Persona 3 Reload Review – A Remake That Is Worth The Effort
Persona 3 Reload initially seemed like an unnecessary addition to the series, especially following the recent release of the Persona 3 Portable remaster on modern consoles and PCs. My initial skepticism stemmed from the belief that the remake was redundant, given the availability of the original versions. However, my perspective shifted after experiencing the game firsthand. Persona 3 was already an exceptional game, but Atlus has elevated it to match the quality of Persona 5, which represents the franchise’s pinnacle.
Players familiar with Persona 5 will find Persona 3 Reload more accessible than the earlier remaster. Its artistic and visual style closely mirrors that of Persona 5, with a completely overhauled user interface that surpasses its predecessor in terms of design. The visuals have been significantly enhanced, offering a stark contrast to the remaster’s low-poly character models and giving the impression of a brand-new game. The remake introduces substantial gameplay improvements, including a revamped combat system and exploration mechanics, making the experience more fluid and diverse.
Persona 3 is distinguished by a darker narrative than its successors, Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal, which adopt a more lighthearted approach. Unlike the latter games’ meticulously designed dungeons, Persona 3 features a roguelike dungeon design. The story centers on a group of high school students residing in a dorm, who are members of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.). They possess mysterious powers activated by awakening their Persona, a manifestation of their inner spirit, using an Evoker, a device resembling a pistol.
The opening of the game unfolds at a measured pace, requiring some time before the gameplay fully broadens. The narrative commences with the protagonist moving to a new city and enrolling in a new school. This change sets the stage for the introduction of the Dark Hour, a mysterious event occurring at midnight, unnoticed by the ordinary populace. Only those endowed with the power of Persona, including members of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.), are aware of and can engage with the Dark Hour. S.E.E.S. is dedicated to unraveling the mystery behind the Dark Hour, aiming to eliminate it and protect others from the Shadows that emerge exclusively during this time. The source of the Dark Hour is believed to be connected to Tartarus, a tower that mysteriously forms at the school post-midnight, where the protagonist and fellow S.E.E.S. members spend their daylight hours as students.
Tartarus stands as the game’s sole dungeon. In its original incarnation, Tartarus was a basic, visually undistinguished dungeon, notable only for its roguelike configuration that rendered each visit uniquely unpredictable. The remake significantly transforms Tartarus by infusing it with distinctive visual elements, ensuring that progression through its floors feels like a genuine advancement rather than a repetitive experience. While maintaining its roguelike essence, these enhancements align Tartarus more closely with the game’s overarching aesthetic theme.
The gameplay structure is straightforward. By day, the protagonist engages in typical school life activities—attending classes, socializing with friends, participating in club activities, and exploring various static locations within the city. Nighttime gameplay shifts focus to Tartarus, where the player navigates through the dungeon’s levels. Progression is saved after each level, allowing for a seamless continuation of exploration on subsequent days. As players delve deeper, they encounter boss fights that pose significant challenges, testing their mastery of the combat system. This cyclical gameplay loop, alternating between daily life simulation and dungeon exploration, forms the core of the game’s engaging experience.
The transition from the remaster to the remake introduces a significant shift in exploration dynamics, marking a departure from the original’s menu-based navigation. The introduction of third-person exploration transforms the player’s interaction with the game world, offering a more immersive experience as they navigate the city. This shift not only enhances sightseeing opportunities but also enriches the gameplay with added depth and fun. Additionally, the remake expands on the role of the dormitory and social links, enabling players to engage in a broader array of activities.
In line with the series’ tradition, Persona 3 Reload emphasizes the importance of social links in developing the characters’ social stats, such as Academics, Charm, and Courage. These stats are pivotal, influencing the unlocking of new Social Links and alternative dialogue options, which are integral to maximizing the game’s experience. For instance, to enhance Academics, players are encouraged to stay awake in class instead of succumbing to sleep, while answering questions correctly can boost Charm.
A notable improvement in the remake is the removal of the fatigue mechanic during Tartarus exploration, streamlining the experience and mitigating the sense of repetition associated with the dungeon’s roguelike nature. The approach to item discovery and enemy encounters within Tartarus has also been refined. Now, Shadows roam the floors, and initiating combat by striking them transitions the game to a battle screen. Strategic engagement, such as ambushing enemies from behind, grants combat advantages, adding a layer of tactical depth to dungeon exploration.
In Persona 3 Reload, the combat system places a significant emphasis on strategy through the identification of enemies’ weaknesses. This mechanic requires players to discern whether foes are vulnerable to physical or elemental attacks, a knowledge base that proves essential during boss battles. Additionally, the game introduces the flexibility to directly control party members or issue commands to them, enhancing tactical depth. The redesigned user interface facilitates a seamless interaction with combat mechanics, simplifying the process of targeting enemies’ weaknesses or deploying Persona skills.
Post-combat rewards are managed through a feature known as Shuffle Time, which has undergone simplification to minimize randomness. This change ensures that players can more reliably receive benefits ranging from increased experience points and gold to health restoration or the acquisition of new Personas, adding a rewarding element to victorious encounters.
On the technical front, the PC version of Persona 3 Reload might be described as basic concerning graphical customization options, yet it performs admirably straight out of the box. The game is optimized for higher frame rates and resolutions, delivering a smooth gameplay experience across various platforms, including the Steam Deck. An unexpected but welcome addition is the inclusion of ray-traced reflections, contributing to the game’s visual appeal. The unique art style of Persona 3 Reload not only distinguishes it within the franchise but also, in my view, surpasses Persona 5 Royal in terms of aesthetic beauty and visual quality, making it a visually stunning entry in the Persona series.
Persona 3 Reload Game Information
- Price: $69.99
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Atlus
- Platform: PC (Reviewed)
- Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher