Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
When Game Informer reviewed Persona 3 back in 2007, we praised its macabre visuals and fun combat as defining aspects that set it apart from other RPGs. While this handheld port suffers from simplified visuals, absent cutscenes, and a dated formula, the additional storyline and improvements make Persona 3 Portable worth returning to for fans of the original. For newcomers, this is a great entry point into a memorable franchise.
If you want to know more about the original Persona 3, you can check out our original reviews in our Review Archive. What matters most for P3P are the new additions and time-tested improvements that have been made to the original title, and what concessions were made to fit the game on the PSP.
Persona 3's gameplay is as entertaining as it ever was. The
combat is even more engrossing thanks to your ability of being able to control
your party's actions (the AI chose their attacks before). Scaling Tartarus is
also easier now that you can return to the highest floor you've reached
whenever you enter the Dark Hour, eliminating needless grinding. Most
importantly, the enjoyment derived from collecting and forging new personas
hasn't aged a bit.
For the uninitiated, personas are the game's equivalent of Pokémon, however the depth of their abilities make them as useful as a regular party member. Once you've collected multiple personas you can fuse them into new, more powerful personas. Every persona can be leveled up during combat, making them as engaging and addictive as Nintendo's pocket monsters - without the kid gloves. If you already amassed an army of personas in the original release, the new playable female protagonist in P3P adds a different perspective to the action that should justify doing it all over again.
Persona 3 is also surprisingly conducive to portable gaming. Gameplay is split up naturally thanks to the game's calendar schedule, allowing you to play one or two in-game days in an hour or so. Traveling around the city has been simplified to selecting icons on menus, which reduces downtime to a minimum, allowing you to focus on dungeon crawling and building up your relationships.
P3P does suffer a few minor setbacks, but most of them are
aesthetic. The simplified character models don't diminish the experience, but
the same cannot be said for the cutscenes. The original animated sequences are
gone, replaced by still images (the camera pans and zooms over the image, but
it's not the same) or the standard portrait-plus-dialogue scheme that JRPG fans
are accustomed to. When I was talking to other editors about their favorite
storyline moments from the game, I scarcely knew what they were talking about,
because in the PSP version they've been reduced to lifeless
Ultimately I can't recommend P3P to every player, and even some RPG fans may be put off by the title's aging formula. For gamers who don't mind that this remake might not be the freshest experience to be had in 2010, there's a vast wealth of entertaining gameplay to be had here.