(The following is based a save file of 5 hours when Tartarus throws out its first hard roadblock at Level 22 by April, twenty-fourth, 2009, in-game date. Played with both Japanese text and voice on Steam Deck.)
The fine members of this community are yet to add release date for the Persona 3 remake. Yours truly is taking it as a sign to finally do the longer form of reviewing a rather long game. I don’t know the timeframe or frequency. But I am going to try by hook or crook. Partially because I got so much bullshit cooking up in my mind, let’s see how some of those would be committed to ink in a manner of speaking.
Introduction for the madness to come…
The more things change the more they stay the same. While PS2’s very own Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and its remake dubbed Reload were released into 2 rather different worlds nearly 18 years apart, some of the things surrounding those 2 just stick out as uncannily. The original was out in Japan around the time when Big Boy E3 1.0 was put down behind some shed somewhere while the remake came out shortly after life support was finally turned off on Big Boy E3 2.0 (Will there be a Big Boy E3 3.0 is anyone’s guess.) Both games also came out between Greek Myth action games in English and their sequels respectively. The PS2 game came out in Japan between 2005’s God of War and its numbered sequel released in 2007 while the er, PC game was released after 2020’s Hades and before Hades the Second’s early access.
Why was I thinking about Greek Myth? Well, regardless of the version you pick up, Persona 3’s main dungeon is dubbed Tartarus for starter, one simply does not name something after the torture chambers of underworld in Greek Myth lightly. Then the 3 starting party members have their Personas named Orpheus, Hermes and Io, all different figures from that collective myth. It would be hard to accuse Atlus of chasing the tail of IGN’s GOTY 2005 since Io and the bloody bard way before Bill Shakespeare or even Homer were not in the God of War Greek trilogy as far as I can remember. Tartarus was not a level there until 2008’s Chain of Olympic on PSP and Hermes was not a boss until 2010’s God of War the Third on PS3. One cannot help but wonder if Orpheus and Hermes were in Hades at least in part due to Persona 3’s influence on people working over at Supergiant though.
All right, time to get on with it. Yours truly had tried Persona 3 Portable on the Switch. After 93 hours of playing Persona 5 Royal, a number had indeed been done on my head and I bought the demake along with Persona 4 Golden on Switch, the latter was on sale at the time of purchase. After one hour spent as the female player character, I thought I like the game enough to wait for the remake. So here I am, 4 hours into Reload as the writing of this chapter and those hours sure gave a much better first impression than Persona 5.
Bite size enjoyment against license to dick around
The Wikipedia page of Persona 3 called Portable the “An abridged Playstation Portable version”. It is a very fitting description since Reload took me 2 hours to get to the same point where I “paused” my Portable playthrough at, where the 3 people party of mine cleared out one single level of Tartarus and was ordered by a senior student to pull out for the night. Hub areas and animated (polygonal or otherwise) cut scenes are all absent in Portable. Both iterations of Persona 3 can be seen as anti-thesis to how things would be done in Persona 5 down the road though.
The Reload save file after its combat tutorial says 1 hour and 1 minute. Before that, there are a couple of days in school and some hub area introduction. Persona 5 showed its players a seemingly failed daring escape from a casino as tutorial for both combat and dungeon crawling then allowed them to save within 15 to 20 minutes after New Game was hit. Then Persona 5, vanilla or Royal (Got to say, the new girl of Royal showing up here to buckle some swash never ceases to feel shoehorned in.), would take that as a license to dick players around for the same amount of time to clear some Call of Duty campaigns before they allowed player to raid a dungeon to their heart’s content. I cannot remember preciously what was before my 4-hour mark into Persona 5 Royal, probably with Morgana being excited about the work bench they set up while I was thinking when can I get that asshat Kamoshida. What I am sure of is that Persona 3 Reload had provided more enjoyment within the same time frame.
