Persona 3 Portable Review

P Title

Title: Persona 3 Portable
Developer: Atlus
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

If you look around the PlayStation Vita community, you’ll notice that the fanbase has a surprising attachment to certain series and genres, especially games that get games on the Vita or has many games on the Vita.  One such franchise if the Ys franchise.  It’s not surprise, seeing as how the Vita can play Ys I, II, Oath in Felghana, and Seven for the PSP as well as Memories of Celceta for the Vita itself.

Think about other franchises that the Vita community may be especially close to, because of that unique situation with backwards compatibility.  If I had to think of some, I would first say Final Fantasy, with the first 10 main series games playable as well as sequels to two of them and the Dissidia franchise.  Another is Metal Gear, with six games of the series being playable, seven if you’re in Europe.  But one that you’re missing is a more niche franchise.  Originally a spin-off of Shin Megami Tensei.  The series called Persona.

Persona has been a fan favorite of the Sony Portable fanbase ever since the PSP genre when Persona 3, considered one of the greatest RPGs of the PS2 era, was ported to the PSP along with remakes of the original game and the first chapter of Persona 2.  If you remember, I began reviewing this series awhile back with reviews of Persona, Persona 2 Innocent Sin, and Persona 2 Eternal Punishment.  It’s high due time I continued.  Going in the order of this saga, here is my official review of Persona 3 Portable!

Story

P Story

The story of Persona 3 takes place on a small island known as Tatsumi Port Island.  The nameless protagonist arrives at the island to join a high school for the first time since their parents died 10 years beforehand.  Upon arriving and in the first series of nights, they are made aware of a phenomenon known as the “Dark Hour”, a secret hour of the day where only choice individuals maintain consciousness and all other people revert into coffins.

It is during this time that they’re made aware of shadows, nefarious creatures attacking people and causing strange illnesses and more.  They are then recruited into a special organization that goes to school by day, and hunts the shadows by night by use of a power known as “Persona”, which allows them to summon versions of themselves to fight for them and fend off the shadows.

The story of Persona 3 is engaging but also very much divided.  In part of the game, you focus on going through high school life and developing relationships with the people around you in normal day-to-day activities while a much less-frequent story evolves as you go through the year, defeating shadows and finding more about them.  It’s a good story, if you can handle the divide between school life and Dark Hour life.  But definitely isn’t the norm for JRPGs of today.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Persona 3 Portable is a mix-up of a few genres.  Town exploration is like a point-and-click adventure game.  Going through social events and building relationships is like a high school and dating simulator.  Running through the dungeons is like a mix-up of a dungeon crawler RPG and Pokemon.  Persona 3 is a lot of different things thrown into one, but at its heart, it is a dungeon crawler RPG.

The first thing you’ll want to know are the differences between the original Persona 3 and Persona 3 Portable.  First off, town exploration is now point-and-click rather than 3D environments to run through.  The most prominent addition if the Female Main Character, also known as FeMC.  This is a female version of the main character.  The overall story doesn’t change much when using her, but it does allow for different social links with NPCs as well as different dialogue to accommodate for the gender difference.

There are other additions as well, but smaller.  The game has new difficulty settings, the ability to control each party member (which you couldn’t do in the original P3), part-time job social links to dive through for extra cash, and a few smaller features and an option boss fight with one of the key characters from Persona 4.

Playing through the game is divided into two sections: School Life and Dungeons.  You will go your day to day life, but have a deadline date for when the next major boss of the game will appear.  You then have this time to do as you please between going through school during the day and dividing each night up with either spending time with NPCs to increase your Social Link (which will affect dungeons), fighting through dungeons, or going to the next day.

When in your school life, you will have school activities you can attend, like clubs, sports teams, hanging out with friends, and other things.  Managing this time will depend on the days of the week.  Let’s say you join Student Council and they only meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Then you join the Basketball Team that only practices on Thursday.  You should plan out the days to figure out what you wish to do because you cannot visit dungeons the same night as spending time with a meeting or Social Link.

As I stated earlier, the towns are no longer 3D environments to explore, but 2D point and click menus.  This will be very hit-and-miss for players.  Many people who have already played Persona 4 Golden for the PS Vita will have a hard time adjusting to this exploration method.  You will be okay and adjust, or you’ll downright hate it and not want to do anything in town.  It’s something to bear in mind before you go and purchase the game.

