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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable: Pocket Personae
Company: Atlus

Yesterday I had the chance to sit in with Atlus reps on a demo of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable. Though I'm usually not incredibly hot on re-releases or ports of any game, P3P is an interesting proposition. For starters, Persona 3 is one of my all-time favorite RPGs. But Atlus has also taken care to not repeat mistakes made with the PSP re-release of the original Persona.

More revamp than straight-off port, P3P was developed with portable play in mind. Anyone who played the PS2 version can tell you that, while fun, Persona 3 wasn't friendly when it came time to take a break. The first save point didn't appear until nearly twenty or so minutes into the game. For a console, this isn't a bad thing, but when taking something on the road, it's a nightmare. It's also an issue ignored by most portable developers.

P3P is all about streamlining the experience. The first really noticeable change is the removal of animated cut scenes. It's something that will tick off some players, but helps push the action along and get you into gameplay quicker. Other items, like travel, one-touch menu access and the option to fast-forward through dialogue have also been added. The guiding philosophy is similar to Hexyz Force; spend more time playing than waiting for something to happen. I haven't hand any hands-on time with P3P, but after dropping a nice chunk of time on Hexyz Force, I don't see how it could be a bad thing.

Combat has been revamped to work more like Persona 4's system. The original system relied heavily on A.I.-based characters, giving you little control over how party members reacted in combat. Now you have full control over party members. Additionally, skill cards allow for quicker leveling of Persona and enable easier access to new abilities. Again, the keyword is streamline.

Changes go beyond faster play and combat. P3P introduces a new playable female protagonist. Her story remains the same, but opens up new Social Links and romance options. Speaking of Social Links, P3P includes a new set of social cues and activities. A few Personae from Persona 4 also join the original set of demons. With the exception of "The Answer," all of the additional material from Persona 3: FES is included with P3P.

I've often wondered if it would have received even more deserved attention had it not been released so late in the PS2's life cycle. If you haven't already played it, or any Shin Megami Tensei game, P3P looks like the perfect jumping-on point. As an added incentive, Atlus is offering a replica of Junpei's hat as a pre-order bonus.

We'll have more coverage of P3P in the next month as well as a full review closer to the July 6 release.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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