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    Persona 3 Reload

    Game » consists of 1 releases. Released Feb 02, 2024

    Persona 3 Reload is a full remake of Atlus' 2006 role-playing game.

    Reload Ramblings.

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    MooseyMcMan

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    Edited By MooseyMcMan

    This write up is relatively spoiler free (aside from minor stuff in some Social Links), because my thoughts and feelings on the main story/themes are such that I need to break them out into their own piece. That should be coming soon, so for those who have played the game, look forward to that in the near future!

    As is the theme of the year, I'm starting this in the past. Probably like many of the old guard of Giant Bomb fans (though I dunno how many of us even come to the site anymore), my introduction to the Persona franchise came from the Endurance Run. I've yet to actually play any version of Persona 4, though weird nostalgia for odd things in that game rubbed off in some ways I didn't expect to feel nostalgic about in Persona 3 Reload, that I'll get to in a bit.

    Persona 5 Royal, I not only played, but it was my game of the year that year. Despite all its flaws, its Capital P Problematic elements, it's a game that really stuck with me over the years. Not just in the way that I still think about it regularly, I mean that it's probably one of my all time favorite games. It was definitely the right game at the right moment in time for me, in a way that I'm not sure that any other game can replicate. Even Persona 5 Strikers, also I think a great game, that is effectively just more Persona 5, didn't hit quite the same way.

    For anyone who missed it, I wrote at length about P5R, and largely how nostalgic it made me feel about past times in my life. I'm gonna link it again, because I think a fair amount of that also applies to Reload, and it's easier to do that than rehash the same topic again about this game. Give it a read after this!

    Since I've yet to play Persona 5 Tactica (though I feel certain I probably will eventually), Reload is the first one I've played since then. And the first one that isn't related to P5. It's so funny to think about how these things happen, despite enjoying the Endurance Run so much back at the time, I felt trepidatious about actually playing P5R (partly because my last rewatch of the ER...made me think it doesn't hold up in many ways), and despite loving P5R so much...I felt really trepidatious playing Reload.

    Reload doesn't have a ton of anime cutscenes, but there's a handful.
    Reload doesn't have a ton of anime cutscenes, but there's a handful.

    While the various incarnations of P5 are almost certainly the most popular of the Personas, anecdotally the vibe I get is that among the long time Persona fans, P3 is often their favorite. And I could never really get a straight answer about if that's because there's actually something about it better than the later games, if it was just nostalgia since that was the first one in the “modern” style (hard to call it modern when original P3 is eighteen years old, haha), or a combination of the two. Regardless, it was the only one of the “three Persona games,” as I like to call them, that I had no experience with, and I really wanted to rectify that. I didn't, however, want to do that via playing a port of a PSP game, so I kept putting off even trying to play P3P, in the hopes of there being a proper remake. And, lucky me, that's exactly what I got in Reload.

    Unlucky for me, it released a week after Infinite Wealth, and I was not foolish enough to spend another seventy dollars for another hundred plus hour Sega published JRPG when I knew that by the time I actually finished Infinite Wealth, FF VII Rebirth would be out, by the time I finished that Dragon's Dogma II would be out...and so on. I was not, however, smart enough to wait until after The Final Shape to get Reload on a good sale, so my only regret with my playing Reload was I interrupted myself about twenty hours in to play Destiny.

    What about the game itself though? Well, as is obvious, I have no direct experience with the original, so I can't really say too much about what is or isn't different, improved, or whatever. I've talked a bit with a friend about it, and looked up some footage to know what that original game looked and sounded like, but that's about it. And outside of combat and game play systems, I'll try not to just compare it to P5R. But there are some things I do want to contrast with that, so be forewarned.

    Persona 3 is not just a Persona game, I guess in its original state, it was the Persona game. Not the first, obviously, or even the third since P2 was technically released as two separate games. But the one that defined what the series is now. Its focus on going through all the motions of a normal teenage life. Attending class, after school clubs, Social Linking with friends, popping in the local nightclub to buy URLs from a shady guy, chowing down at restaurants to boost social stats (of which there are only 3, instead of 5 like in later games), all normal teenager things.

    Classic cherry blossoms.
    Classic cherry blossoms.

    And since the main character is quickly recruited into the not at all menacingly named “Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad,” or SEES, he doesn't get the chance to just live a normal life. He's got to spend nights fighting monsters too, because who else is going to stop people from turning into coffins during the Dark Hour every night if this nebulous corporation doesn't make these teens (and a ten year old (and a dog)) do it?