The player character in Persona 3 is far from the center of universe the way Codename Joker in Persona 5 seemingly is. He is just the new kid here, while the rest of his future party members had their own things going on. His classmates Yukari and Junpei are rude to each other in ways only childhood friends can be. His seniors Mitsuru and Akihiko got their shit to sort through. The player character is mere the catalyst since with him here now the assault on Tartarus is finally not understaffed. Ah, yes, Velvet Room and the ability to sum…Sorry, I meant “evoke” more than one Persona help as well.
In many ways, Persona 3’s combat is built on “You better run, cuz we got guns!” thinking more than Persona 5. The gun-shaped Evokers (The original Japanese is closer to “Summoner” or “the summoning device” to be more precious, but I guess Atlus preferred not to risk the wrath and greed of Square Enix’s legal department.) are more powerful, useful and require more care than the literal toy guns in Persona 5. For starters, the users of Evokers point those things real near to their eyes. Here in miHoYo’s country of origin, air soft guns powerful enough to permanently damage human eyeballs with one single discharge are illegal to hold without a license, so the risks can be felt by yours truly.
Then there is ammo counting and preparing, Persona Skills triggered by the Evokers take hit points or skill points to cast, so pile up the potions for the new design is bit closer to injector with trigger. It’s also fun to see that “whack” is separated into 2 elements: one with shape edges and another with blunt ends. Projection is also present with starting party member Yukari wielding bow and arrows, “pull your bow on” is a way to say “kill” in Japanese, or at least that’s how someone working for Square Enix chose to translate it in the opening monologue of NieR Automata, Laconic but lacks certain poetic flair.
Tartarus is a dungeon appears in player character’s new school during Dark Hour (Or “Shadow Time” if you want to slip hair about the translation. Well, “time” and “hour” do share the same 2 kanjis with the same order in modern Japanese.), the time between days as the game states. Here in the city where miHoYo global headquarters is housed, we have an insult that can be roughly translated into “13 O’clock”. No, it’s not another way to say 1 p.m. but rather a way to call someone an SOB without dragging one or both of their parents into the conversation. Legend has it, the insult originated because a clock tower stroke 13 times instead of 12 at 12 a.m. some day and messed up many’s lives. As someone born and raised in that city, yours truly cannot help but wonder about origin of similar urban myth.
Despite the dungeon layout being randomly generated, one should not call Persona 3 a rouge-like or even rogue-lite. The dungeon levels have permanent or otherwise teleportation points for player to back to the entrance and save progress. Yours truly would call it a day after finding a permanent tele-pad and continue from there the next day.
Regarding the post-Persona 5 quality of life improvement, I rather love the save almost anywhere feature. I mean if a book cannot hold a bookmark where you leave it then that book is mechanically faulty. Funny how long the console gaming crowd put up with the more obscure approach. While I love the combat commands are all mapped in face buttons, bumpers and triggers now, the visual change of it into just a circle is bit disappointing, perhaps have something to do with the new Evokers design not like a revolver. Still I rather miss the short time I spent with Portable’s revolver wheel and commands with cylinders. Well, at least I can look the one with that arms-dealing cop, huh?
Something, something, Mass Effect
Okay time to really get up my bullshit, for translating Japanese, law in China and Shanghainese swear are merely things bled through in this looser form of blogging. Japanese voice actors and Mass Effect trilogy are where my passion lays. While I had my say on the fantasy bookings, seeing that Persona 3’s English version on PS2 and Mass Effect on Xbox 360 sharing the year 2007 of their year of release does re-ignite something in me.
Like many “things” in life, the decline of Japanese er, “full-pirced” games in the mid to late aughts was a process, something people can spill tales out of. One of those tales is 2007 Keighley’s or Spike Video Game Awards 2007’s Best RPG category. Looking at the nominees, one can barely feel the decline of JRPG: Eternal Sonata on Xbox 360, Final Fantasy Tactics’ remake for PSP, Persona 3 on PS2 and Xbox 360’s very own Mass Effect, the token western one made in Canada. But the last one won, starting a trend of its whole trilogy plus the first Dragon Age to bring monkey shaped trophies to Bioware and spilt the tale of how it single-handedly defeated counterparts from across a continent plus an ocean. It’s not like Persona series fell back in its niche since then, Giant Bomb’s Persona 4 Endurance Run certainly contributed to the sea change in video game media, but the lack of some fancy trophy did paint a bleak picture.
