I have an interesting “relationship” with the Persona franchise. If you listened to the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast that I co-host, you’ll know that in 2022, I got Persona 5 Royal for the Nintendo Switch for Christmas and played for around 110 hours – I regret nothing. Then, I got the Switch version of Persona 4 Golden and have gotten really far into that. So, when Atlus announced they were remaking the third title in the franchise, Persona 3, I knew I would likely enjoy it. As my Persona 3 Reload Review attests, this game is everything you want from it and more.
Game Name: Persona 3 Reload
Platform(s): PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC (reviewed)
Release Date: February 2, 2024
Given that we live in a gaming world full of remasters and remakes, it takes something special to stand out, and Persona 3 Reload does stand out visually and gameplay-wise without forcing itself to “rewrite the book.” I won’t dive into spoilers, but if you know the events of the original title, the story doesn’t change. Instead, things within the gameplay have been improved, refined, and added upon based on the success of the later titles.
The game’s general story is that you are a transfer student who finds out that the area you’re in has an “extra hour” during the day called the “Dark Hour.” During this hour, only certain people are conscious, and that’s a problem for multiple reasons. Not the least are the “Shadows.” These are monsters that can harm people, and you are one of the few who can fight them off due to your ability to summon Personas.
Due to your “unique talents,” you join the “special extracurricular execution squad,” or S.E.E.S., alongside other Persona users and must venture into the mysterious structure known as Tartarus to find out how to end the Dark Hour once and for all. Thus begins a “year-long adventure” with many twists and turns. Again, I won’t go into spoilers, but once things pick up, it’s really compelling.
What helps make it compelling is not just the looks of the game but the characters that help make it shine. Above all else, the team at Atlus ensured that this game looked beautiful no matter the system you’re on. Plus, while they definitely took “notes” from Persona 5 Royal, they put their own spin on things for Persona 3 Reload. First, they used the color blue in various ways to help it pop. Then, they took cues from both water and fire to make things feel original, especially in some of the special attacks and the menus.
Another thing I appreciated was that they used various forms of cutscenes throughout the game. Yes, there are the classic anime-style cutscenes, including in the game’s opening. But there are also multiple cutscenes that use the in-game models, which helps the game stand out from P5R even more.
As for the characters, I really came to adore the S.E.E.S. crew. So much so that my “hot take” for this Persona 3 Reload Review is that the S.E.E.S. crew is the best of the “groups” from the last three games. Yes, I liked them more than the P4G crew (by a large margin) and even the Phantom Thieves. Each character is special, and throughout the game, they interact with one another in ways that the other two titles didn’t do. It doesn’t hurt that they live in a dorm together; thus, these interactions come frequently. By the time you get to the final month, you see the familial bond between them that is irreplaceable.
I loved the voice acting in the game. It was top-notch, and everyone in the cast should be proud of their performances! I know some people were frustrated that the Atlus didn’t bring back the same voice actors from the original game, but seeing that I never played that, I didn’t have the same concern. Based on my experience with the remake, everyone involved did an amazing job.
Given that this is the game that brought in the “Social Links,” you can expect to meet tons of interesting characters and grow special bonds through them. Not every character is a winner, but it is a unique group of bonds to make. And yes, you have plenty of “options” for your main characters’ potential romantic partners. Good luck choosing…I seriously struggled, given how great they all were.
Onto the combat! While the game’s mechanics won’t be unfamiliar to those who have played the latter two titles, it must be said that Persona 3 Reload did upgrade multiple parts of the battle system to bring things to the next level. Those familiar with “Baton Pass” will be most pleased with the “Shift” system. Furthermore, there’s an all-new ability called Theurgy, where each character gets an “ultimate attack” that can truly change the game.
Even Tartarus has gotten an overhaul in certain ways to make it more robust and reward you for going deeper into it with each playthrough, including new challenges to face and new types of treasure chests to unlock!
With all of this combined, you’ll have fun going through the MANY floors of Tartarus and seeing how far you can get with each run. Not to mention how quickly you can get through battles to conserve your SP and items!
I also want to call out the game world, as it feels alive in various ways, and there is plenty to do between the Social Links, upping your stats, fulfilling “Requests” for Elizabeth, and just hanging out with the S.E.E.S. crew. When you mix that with a fun and lively soundtrack that WILL get stuck in your head at times? You’ll truly marvel at how quickly the months fly.
Not that this is a short game! I put over 70 hours into it for this review, just letting you know.
That said, it wouldn’t be a Persona 3 Reload Review without me noting some of the game’s flaws. Thankfully, they are few, but they are noticeable and tend to repeat quite a bit as you go along.
First, while I loved the music, there was really only a handful or so of vocal tracks, and they played them on repeat. Yes, they’re great songs, but I wish there were more.
Second, while I liked Tartarus, the grinding can wear on you. Depending on the month, I had to go there 2-3 times and sometimes spend an hour or so per session to level up enough or get to the appropriate floors before stopping. That leads to another key problem, the EXP distribution. When you see the “results” of your victory, that EXP isn’t what you get. It’s divided between your party members, and it sucks because it makes it harder to predict when you’ll be close to your next level.
Third, as I mentioned before, not all the Social Links are “winners” (I’m looking at you, Gourmet King), and it was odd to me that three key Social Links don’t “activate” until you’ve maxed out some of your stats. So, if you were hoping to date key characters, you’ll be waiting quite a while…and might have to “disregard” other characters. To that end, even with me “save scrumming” to ensure I got the best possible answers for each interaction, I STILL didn’t have enough time to max out all my social links, which was sometimes frustrating.
Fourth, while I adored the voice acting in the game, and the characters’ personalities shine through even when you’re just walking through Tartarus, there are some oddities that come with them. For example, during certain attacks and Shifts, the lip-syncing doesn’t match up. During Mitsuru’s Theurgy attack, there are times when she mouths “Child’s Play,” but the line doesn’t happen. Multiple characters have this issue. Also, the same set of lines repeat over and over again when you see things like treasure chests or just random character lines that shouldn’t be happening when you’re doing hundreds of floors in the same place that you’ve been to dozens of times.
Finally, there were some elements to the game that weren’t explained the best, and some additions that I really felt could’ve been left behind. For example, you can “send characters ahead” to survey a new floor, which almost ALWAYS happened on a floor that I shouldn’t have done it on due to special enemies or events.
Even with these flaws, Atlus did a masterful job with this remake. From the game’s looks, gameplay mechanics, characters, and story, everything is firing on all cylinders. It was a joy to play this game, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too, if you give it a shot!
Review Disclosure Statement: A copy of Persona 3 Reload was provided to us by Atlus for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy.
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Persona 3 Reload Review
Persona 3 Reload is everything fans of the franchise want from a remake and more. It doesn’t change the story, but it does build upon the various gameplay elements that have become staples in the games that came after. Plus, the story and characters are incredible, and you’ll love getting to know them more.
- Incredible Visuals
- Epic Story and Characters
- Improved Gameplay Mechanics + New Ideas Thrown In
– Wonderful Voice Acting
- The Game Does Start Off A Bit Slow
- EXP Distribution Is Frustrating
- Needs More Music Variety
- Persona 3 Reload Review