    The real game is in balancing both. Trying to live an average life, pretending everything is normal and okay, all while ascending the seemingly never-ending Tartarus. In a bit of, “I'm not sure how much of this was supposed to be a metaphor/commentary or not,” at midnight every night when the Dark Hour hits, the local high school disappears, and in its place a giant tower looms over the city, ever shifting, and filled to the brim with an endless supply monstrous shadows.

    This was actually the thing that made me weirdly nostalgic for Persona 4 of all things. In P5R, the enemies are all the same as the game's Personas, which I prefer to the weird amalgam of nonsense from P4. There never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to them in P4, ranging from blobs on the floor, to malevolent tables swinging floating silverware, giant Hulk Hogans, and everything in between. Whereas just having them be the same as the Personas made it easier to guess weaknesses, and made more sense when I was able to recruit them to fight for me. Plus, the Personas look cool, and many of them I don't end up getting used that much in combat because they just aren't as good as other ones, so it's nice to see them more.

    I never really thought about it until I started playing Reload, but all those weird nonsense monsters from P4 must have actually been from P3, as I kept encountering them in Reload. Just newer, shinier, and with refreshed character models. But I need to reiterate, it's very strange to encounter these weird enemies, knowing this game is a remake, and end up feeling nostalgic for the original game's sequel. It's also a bit odd to be seeing these higher detailed versions of those enemies while the majority of the Personas are, as best as I can tell, based on their designs from P5R, if not outright using the same models. Which isn't a criticism, P5R still looks great (despite originally being a PS3 game), and I've no problem with games reusing stuff if it's still good, and fits. If I ever play SMT V, I look forward to continuing to enjoy them there too!

    I'm not kidding when I say fighting Hulk Hogans.
    I'm not kidding when I say fighting Hulk Hogans.

    There's definitely a part of me that wishes the combat side of this game was more like P5R in a lot of ways, not just in thinking I'd rather fight against the Personas than these weirdos. Some of it are things that they were probably right in deciding to be faithful to the original, but others I find kind of baffling. Like, Tartarus still being procedural, that I get. Doing something else would be radically changing what this game is, and that isn't the type of remake they were going for. While I generally prefer the sorts of remakes that do radically change the game (like the Resident Evil remakes), for this case they probably made the right choice. If only because I can feel good about never going back and playing the original/FES/Portable. This was a big enough time investment as is (123 hours), and I have the distinct feeling I won't like any of those versions as much as I did this one.

    What baffles me about the combat is they definitely made additions and improvements in line with stuff from P5R, but didn't go quite far enough with it. P5 introduced the concept of the Baton Pass on top of the weakness system. Exploiting an enemy's weakness lets you pass the extra turn to an ally, and as the baton passed from character to character, they'd get bonuses. Since P4 didn't have that, I assume P3 didn't either, but it's here in Reload (just without the Baton Pass name). Allies don't get bonuses by default, but they can get passive skills on their Personas (or equipped gear) to either get something themself when switched to, or give something to the ally they switch to. I didn't find the passives good enough to be worth taking up a precious skill slot, but that doesn't mean they aren't good, or without value. Just didn't seem necessary to me.

    So, that's a great addition, and I'm really glad it's in the game. I'm sure there's tons of other small changes and additions over the original P3, but the other big thing I know about is Theurgy. For a P5R fan like myself, I looked at it as the equivalent of the Showtime (team up) moves from that game, just without teaming up. Each character has a special meter that fills as they do stuff, and each has a specific thing that fills it faster. Yukari fills hers faster by healing, and Junpei fills his by getting critical hits. Once the meter is full, they can unleash an ultimate attack (or buff skill, in some cases) that does a ton of damage, and importantly circumvents all resistances. An enemy might be Null to Wind, but Yukari's wind based Theurgy will still damage them, for example. More importantly though, the Theurgies just look cool.

    Yukari unleashing her Theurgy.
    Yukari unleashing her Theurgy.

    Some things that didn't get brought back from P5R, like Nuclear and Psychic damage types (which I've been told were originally from Persona 1 and/or 2), I get. That's probably outside the realm of the sorts of additions they wanted to make, in terms of overall balance. Conversely, Reload has three types of physical damage, which I think is one too many compared to P5R's two, but more interesting than P4's one. That's all whatever though, the thing that annoys me is that, relative to P5R, Reload doesn't do enough make it easy to switch party members, or really encourage using more than just the same few characters for everything.

