Persona 3 Reload

Persona 3 Reload - Video Review

Atlus' remake breathes new life into an 18-year-old game.

Audio transcription

"The Persona series has been around since the 90s, and it is one of the more bizarre game franchises that strangely clicks with many gamers.
The Japanese series really broke through in the West with Persona 5, where a lot of us first met the combination of high school life and supernatural dungeon crawling.
The game's heroes, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, stole the affections of many, and once you have completed Persona 5's 100 plus hours, you'll naturally look to the series' earlier chapters."

"Until this reloaded version of Persona 3, you'd have faced a challenge, as the game was only available on modern platforms in a so-called portable form, which comes from the PSP.
In this form, the original PS2 game was transformed into a 2D design, in a kind of visual novel.
With Persona 3 Reload, we instead get a remake that has been recreated from the ground up in Unreal Engine, and finally feels great on modern platforms."

"But the big question is, does Persona 3 hold up?
Persona 3 Reload starts off brilliantly, throwing you into a mystery as you arrive on the island where your new high school is located.
You get off the train and immediately, there's a really strange atmosphere.
There are coffins lying around, glowing red, and the otherwise busy train stations are now deserted."

"You navigate your way to your dormitory, and are greeted by an ominous little boy who says all sorts of cryptic things about danger and potential.
It turns out that on your first night, you've waded straight into the so-called Dark Hour, an extra hour every night when shadow creatures emerge from a giant tower in the centre of the island to abduct people.
Only a few individuals can be awake during this hour, including you and the others in your dormitory who form a task force called SEAS, which stands for Specialised Extracurricular Execution Squad, which goes into the tower called Tartarus and fights the shadows and tries to end the Dark Hour."

"You do this using Personas, which are spirits or aspects of yourself that have special abilities.
Time is constantly progressing in Persona 3 Reload, so you need to think about how you use it.
Should you talk to the locals and develop your bond with them, or should you engage in activities that make you more academic, charming, or brave?
At the same time, activities follow Tartarus. Tartarus, and thus the central plot, follows the phases of the moon, so that large boss shadows move out of Tartarus to wreak havoc when the moon is full."

"All of this is a pretty exciting setup, and as the story progresses, it works quite well.
The game's sometimes gothic and slightly darker atmosphere is also to be commended.
However, there are a few key things that it is fair to criticise the game for.
One is simply that it takes an insanely long time to get going."

"There isn't much real story in the game's first 20 hours or so.
A lot of Persona 3 Reload's side stories are rather boring at first, too.
This makes it feel rather sluggish for the first several hours after the otherwise excellent start.
This is made even worse by the fact that Tartarus is the only place where there is any real gameplay."

"If you're not in Tartarus, you're just watching scenes play out without you as a player doing much.
Tartarus is divided into over 200 floors, which means that once you've completed a floor, it's just not that exciting to go through it again.
Unlike Persona 5, where you had a reason to return to the so-called castles, it doesn't make much sense to grind Tartarus."

"However, things get a lot more exciting once we get past those first 20 hours.
There are rescue missions in Tartarus, the tower changes in many ways, new doors open and you face greater challenges.
You also go on a little holiday with your friends where the plot is pushed further forward.
The story evolves, new faces appear and you become more invested."

"If we delve a little deeper into the combat system, it's very much as we know it from Persona 5.
Snappy, delicious turn-based combat that's actually so fluid that it hardly feels turn-based at all.
It's all about running a kind of rock-paper-scissors with enemy weaknesses.
Once you've taken down all your enemies, you can perform an all-out attack as well, just like in Persona 5."

"Your entire team also has special ultimate abilities that they can use.
In terms of combat, Persona 3 feels every bit as modern and stylish as you could hope for.
Moving on to the soundtrack, we're also in familiar Persona territory.
It's a banger soundtrack that has its own mysterious genre, this time throwing in a bit of rap that feels out of the noughties alongside the otherwise funky, upbeat music."

"Whatever it is they've made, it works, but it's a unique cocktail nonetheless.
All in all, Persona 3 Reload is a really impressive piece of technical work.
There's nothing here that feels outdated technically, or if you take the individual gameplay experience and scrutinise it.
However, it's the overall pacing decisions that Reload inherits from the original that simply cannot be overlooked."

"There are too many elements of pacing that simply don't make sense, where you're left with months where you don't experience much real gameplay and then suddenly all combat is condensed into two days.
Yet, despite the odd pacing, Persona 3 has its own charm and is 100% a recommendable game.
It's an excellent place to start with the series, perhaps because the slow start gives you plenty of opportunity to get to know everything before moving on."

"But, if you're coming from Persona 5, you'll have to be prepared for Reload to take its time getting started.
Otherwise, we're dealing with a sublime remake that makes an 18 year old game feel brand new."





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