After years of fan requests and rumors, players are finally poised to receive a modern-day remake of perhaps the most pivotal entry in one of the most popular current JRPG franchises. Persona 3 altered the course of the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off series when it launched in 2007. While mechanics introduced in Persona 3, like social links, have gone on to define subsequent entries, the technology and quality-of-life improvements of games like Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 Royal make it challenging to go back to the original Persona 3 or even the improved Persona 3 Portable Sega recently ported to modern platforms. However, that all changes with Persona 3 Reload.
Persona 3 Reload is a largely faithful remake of the seminal title, built from the ground up using Unreal Engine. This new version includes much-improved graphics, various quality-of-life improvements, control options, an expansion and redesign of Tartarus, and a new soundtrack comprised of rearranged, re-recorded, and all-new tracks. As someone who played and loved Persona 4 and 5, this remake feels like a dream come true.
My hands-on demo begins within the ever-shifting walls of Tartarus during the game’s early hours. As Mitsuru Kirijo guides the party comprised of Makoto, Yukari, and Junpei, I get a feel for how combat plays out in Persona 3 Reload. I’ve played through the lengthy Persona 5 campaign twice (once in vanilla and once in Royal), and the combat and presentation feel incredibly familiar to that lauded most-recent entry. Since many consider Persona 5 one of the best modern-day JRPGs, that’s the highest compliment I can pay this remake. And yes, this time, you directly control the entire party, though the option exists to switch your party members to auto-execute a strategy like in the original if you prefer.
My second gameplay session involves the remake’s first boss battle, The Arcana Priestess. The action occurs on a monorail speeding towards another train, so you’re on the clock to take her down. While the countdown starts at 30 minutes, she speeds up the train as the battle progresses, causing the timer to drop even faster. Along the way, she attacks my party with powerful spells and summons minions with different vulnerabilities, but she’s no match for my squad, and we stop the train in time. The clock mechanic works incredibly well within the constructs of a turn-based combat system, as it adds stress to the otherwise thoughtful process that can be selecting your next moves.
With quality-of-life improvements seemingly permeating every aspect of the game, going forward, I’m most excited to see how the social links benefit from the development team getting a new crack at them more than 15 years later. After defeating the boss at the tail end of my session, my team’s link leveled up, but I know that won’t be the only way to improve my standing with them. I can’t wait to see how P-Studio brings the social simulation elements of Persona 3 into the modern gaming age.
Though fans may have been disappointed with the less-modernized release of Persona 3 Portable on current consoles earlier this year, Persona 3 Reload looks to rectify the shortcomings of that remaster and truly bring one of the most influential RPGs of the last 20 years into the modern era. If it all goes well, those looking to get into the Persona series for the first time might have a new answer for the best entry point. Whether you’re a first-time player or a seasoned veteran of the series, we won’t have long to wait, as Reload arrives on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC on February 2.
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