PSP Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable

I know what most of you are thinking; another Persona 3 review, didn’t this game release a long time ago?? Well this game did release before on the PS2 and then again on the same console as Persona 3 FES. Atlus is making sure that no stone has been left unturned and that not a single person alive couldn’t have possibly missed this epic classic. So here we are with Persona 3 Portable, a combination of both the original game and FES only this time the game has an option perfect for all those female gamers out there. Is this a case of one time too many or is the game that good that it’s worth picking up again?

Persona 3 Portable puts players in the shoes of a high school student in modern day Japan who has just transferred to a new school, only to learn of something called the Dark Hour. You soon find out that you and the fellow students in your dorm are immune to this Dark Hour and posses the power to summon Persona’s to help you fight in battle. After the clock has hit 12:01 AM you will notice that the rest of the world is put to sleep in coffins and awaken thevery next day with no knowledge of what went on during that extra hour of night. Your character and the group you join called SEES or Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad must now explore a tower called tartarus, which just so happens to be your school. However the Dark Hour is not all you will have to deal with in the game as you will be living the everyday life of a normal high school student during the day; going to classes, dates, sports activity’s and studying keep you busy when your not out fighting for you life. Gahhhh!

Unlike past Persona games, this PSP version gives players the option of choosing whether your lead will be male or female. The story has been kept the same for the most part though changes are made to fit in the female lead and this new outlook on the story is a much needed welcome, especially for veterans of the Persona 3 set of games. You will notice these changes the most when it comes to your social interactions with other characters in the game, especially the rest of your group back at the dorm as they will regard you differently depending on your choice of lead. Both leads are silent throughout the game which really lends to the story as you can develop your own thoughts of how the main character would sound, leaving more to the imagination.

Social Interactions are one of the biggest strengths of a Persona game and this is again true in Persona 3 Portable. During your days right after school, you will be able to talk with people not only in SEES, but also friends in various club activities or those that you meet around town, developing Social Links with them. Each social link in the game is assigned a different Arcana – similar to what you would find in a tarot card deck – that is leveled up as you progress the link. As you push your Arcana level higher, Persona’s created under that Arcana will become stronger. Don’t forget to also spend time raising your academics, charm and courage by studying and answering questions in class, along with performing acts of courage. Some social links cannot be started until you have reached a certain amount of either of the three key stats. There is so much for every player to do outside of just combat that it almost seems like too much, trying to manage your days to find time for everyone and everything the game has to offer. However it’s all worth it when you see the progressions with different characters, and how it all affects not only the story, but you as well. Atlus does a great job of making the social aspect just as important as the combat aspect of the game and it makes for a wonderful experience.

Speaking of the combat, we would be wrong if we didn’t also mention this. Most nights you are given the option to enter Tartarus and explore with you and 3 of your dorm mates. Players will be running their characters through floor after floor of the one dungeon in the game, looking for shadows and treasure chests. You are able to spot the shadows on the mini map, giving players a chance to score a preemptive strike, giving you a leg up once the battle starts. Battles are turn-based and players are given the option of having AI controlled teammates or taking control of everyone. Should you choose the AI teammates you are able to assign commands to them such as Conserve SP or All out Attack. In battle, you will have you basic attacks or the ability to summon your Persona to perform magic attacks. As you level up your various Persona’s in battle, you will be able to learn new spells and attacks with them. Pay attention to the weaknesses of each enemy; if you are able to exploit this weakness you are granted another attack. If you knock all the enemies on screen down you are able to do an All out Attack with all of your characters, dealing massive damage. Boss battles in the game are a lot of fun and require a good deal of strategy and a lot of leveling up to conquer.

There are a few tweaks in Persona 3 to make it more friendly to the handheld audience. You will not be able to freely walk your character through the town but instead move a cursor through each location from a top down view and select your destination. The cut scenes from the PS2 version are also gone and most of the dialog will be told through portraits of each character. It’s a bit disappointing to lose the cut scenes and the free-roaming ability but it does not break the experience. Load times are actually decreased from the PS2 version and you are still able to actually run through tartarus. The voice actors from P3 make a return for the PSP version and it’s a great thing too, as the voice acting really shines. No one seems out of place or annoying in anyway and the same can be said for the writing and tempo to the entire story.

It is not often that you can release a game three times and still manage to get people excited with each release, which is exactly what Atlus has done with Persona 3. In fact, with each game, the story keeps getting more interesting and the game continues to find new ways to hook in not just new fans, but P3 veterans. Persona 3 has made an amazing transition to the PlayStation Portable system and all of the changes made to the title have pushed this game into a realm of its own. No matter if you have played every P3 release or you are just now hearing about this phenomenon, one thing is certain; If you own a PSP, this should be in your collection. With over 100+ hours of gameplay, Persona 3 Portable is one of the deepest and best experiences to be found on the PSP and is exactly what an RPG should be.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Perfect Blend of Social Interaction and Combat

Tons of Depth Around Every Corner

Terrific Controls and Voice Acting

10 out of 10