    In P5R, it was very easy to switch party members basically anywhere, and eventually even during fights! On top of that, ranking up Mishima as a Confidant increased how much XP party members got while not active, eventually topping out at 100%. It was a great system that made every party member useful, and encouraged using everyone, swapping them in and out as needed.

    So, what does Reload do in this regard? If you want to change the party, you need to go down to the entrance of Tartarus. Not as hard as it might sound, as teleporters (mostly one way) are fairly frequent, and Fuuka (the navigator) eventually gets a skill that expends SP to bring the party directly back to the entrance. You can also easily return to the highest floor explored that night without needing a teleporter, but that resets when you leave, meaning the two way teleporters are still important long term, because those remain unlocked.

    What about XP? They get none if they aren't in the fight. If someone is knocked out and still “dead” at the end of the fight, they won't even get anything (that might be the case in P5R too, I don't remember). As best as I can tell, the only Persona on the main character that gets XP (unless they have a Growth skill) is the one equipped at the end. I'm not positive, but I think even if you use one during a fight, then swap them out at the end, that first Persona gets no experience. I could be (and hope I am) wrong, though.

    Between the extra steps needed to change the party, and the lack of XP for those on the sidelines, it really discourages using the whole Execution Squad (I cannot get over that name). But, surely Moosey, there must be some way to keep the whole party leveled up other than doing twice the grinding, just with the other party members?

    Aha, is this our chance?
    Aha, is this our chance?

    Well, dear reader, there is, but it's one of the strangest things I've seen in a game in quite some time. So, instead of keys for opening chests, Reload has Twilight Fragments. Occasionally they can be found in Tartarus, or as collectibles around town, but mostly they're rewards from Elizabeth (the Velvet Room attendant) for completing her quests, or ranking up S Links. Certain chests in Tartarus require one, two, or three Fragments to open, and most chests are randomly placed with random contents, but boss fights usually have one after with a set piece of gear inside.

    So, after a certain point in Tartarus, if you spend enough Fragments on the random chests within a block of the tower, there's a chance that a special door will appear. Go inside that door, and interact with a special clock, and you can pick two party members lower level than the protagonist to boost them up...but not necessarily all the way up. I think it tops out at twelve or thirteen levels? Now, for context, at its biggest, Reload has nine party members, and the party size is four. That's not to say this system is useless, but I think it might only pop up once per block of Tartarus, so it has a limited number of uses. Meaning if you want to keep everyone leveled up, you need to do it the hard way.

    Or more accurately, the tedious way, because Reload isn't an especially hard game. I ended up turning it up to Hard, actually, 70 or 80 hours in. There is an even harder mode, but you need to pick that from the start. To be clear, I definitely died a few times, and had some close calls on Hard, I'm not saying it's a total cake walk. But considering I've heard the original game is fairly infamous for being difficult, I think they could have made the remake harder.

    Talking with a friend, I learned that the original P3 had a concept of tiredness, as a way of forcing players to switch the party around, and limit how much time can be spent in Tartarus (I do think it's funny that the Dark “Hour” lasts however long you want it to in Tartarus). Which also helps explain why the original let you sleep during class, when the only benefit in Reload is getting a boost of Courage instead of Academics. Well, I assume so, I never actually did, because I'm a nerd.

    Of course, reading about how the fatigue actually worked in the earlier versions, it sounds miserable, and I can see why people would probably not like it! As is, the only thing in Reload that potentially limits how long you can spend in Tartarus in one night is SP (for casting magic skills), and that's really not an issue. It's pretty easy to stock up on SP restoring items over time, never mind there's special clocks that will fully restore everyone's SP for Twilight Fragments (not that I ever did). Fuuka's Theurgy sometimes restores the active party's SP, and occasionally it can be gamed by waiting until everyone's really low to use. Though it didn't always work when I hoped it would. I was able to fuse Personas that had an SP draining skill, along with a passive that boosted it. Spending 3 SP to get 40 back, essentially a free 37 SP for the protagonist. Whatever option you go for, SP isn't a difficult resource to manage later on.

    The lower floors of Tartarus bear an eerie resemblance to the high school.
    The lower floors of Tartarus bear an eerie resemblance to the high school.

    I'm not sure that getting rid of tiredness entirely was the best solution though. With the other things getting in the way of swapping party members, it only encourages sticking with the same team. And that could potentially cause problems during the times when, for story reasons, certain characters are MIA during important boss fights, or even regular excursions into Tartarus.

