotten gem from the JRPG genre, the most established of the Shin Megami Tensei off-shoots that hasn’t received it’s just due from American audiences. It’s a shame, considering how the franchise (currently in its fourth entry) has become one of the best you’re likely to find. However, it’s easy to see why the series has often been considered "niche" as the games feature Japanese school children summoning demons by shooting themselves in the heads. However, that doesn’t stop the franchise from ranking among most engaging that the RPG genre has to offer, and this latest entry is no exception.
Persona 3 is no stranger to being remade. The game was re-released on the PS2 less than a year after its initial launch as Persona 3 FES, boasting added features and bonuses. Now, the series is officially debuting on the PSP with this version, aptly titled Persona 3 Portable. Persona 3 Portable offers up some (but not all) of the additions on tap from Persona 3 FES, and also includes features that are specific to the PSP. Additionally, there are corners that were cut here and there, including scaled down cutscenes that lack the visual impact of those on offer from its console brethren. However, this port manages to nail all of the excellent dungeon crawling and character development that made the original a real joy to play, even if the story is way out in left field.
Persona 3 Portable follows the same plot as the original PS2 versions of the game, putting the player in the shoes of a Japanese teenager as he adapts to life in a new city, making friends at his school while keeping up with his classes. Oh yeah, and every night the town’s residents turn into coffins for an hour, while you and some of your school chums are forced to fight off demonic beasts by shooting yourselves in the head and summoning Personas, mythical creatures possessing special abilities. Additionally, every night, you’re required to scale up a floor in a demonic tower, searching each floor and fighting groups of enemies.
Persona 3’s gameplay is a mix of several elements including traditional dungeon crawling and turn-based combat, sim-based dialogue, and point-and-click exploration. The game’s more traditional elements aren’t groundbreaking, but solidly implemented. The other elements of the game factor in nicely to the overall gameplay, as depending on what you say when interacting with other characters, you’ll get boosts and upgrades for your Personas, granting them more abilities in battle. The developers have also simplified the exploration elements of the game, going for a static screen image approach where you simply have to move your cursor over points of interest and interact with them.
The improvements for the PSP version of Persona 3 include: quicker load times (made even shorter when you take advantage of the optional Memory Stick installation), two new difficulty levels, and the ability to play as a female character as opposed to simply a male one. There are no real benefits that one has over the other and the story elements stay mostly the same aside from some changes in relationships and dialogue, but it’s a nice change for players who beat the original campaign and are looking to approach the experience from a different angle.
Graphically, there were some obvious compromises made in bringing the game to a handheld. The great-looking anime cutscenes from the original game have been replaced with in-game assets and still images, and the overall image quality is lower than its PS2 brethren.
Aside from some graphical downgrades, this is still a solid version of a great RPG. If you’ve missed out on the game before, here’s another chance.