2017 has been a nonstop deluge of wonderful video games, many of which have quickly become some of my favorites of all time.  However even by these high standards, few gaming experiences this year have reached the superb level of quality Persona 5 did, as its blend of compelling story and characters, re-invigoration of JRPG style turn based combat, and deliciously unique and passionate sense of style created an RPG experience of a caliber I personally believe only a few other games of the genre come close to achieving.

I loved Persona 5 so much that I decided to revisit past games in the series, with which my experiences are very limited, to see how well they've held up, starting with the beloved Persona 3.  And I'm sorry to say that in the case of that game in particular... time hasn't been too kind to it.  While Persona 3 was a very important release for the series, being the first to blend slice of life simulation elements with the existing turn based combat to create the unique experience that now defines Persona, after experiencing the ways in which Persona 5 streamlined the gameplay and stuffed style into every facet of the interface, it's a bit difficult going back to the 2007 Persona game that set up the new framework for the sequels to follow.

And it's a shame that I couldn't fully immerse myself into the experience, because I found certain elements of Persona 3 compelling, most notably its story and how it revolves around the theme of death.  While the story's main message is trite - "death is unavoidable but how we live makes our lives worth living!" - the way in which it is handled in the game is superb, as you're given a limited amount of time to try and accomplish as much as possible. ...Just like real life.

However, a number of other gameplay and presentation issues I had with the game forced me to cut my playthrough short prematurely in the hopes that the game may someday get a full fledged remake.  A common complaint with the modern game industry (that I agreed with up until this year) is that developers are far too content reliving the past through releasing remasters and remakes of old releases than pushing forward with new and innovative gameplay experiences.  However, I do think remakes play a very important role in gaming, as they can introduce new gamers to experiences they may have missed out on, while improving outdated mechanics or widely accepted flaws from the original release so that they can reach their true potential.  Excellent recent examples of this are The Legend of Zelda:  The Wind Waker HD, which removed widespread complaints with the original game regarding the slow speed of sailing and a certain late game quest feeling drawn out, and this year's Yakuza Kiwami, which fleshed out and enriched the original game's story by incorporating elements and story threads from the recently released prequel, Yakuza 0.

In a poll asking fans what they'd like to see next from the Persona series, one option Atlus offered was a "Persona 3 HD remake", and that's a thought that has me excited.  I have no doubt Persona 3 is a game I could love, but not in its current form.  To this end, I've decided to write this blog to list my grievances with the original release, and how a full fledged HD remake could do wonders to rectifying those complaints and helping the game reach its true potential.  So grab your S.E.E.S. stash and let's get started!

In my opinion, Persona 3 is a hard game to return to after experiencing the modern day polish of Persona 5.

Remake the Game in Persona 5's Engine

This seems rather obvious, but when it comes to how to bring the presentation and visuals of Persona 3 from PS2 standards to the modern era, I think that remaking the game in Persona 5's engine makes the most sense.  This is because though Persona 5's engine is technically "last gen" (the game is also playable on PS3), it boasts one of the best visual presentations of this console generation, largely due to its art style, improved camerawork, and stylish and intuitive U.I.  Let's tackle each point individually.

First off, with regards to the art style, Persona 5 looks like an anime come to life in a 3D world, with colorful and expressive characters, and stylistic designs like the hordes of irrelevant NPCs being faceless, helping convey a sense of Japan being filled with people who aren't interested in you.  Atlus has already begun to create character models for the Persona 3 cast in Persona 5's engine for the upcoming cash-in spin-off Persona 3:  Dancing Moon Night, and they look fantastic.  In stark contrast to the tiny and inexpressive character models of the original game, these models are large and are able to more easily convey emotion, helping them feel more like people instead of character avatars.  I think that Persona 3 would greatly benefit from fully adopting this style in its world and characters, and it would be much easier for Atlus to remake the game in an existing engine that would suit the world's style, rather than rebuilding all of its assets from the ground up.

I'm ashamed that this weeb-y nonsense is now in my Internet search history, but I would love to see the full Persona 3 game in the lively and colorful style seen here.

