Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable Review

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (Available only on PSP)
ESRB Rating: M
Number of Players: 1
Genre: RPG
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: July 6th, 2010

Parent Talk: If you want to hear the best of Persona 3, play with your headphones.  Be aware of the M rating though.  The ESRB’s descriptors include: Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Violence.  Each one is found abundantly throughout the game, thus younger gamers shouldn’t be allowed to play.  We always recommend following the ESRB rating, but if you believe your teenager is mature enough, have at it.  I personally never found the Shin Megami Tensei series to be too over-the-top in terms of violence and vulgarity, but ultimately the choice is yours.

Can you believe Persona 3 has already been released twice?  We’ve also reviewed it.  Given the PSP’s slowly dying out, Atlus chose a really smart time to publish this gem.  If you haven’t experienced P3 yet, head out and pick this bad boy up.  RPG fans wouldn’t regret it.  This new version combines the best of the previous two and adds a new female character, not to mention the game is already great to begin with.  lf you’re looking for a great story, extreme depth and a plain fun time, P3 belongs in your library.

The Great:

The story.  For those familiar with the previous releases, don’t expect any major changes.  You’re still an exchange student who attends class during the day and kills Shadows by night.  What’s with the latter?  Well, during the night, people around you transform into enemy Shadows.  Only a select group of students remain unaltered and can back the evil.  Then given the time period, characters involved, and how the story progresses…I unknowingly played for hours on end.  I played on the bus, after returning home, everywhere!  This may sound like a goofy setup, but it’s as if Joss Whedon wrote a JRPG.  If you don’t know who Joss is, shame on you!

The Good:

+ Same great personas.  P3 is all about the personas: physical manifestations based on your classmates’ and colleagues’ personalities, whatever suits your fancy.  They’re the key in your becoming a prolific Shadow killer.  You can even combine personas to form omega allies that can be of great assistance.  Regardless of which persona you use, their skills are special and useful, such as magical fire attacks and much more.

+ Reliving high school.  One of P3’s more redeeming elements is the simulation gameplay that takes place outside of battle.  Like Bully, you must attend classes, spend time with your buddies, take quizzes, etc.  While this may sound elementary, the twist is that school directly affects your attributes.  It’s interesting because no two people will play exactly the same, thereby developing a slightly different main character.

+ Choosing wisely.  As I mentioned above, personas aid in battle during the night.  They’re also directly attached to the personalities you hang around.  If you hang around a certain group of people, and are cordial with them, the reward is more powerful personas during battle.  It’s awesome that you decide who to be company for, how to answer questions, etc.

+ Great additions.  One of the best is the ability to control your entire party while in battle.  Before, AI took care of your partners, but now you can easily switch and heal whom you want.  That was one of my biggest gripes years back. The new female protagonist is also welcome.  Suddenly the dialogue is completely changed.  Sexual tension with certain characters is gone, and has appeared with others.  Lastly, harder difficulties are available for hardcore Persona fans!

The Bad:

– PSP limitations.  It’s sad that the awesome cutscenes disappeared, replaced by low-res static screenshots and dialogue.  During the day, the third person exploration has also been substituted by a very simple exploration icon that moves around key areas.  Those are the two most glaring omissions.  That’s encouraging news considering how epic Persona 3 has always been.  The overall experience does take a hit regardless, but not enough to warrant avoidance.

The Ugly:

Some of the environments lost significant polish in translation to the PSP.  They’re not horrible, but aged, to put it politely.

The Lowdown:

If you haven’t played Persona 3, buy this version.  It’s easy to find, offers hours of great gameplay and a compelling storyline.  If you have played either previous version, I’d still consider this PSP release because of the additions.  Playing as a female lead makes the experience feel completely new.  Keep in mind the one big drawback, and prepare to exterminate some Shadow behind.  P3 is one of the best RPGs released on the PSP to date.  Convinced yet?

3 thoughts on “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable Review”

  1. Persona 3 is one of my personal favorite PS2 games, so a PSP conversion is just too good for me to pass up. Still makes me wonder if Persona 4 will come out for PSP, or if Atlus will announce Persona 5 for a next-gen system?

  2. No further details yet, but Katsura Hashino, director of Persona 4, has confirmed that a new Persona project is officially in the works.

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