Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
Score: 95%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Atlus
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
When it comes to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (P3P), the most common question I've received is, "What will I get out of the experience if I've already played the PS2 version?" The answer isn't an easy one. P3P is my third time playing through Persona 3, and I loved every minute of it. It's the game that never gets old. The fact that Atlus tossed in a new protagonist and new Persona is just bonus.

P3P is a faithful port of Persona 3, though a few changes have been made in the name of disc space and gameplay pace. This more noticeable change is the lack of animated story sequences. These are instead replaced with static scenes with voice-overs. Considering how quickly the game bounces from intro to playtime, I like the idea. Animated sequences are cool, but not when you're on the go and have limited playtime.

In-game visuals are nice and remain as true to the PS2 version as the PSP can. I've always liked the series' toned-down anime feel and was happy to see it translate as well as it does. There are a few noticeable spots where you'll expect just a little more visual kick, but overall, everything looks great.

I'm a little disappointed P3P didn't ship with some sort of soundtrack (though it does come with a killer Junpei baseball cap as pre-order bonus). Music always fits the mood perfectly, yet also manages to sound completely out of place thanks to the upbeat techno feel.

One of the first, major additions to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is the option to play as a female character. Though the choice may seem cosmetic, it adds quite a bit to the story. The female protagonist offers a new way to go through the game. Her story is similar enough to not feel like a completely different story, but offers enough differences to keep you engaged. Playing as a female also completely reworks how Social Links work.

First off, female characters no longer see you as a love interest, adding a different dimension to your relationships. Instead, you'll spend time developing relationships with boys. Getting a handle on the Social Link system is vital to any sort of success you may or may not experience throughout the game. As Social Links blossom, you'll unlock new story paths with certain students and earn experience when fusing Persona in the Velvet Room.

Play time is split between exploring Tartarus, a giant tower on the 25th floor of the school, and attending classes. Having to go through your character's normal daily routine is different, but works exceedingly well. Like any good game, everything you do informs something else in the game. Going to school may seem like a bore compared to killing monsters in the tower, but it's probably the most important thing you'll do in the game.

P3P uses a point-and-click interface for getting around school. The change will annoy purists, but helps speed the game up. There's still a healthy amount of waiting around and watching things happen, but events still progress quick enough to make the game friendly for portable play.

When it comes time to explore Tartarus, gameplay completely shifts from school sim to dungeon crawler. Every night the tower resets itself, so you'll never go through the same area twice.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable does a fantastic job of slowly layering in elements. It makes for a slow start, but when your schedule starts to clutter up and you have to start making hard decisions, like whether to study or attend practice, you'll long for the easier times. Thankfully, there are no "wrong" decisions. Some won't lead to the outcome you want, but I never ran into a problem where a decision completely screwed up my game.

Enemies are viewable within dungeons, offering the opportunity to engage them in battle or, if you're quick enough, get around them and make a mad dash for the stairway. It's a fantastic example of risk-reward gameplay. You live to fight another day, but may not survive that day because you missed out on leveling opportunities and rewards.

Game Mechanics:
Persona, demonic manifestations of everything you are as a person, are a key element in Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable. Everything you do while not in the tower affects your Persona in some small way. Some actions may increase their stats, while others may unlock new abilities. It pays to make intelligent, informed decisions while outside the tower rather than simply blowing them off as story filler.

Learning to manage your social life requires just as much strategy as combat. There are only so many hours in a day, and you have to find a way to get the most out of your time. You can choose a couple of easy tasks that don't take up much time, but taking on harder tasks usually end in bigger rewards. Even though one bad choice won't completely ruin you game, it can cause complications that make your decisions even harder.

Unlike the PS2 release, P3P gives you direct control over your party. The new combat system is more akin to Persona 4 than 3, which is a welcome addition. Party members can combat enemies with normal weapons, like swords and bats, or summon Persona to offer a little extra magical firepower. You're limited to one Persona per party member, though you can switch them out at any time.

Battles revolve primarily around finding an enemy's weakness and exploiting it, so you'll want a healthy stock of Persona in your group at all times. P3P adds a legion of new Persona to the game, though you'll have to participate in Fusions to unlock some of the better additions.

If you haven't played Persona 3 yet, take this opportunity to do so. It's a fantastic RPG stuffed with things to do and interesting, yet unusual, ideas. If you're curious about what it has to offer a returning player, the new female protagonist's story is probably enough, though only if you're itching for another trip to Tartarus.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.