As a once proud owner of Xbox 360, yours truly do lament the fact that Microsoft not paying attention to how Persona 3 digging its series out of a narrower niche led to their failure after failure in Japan. They wrongly thought that Hironobu “the Final Fantasy ‘creator’” Sakaguchi is a bigger brand than his creation, invested in his venture and did not get much in return. While what they could have done is hiring an usual suspect fitted dubbing cast for titles like Mass Effect to lure the so-called anime otakus in. But with Bioware being sold to EA, they did not give a shit.
Yours truly would call Persona 3’s road to mainstream as Tales Up. By which I mean following the footstep of Namco’s Tales series of JRPGs: animated adaption friendly art style and voices the target audience knew from their cartoons. With the former, the developers were also ready to outsource their pre-rendered cut scenes to animation studio way before they can receive loyalty for some anime. As for the latter, well, Persona 3 has the infamy of casting people who were in Tales game back from mid-1990s, the whole joint seemed obviously deliberate. It still beats the other road to mainstream I dubbed “photo real hellhole”, the resource intense approach Square Enix struggles with and not even Atlus nowadays can afford.
Anyway, yours truly prefer to think about the coulda when self-indulging. While Altus USA proudly presented to English speakers an all-new dub cast, the game is very much sold in Japan on most of the original cast being back. And how would they have raised the appeal of Mass Effect.
Akira Ishida as Commander Shepard(male)
Mr. Ishida played the player character in Persona 3, so it’s just a straight from player character to player character. Or maybe when I watched Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and its sequel with Destiny at the end, I thought Arthlan Zala, Mr. Ishida’s character, could have been a much meaner space commando. On the topic of Persona 3 Reload’s lacking female player avatar, I think it’s fair not only because of the relatively high resource intensity, but also how it might demolish Ishida getting triple cast (With the twist of “It’s actually just double cast”) in this game. There is also the following to consider.
Kohsuke Umitori as Jeff “the Joker” Moreau
Mr. Umitori played Junpei with a bright comedic voice in Persona 3. While I am open to like this kid in the future, for now he is a just bearded asshole wearing a cap and I don’t rely on him to be my getaway driver like I rely on that similarly bearded asshole wearing a cap in Mass Effect. In the little time I spent with Portable, this little shit doubted my character’s authority on the ground of gender alone, so I am quite glad not to see that whole ordeal with polygonal models in Reload. Well, high school Junior with chin beard does rub me the wrong way.
Hikaru Midorikawa as Kaiden Alenko
Mr. Midorikawa played Akihiro in Persona 3, one of tall, stoic and handsome girl magnets he played in his career. “Stoic” here pointing to him being very reasonable, like how he defended the female player character in Portable by saying “Well, she took out 2 Shadows, so follow her lead, Junpei”. Both the aforementioned Ishida and Midorikawa had been in different Tales games in the 1990s, and the latter happened to be the inspiration for Nobunaga Shimasaki, the one I picked for Kaiden in my fantasy booking piece, to enter the field. I am sure even the Commander Shepard might be attracted to a Kaiden voiced by this man. And speak of the commander.
Miyuki Sawashiro as Commander Shepard(female)
Ms. Sawashiro played Elizabeth, the attendant of Velvet Room in Persona 3. This is a complete retrack from my fantasy booking piece. If I am to do a recasting from Persona, Rina Sahto, the voice behind Makoto in Persona 5 would be picked. But that’s another game entirely. Ms. Sawashiro is a cast member shared by Persona 3 Reload and Granblue Fantasy Relink. Her character Katarina there sounding like Jennifer Hale talk tough in Japanese is why I cook up this bullshit in first place. Sawashiro also got double cast in Persona 3, I am yet to meet the rouge galley member she played. There might be some joke to be made regarding the Elizabeth in this game is Elizabeth the First since years after those 2 role partly got her through college, she would voice the player companion with a similar if not the same name in Bioshock Infinite.
