After I was done playing through Persona 4: Golden, I wanted to play even more Persona games. Sure enough, Atlus went ahead and gave us two more of them and I decided to play Persona 3 Portable (P3P) fully first. I really loved the setting and the theme that the game was going for, as it’s dark and is a much different take than P4G.
I should also note that I am not here to compare the different versions of the game and whatnot, I am here to talk about my experiences with P3P only and will not be saying which version is better. That is mainly decided from person to person, so it’s up to you on what version you want to play. The last thing I should mention is that I played this game from the perspective of the male protagonist so when talking about story elements, I will be referring to him. I will mention some gameplay sections about the female protagonist a few times, however.
Pros and Cons
- Amazing story about depression and how friendships can save you from it
- Interesting things for you to do and people to hang out with
- Fun combat where you can use a variety of attacks and spells
- Fantastic soundtrack, with some really good tunes to listen to
- Certain scenes lacked emotion due to the game being a Visual Novel
- Partner attacks are a bit niche in their use
- The final boss has a glitch that causes his shield to stay up
- AI upscaling is poorly done
- Audio design is lacking in this port
Every day, there is a hidden hour between one day and the next known as the Dark Hour. Most people turn into coffins during this hour but there are a select few who can access this Dark Hour. Makoto Yuki (you can choose the name) finds out that he does have the ability to step into the Dark Hour. One night, he is accompanied by Yukari Takeba who escapes to their dorms rooftop while being chased by a Shadow, creatures that only come out during the Dark Hour.
The Shadow catches up to them and Yukari has a hard time using her Evoker to summon her Persona. However, during that moment, Makoto summons his Persona and defeats it. Although, Makoto is in fact a special person as he has the Wild Card ability, where he can use more than one Persona. Each night, the school that Makoto goes to will turn into a giant tower known as Tartarus, where Shadows come from and seem to reside there only.
That shall be all that I will cover with the story of P3P, it is packed full of story-based content for one to enjoy. The game will tackle stuff like depression and how having a friendship can save someone who is dealing with it. I also loved the characters that the game had, my two favorites have to be Junpei Iori who is just funny most of the time and tries to be chill. My other favorite is Akihiko Sanada, who is a boxer and has a serious attitude toward him.
I also enjoy the story for how dark it can get in the later parts, some of the stuff the game covers is really impressive and is definitely a highlight in my eyes.
Although one complaint that I had was that since this game is sort of a VN, certain scenes lacked emotion. I was not able to understand what to feel during some moments and it felt empty when looking at the character sprites. There is a mod to add the 3D cutscenes on Gamebannana if you so wish to do that but I wanted to play the game in the state that I bought it in.
During the day, you will be able to do various activities, like hanging out with your friends, doing fun activities to increase your stats, or working part-time jobs. You will want to hang out with your friends though, as they have social links that can give you EXP bonuses when fusing Personas. If you are playing as the male protagonist, only four of your party members have social links, that being the female ones. The rest, are side characters you will be meeting throughout the game.
The female main character will have social links available to all her party members and a few other characters. Her story is also different in a few aspects, for those that have played P3 before, playing as the female protagonist is definitely a new experience to try out.
At night, you will be able to go to Tartars and fight Shadows, in that area you will be able to level up your party members' Personas and get new ones for Makoto. He can also enter the Velvet Room, where he can fuse those Personas to create stronger ones. If you level up your social links, your Personas could learn new moves by leveling up and be a few levels stronger than what they usually are when you fuse them.
There will also be occasions when people will wander into Tartarus and you will have to rescue them. You will be rewarded by doing this and there will be occasions where social link characters can get trapped in there too. If you do not save the social link character, the social link ends completely and you will lose out on leveling it up and the EXP bonuses.
In combat, you will have a few options that you can do, like having normal attacks or using certain spells. Each enemy and your party members have a weakness to a certain element, so knowing what they are weak to is key to fighting them and dealing with bosses. If an enemy or a party member exploits a weakness, they will gain an extra attack.
Navigating through Tartarus is the only 3D base section of the game besides combat, you can find items scattered throughout or a teleporter to bring you back to the first floor to heal or switch party members.
There is a lot for me to talk about with the gameplay for P3P and it can pretty much be an entire review on its own. I love how there is a lot to do and exploring Tartarus can be quite fun as you can find some nice rewards and such.
Although I do have two issues with the gameplay with P3P. The first one has to do with partner attacks, these attacks only occur when you exploit a weakness. However, sometimes they aren’t useful as you are just better at exploiting the enemy's weaknesses, I’ll tell you an example why. So let's say you have three enemies that are weak to wind and you hit one with a wind spell and Junpei wants to do a partner attack. You will only knock out two enemies at that point and not be able to do an all-out attack. All-out attacks will damage all enemies and sometimes take them all out and doing the partner attack just ends that. There are times when they do have a use, let's say only two enemies are weak to wind and the other is ice, and you already switched your Persona or don’t have an ice attack. Well, the partner attack may have a use because it does do a crit by default. It even bypasses physical attack resitience if the enemies have them too so it does have another use in that.
The next issue has to do with me coming across a glitch where the final boss brought up this shield that should have gone away after three turns but did not. I am actually not the only one who has encountered this glitch and it can be very annoying when you get it. Especially since the boss has 14 phases and the fight takes at least an hour.
Graphics, Performance, and Soundtrack
The AI upscaling is also something that I personally found a bit lacking, it’s not done properly and the shading on the 2D models could be better. The 3D ones look fine in my opinion, playing P4G did help ease that feeling. The game ran fine and I experienced no issues while playing, I tested it on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X Quad-Core Processor 3.50, and 16 GB of RAM.
The soundtrack is also something I really liked as well, a lot of catchy songs to listen to, although the audio at certain moments is lacking as well. Mods can fix these two issues I mentioned before on Gamebannana as well.
Despite some of the issues I had, P3P is still a fun Persona game in my eyes, if you don’t like certain aspects that the game has, then you are free to mod the game to your liking. I do recommend P3P for those that are fans of Persona and for those starting out with the series. I loved what I got at the end of the day and was happy that I finally got to play another Persona game in the series.