Persona 3 Portable Review
By - Richard J.
In this curgeneration of consoles, quality JRPGs are few and far between. Instead of taking a risk, Atlus went with a rerelease of a classic JRPG from last generation, this time for the PSP. While it may be an obvious choice to bring such a great game to this underappreciated portable system, was it a wise choice? They already ported the original Persona to the PSP with mostly positive reviews, but can they capture the magic of Persona 3 on the little screen?
Persona 3 Portable tells the story of a teenager who discovers that he can awaken a beast inside of him known as a Persona. This rare ability puts him in with a group known as SEES in a dormitory at his highschool. As he spends his days going to school, he soon becomes acquanited with enemies known as "shadows". These shadows come out every night at 12:00am, which is known as "The Dark Hour". The Dark Hour is a special hour that takes place at 12:00am. However, only those who can unleash Persona's can experience the dark hour. The rest of the world suddenly stops where ever they are and become coffins, making them completely oblivious to what is happening. Once the Dark Hour is over, the world continues as it was at 12:00am. It then becomes your character's -- and the rest of SEES' -- goal to life a normal life, while also defeating all of the shadows and ending the Dark Hour.
This is a surprisingly fantastic plot. When I first found out that it was centered around a highschool, I wasn't too excited. Most of these games end up having cheesey love-story plots, but Persona 3 Portable is completely different. There are some slight love themes, but they aren't a center piece. Another great thing about the story is that it was easy to follow in the game. Persona 3 Portable has a nice intro that keeps you entertained and informed at the same time. The game also does a good job of providing you with back story. Opposed to having certain details hidden in books or another form in the game, the main story directs you right to it. If you don't want to know, you can speed through the conversation. However if you are interested, it is easy to read through and know more about what is happening.
Persona 3 Portable is a JRPG at heart, but is made of a few genres. Half of the game is a social simulator where you must fill the role of your character as a high-school student. As a high-school student you must attend school, pay attention to raise your academics, study, socialize with others, and join school clubs. Doing this improves your the strength of your character in the other half of the game. The other half of the game is a Dungeon crawling-JRPG hybrid. You have the option to spend your nights inside the dark tower of Tartarus, which is basically a series of over 200 dungeon floors. As you "climb" up the tower, each floor provides a great dungoen-crawling experience. You move your character around the 3D environment while opening treasure chests and walking into enemies to initiate battles. Battles are classic, turn-based RPG affairs, and not much else, which turns out to be a good thing.
This gameplay is done extremely well, and is both difficult and satisfying. The only problem is that the gameplay may be a little too overwhelming for newer players. Unfortunately, this will likely turn away a lot of people who showed slight interest in this game. There is a "beginner" mode in the game where you get 30 "Plumes of Darkness", which revive you if your character dies in battle, thus preventing a game over. This will help newer players, but still doesn't solve the problem of how overwhelming going to school, attending clubs, spending time with friends, studying, exploring Tartarus, and defeating shadows is.
One brand new section of the game that seems to be drawing in a lot of Persona 3 veterans is the inclusion of a female protagonist. In Persona 3 on the PS2, you were only able to play the game as a male protagonist. Now you are able to choose to play as a female, which for the most part is very similar to choosing a male protagonist. There are some slight changes in gameplay, presentation, and audio, but for the most part it is fairly similar. This is however definitely another reason for people to pick up this portable version of Persona 3.
While Persona 3 Portable keeps some of the great graphics from the originally Persona 3 on PS2, it is missing a lot. While it is understandable that in order to port to the PSP from the PS2 cuts must be made, it still seems a bit unfortunate that things aren't as pretty as you may have remembered them to be. To start, Persona 3 Portable is missing all of the anime cutscenes from the original Persona 3. This is an unfortunate set back, but doesn't ruin the story that much.
Next, you cannot control your character when in a building. Opposed to walking around the building, you simply move a curser with the analog stick and select things with the cross button. All characters and interactive objects have icons which you must select. This unfortunately makes it feel like the lot of the game is spent just scrolling through menus and is of course likely the most unfortunate graphical cut.
Finally, while running through the floors of Tartarus your character is a full 3D model. This is just like the PS2 version of the game, but the models are considerably worse looking compared to the PS2. While these cuts were necessary for the most part, I feel that they could have made some cuts in other areas of the game and at least kept the cutscenes. Overall, the graphics aren't bad, but could have been better.
The audio in Persona 3 Portable is fantastic. The sound track, voice-overs, and various other sounds are all great. For the most part, all of the central characters in the plot have their dialog voiced in full English. Persona 3 Portable can be quite dialog heavy, so the voices can be a nice break. The soundtrack is also fantastic. Full of JPop, hip-hop, and other pop songs, the soundtrack is fun to listen to while scrolling through menus and moving your cursor around. One big problem however is that there is a very limited amount of songs. You will likely here the same song playing over-and-over again, which can get a bit annoying when playing the game in marathon sittings. However if you can get past this slight annoyance, you are sure to find a pleasant and fun soundtrack within.
Compared to the original Persona 3, Persona 3 Portable is filled to the brim with replay value. Most prominent in Persona 3 Portable for replay value is of course the female protagonist. While most of the game is nearly identical between the male and female protagonist, there is enough of a difference to warrant a playthrough with both. Just like the original Persona 3, there are a ton of decisions that influence the story in various ways. With various outcomes available -- for both male and female -- you can easily get in a few playthroughs of this epic 60 - 100 hour RPG, while also staying interested.
Overall, Persona 3 Portable is a fantastic game. While it does have a bit of a slow pace, and downgraded graphics from the original, it is still a solid package. The ability to take this with you anywhere is a huge plus. If you are a fan of JRPGs or dungeon crawlers, this is a must. However if you are only playing it for the social simulation aspects, I would recommend waiting for a price drop. It should also be noted that the gameplay can be a bit over whelming for new players, but that doesn't mean they should shy away from the game. Its a great experience that I think any JRPG fan should experience at least once, and the addition of the female protagonists is enough for Persona 3 veterans to come back and play through it again.
- Fantastic story
- Great gameplay
- Interesting and fun soundtrack
- Huge amount of replay value
- Added female antagonist
- Graphics have taken a huge hit
- May be overwhelming for new players
- Soundtrack can get repetitive
The reviewer of this game played one playthrough for 63 hours as the male protagonist, then started another playthtough as the female protagonist where he played for 16 hours. A download copy of the game was provided to the reviewer by the game's publisher.