    I did try to swap things up a little, but mostly just by switching between Koromaru and Aigis as the fourth on my team. Yukari is way too useful as a healer (especially once her healing skills cost one fourth of what they do normally), and Junpei is too funny to give up. His “perfecto” line? Absolutely...PERFECTO!

    Plus, while the written dialog in the text box says “wandering,” I swear his spoken line is, “Look at it, clowning around like a clown.” Just an extremely funny thing to say. In all seriousness though, the whole cast is great, genuinely top to bottom, but Zeno Robinson as Junpei might be the standout performance for me. The goofy antics are really funny, but he has the range to really bring it when Junpei is at his most frustrated, and at his lowest points.

    Will also say though, if I'm writing about funny lines they say in Tartarus, with Koromaru being a dog...I greatly enjoy hearing him barking and growling while exploring. Aigis just ended up being the fourth character that felt like she best rounded out the party (even though both she and Junpei are heavy on physical skills, it still worked well with Yukari being an excellent healer, since physical skills cost HP instead of SP), never mind Aigis being so important to the main story.

    It's the He Ho bros.
    It's the He Ho bros.

    The core combat itself is still fun, flashy, and styyyylish as always. To an extent, it's kind of still just a different take on Pokémon, between the main character catching (or fusing) 'em all, and the heavy emphasis on exploiting weaknesses. Except instead of starting with Squirtle and working your way up to Blastoise and Snorlax, you start with stuff like a lowly Orpheus and Jack Frost. Work your way up to Lucifer, Thanatos (you know, the Greek personification of death/the hot boyfriend from Hades the game), and some others I won't spoil. But it's fun! Of course, when you're fighting the same enemies dozens, or hundreds of times while climbing the hundreds of floors of Tartarus... Your tolerance for repetition in games is probably a good signifier for how much patience you'll have for the combat in Reload.

    Personally, I've come to accept that I have a really, really high tolerance for repetition in combat. It's how I can keep enjoying these hundred plus hour JRPGs, and how, even for all the breaks I've taken, I can keep coming back to Destiny 2 and have fun. What I've realized I have a lot less tolerance for, is repetition in level design. But, and this is where I start to even question my own self, only when it's procedural. See, I can replay the same Strike in Destiny 2 countless times over the years, and still have fun. I couldn't begin to guess how many times I've gone through Devil's Lair between Destiny 1 and 2, but I still have fun, because it's a really well designed mission.

    I found my patience with Tartarus' procedural floors slipping...very early in Reload. Fighting the same enemies over and over again? No problem. Running through the same generic room types over and over again? Whoof.

    The higher floors are at least...WEIRD.
    The higher floors are at least...WEIRD.

    At least visually Tartarus does change a lot from block to block, and the later ones especially are weird enough that they didn't drag on me like the lower ones. Still though, the blocks themselves are so long that you'll spend multiple in game months in them, and that got really tedious. I guess I should probably describe the flow of how Tartarus, and the combat part in general works. Every full moon a boss Shadow appears somewhere in the city, and SEES has to go defeat it. In order to make sure they're strong enough to beat the boss, they need to keep fighting in Tartarus, with the goal of potentially reaching the tower's peak. But periodically the path upward is blocked, and won't open until the next boss Shadow is defeated. So the routine becomes fight up as far as they can, defeat the next boss, come back, rinse and repeat. Optional, harder paths periodically appear, and occasionally NPCs will get lost in Tartarus. They need to be rescued before the next full moon, but otherwise that's it.

    For a lot of the game, it wasn't even clear to me if I needed to actually reach the top of Tartarus or not. I'll leave whether it is for anyone who doesn't know to discover on their own but...well the answer isn't that hard to guess, haha.

    The Arcana cards from Shuffle Time (no timing minigame, thankfully) do help to almost give Tartarus a bit more of a rogue-like-lite flavor to individual “runs” up the tower...but really they just served as another point of frustration when I didn't get the ones I wanted. Sure, getting buffs to various stats on my Personas was cool (I think they're permanent but I saw people online swearing they aren't, so I dunno), but what I really wanted were the bonuses to Persona fusing. Extra bonus XP and being able to fuse Personas five levels higher than the main character were really useful! Especially late game when I really wanted stuff like Lucifer and REDACTED, but didn't really want to grind any more than I already was. Of course, I say that as if once I realized there's a really easy way to cheese the Reaper, I didn't use that to get the main party to the level cap (99). I won't say what it is, but you have to be so deep in to do it that the game is almost over anyway.