Rie Tanaka as Ashley Williams
Ms. Tanaka played Mitsuru in Persona 3. The high school senior is still a support role in chair when I got to in Persona 3. Quite like the aforementioned Mr. Midorikawa (Who along with his wife were known to be unstoppable against their peer in an arcade game), Ms. Tanaka’s career is partially built on being one of the audiences. Cosplay is one of her hobbies (Though it’s hard to tell with actors) and gaming her vice. She claimed to having fun pursuing Mitsuru when she played Persona 3 on PS2. One had to assure partially to see how fragments from a cast member’s perspective were put together.
My earlies memories of hearing Ms. Tanaka were the ghostly soft talk of Lacus Clyne in Gundam Seed plus Destiny and Chi in Chobits. But it seems Mitsuru’s semi-masculine mid pitch is actually her A voice, since she pulled it for almost all her whale bait roles. There is Rosetta in Granblue Fantasy (Both the gacha and Relink, not a big role in fighting game Versusu.), Lisa in Genshin Impact and Himeko in both Hokai titles (Ah, yes, decision makers over at miHoYo sure love to cast her.) My favorite role of hers is Akira in Spaceship Yamato remake series, a dark skin fighter pilot from Mars who got the John McLane part in the Die Hard like mutiny episode. So maybe she can direct some of my affection towards the er, Xenophobic Alliance Marine in Mass Effect.
Megumi Toyoguchi as Tali
Ms. Toyoguchi played Yukari, the “plain Jane” party member of Persona 3. You know, the kind of “plain Jane” that writer wanted to write a certain way while the artist just went “Oh, this girl is going to put butts in seats for our animated features”. When I wrote my Mass Effect fantasy booking I planned to write her up for the role of Avina, the Citadel guidance Virtual Intelligence. Ms. Toyoguchi and Nao Toyama were both in Nisekoi’s Christmasepisodes (Something I would watch along with Die Hard on Christmas every year.) as a mother and daughter duo. I want to hear young Toyama as EDI, the first friendly Artificial Intelligence in Mass Effect trilogy, so it would have been fun to hear a voice behind her on-screen mum as a VI. But, since Avina was not on Wikipedia’s listing of Mass Effect character, I scrapped that. Some of you might have heard her as Josuke’s mum in Jojo Part 4 already, recast later for reason unknown to me.
Toyoguchi was having a Gundam Seed reunion with aforementioned Ishida and Tanaka while she might be denied that in the recent for the time of writing Freedom movie (Or she might dodge a bullet there.). Toyoguchi played bridge operator Emila in Gundam Seed with a voice that can still sound seething over radio. Perfect for Tali, wouldn’t you agree.
Numbers and pauses
The different first impressions I have between Persona 3 and 5 made me wonder if the games take the numbers in their titles bit too seriously. 3 let me raid its dungeon to my heart’s content (and the bottom of my resource) within hour three while 5 did not until the save file said 5 hours and 54 minutes. 3 got a triangle when it comes to character building while 5 asked me to develop five different qualities.
Many, my future myself included, might read what was written above and go “You haven’t seen shit!” Which is fair, the piece is regarding very early stage of the game. How much can the first several hours get into in a 70 hours long game. This is certainly a pause with “to be continued” instead of a conclusion. I still have no idea how much each chapter would cover and with Lunar New Year vocation coming I just might see the whole thing through and write one single verdict piece to make this one look like a preview. We will see. But right now, I am loving it.
(To be continued? Or to be concluded? Not likely the end.)
EDIT: To be continued, “live” on the 13 o’clock news.