Second, with regards to the camera, in the original Persona 3, characters take up very little of the screen and the player is given an overhead view of the overworld.  In contrast to Persona 5's camera, which is typically closer to the ground and behind the player as with most modern third person games, I found Persona 3's camerawork a bit immersion breaking.  I felt more like a passive observer to what was going on in the world than a part of it.  It's a tiny nitpick, but I think the Persona 3's Gekkoukan High School and Tartarus would feel much more alive if the camera were zoomed in closer on the main protagonist.  Getting to view the same environments from a new perspective closer to the characters and action would also breathe new life into the game's world.

Finally, Persona 5 is noteworthy for having a stylish U.I. that makes even navigating menus fun to do thanks to how much visual punch the dialogue boxes and such have.  They're much more lively than the more barebones standard most video game adhere to.  It's a minor touch, but I'd love to see Persona 3's already colorful menus full on adopt the lively style of Persona 5's menus.  It sounds like a minor touch, but as with Persona 5, it'd make the game feel more energetic as a whole.

I never tire of Persona 5's wonderful menus.  I'd love to see Persona 3 adopt a similar style in its user interface.

Remake Tartarus From the Ground Up

Every Persona game has featured dungeon crawling element to various degrees of success.  In Persona 4 and 5, you explore a multitude of dungeons based on the personalities of several characters in the game.  As a result, each had its own visual style and background music to give each their own unique identity.  While Persona 4's dungeons were randomly generated, 5 went a step further to giving each dungeon its own feel by handcrafting all of them, allowing for each to have unique puzzles to solve, and all around making them feel like real locales instead of a bunch of intersecting hallways.

However, Persona 3 only has a single dungeon to explore, Tartarus.  While you'll explore the dungeon a few floors at at time over the course of the story, every floor is randomly generated and, worse still, there isn't enough variety in the visuals and music between floors.  Each block of Tartarus adopts a different background, but every floor in the same block has the xact same aesthetic.  The visual variety on display in Tartarus is a bit limited.  Worse still, while more instruments are added to the background music as you progress, Floor 1 of Tartarus looks and sounds quite similar to floor 200 of Tartarus.  While a lot of passion was put into creating Persona 3, I feel as though the visuals and music of Tartarus were a bit phoned in.

Unlike Persona 4 and 5 especially where dungeon crawling supplemented the slice of life elements nicely and was always fun, I often dreaded venturing into Tartarus due to its dull and repetitive visuals and soundtrack.  There was little sense of anticipation or wonder when travelling to new floors because the dungeon was very stagnant in the visuals department most of the way through. To compare this to a recently released game, it's similar to the disappointment felt when realizing that every shrine in The Legend of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild has the same exact aesthetic on the inside, though this issue is more prevalent in Persona 3 as Tartarus is much larger and longer part of the gameplay.  Simply put, visual variety is important, and Persona 3 could benefit from a bit more of it.

So what could a Persona 3 remake do to rectify this?  It depends on how much effort Atlus wants to put into the game.  They could simply alter the visuals and soundtrack more in between floors, ensuring that your eyeballs and ears are placated by a bit more visual and audio variety Perhaps Atlus could even tie every set of floors under a theme or unique piece of lore to really give each block of Tartarus its own personality, similar to how each dungeon in Persona 4 and 5 revolves around a different character's personality and cognition.

However, what I'd really like to see is Tartarus remade in the handcrafted style of Persona 5's dungeons.  While purists may complain about the removal of randomly generated hallways, I personally feel this approach makes most JRPG dungeons forgettable and based a bit too much on luck, which is problematic because a key component of Persona dungeon crawling is pacing yourself, conserving your strength, and strategically deciding when to leave and come back, which is difficult to do when you never know how much of the dungeon you have left.  

If Tartarus were remade like Persona 5'sdungeons and crafted by hand instead of randomly generated, puzzles could be incorporated into the dungeon crawling to mix up the experience a bit.  Fun setpieces could also be crated, similar to how in Persona 5 players jumped across chandeliers in a corrupt king's castle or figured out how to overcome the odds in a rigged casino. The player could also more accurately estimate how much of the dungeon is left instead of being at the mercy of RNG.  Simply put, navigating dungeons where the developers put care into how they are laid out creates environments and scenarios that are far more memorable and entertaining than those born from letting the computer randomly cobble one together. 

