Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
The Scoop: Shooting themselves in the head with a gun to summon an alter-ego, a group of good-looking high school students must summon these “Personas” in an effort to battle the Shadows that take over the world during the Dark Hour. It’s time to the world, Japanese style.
The Setup: Originally released on the PS2 back in 2007, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 put a new spin on the RPG genre by adding a high-school life simulation aspect to the game. Even though the game was only released on the perennial PS2, Persona 3 quickly became a massive hit with the remaining PS2 audience. A year later, Atlus released the hit follow up, Persona 3 FES, which included added content as well as some new and refined features, which made the game even better. And when we thought the game was as good as it can get, Atlus releases a “Portable” version for the PSP, with a new female perspective that adds even more to the lengthy story as well as the replay value.
Just like the previous Persona 3 games, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable revolves around a high school club called the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES), whose members have the ability to summon a Persona (by shooting themselves in the head) as well as staying awake during the Dark Hour. Occurring between midnight and 12:01 AM, this hidden period known as the Dark Hour puts normal people to sleep inside protective coffins, and creatures known as Shadows appear in hopes of finding unprotected prey.
During the Dark Hour, your character takes the SEES to the ever-changing dungeon known as Tartarus, which is actually the high-school, to battle the shadows. This is where the dungeon-crawling, turn-based, RPG action takes place. The SEES explores the many floors of Tartarus, fighting shadows and gaining new treasures – even new Persona.
When you’re not summoning Personas and battling the Shadows of Tartarus during the Dark Hour, you’re playing the role of an average high school student, taking classes, joining other clubs, socializing. Not only does this high school simulation help push the story along, but it also plays a direct impact on the RPG elements of the game.
This is a big game folks, and it really is a lot of fun.
What’s Hot: The whole aspect of using Personas in this game is amazing. Personas is how the game incorporates magic in battle. One Persona might have access to fire abilities and another Persona has access to healing and wind abilities. While other members of the SEES have access to only one Persona, your character has access to multiple Personas. As you battle your way through Tartarus new Personas will be available via a card shuffle game that appears at random times after battle . Not only that, but as the game progresses you will have the option to create new Personas by fusing multiple Personas together. The resulting Persona can gain new abilities, inherit old abilities, or both. The Personas give Persona 3 Portable has a very Pokemon-esque feeling to it. Gotta Catch’em all! (Sorry, couldn’t resist. )
To help create more powerful Personas is the wonderful high-school simulation that takes place during the day. As you meet you friends and join different clubs, a social link will form, each tied to a different type of Persona. As the status of your social links grow so does the experience bonus tied to an Arcana – a category given to each Persona. The higher your social link is to a type of Arcana, the better experience bonus you’ll receive when you create that specific Arcana through fusion. So what you do and who you interact with during and after school plays an important part in how your Personas will grow and which Personas you’ll have access to.
And while the combat is turn based, it’s actually pretty addicting and never gets boring, especially since you can now directly control all of your teammates. In the previous Persona 3 games, you could only issue basic orders such as “heal” or “conserve HP”, but now you can actually choose what they do and which Persona abilities to use. At first you might put everyone on auto-pilot, which is fine, but as the enemies become stronger and your Personas learn more abilities, you’ll definitely want to have more control over the actions you’re teammates are performing.
Sure, Atlus could have just ported the original iteration of Persona 3 as is (because the game is just that damn good), but to give fans of the series another reasons to come back and to add to the replay value, they’ve added a female protagonist story line. So not only do gamers get to play the story as-is with the original protagonist, Atlus has basically doubled the play time as we get to see the story told through a females perspective, with a new spin on the social aspect!
What’s Not: The original Persona 3 for the PS2 was filled with beautiful anime cutscenes, which unfortunately, did not make the cut (pun intended). The character portraits and voiceovers aren’t bad and get the job done, but they definitely don’t compare to the original cutscenes.
Another featured that was omitted from the PSP version is the third person free roaming exploration. Instead of controlling your character around the school and dorm you now move a circle to people and objects that you wish (or are able) to interact with. Personally, I think this makes navigating a heck of a lot easier, but I can see how some gamers would think this could present a bit of a disconnect to the game.
Final Verdict: The combination of the combat and social aspects of Persona 3 series is magnificent, and I’m completely happy that we get a portable version of this solid RPG. Sure, Atlus may have trimmed a few features from this portable version, but in the end, we still get the same great PS2 RPG and a whole new perspective with the female protagonist. Along with Lunar: Silver Star Harmony and Ys Seven, Persona 3 Portable is another amazing RPG released on the PSP this year. PSP gamers will definitely have their hands full with choosing between high-quality RPG’s this year, and that’s a great situation to be in.Review - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable,