Many years after first experiencing a Persona game the series still has me in a stranglehold. That love affair began with Persona 3 FES so I was very excited to get my hands on the Persona 3 port on the Nintendo Switch. In this Persona 3 Portable review, I will be discussing how this port plays, what it’s lacking, and how well it stacks up to the PS2 experience (spoiler: quite well).
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Persona 3 Portable Review: A Classic is A Classic
Title: Persona 3 Portable
Publisher: Atlus West/Sega
Genre: JRPG, Simulation, Action, Dungeon-Crawling, Strategy
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch, PC
Well Paced Gameplay
One of the best things about this entry to the Persona series is its pacing. While later editions felt very slow and glacial, Persona 3 progresses in the blink of an eye when an experienced player is at the helm. Just 10 hours into the game you can have almost maxed out social links, be a good chunk into Tartarus, and have your social skills upgrading already.
It is this pacing that keeps this game interesting in between the storylines, character interactions, and boss fights. It is a bold claim but I don’t believe any game in the series is paced as well as P3 Portable.
I first hear most songs in this soundtrack almost a decade ago and to this day they’re still memorable and instantly recognisable. Simple things like moving around the map are made better by the absolute tunes playing in my ears as I decide what to do.
The music changes up throughout the game and switches quite well. It has catchy songs for the daytime, dramatic and epic songs for the more lore-based moments, and some badass songs for big fights.
The core gameplay of Persona games is dungeon-crawling and turn-based JRPG combat. This is really well done in Persona 3 Portable, but has its issues. While most fights are pretty standard they are undoubtedly fun to play through.
There are, however, moments of frustration to be found during the battle mechanics. First of all, the hit detection when starting a fight with shadows can be finicky, it’s never fun to think you’ve timed your swing well to start a battle and end up at a disadvantage.
Even worse is the AI’s IQ. My teammates will often make very silly decisions, and while none have cost me a battle, I could easily see that happening. Tougher battles rely on almost being unfair in this game too, some bosses can insta-kill players with Hama or Mudo. It’s never ideal to be chipping away at a tough enemy only for them to get a lucky shot in on your MC and end the battle.
The gameplay is tough, but ultimately forgiving enough that most players will be able to navigate Tartarus easily enough. Even on the lower difficulties this game isn’t a cakewalk but I think it walks a fine line, and does it to perfection.
A Great Cast of Characters
While nobody is perfect, the world of Persona 3 Portable is filled with an interesting cast of characters. Each social link is interesting enough to keep you coming back for more and genuinely wanting to max out the link to conclude their story. The SEES colleagues also managed to never become grating despite how much time you spend together.
The bond between the group grows so naturally and each new character brings something unique and distinct to the table.
This game deserves all the praise in the world for the atmosphere it creates. Through almost every interaction and every art choice you get the sense that underneath the colorful animation, you are living in a dark world, one on the brink of destruction.
The dark setting really makes the more psychological aspects stand out. Things like the Velvet Room and Arcana feel kind of out of place in the almost comic book-style world of Persona 5, but in Persona 3 Portable it is right at home.
Showing Its Age
Obviously this is a port, a port of a PSP game, and that comes with its issues. But I do feel this really holds back the game. Persona 3 FES is another “remake” of the original Persona 3 and it includes the ability to actually walk around the full map and has animated cutscenes.
Persona 3 Portable has none of that, instead being a point-and-click game for the life simulation part and then being fully walkable in the dungeons. For the sake of having a Male and Female MC I’m not sure this was the best choice of port when FES is available, even if The Answer is one of my least favourite game modes ever.
Persona 3 Portable Review – Last Word on Gaming Viewpoint
While Persona 3 Portable isn’t perfect, it is still a viable way to experience one of the best games ever. This is by far the best Persona game of the series, it has the best pacing, the best music, the best art, everything. While this port is lacking some of the things that FES had that made it an all-time classic, it is still one of the best games on the Nintendo Switch, and that’s saying something.
Persona 3 Portable Review – Verdict
*This game as reviewed via a review code*
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