Memento Mori

There are a handful of media I’ve experienced over the years that I can confidently say left a strong, lasting impact in my life. The original Persona 3 on the PS2 was one of them. During a period in my life where I felt lost, disillusioned from the harsh realities of the world, it helped me find the courage to carry on- looking towards the potential of tomorrow.

Given how much of an impact the game had on me, I eagerly devoured both P3 Fes as well as Persona 3 Portable as they were released and while finding value in each of the releases, as a game to recommend to others, it was rather difficult to pin-point exactly which one was the “definitive” version to recommend. In that regard, I felt that if they were to one day remake the game, they could potentially create the “definitive” experience that Persona 3 has to offer.

Suffice to say, when it was finally announced after over a decade of waiting that they were doing a remake, I was both unreasonably excited as I was nervous about the potential outcome.

Hey Baby baby baby baby baby baby baby baby

MSRP: $69.99
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox
Steamdeck: Verified and plays great as long as you turn off reflections.
Voice Over: JPN/ENG
Length: 70~ hours

As a new transfer student at the prestigious Gekkoukan High School, the protagonist becomes entangled in the supernatural as one of the chosen who can summon a Persona, the only power effective against an encroaching darkness that threatens the world called, “Shadows”.

Without going into specifics for the benefit of those who have yet to experience it, I would say this tale is one that has aged quite well and the overarching themes are just as relevant and impactful as they were all those years ago.

Special mention to the cast of characters who most of which seem to be built on archetypes initially but as I spent time with them and matured alongside them through the good times and bad, I felt I truly understood them all deeply, which made me care about them all the more. It’s a testament that I have more screenshots taken during my playthrough of P3 Reload than I have for any other game that I treasure the many moments shared with these characters.

One aspect of the story is the many different social links that can be discovered through meeting new people and it’s here where Persona 3 fails to measure up to its successors. Many of the social links felt inconsequential and rushed in their conclusion and while there are a handful of great ones, I would say taken as a whole, Persona 3 has the weakest social links of them all which is a bit of a shame as in terms of the main story and its themes, it is most certainly my favorite of the lot.

To give meaning to the meaningless. To find value in something worthless. To struggle when it’s pointless- and so we carry on.

As a remake, the most obvious improvements usually come from the visuals and it’s no different here as the presentation has been significantly improved from the original. From the character models to the in-game cutscenes, the visual fidelity standard has been raised substantially. I was especially blown away by the new portrait illustrations which were absolutely gorgeous and have made it all but a guarantee that I will be picking up the full artbook when it releases later on. The animation work and overall presentation during combat looked crisp and highly detailed as well, really adding to the personalities of the characters during the many encounters. Having said that, I felt the animated cutscenes other than the fantastic opening felt a little underwhelming by comparison but still not bad at all.

Character portrait cut-ins never get old despite seeing it hundreds of times.

In terms of the gameplay, anyone familiar with the modern Persona formula should know what to expect. The most finite and crucial resource that needs to be managed is time and doing certain actions passes the time. While it is possible to max out all social links in one playthrough, it is a difficult task to complete without religiously following a guide so taking measure of my priorities and making difficult choices was par for the course.

Maybe I should spend some time increasing my personal stats which in turn unlock new social links that I can start? It might be better for me to spend some time with someone whose social link I’ve already unlocked to deepen my bond with them which allows me to get more exp when merging Personas of their tarot card type and ultimately unlock a powerful Persona I can fuse when I get them their link to Max? Perhaps I should head to Tartarus to level up some more before the next full moon so I can be better prepared for the battle ahead? The choices on offer knowing that I won’t have time to do everything I want made me really think hard and when I was in the groove, spending time efficiently, I felt more productive than I feel right after I do my taxes.

Finally, now I can play the game.

Speaking of the giant Tower of Babel sized elephant in the room, Tartarus is often looked at to be Persona 3’s weakest aspect and it’s difficult to argue as its successors have gone on to improve upon the idea significantly. In light of that, a few notable improvements/refinements were made in the remake. My favorite of the bunch was the addition of Major Arcanas which expanded in number the further I made it through the story. By picking one of these cards during shuffle time after combat, I was able to add modifiers to my current foray into Tartarus and not only did they make me more powerful, but they also added additional bonuses like being able to pick additional cards during shuffle time so I could pick a EXP/Money/Skill Card all at the same time after a battle. I could even add a modifier to increase the bonus exp earned during fusing so the benefits could extend outside of combat.

Triggering all out attacks to end a fight guaranteed a shuffle time and hitting weaknesses increased the chances of it so it paid to be strategic instead of just brute forcing everything with the most powerful attack. Discovering Monad doors for additional loot and guaranteed chances at Major Arcana cards were a boon as were the various special floors that could appear at random, like one that only spawned special enemies that drop massive Exp/Money if I could defeat them before they ran away. All the various elements combined in a way that made Tartarus not nearly the slog that I expected it to be. In fact, I would revisit previously cleared floors just to get a few more levels and hunt for items that I could use for crafting.

The special Theurgy attacks unique to each character also added another layer of strategy, although I must admit that they felt a bit overtuned, trivializing otherwise difficult encounters if I went in fully loaded.

In terms of elements that I didn’t love, I would say the PC port is about as barebones as it comes without any meaningful graphics settings outside of some basic raytraced reflection toggle. There’s also no support for DLSS/FSR/Ultrawide either. Luckily the ultrawide was easy enough to patch in and the game isn’t really too graphically demanding but it’s clear that the PC port wasn’t a priority for them.

As for the content, it was just announced that the Persona 3 Fes (Answer) arc will come in the form as “Episode Aigis” as a DLC later this year but there’s no word or plans to add the Female MC from Persona 3 Portable which is sorely missed as I feel there’s a lot that perspective and changes in the social links added that if it were never revisited, it would feel like a loss. I suppose P3P was released on modern platforms recently so it’s easy enough to get a hold of so take some solace in that.

Mission compromised! Send backup!

As a remake of one of my favorite games of all time, Persona 3 Reload had a lot more to live up to than it was reasonably expected to accomplish. Despite the lackluster PC port and not including all the desired content in the original package, P3R marks a significant improvement from the original across the board, providing the best way to experience this timeless tragedy for the first or fifth time.

Fun Tidbit: The new/remix OST is fantastic, this is one of my new favorite tracks.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • New and refined mechanics to make exploring Tartarus more interesting
  • Memorable cast of characters that play off each other well
  • Great presentation that invokes the original vision
  • Story that has aged quite well despite the years
  • Worthwhile quality of life improvements
  • New and remixed OST is fantastic
  • Barebone PC port
  • Does not include some of the important content from Fes/Portable in the base game
Written by
Jae has been a gamer ever since he got a Nintendo when he was just a child. He has a passion for games and enjoys writing. While he worries about the direction gaming as a medium might be headed, he's too busy playing games to do anything about it.