    The late game Personas get intense.
    The late game Personas get intense.

    Anyway, with P5R being the only other mainline Persona I've played, just having the generic procedural floors of Tartarus was pretty tedious. The great thing about P5R was that it had both a generic procedural dungeon to work on throughout the game (only delving down instead of climbing up), and for the first time in the series, entirely bespoke dungeons (Palaces) for each story arc. Again, I know why they didn't rework Reload to have something similar, they wanted to be true to the original, and I respect that. I still wish they had gone much further in terms of level variety. It is possible to have completely procedural levels still feel fresh and different even after hundreds of runs, it's just very hard to do so. I would never expect a Persona to do it as well as something like Spelunky, but as it is, this is worse than say...the Chalice Dungeons in Bloodborne. Just as a point of reference involving two other games that I love.

    Anyway, as a video game, I get the feeling a lot of changes were made from the original, ideally for the better. Despite my thinking Tartarus is too repetitive, I still really enjoyed the bulk of playing Reload. Though there definitely are other points of frustration, of course. I still hate how exams work in these games. Beyond frustrating that in a series built around managing time on a day by day basis that they just arbitrarily decide you can't do anything in the afternoon or evening during exam weeks. At least not until the exams end on Saturday (don't forget, they go to school on Saturdays in Japan!).

    Reload got on my nerves even more than P5R did with this, though. Not only does it do this with exams, but when you get to summer vacation, the first week of it the main character has to spend going to track practice. At least you can still do stuff in the evenings, but not the afternoons. Then, even if (like me) you aced the exams, you still need to go to a week of summer school! Like the exams, you can't do anything else on those days. Yes, you get extra Academics points, but I could just go eat at the seafood restaurant and get those points from the Omega-3 fatty acids instead. Then at some point there's career week, where all the students need to go work jobs around town (for free!), which also doesn't let you do anything. At least that had a couple scenes with other characters, which was fine, but it's still frustrating to lose access to that time.

    Oddly, this game has ray traced reflections on mirrors? Not on floors though, still screen space there.
    Oddly, this game has ray traced reflections on mirrors? Not on floors though, still screen space there.

    It wouldn't be so bad if I also managed to max out all the S Links, which I feel like probably has to be possible in a first playthrough, but I certainly couldn't manage. Sure, there's only two S Links at night, so most nights can be used to boost social stats. I guess unless you're not good enough at the combat (or more accurately, don't have the resources to negate the SP drain) and can't just get up as far as you can in Tartarus in a single night. But I feel like I was generally pretty good about not wasting time, and yet I ended up with four S Links I started, but didn't finish, and one I never even started!

    So, for that one I didn't start, that was because there's S Links in this game that you need to get to a certain level with another character before they unlock. For example, you need to go to track practice and spend some time with Kaz before you can S Link with Yuko, the track team manager. In this other case, the first person you can S Link with is this random kid in class, and he's okay, but the second I realized his whole thing was he has the hots for a teacher and wants to ask her out...I decided to spend my time elsewhere.

    Now, I'm sure his arc is like, realizing he shouldn't be trying to date one of the teachers. Though, considering this is the series that would go on to let your teacher be romanceable in Persona 5...who can say! Really though, I am so curious why this series has such a fascination with this. Who at Atlus had such a big crush on their teacher that this needs to keep being a thing? I'm not judging, necessarily. I never had any crushes on teachers, but Van Halen wrote a whole song about it, so it must be...not common, but at least a thing some people experience?

    Another S Link in Reload involves getting to know someone through playing a dying MMO, “Innocent Sin Online.” At a point it becomes pretty obvious that the other player (“Maya”) is the home room teacher, who eventually admits to having a crush of her own on one of her students. Now, I imagine for those playing the game in Japan, when Maya mentions the name of the student, and it's the same family name you put in for the main character, it's probably supposed to potentially be a coincidence. Most Japanese players probably put either their own name, or just a generic Japanese name, so it fits in with all the other names.

    Same.
    Same.

    I named my character MOOSE Persona, so...well, you know. For what it's worth, I got a lot of joy out of the humor of people calling my character things like “Persona-kun,” so I'm glad I did. It was really more so early on, later in the game the humor wore off, mostly. Every once in a while it'd be long enough between people saying it that I'd forget, then get a little chuckle when I remembered.

