Rectify Gaming

Review: Persona 3 Reload


Posted on January 30, 2024 by Henry

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9/10

Summary

Despite being a remake, Persona 3 Reload is undoubtedly at the forefront of mainline Persona titles. Fans have been asking for a re-imagining of Persona 3 for the longest time and Atlus has finally answered their calls. The game appeals to both fans and newcomers of the series, as it offers a compelling story, memorable characters, and addictive gameplay, all through a modern lens.

Developer – Atlus (P-Studio)

Publisher – Sega

Platforms – PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (reviewed)

Review copy given by publisher

Atlus surprised the world when they announced the remake of Persona 3 over half a year ago and now the time is finally here. I love how the remake is titled Persona 3 Reload instead of just appending a generic Remake to it, as it also reflects the pistols the characters use to summon their Personas in combat. Simply brilliant! This complete overhaul is a must play for all Persona fans as it adds tons of new features, enhanced gameplay, and unparalleled visuals.

If you played the original titles, then the story of Reload won’t be of any surprise to you as it has been left unchanged. There exists an extra hour every day that strikes after midnight. This phenomenon is known as the Dark Hour, and non-Persona users are transmogrified into coffins and have no recollection of what happens during this time after they awaken. Persona 3 follows a group of high school students who form a group known as the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES for short) to investigate the Dark Hour, as well as a mysterious condition known as Apathy Syndrome, which turns people into a vegetative state, and seems to be connected to a full moon. The narrative starts off a bit mundane and slow but ramps up significantly as it touches upon darker themes such as coming to terms with death.

You’ll probably need no introduction to the gameplay if you played any other Persona game before, as Reload is a traditional turn-based role-playing game with social simulation elements. You spend your time in-game via a calendar system day-by-day, with school activities taking up most of your mornings. Afternoon and evenings are generally open for you to explore the overworld, hang out with friends, or head into Tartarus to battle Shadows and level up your Personas. You have three personality traits, Charm, Courage, and Academics, that must be increased to certain levels before new Social Links and activities open up. Raise them by answering questions in class, studying at home, working part time jobs, or eating at restaurants. You get the gist of it.

Aside from scripted narrative moments, all of combat takes place in a mysterious tower known as Tartarus. Each floor is a procedurally generated dungeon that has you fighting enemies known as Shadows, in hopes of finding the stairs to the next floor. You’ll find clocks on certain floors that can heal your entire party at the cost of Twilight Fragments, a collectible that acts as currency for locked treasure chests and said clocks. Combat is executed in a turn-based fashion, with each character having the option to perform a basic attack, summon their Persona, guard, or use an item. Every enemy has a weakness and when you capitalize on that, it can trigger a One More attack that allows you to take another turn right away.

The only complaint is that Reload doesn’t contain all the content from the previous Persona 3 releases. Most notably, it is missing the female main character from Portable and The Answer (Episode Aegis in the Japanese version) from FES. This feels like a major missed opportunity for Atlus to make an actual definitive modern version of the game, and I’m not sure why they didn’t include the aforementioned elements.

But there are also quite a lot of new changes that Reload brings to the table. All party members are now directly controllable in battle! A handful of new or updated locations and shops are introduced, such as the fortune teller in the Escapade Club and the brand new Mangastar Net Cafe. There’s also a brand new English voice cast that puts on a phenomenal performance, featuring familiar voices such as Aleks Le as the main character, Heather Gonzalez as Yukari, and Suzie Yeung as Fuuka. 

Tartarus, the one and only dungeon in the game, has gone through some changes as well. For one, the fatigue mechanic has been removed, which had your characters become tired or sick after participating in too many battles. Excellent quality-of-life updates have also been implemented, such as the dash and auto-recovery functionalities that Persona 5 has. Before, Tartarus was heavily criticized for being a boring slog of procedurally generated dungeons, with your party members barely interacting with each other. Reload now has your friends engaging in conversations after battles, and dungeons now contain breakable objects and locked treasure chests to find, breaking down some of that monotony.

When it comes to combat, there are two new mechanics: Shift and Theurgy. Shift is similar to the Baton Pass mechanic in Persona 5, where you can pass the turn to a different party member after triggering a One More attack. Strategically timing this can allow each of your party members to take a turn and even land an All Out Attack before the enemy gets to take theirs. Theurgy, on the other hand, can be seen as an ultimate ability that can be executed after a meter fills up. Each character has a unique Theurgy attack that depends on their Persona. For example, Fuuka provides a party-wide buff such as increasing everyone’s attack and defense whereas Akihiko deals heavy electric damage to all enemies, regardless of their elemental resistance.

My personal favorite additions to the game are the brand new songs and themes. Music plays a significant role in my life and Persona soundtracks never fail to evoke a feeling of joy and wonder when listening to them. I can’t get enough of Atsushi Kitajoh’s original compositions such as Full Moon Full Life and It’s Going Down Now, and the remixed original songs from Shoji Meguro are just as brilliant and nostalgic. I can’t wait until the full list of 60 newly arranged tracks are released on streaming services! They’re going on repeat right away.

Persona 3 Reload looks absolutely stunning, despite being built from Unreal Engine 4 instead of the proprietary engine used for Persona 5 Royal. That being said, the game undoubtedly borrows a lot of its visual themes from Persona 5, especially when it comes to the stylish UI and comic book theme effects. I always joke that Reload looks like the blue version of Royal! The game encapsulates the darker tone of the story perfectly through its detailed portrayal of characters and environments. Chic, but bold, as I like to call it.

When Atlus released the ports of Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden onto PlayStation consoles, the games lacked a native PS5 version, and had to be played through backwards compatibility. This means the visuals were rendered at a resolution of 1080p max with the frame rates at 60FPS. Thankfully, Persona 3 Reload is built with a native PlayStation 5 version and performs flawlessly at 4K60FPS. Coming in at 25.58GB (for reference P5R on PS5 is 31.09GB), Reload takes a mere 1.4 seconds to load into the game from a fresh launch. Lightning fast.

There aren’t a ton of new accessibility features, but all the basics are there, such as inverting controls, adjusting camera speed, and toggling background brightness. Voice language can be switched to Japanese or English and the game provides a comprehensive list of tutorials that explain battles, dungeons, daily life, and fusing Personas. A convenient dictionary filled with terms such as Full Moon and SEES come in handy for a quick refresher. There’s a total of 5 difficulty levels: peaceful, easy, normal, hard, and lunatic. The first four can be switched in game at any time, whereas you can only lower the difficulty from lunatic, but not change back to it.

Despite being a remake, Persona 3 Reload is undoubtedly at the forefront of mainline Persona titles. Fans have been asking for a re-imagining of Persona 3 for the longest time and Atlus has finally answered their calls. The game appeals to both fans and newcomers of the series, as it offers a compelling story, memorable characters, and addictive gameplay, all through a modern lens.

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