The Persona sub-series of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise has been around since the late 90s, but you could argue that it was 2006’s Persona 3 that truly catapulted the brand to what it is today. Beloved for its thrilling story and compelling characters, ATLUS has returned to P3 with Persona 3 Reload, a remake that modernizes the JRPG classic without compromising anything that made it special in the first place.
The Dark Hour approaches
Persona 3 Reload is a faithful, nearly 1:1 remake of the 2006 game. We once again follow the story of a transfer student who discovers the Dark Hour, a brief and mysterious period of time that occurs between days, where the world is altered and dangerous forces come out to play. The protagonist must juggle his otherworldly duties with the mundanity of school life, attending lectures and taking exams. The Persona franchise is known for balancing everyday life with the extra-ordinary, and there’s arguably no better example than Persona 3.
Persona 3 Reload is also an opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the game’s excellent cast of characters and fall in love with them all over again. Yukari, Mitsuri, Akihiko, and Junpei are among my favorites from the cast, and I’m continuously impressed by how fleshed out and unique they feel. Any one of them could have been a protagonist in their own game. You’re able to deepen your bond with these characters thanks to newly added social activities and events.
Speaking of protagonists, one head-scratching omission in Persona 3 Reload is the game’s female protagonist. Originally introduced in Persona 3 Portable, the female protagonist became part of the P3 family, and was the go-to option for a decent portion of the game’s fan base. Even if she wasn’t popular, it would have been cool to see her appear in the remake, and allowing your player more than one gender option is never a bad choice.
As beautiful as ever
With Persona 3 Reload, ATLUS had the tricky job of remaking a game already recognized as a masterpiece among the vast majority of players. With that, the studio made the proper decision to not alter any of P3’s DNA, instead enhancing it with visual updates and quality-of-life changes. The character models have been completely remade and voice lines have been rerecorded, injecting new life into the game’s cast.
While the models and environments have been gorgeously recreated, the character animations themself leave a bit to be desired. Many of the movements and gestures feel robotic and stiff, similar to the original release in 2006. Even if I had experienced Persona 3 Reload in a vacuum, there are moments where it just feels like a remake of an old game as a result of some of these animations.
Persona 3’s cutscenes have also been completely reanimated, and they’re utterly gorgeous. They’re on par with the quality of most modern anime, and I found myself looking forward to whenever they’d pop up. It made me want to go back and watch the Persona 3 movie that was released back in 2013.
Before I was even able to start my playthrough, I was instantly struck by the music of Persona 3. In addition to new tracks, ATLUS has remixed and rearranged several of the game’s original tunes. Do you remember that scene in Ratatouille when the jaded food critic takes a bite of the chef’s signature meal and is instantly taken back to his childhood — a simpler, happier time? That’s what I imagine every Persona 3 fan will experience when this soundtrack graces their ears for the first time. Even as someone that doesn’t have a nostalgic attachment to the original game, there was something so warm about hearing all the rearrangements and reprised songs.
Awaken your powers
The combat of Persona 3 Reload is incredibly crisp and true to its roots. ATLUS has cleaned up the UI to make it easier to understand and put it in line with more recent games in the series. The battle system itself remains mostly unchanged and for good reason. The combat loop in P3 is incredibly satisfying, with each playable character and their respective Persona adding a special flair to the JRPG.
ATLUS has also added Theurgy, a new combat ability that is unique to each character and utilizes their persona. They’re likened to Showtime moves from Persona 5. The developer has also brought back the ability to direct allies in combat from P3 Portable, and added some new battle outfits for the playable characters. There are also tweaks to streamline the Fusion mechanic.
Seal your fate
Persona 3 Reload is a treat for not only fans of the 2000s classic, but newcomers as well. ATLUS does an excellent job at preserving everything that made the original game special while modernizing it for those that may be experiencing it for the first time. It’s JRPG excellence at every turn, and one I’ll be sinking many hours into between now and the release of the next mainline Persona game.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Persona 3 Reload launches on February 2, 2024, for PC, Xbox Series X/S, PS5, Xbox One, and PS4.
Persona 3 Reload
- Improved visuals and character models
- Soundtrack features remixed tunes and new bangers
- Combat UI overhaul
- Preserves everything that made the original game special
- Meaningful quality-of-life changes
- What happened to the female protagonist?
- Movement animations feel stiff
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Persona 3 Reload review: Power hour
I loved the original other than not being able to control my party. Never did finish FES