    So the Maya S Link ends up in this weird spot where it's really touching, and relatable, because as someone who's spent most of their life On Line at this point, I've lost touch with a lot of people I cared about, so I really feel for this one. But also...it's a little weird knowing that the main character probably should have mentioned he was a teenager earlier on.

    Anyway, before I got side tracked, you need to Link up enough with Hot for Teacher boy to get that other S Link I never saw, and I never did, so, I just missed that one. That, I don't mind, what I feel bad about is that I didn't finish Mitsuru's S Link. Being part of SEES, I regret not prioritizing her more, because I got close, but not quite close enough.

    Here's another baffling thing about this game, which I understand was true of the original. In P4 and P5, every member of the main party has an S Link, with their own side story. They get various bonuses and perks along the way, like being able to withstand one fatal blow, or taking a fatal hit for the main character (since the main character dying is game over). And at max rank, their Persona evolves into a stronger form.

    In Reload, only the girls in SEES have S Links. Why? Couldn't tell you. If it was only girls across the whole game, maybe I'd think the game was trying to say something, but there's plenty of boys with S Links. I can say that for everyone in SEES (girls included), their Personas awaken after certain points in the story, which mostly works better than how it does in P4 and P5. Fuuka's felt a bit out of left field, and Koromaru, being the best boy (dog), had already awoken to his ultimate Persona before joining (which gets mentioned, eventually), but otherwise, it works. There's more impact to incorporate those character arcs into the main story, than have them be potentially missable.

    This game is good because you can spend time with a dog.
    This game is good because you can spend time with a dog.

    I still don't get why the boys don't get S Links! Instead, in Reload they get a series of “Linked Episodes” that may as well be S Links, just with the filler bits removed since they have five each instead of ten. My assumption is they took bits from their S Links in the girl protagonist route of P3P, and made them into the Linked Episodes. If anything, I think I might like this better, because as core as S Links have become to the Persona experience, they also feel extremely gamey. They all have ten levels, and because different dialog choices have different reactions, it's hard to resist the urge to min max and go for whatever I think they'll like the best, instead of what I would really say in the situation. Often those two are the same, or close enough, but still. If you pick the wrong choices, that means more times S Linking without advancing the Link, but the new thing with the boys side steps that entirely.

    Never fear, you can of course pet Koromaru.
    Never fear, you can of course pet Koromaru.

    That's my way of saying that I hope Persona 6 reworks the S Links, to be less rigid. I think tying various game play bonuses to S Links is fine, but every S Link having to be exactly ten levels is something they can, and probably should change. Of course I also want the S Links to be gay in 6 (because boy do I have some thoughts about how gay this game should be), but of course I want that, though I know better than to realistically expect it, knowing modern Atlus' track record.

    Speaking of romances, my understanding is that if you finished the S Links for the girls in original P3, you had to romance them, there was no other option. Which also meant, playing as the girl protagonist in P3P, with it instead S Linking with the boys, that led to...an extremely problematic situation with the ten year old Ken???? I kinda hope I'm wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure it's the case.

    In Reload, I continued what I started in P5R, and tried to roleplay my character being queer as best as I could. Considering the original game forced relationships onto players if they completed the S Links, and I managed to not even get the “choose your words carefully” option for the girls of SEES, I'd say I succeeded, haha. I did for Yuko, though, but I still opted for just friendship. Which she seemed relieved about, so for all I know maybe she still would have rejected me!

    Now, in terms of “actual” “queer” stuff in Reload, it's basically nothing. There is a literal blink and you'll miss it pride pin on someone's bag in the opening cutscene, but honestly that isn't as gay as the one girl obsessed with Mitsuru. With such wishes as, “I want her to run me over with her motorcycle,” and, “if only she would dress like a boy and dance with me at the school festival,” I really don't know how else to interpret her other than the most lesbian to have ever lesbianed in a Persona. Well, at least in the ones I've played. I think you can romance Aigis as the girl in P3P, so okay, maybe that's more lesbian. It's still debatable.

    I'm not kidding! She wants to be run over!!
    I'm not kidding! She wants to be run over!!