Ultimately, Tartarus is one of the biggest things bringing down the Persona 5 experience, and both a visual and mechanical overhaul would do wonders to unleashing the game's full potential.

More instruments are added to the Tartarus soundtrack as you reach higher floors, but it's largely the same track throughout.  It gets old quite quickly considering how much time you spend here, something that could be said about the dungeon as a whole.

Let the Player Control Their Whole Party (And Balance the Game Accordingly!)

My frustration with Persona 5's dungeon crawling isn't limited to navigating Tartarus, but also the combat itself.  In the original Persona 3 (and its enhanced edition, Persona 3 FES), players had no control over how any of their party members behaved in combat.  While you could give each party member loose commands (like prioritizing healing over attacking), the only character who the player had concrete control over was the protagonist.  In a way, I can understand why Atlus opted for this; the party of Persona 3, the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, is a group of high schoolers bound by a common goal of defeating a shared threat and saving the world.  Unlike most JRPGs, only a handful of them are actually close friends with one another, so it's understandable that their personalities would clash and they wouldn't always fight together cohesively 100 percent of the time.

However in practice, not being able to control your party members is nothing short of obnoxious from a gameplay perspective.  It's beyond frustrating to lose an hour of progress because your dumb ass healer didn't restore your health when it was low, causing the protagonist to die in battle (which results in an automatic game over and sends you back to the nearest save point).  Only being able to control the main character doesn't make combat more challenging, it merely makes it more frustrating, since you can never fully rely on your teammates.  What's more, it removes some of the fun of JRPG combat since you can't strategize using the abilities of all members of your party.  You are limited to guessing how they'll act and trying to work around it; while it could be argued is also a form of strategy, I believe it's too unpredictable to be enjoyable.  Dying and losing progress in a video game due to something that doesn't feel like it's your fault is a frustrating feeling we can all relate to, and it happens a bit too often in Persona 3 for my liking.

Persona 3 received another upgraded re-release on top of FES in the form of Persona 3:  Portable.  One of the improvements Portable made was allowing the player to actually control and coordinate the actions of all their party members in combat, which did wonders to making the combat more enjoyable and intuitive.  However, because the original Persona 3 had enemy A.I. balanced around the fact players could only control one of their party members, suddenly giving the player full control over their party without tweaking the enemy's behavior accordingly made the turn based combat suddenly easy to manipulate 

The solution here is simple.  If Persona 3 ever receives a remake, I would hope it adopts Persona 3:  Portable's model of letting the player control their entire party.  Moreover, to accomodate for this change, the enemy's A.I. would be adjusted to account for the player being in full control of the whole party's actions.  While the developers could include the option to allow for the original game's model of your party members acting on their own (an option Persona 5 also offered), I believe the player having the ability to choose actions for their whole party and the enemies acting accordingly would create a combat experience that is far more enjoyable than frustrating, and would eliminate hours of the player's time being wasted due to the computer making a stupid decision for the player.

Only being able to control one party member's actions in combat is frustrating.  Hopefully if Persona 3 is remade, players can control the whole party, and the enemy A.I. is tweaked accordingly.

Social Links For All Party Members

A crucial component of the modern Persona experience are "social links," through which the player character bonds with other party members and NPCs to both learn more about them, their backstories and personalities, and earn gameplay benefits along the way.  For example, in Persona 5, pursuing a social link with a party member not only gives you new insight into their personality through dialogue and scenes exclusive to their social link, but also gameplay advantages in the form of being able to fuse stronger Persona that are related to that character's arcana, and that character unlocking new abilities in battle, such as randomly curing party members of a status condition.

Bizarrely enough, while Persona 3 features a multitude of social links, very few of them are with the player's party members.  If you're playing as a male in the original Persona 3 or any of its re-releases, you can only form social links with the female party members, and I always found this bizarre.  For example, Junpei is intended to be the main character's best friend, but you can't form a social link with him.  He's your best bro, you fight for your life alongside him in Tartarus, and he has a great backstory with his abusive father, but if you're playing as a male, you can't ever interact with him outside of the main story.  That's just absurd.  I was also unable to form a social link with my favorite character from the cast, Akihiko, as a result of this, simply because he was a dude.  Would it have been that hard to write up some social link dialogue where the main character bonds with him over weight lifting or something?  It's like Atlus completely ignored the fact that it's possible to form friendships with members of the same sex until Persona 4 came out.

