Persona 3 Reload Review

Dan Webb

These days, you might look at some remasters and wonder, what's the point? Whether the original game released recently or the original was pretty special already, there's a whole host of reasons to be cynical about remasters or remakes. That said, if there’s one game that’s worthy of a remake, it’s Persona 3. It’s not only effectively the origin for what has become a Final Fantasy-like mega franchise in Japan, and now in the west, but it also perhaps boasts one of the darkest and more engaging stories that have been told in the Persona franchise. The original - or at least, one of it's iterations - as we stated last year in our Persona 3 Portable review, was a touch outdated and archaic. Persona 3 Reload is anything but.


 

To the uninitiated, Persona 3 Reload is a proper remake of the 2006 turn-based JRPG, one that's equal parts dungeon-crawler and school-life social sim. Because Persona 3 effectively had three different versions (3, FES, and Portable), each with tweaks and differences, it can be confusing to understand which one Reload is based on. It soon becomes apparent that, it’s more akin to the actual original and FES, but with gameplay enhancements from Portable and even some mechanics from Persona 5.

In terms of actual content, though, Persona 3 Reload follows the Social Links that Persona 3 FES did, with some slight tweaks. The first tweak is that the Social Links from Persona 3 Portable for the male squadmates have been included to a certain extent, thanks to what P Studio are calling “Linked Episodes,” which allow you to spend time with the male companions, which wasn't a thing in the original Persona 3. That, of course, means that Persona 3 Reload follows the male main character and his social Links, and leaves the female main character behind (and her music, annoyingly), which I feel is Persona 3 Reload's biggest misstep. But that's definitely a preference thing.

Secondly, the Aigis Social Link is all present and correct in Reload, while it wasn't in Persona 3, but was in FES and Portable. On top of that, the Monad Depths are no more, and have been worked into Tartarus itself in the form of Monad Doors and Monad Passages, while the Margaret Vision Quests (the game’s challenge rooms) haven't make the jump from Persona 3 Portable, sadly.

And of course, the big one is Tartarus. My biggest criticism with Persona 3 Portable (and that includes Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES) was always that Tartarus is a massive, monotonous grind that loses its fun factor after only a fraction of the 250+ floors. Has P Studio eradicated the grind entirely in Persona 3 Reload, then? Well, yes, and no.


 

So, first up, Tartarus has about the same number of floors in Persona 3 Reload, which is actually pretty shocking. However, there's certainly more variety in the floors this time around, with more to do (like Monad Doors and Monad Passages, which can be massive XP sources), and the actual truth is, while there's a similar amount of floors, they do seem a hell of a lot shorter. In fact, some floors you can get through in seconds. So, does Persona 3 Reload fix the Tartarus grind? For the most part, yes… although I’d have personally preferred it if it was still a bit shorter. The good news is that in New Game Plus your character level now transfers over, so if you've done Tartarus once properly, you can whizz through it in New Game Plus.

In terms of actual gameplay, P Studio could and probably should have nuked the instadeath spells, but it hasn't. However, the developer has made Homunculus more prevalent and offered better protections against it. And on top of that, thanks to the Baton Pass mechanic from Persona 5, now called Shift, the game just seems to have a better flow.

Persona 3 Reload also boasts new evening activities with teammates like gardening and the like; a new Rewind feature that allows you to reload a previous day; new Strega story content; and fully-voiced Social Links. Yes, it's a completely new voice cast - which can be a tad jarring if you've played the original more than a few times - but after a few hours, you'll start to realise that the new voice actors have done a stellar job, and arguably, could be said to be better than the original’s.


 

Personally, as a veteran, I'd still love to have seen the Monad Depths, the challenge rooms, and some of the female main character's Social Links from Portable make an appearance, but, regrettably, that's not the case here. So, the best way I can sum up Persona 3 Reload, is by saying that it's Persona 3's story (with a little more depth when it comes to Strega), with a Persona 4 playstyle, boasting Persona 5's dazzling swagger and style. Both visually, and mechanically, Persona 3 Reload is one hell of a remake.

In all, Persona 3 Reload is a gorgeous and incredibly well-crafted remake of a classic. As I inferred earlier, it's Persona 3's story, with Persona 4's gameplay, using the Persona 5 engine, which is bloody fantastic. Could P Studio have made Tartarus less of a grind? Sure. But that's my only complaint, and even then, it’s managed to improve the experience. It’s certainly been made far less arduous and repetitive, so it’s certainly achieved its goal in that respect. On the whole, though, Persona 3 Reload has taken a 2006 classic, and made it a must play for today's generation, which is worthy of praise alone. In short, it's a wonderful remake that everyone should play, even if you've already played the original (or one of its variants).

Persona 3 Reload

Persona 3 Reload is an absolutely brilliant remake of a 2006 classic. While the original P3 is effectively where the current behemoth of a franchise marked out its identity, Persona 3 Reload is most certainly the best iteration of that series-defining game that has ever existed.

Form widget
90%
Audio
95%

It's Persona 3, but with reworked compositions - what's not to love? The new voice cast will take a while to get used to for veterans, but honestly, I think they're better in the grand scheme of things.

Visuals
95%

It has the sultry, swaggering style of Persona 5, but somehow looks even better. Persona 3 Reload is basically anime come to life!

Playability
90%

Persona 3 Reload plays like Persona 4 using the Persona 5 engine. What's not to love about that?

Delivery
90%

One of the biggest criticisms of Persona 3 (and it's spin-offs) was that Tartarus was an immense grind. While Tartarus in Persona 3 Reload has the same number of floors, you can breeze through them in a fraction of the time.

Trophies
80%

A good variety of trophies, on the whole, that encourage exploration and allow you to drill deep into the best aspects of a freshly-made classic.

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