    That said, there's (at least) one S Link in Reload that to me, really feels like he had a crush on the main character, and I tried to play it like my character did on him too. Andre Laurent Jean Geraux, or Bebe for short, is a French exchange student. And your typical queer coded artsy type, which considering I felt a deep connection to him like I did with Yusuke in P5...listen we don't need to examine my types, haha. But the point is that when he and the main character are the only two members of the sewing club, and get very close with each other emotionally, I think in a game where you can romance characters this should be one of them! I'm also so mad that I finished this S Link early enough that I didn't get the chance to go to the film festival with my French boyfriend. Punished for spending time with a character I like, haha.

    Then there's Keisuke, from the art club (listen we DON'T NEED TO EXAMINE MY TYPES). His whole arc is about whether he wants to be an artist, or do what his father wants, and become a doctor. Anyway, long story short, at various points, he says that if he becomes a doctor, he'll “operate on you,” or “give you free checkups,” and listen. If this is not flirting....I don't know what is!

    To be fair, I don't think the way the actor performs the lines feels like he's flirting, but come on. It's not just me, right? Right?? Then there's Kamiki, the writer who...okay, I'll stop just talking about the artsy boys in Persona I wish I could date.

    On the one hand, I get why in a remake of a game from 2006, that's set in 2009, they wouldn't go in and just retcon in being able to romance S Links you couldn't before. They're being true to the original, and you know, I was also in high school in 2009 (well, the first half, that's when I graduated). That was, coincidentally, the same time I realized my own sexuality, but like, I wouldn't have had the courage to actually ask a boy out on a date. I didn't even have the courage to ask a girl out! And that was way more socially acceptable at the time.

    A lot of S Links in this game are sad, but in a good way.
    A lot of S Links in this game are sad, but in a good way.

    Point being that from a certain perspective, it's probably more realistic for a high school boy in 2009 Japan, even if he was gay, to not be dating other boys. Not impossible, of course, but societal pressures are hard to fight against, even if your Courage stat is maxed. Even if that was the artistic intent, I'd still rather it be more obviously so, instead of me trying to find a way to wrap my head canon around what's in the actual game.

    On the other hand, as much as Persona has come under fire for homophobia in the past (especially P5), it's not like there's been zero queerness before. As I said earlier, you could date Aigis as a girl in P3P, and I've been told you could even date another guy in one of the Persona 2s! Never mind that as homophobic as parts of P5 were, I still feel like if you look at all the P5 spin offs, there's a strong argument to be made that Joker, the P5 protagonist, is not straight, and at least a little gender non-conforming.

    I'm just saying, would a straight cis guy do that much cross dressing, or daydream about marrying Ryuji or Yusuke? Granted I haven't read the manga, so I don't really know the full context for the crossdressing (I'm pretty he was supposed to disguise himself as a cop to get into a crime scene with Akechi, and just decided to be a lady cop). I haven't played Tactica either, so I don't know the full context for the marriage daydreaming. I did, however, at least watch a clip of the daydreaming. I'm pretty sure Ryuji is literally the first option on the list, and neither is played up for a joke. Or rather, they kinda are played for humor, but the humor isn't “oh haha it's gay,” the humor comes from other goofy stuff, and it feels heartfelt enough to be genuine.

    Of course, this is still me looking at supplemental material, when in the core P5R, the most you get is the queerbaiting between Joker and Akechi. I mean, it's not not going for that when you see the two of them in the animated intro, and they do stuff like go bathe together (just making me think about Kaworu from Evangelion (I know public bathhouses (or whatever) are a thing in Japan, but the scene still feels gayer than it would have with say Ryuji (maybe not Yusuke, who would take any opportunity to shed his clothes))). I guess there's also stuff like being able to pick “I like men” when an enemy asks what your type is, or say you're going to scream “I love Yusuke” as a distraction during a school event, but again, I dunno how much stuff like that is meant to be played for laughs, or throwing the smallest of crumbs to the queer Persona fans out there. Didn't stop me from picking those options, though!

    So, that was another very long bit of me going off course, but I have one last thing to add before I get back on course. Reload is notable for, as best as I can tell, not having anything problematic in it. Extremely low bar to meet, I know. But I'm glad it did, haha.

    I dare anyone to look at this image, and tell me this isn't a good game.
    I dare anyone to look at this image, and tell me this isn't a good game.