Even more bizarre is that if the player pursues a social link with a female party member, the game automatically assumes it's because the player wants to date them.  Unlike Persona 4 and 5, where the player has the option to either pursue a romance or a platonic relationship with female party members, in Persona 3, maxing out a female party member's social link will always result in the player romancing them.  So if you pursue all the social links to 100% the game, romancing all of your female party members and forming a harem is unavoidable.  Which is humorous in a way, but it's disappointing that the player can't choose to form platonic friendships with the female party members or be monogamous.

Oddly enough, Persona 3:  Portable suffers from the same problem despite adding a playable female protagonist.  This new female main character can now pursue social links with all the male party members, but bafflingly, if the player chooses the female protagonist, they are locked out of forming social links with the female party members.  This design decision doesn't make any sense.  Ultimately, if Persona 3 ever receives a remake, I believe that it should strive to be the ultimate Persona 3 experience by offering the player the choice to play as either the male or female protagonist, and form social links with all party members regardless of their gender.  Seriously Atlus, Junpei and Akihiko are my bros. Give me the bromance I crave.

You should be able to form social links and befriend all of these awesome characters, regardless of their gender, just like Persona 4 and 5.

Scrap or Improve The Answer

I debated whether or not to add in this complaint because I have yet to experience The Answer for myself, but I'll include it regardless because it's a widespread issue many fans have with Persona 3.

The Answer is essentially Persona 3's post-game, exclusive to Persona 3 FES.  The player is thrust into the shoes of party member Aigis instead of the previous protagonist, and the story continues from where FES left off.  This additional content sounds like a great addition, but it's... controversial to say the least.  While The Answer does add some additional flashback scenes that further flesh out the backstories of certain party members, it also removes the slice of life social elements that typically comprise half of the modern Persona experience, and give the modern series its unique identity.

What's left is a long trip up a new section of Tartarus (ugh) that apparently requires an absolutely ridiculous amount of level grinding to complete.  Even the story of The Answer is criticized, as it needlessly drags on the plot of Persona 3 after its superb finale, which ends with a wonderful feeling of closure.

If Persona 3 ever gets a remake, Atlus needs to decide what it wants to do with The Answer.  As it is now, from a gameplay and story perspective it seems to be a needless and disappointing addition according to many fans.  So in response to this, Atlus could either improve The Answer by giving Aigis new social links and lessening the amount of level grinding required to progress through Tartarus, or better yet, scrapping the post-game entirely and incorporating the well-received portions of it (such as the flashback cutscenes that flesh the cast out) into the main game (perhaps by making them part of the party members' social links).

Regardless, The Answer is widely regarded to be one of the worst parts of the original Persona 3 experience and should Atlus decide to remake the game, I would hope they either remove or improve it.

The Answer offers several dozen hours of new content to Persona 3, but it's not a very popular addition.  I believe Atlus should either rectify its flaws in a hypothetical remake or remove it entirely so the story ends on the strong note the original release did.

As far as major improvements to the Persona 3 experience that a remake could implement, these are my major suggestions.  There are additional tweaks that could be made, such as improving the dialogue of some of the less popular social links, and maybe even adding new anime cutscenes and music, but these five complaints were my major issues with the game.

Ultimately though I ripped Persona 3 apart at times in this blog, I should note that I think the game has a lot of potential and I don't hate it by any stretch.  Merely I think there's a wonderful story and experience lurking inside Persona 3 buried by outdated design ideas that a remake could remove.  If they brought the presentation to Persona 5 standards, made Tartarus more enjoyable to explore, gave players control of the whole party in combat, added social links for all party members regardless of gender, and improved or removed the Answer, I think that Persona 3 would have the potential to join Persona 5 as one of my favorite JRPGs of all time.  Now all we can do is hope Atlus tackles a Persona 3 remake next instead of another shameless cash-in spin-off...

What would you like to see from a Persona 3 remake?  Or do you think the game needs a remake at all?  Sound off in the comments below, and happy gaming!