Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP) artwork

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP) review


"Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES both arrived much too late in the PlayStation 2's life cycle. The current console generation was already well under way and new releases on that platform were regularly being overlooked in favor of the titles on newer systems. That’s definitely a shame. Persona 3 is one of the last generation’s greatest RPGs. Hopefully this latest version, Persona 3 Portable for the PSP, will get the attention it deserves."



Persona 3 and Persona 3 FES both arrived much too late in the PlayStation 2's life cycle. The current console generation was already well under way and new releases on that platform were regularly being overlooked in favor of the titles on newer systems. That’s definitely a shame. Persona 3 is one of the last generation’s greatest RPGs. Hopefully this latest version, Persona 3 Portable for the PSP, will get the attention it deserves.

Persona 3 has a pretty interesting premise that differs from what you'd typically see in a JRPG. It takes place in an average Japanese city where each day has a 25th hour that most people aren't aware exists. During that hour, people are transformed into coffins, the local high school is replaced by a massive tower called “Tartarus" and a select number of its students are charged with exploring it. Naturally, it’s full of nasty monsters, which the students fight using crazy alternate personalities called “Personas.”

You can change your Persona at any time to change your stats and the special skills available to you. They can do pretty much anything you’d expect from JRPG characters. They can attack, heal, give buffs and debuffs, etc.. The actual combat system doesn’t really do anything mindblowingly revolutionary. It uses the traditional rock > paper > scissors system of strengths and weaknesses. If you’re burned out on JRPG combat for whatever reason, Persona 3 isn’t going to feel like much of a breath of fresh air in that regard. That’s not really a problem, though. Encounters aren’t random, and weaker enemies will actually run away from you if they know they have no chance of beating you. Battles move at a pretty quick pace, too. No pointlessly drawn-out spell animations you’re forced to watch hundreds of times.

As you scale Tartarus, naturally, the enemies get stronger, and your old Personas won't do the trick against them any more. This is where fusion comes in. Occasionally, after a battle, you'll have the chance to draw a card, and sometimes that card will give you a new Persona. These Personas can be fused to create new and (potentially) stronger ones. Fused Personas inherit attributes from the Personas used to create them, but not all of them. It's almost like a breeding system in that way. This system adds quite a bit of depth to the character building system.

Where Persona 3 really differs from other JRPGs, though, isn’t what happens when exploring the tower during the Dark Hour. It’s what happens in the other 24 hours in the day. When you’re not fighting monsters and exploring towers and shooting yourself in the head, you mostly just go about your daily life as a high school student. You can make friends or fall in love, take on extra curricular activities, study and pretty much do anything else a normal high school student would do. Activities such as karaoke or studying will raise your Academics, Charm, or Courage stats. These are used to build relationships, or “social links” with other characters, and those relationships strengthen your Persona. However, it’s just not possible to do everything. The key is to plan ahead and to manage your time wisely. When combined with the dungeon crawling so typical of the genre, this system works very well and the marriage of the two styles of play is incredibly satisfying.

I’d like to be able to say that Persona 3 Portable is the definitive version of Persona 3, but it’s not. It seems that there is no “definitive version.” The PSP version adds a few new elements, the most important of which is the option to play as a new female protagonist. When playing as the girl, female characters that were previously potential love interests for the male protagonist will see you as more of a friend and confidant (don’t worry, though; the new gal has her own potential suitors as well). A few other additions come from Persona 4, like the ability to actually control your party members in battle (which, of course, slows those lightning-fast battles down a notch from the PS2 versions, but in a totally acceptable way), after-school jobs, and a handful of cameo appearances by Persona 4 characters.

Graphics have been downgraded a bit for the small screen, but they’re still great for a PSP game. Character portraits have lots of detail and are full of personality. The soundtrack is excellent, with a wide variety that includes everything from J-rock to jazz. There are even a few new tunes for the new female protagonist.

Unfortunately, with all of the additions, a few things are missing as well. The 3D world outside of Tartarus has been replaced by a map of sorts, which you navigate with a cursor. At least the change makes sense. It streamlines the process of wandering around and talking to people. The efficiency that the changes allow are important in a game that is meant to be played on the go, but it's difficult not to miss the old style at least a little bit. Still, you’re much more likely to miss the Epilogue from FES or the animated cutscenes than you are the 3D overworld. Something else that's missing was never in the original versions, but it should have been included here: a quick save option. There isn't one and that's disappointing. When will PSP developers learn?

Ultimately, the only way that you can go wrong with Persona 3 Portable is if you’ve already played through the FES release of the game for PlayStation 2. Even then, the new character mixes things up enough to keep them interesting for a second go. Potential newcomers definitely shouldn't let Persona 3 slip under their radar this time around. It may not be “definitive,” but this portable take on the title is still amazing.

Rating: 9/10

Roto13's avatar
Freelance review by Rhody Tobin (July 08, 2010)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

More Reviews by Rhody Tobin
The Walking Dead: Season 2.4 - Amid the Ruins (PlayStation 3) artwork
The Walking Dead: Season 2.4 - Amid the Ruins (PlayStation 3)

Jane, divided, but I can't decide which side I'm on.
The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf (PC) artwork
The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf (PC)

And they all lived happily ever after.
Watch Dogs (PlayStation 3) artwork
Watch Dogs (PlayStation 3)

Cell phone or universal remote? Is there even a difference?

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
Ben posted July 08, 2010:

Nice review. I caught a small error, though:

like the ability to actually control your party members in battle (which, of, slows those lightning-fast battles down a notch from the PS2 versions

I think it should be "of course"?

Hope to see more stuff from you in the future!
board icon
aschultz posted July 29, 2010:

Persona 3 has a pretty interesting premise that differs from what you'd typically see in a JRPG. I'd say the premise is VERY interesting and doesn't need to be qualified. Your description can let it fly. And I think this is very sensible and well put together. And if it doesn't get RotW mention it is probably because I found more reviews engaging. This does what a review should do. And while I felt more like "this is a good solid game" than amazed by the end, that's probably due to taste.

I also liked this: "should have been included here: a quick save option. There isn't one and that's disappointing. When will PSP developers learn?" This isn't snarky or whiny and seems right--the game does a lot of things right except for maybe a big one.

I too hope to read more from you.
board icon
CoarseDragon posted July 30, 2010:

Nicely done however I wonder why you did not mention the female protagonist being added to the game (Persona 3 having only the male protagonist). It is a pretty big thing.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Advertise | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.