    Okay, back on track. I was writing about S Links, and how weird it is that the girls in SEES have them, but the boys don't. The other weird thing is for the girls, you need to have maxed out one of the Social Stats to even start their S Links. For Fuuka, it's at least funny, because you talk to her, and she says something like, “I was going to try cooking, if you wanted to taste test,” to which the game immediately butts in with, “you need max Courage to do this.” Needing max Charm to do Yukari's is a bit odder, but Mitsuru requiring max Academics is just befuddling. Especially when you go through the trouble to do that, only to spend time with her to find out she was so sheltered as a rich kid that she's never been to a movie theater or eaten a hamburger. Money truly cannot buy happiness.

    All I'm saying is that as far as rich girls in Persona go, at least Haru would know her way around a burger. (She's the heiress to a fast food burger empire, for those who don't know).

    I still cannot believe her.
    I still cannot believe her.

    In addition to S Links and Linked Episodes, all the party members also have little scenes where you can spend time doing repeatable activities with them. Reading, watching TV, tending the garden, cooking, etc. They all have game play bonuses, like adding to a Social Stat, or giving a consumable. Do the same activity with one of them enough (three) times, and they gain a significant buff for combat. Like better crits for Junpei, or Yukari's healing skill costs being halved, and eventually quartered.

    Even if it weren't for the bonuses, these scenes would be worth seeing just because the characters are fun to spend time with. Like, I don't care that reading yakuza novels with Aigis buffed my Charm, it was fun to see Aigis, an android, react to that stuff, and at one point want to give herself a giant dragon tattoo. I don't care that watching the wolf documentary with Koromaru increased my Academics, I just like watching TV with a dog! I like having one of the dialog choices being to bark back at him, even though barking back at dogs in real life only ever riles them up. It's still fun!!

    One of the best parts of Reload is that all these scenes are finally fully voiced. I love P5R with all my heart, but it was still frustrating that most of the Confidant scenes weren't voiced. These are compelling characters with great performances from great actors, I want to hear more of them! So, Reload finally giving me what I wanted was fantastic, I couldn't be happier about that.

    No Caption Provided
    The voice acting is what really sells jokes.
    The voice acting is what really sells jokes.

    Aside from the music, I feel like I've covered about everything in the game I can without really getting into spoilers, and that music... Well, on the one hand I definitely think it's the weakest of the “three Persona games,” but that's not to say it's bad. Okay, some of the “Japanese hip hop” or whatever you want to call it, is kinda laughable at best. But there's still some genuinely moving songs in the game, especially “Memories of You,” the end credits theme. And despite the normal version, as far as I remember, not being in the game itself, only the soundtrack, I've got “Burn my Dread” stuck in my head. Though...I still think it sounded more like she was saying, “Burn my Bread.”

    All the walking around town music is good too, especially “Color Your Night.” Early on I definitely leaned hard on the Persona 4 Golden battle songs I got from a “pre-order bonus” code (despite buying the game months after release), but eventually Reload's ambush music grew on me. The regular fight song...not so much.

    I know this blog is a mess, even by my own standards, and I haven't even tried to cover the story, or the game's themes. I'll do my best to take all those messy feelings and write them into something coherent, and hopefully that will be worth reading.

    I nitpicked a lot of stuff around Tartarus, and how much of a hassle it is to try to keep the whole party leveled up, but those are just nitpicks. I could also nitpick the story for being a slow burn early on, even by the standards of the franchise, but that doesn't speak to how this game made me feel. I was every bit as drawn into this game, its world, and lovable cast as I was P5R. I know it's nothing special to say that I like a popular franchise, but when it hits, there's really little else out there that hits like Persona does.

    Friends.
    Friends.

    Getting into that day by day groove, purposely taking my time, immersing myself in the world is something that I really cherish. The idea of playing this game, just fast traveling everywhere, and simply rushing through all the “content,” just feels counter to what this series is about. It's stop and smell the roses the video game. Enjoy it, enjoy life while it lasts. It'll be over before you know it, and then you'll wish you spent more time with it when it is.

    And Reload... On top of everything else, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this is probably the most emotionally devastated a game has ever left me. I need to write something to try to process all of that, but in the meantime, thank you for reading this.

    For me, now I just wait until the DLC in September. What is The Answer? I'm not even sure what the question is! I've heard the original was very combat focused, so I'm definitely going into it expecting more “fight these monsters,” and less “it's going to make me cry again.” But we'll see! Every story ends eventually, and as much as we may want them to go on forever, that's just not how things work. Even if sometimes you need to pay extra for the ending, haha (please, don't misconstrue that, Reload's ending is beautiful and I really hope The Answer doesn't undercut it, but we'll see!!!).

    Thanks again! Have a wonderful day!

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