When you’re in dungeons, you’ll be going through a large tower of various floors, aiming to reach as high as you can to train your characters up for when the next major boss appears.  This is where the RPG bulk of the game is.  You’ll be traveling through each floor in a party of up to 4 characters, searching for treasure and fighting enemies in turn-based fights.  Your end-goal is to find weapons and armor and reach that section’s end-area and boss fights to further your skills.

P Game

As you fight enemies, you will be rewarded with various things at the end of battle.  There’s the normal experience for leveling up as well as money to spend.  However, you can also get what’s called Shuffle Time to pick random cards for Experience and Money Boosts or for acquiring weapons and new Personas to use in battle.

Gaining Personas is the biggest thing that was changed from Persona 1 and 2, and Persona 3 and 4.  You no longer negotiate for Personas.  Instead, you can gain new from winning battles.  These Personas can then be leveled up to learn new skills as well as giving you Skill Cards to teach other Personas skills.  The big trick is that the Main Character is the only character who can use more than one Persona.  The other characters are stuck with their default one, unlike the case in previous games.

The trick for Personas is tied with Social Links.  Each Social Link will represent a certain Arcana (Element/Type) of Persona.  Enhance certain Social Links and you can fuse and create Personas of that Arcana and get stat and skill boosts.  It is also the key to unlocking the “Ultimate” Persona for that Arcana.  There is a lot to think about and spending time in the Velvet Room, developing new Personas can take up a lot of your time.

The actual battles are turn-based like previous games.  However, there is a lot more emphasis on elements.  Each enemy has a weakness and some enemies are strong against all but one type of attack.  Experimenting goes a long way, especially for boss-level enemies.  Your main idea in battle is to find the weakness because if an enemy is hit by their weakness, they’re stunned.  Stun all enemies at the same time and you can perform an All-Out Attack to do major damage to all of them.  Especially in boss fights, this is key, as many attacks will do little to nothing against them.

All in all, Persona 3 is a long game with a lot to do.  The time it will take you to complete is all over the place.  It could take you 40 hours.  It could take you 80 hours.  With two different endings at different points of the game, it’s hard to give an exact amount.  Afterwards, you get New Game + where a new dungeon and optional boss fight opens up.  It also allows you to replay the game with gained items and points as either the same or a different gender for the Main Character as before.  Regardless of the ending, though, you should expect to spend more time in Persona 3 Portable than a normal RPG.

Controls

Controlling Persona 3 Portable is no difficult task.  There are different schemes for towns and dungeons, but you’ll find it pretty easy to do.  If you don’t like controlling the camera with the L and R triggers, you can also redirect those buttons to control the camera in dungeons to the Right Analog Stick.

The Left Analog Stick is used to move characters or move the pointer when you’re in town.  The D-Pad can also be used for this.  As I said above, L and R control the camera.  The rest of the game is handled by the face buttons.  X is used to attack an enemy and start a battle or choose options in menus.  Circle is used to cancel menu options or center the camera behind you in dungeons.  Triangle pulls up the menu, and Square lets you issue commands to your AI partners.

The control scheme, as I said before, isn’t anything you need to be worried about.  Everything controls fluidly and easily on both the PS Vita and PlayStation TV.  As with all other PSP games, the L and R trigger controls for the camera are also extended to the L2 and R2 buttons on the PSTV.

Presentation

P Pres

The visual presentation of Persona 3 Portable is quite noticeable on the PS Vita.  On the transition from the PS2 to PSP, the game lost the smoothness from the character models.  The environments and characters still keep their flair, but there are a lot of jagged edges around the models.  On the transition to the Vita, this is shown even further, and the 2D artwork for scenes also shows some blurred effects from the stretching that most PSP games don’t show.

Aside from this, the presentation shows itself off well.  The load times for the game are pretty short despite there being a Data Install feature for when it was on the PSP.  The game also plays well, never giving off any lag, slowdown, or any audio placement issues.  The game still plays well, despite not looking as pretty as P4G.

Summary

Persona 3 Portable is the portable gamer’s way of experiencing the highly-acclaimed fourth game of the Persona franchise.  On the downside, it can be difficult to deal with the point-and-click towns and the presentation took a substantial hit on the transition to the Vita and PlayStation TV.  What is left is a lengthy and deep RPG/School Sim combination that any Persona fan can get into and enjoy.

8/10

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