Persona 3 Portable – First Impressions

Look at Yukari way out there; got Mike Wazowskied by the ESRB rating

First thing you should know about me is that I absolutely love all things relating to the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games. The music, the characters, the gameplay, the spinoffs, I love it all. Like many fans of the series, Persona 3 was my introduction to the series, my introduction to the incredible company Atlus in general.

My background of the game is a little interesting. I’d first heard of Persona 3 when I was about 12 years old, so a couple years after it came out. It’s not so much the game itself I heard of, but the music. I’ve been writing novels most of my life, and I always enjoyed listening to video game music to fuel my creativity.

For video game music aficionados like myself, you may have heard of SupraDarky’s Best VGM List on YouTube. It’s a series that’s been going on for over a decade and is still going. Well, I was randomly listening to music on a somewhat old music-sharing site called Grooveshark, and when scanning through the lists of video game music on there, one came up called Best VGM 21 – Persona 3 – The Battle For Everybody’s Souls, and I quickly fell in love with the rock/opera combination. It remained one of my favorite video game songs of all time for many years after.

The name Persona 3 didn’t come back to me for a long time. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school back in 2015. I already started working full time and saving enough money to buy the games I couldn’t get as a kid, and the first console I dropped money on was the PlayStation 3. It was initially for the Kingdom Hearts remastered editions that were released on it at the time, but eventually, I saw a familiar title when scrolling through the PlayStation Network store.

This isn’t the original version, of course, but it was the one I got.

I decided to download the game on a whim and give it a try. At the time, I was working a swing shift, which always made me nervous when I tried new RPGs before work, since I never knew how long it would take before I could save. To make a long story short as this isn’t the version of the game I intend to discuss in length, I fell in love with this series all because of this game. The music, the characters, the writing, the unique gameplay, it was all amazing.

Now, let’s fast forward to a more recent day. I’ve known that there’s a female version of the protagonist in Persona 3 Portable for quite a while now, especially since I’m way into this whole series too much for it to be a healthy obsession. I got a PS Vita in early 2018 so I could play Persona 4 Golden, among other games, and one of them was Persona 3 Portable. Unfortunately, the digital version of that game liked to crash, and it eventually bothered me so much that I just stopped playing it.

Fast forward again to last week. I recently got my PSP back from a very good friend of mine who was borrowing it to play a game I recommended to her, so I decided to check out how much it would cost to get a physical copy of Persona 3 Portable. It was a little more than I expected, but after getting more accustomed to saving money, I figured I could afford it at the time. I got the game and I’ve been enjoying it since.

The addition of a female protagonist, in my opinion, is a genius idea on Atlus’s part. Seeing the game through the eyes of a female protagonist, whom I’ve named Minako Arisato, is a breath of fresh air. She has such incredible personality for being a silent protagonist, and the music in her version of the game is, well, arguably better than in the male protagonist’s version.

My favorite out of the numerous Persona 3 intro themes. It’s just so good.

Songs like Soul Phase, A Way of Life, and Wiping All Out are what made this game worth the purchase for me. Ever since I was a kid, the music was always my favorite aspects of video games, and it still is. If I could, I’d talk all day about how much I adore these songs, but of course, I want to discuss Persona 3 Portable as a whole rather than just rant about the music. Though I may eventually write a separate entry all about that.

I only have two criticisms about the game: one of them is simply preference-based, and another is just a technical thing. The first is that when you’re anywhere other than a dungeon, instead of moving about the maps like you do in the original game, you have a cursor and you’re moving it through an image, like a visual novel in a way. I don’t at all consider this bad, though. In fact, the more I play the game, the more I enjoy it. I’ve been discovering more things in the game than I did with the standard method used in the original version.

The second criticism is just a nitpick of mine, and that’s the load times. I’m used to PSP games, but the load times in Persona 3 Portable are a little awkward at times. Mainly, going from dungeon-crawling into a battle screen is usually a little weird, and sometimes during voiced cutscenes, it takes a second for the voice clip to play alongside the accompanying text. Speaking of which, there’s an entire line that was messed up slightly. When the character Junpei is speaking about the main protagonist, even though the text uses female pronouns, the voice clip is the same one from the original version of the game, having the clip refer to the protagonist as “he” instead of “she.” It’s not anything that turns me away from the game or anything. In fact, I find it more funny than annoying. Yet another thing Vic Mignogna messed up. (Yes, I’m one of those people who are against him.)

Those criticisms aside, this is a very solid remake, and dare I say even improves upon the game as a whole. I know it doesn’t feature The Answer storyline from Persona 3 FES, but the fact that so much of the game changes simply by having a female protagonist, including the social links, makes me so happy that they went the extra mile to do so. I’m personally very excited to see the female protagonist again when Persona Q2 comes out in the US. I even pre-ordered the Showtime edition and everything.

All that aside, I just want to say that I appreciate what this game does and what it is. While Atlus is known for playing it safe with how they make these games, I hope they consider giving the option to play as either a male or female protagonist again in a future installment.

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