Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable Review

The PSP has fallen on rough times, suffering a drought of must-have games as of late. Your PSP may have been rejected or placed in the corner, collecting dust as you waited for that amazing game to come along and give you reason to keep it in your pocket and glued to your hands.

Persona 3 Portable (P3P) is that game. What a portable game has to do to be fun or functional on this platform is create an experience that works on the go, yet still provides a full-featured game that feels complete. P3P does all of this, and like MGS: Peace Walker, is a game that is perfect for the PSP platform.

P3P is a port of the PS2 game Persona 3: FES. All of the gameplay changes and social link cleanup from that edition is present here, but the extra campaign that came with FES, "The Answer," is not present. The story is relatively unchanged as well, casting you as a high school student that has just arrived in an unnamed Japanese city. After experiencing the "Dark Hour," a time when demons enter the world, you meet a group of fellow students who form a group named S.E.E.S (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad). You are soon venturing out during the Dark Hour, exploring a massive tower called the Tartarus, and figuring out why demons enter the world during this time.

Exploring the Tartarus

The thing that made the original Persona 3 so interesting and different from other RPGs is that you experience a full Japanese school year during the course of the game. You go to class, participate in extracurricular activities, and explore the town afterwards. During your school time, you’ll forge special relationships with party members and NPCs called Social Links. These level up as you continue to hang out and become closer to the person associated with the link. The higher the level, the more powerful Persona you can create, those being special summons that are tied to the characters and control the spells and skills they can use. Higher social links equal more powerful Persona. If it sounds a bit like Pokémon, you’re on the right track. While in the original version social links and how to go about them was a bit obscure, P3P makes them a bit easier and always points you in the right direction or reminds you that an interaction is available to progress the relationship. You never have to rack your brain remembering your tennis club meets on Mondays or you have Library duty on Wednesdays; the game lets you know.

Aside from easier social links, a few more drastic changes have been made that really perfect Persona 3. There are now five difficulty modes selectable right from the beginning, allowing you to play the game at the pace you prefer. If you want to experience the game and not get pounded in battles, Beginner Mode makes enemies easier and gives you items to help out. A portable game where you don’t have to worry about endless grinding is welcome and allows you to make progress even if you play for 15 minutes on the bus. Likewise, a harder difficulty is present for more hardcore players if you want. If difficulty isn’t enough to change the main game for you, the introduction of the new female protagonist should be. Playing as a girl is much more than a cosmetic change here. Social Links and dialogue options are different and you can pursue relationships that were not present because of the male-only protagonist. It’s like seeing the game from a different perspective altogether and is a great addition for people who have already experienced the story.

Exploration has also been cleaned up and tweaked for the portable format. You can no longer navigate 3D environments like the PS2 version; instead, there are 2D screens with icons on them. You move a cursor around to select people to talk to or buildings to enter. Going even further, NPCs that have something important to say will have an icon over them or pressing square will allow you to jump to any location in the area you are, like Persona 4. You never have to wander around aimlessly or trek long distances around school. I absolutely love this feature and it eliminates any frustration I had running around the map in Persona 3.

Taking the hit

Combat has also undergone some tweaking. In addition to the adjustable difficulty level, you now have complete control over your party members instead of the AI taking over. Characters will also take the fatal blow for your character. Otherwise, the combat is largely unchanged and is just as addicting and fast-paced as ever. Exploiting enemy weaknesses allows for extra attacks from you and your party, and fighting effectively means you can fight battles without the enemy even getting an attack in. Couple this with the Tartarus, which combines the best elements of roguelikes, and you’ll be stuck to this one for a while.

The game also takes advantage of the PSP hardware and eliminates a lot the nuisance that usually comes with PSP games. You can install the game data to speed up load times, which are still brief even if you choose not to. The soundtrack from the PS2 version is still intact and even features a few more tracks just for this version. Graphics look just like its console brethren and the voice acting is all here and sounds great. The game just looks and runs beautifully on the PSP and is just as at home here as it was on the PS2.

Persona 3 Portable takes the massive console version of Persona 3 and translates it successfully to the PSP platform, streamlining most of the experience to make a game that is the definitive PSP RPG. It will keep you busy for a very long time, guaranteeing you’ll have fun for the entire experience.

5 out of 5


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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