I am a big Persona fan. If you read my Persona 4 Golden remaster review, then you’d know that I am a big time Persona guy and that I have been enjoying my time immensely with the remaster. I never got the chance to play Persona 3 or 4 growing up, so I was giddy with excitement when I realized I’d finally get to play both of these classic games. I immediately jumped at Persona 4 because it had been the one I’ve been chomping at the bit to play. I was immediately invested and obsessed. I was a little bummed out that it wasn’t a PS5 port and it was only made for last generation Sony hardware. Meanwhile, the XBOX SERIES X had a proper next generation port. But I quickly got over that when the presentation of the game made me forget any of those issues I had at all. I finally decided it was time to start Persona 3. It didn’t totally hit me until I was booting up the game. This isn’t a remaster of Persona 3 FES, commonly referred to as THE way to experience Persona 3. It was Persona 3 Portable. They remastered the PSP release… what happened?
Just recently, I reviewed another PSP port that was brought to modern consoles in Crisis Core Final: Fantasy VII. Although you could feel the age of it and its limitations due to its source material, it still felt like a proper remaster. While the graphics and gameplay weren’t revolutionary by any stretch, it looked leagues better than the original PSP release and it was properly upscaled to fit modern standards of what a remaster from handheld should look and play like. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Persona 3 Portable on the Playstation 4.
The first thing I noticed is how every sound in the game sounds like it is being played through a speaker at the bottom of a bucket filled with water. The sound effects and voiceovers are highly compressed, which doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. I’m not sure how a remaster on my PS5 is able to have worse audio quality on my nice television than the small dated speakers of the PSP. The moment the first words were uttered, I had a moment where I reeled back and thought something was wrong with my TV. So I reset the game and then Googled to see if I could figure out what the issue was. There was no issue. The audio is just really bad. That is such a massive shame because the audio is a huge part of what gives the Persona series its unbeatable cool factor. The music and voice lines should be shining and gleaming as loudly and clearly as possible. In the many ways this remaster let me down, the way it treated its audio was the most difficult issue for me.
I have to reiterate that I’ve never played the original release or Persona 3: FES. I have nothing to compare this game to other than YouTube videos. Persona 3 Portable‘s colours and presentation POPS off the screen. Of course, the music and overall eye candy is present, and is a huge part of why this game is so fondly remembered. The upsetting thing about the way this release looks is that it appears a lot of the game uses AI upscaling. From afar, you can sort of look past this and not really notice it if you’re not looking for it. But the moment you look closely you will see smudging everywhere. Many textures and art pieces, and even the element icons in the menus, are smudgy and wobbly looking. The angular lines and dramatic decided textures this series is known for are totally lost when you really look at a screenshot. This will be a bigger issue the larger and higher quality your television is. I know that the XBOX SERIES X version of the game has graphical options, so it may not be a major issue on that console. On my PS5 connected to my 48-inch TV, I noticed a lot of the graphical imperfections.
In order for the original release of P3P to fit on a PSP disc’s storage, there needed to be some shortcuts and omissions from the original release. The anime cutscenes aren’t present in this version, and the overall visual novel take is present. The portable version of Persona 3 has a lot of pointing and clicking that is not a feature in the original release or Persona 3: FES. What is present though is the ability to choose the gender of your protagonist. The female protagonist has some unique music and dialogue options as well as different social links and extracurricular activities. The canonical protagonist of Persona 3 is the male. The female protagonist was added as an extra option in Persona 3 Portable. There was also an added ending to Persona 3 FES that is absent in the portable release. It’s very bizarre that a version that blends the two games hasn’t been made yet, and the game they have decided to remaster is the one people tend to agree is the least essential of the three releases.
Persona 3 is a great game. Persona 3 Portable on the PS4 has a great game hidden behind some hurdles. If you’re able to get past the game’s issues, you’ll find yourself really enamoured with the story and the characters. This is the entry in the series that sort of defined Persona‘s main gameplay loop. Meet people, build social links, invade the psyches of bad people and help others. There is a lot to love here especially, if you played the original game on the PSP and have a fond spot in your heart for this release. I didn’t have that experience so I can’t speak to it, but I’ve seen people online say this is their favourite version of the game and that it brought them great nostalgia to see it blasted on their TV. I do think Persona 3 Portable has its audience in 2023. I will continue to see my way through the rest of the story because I do enjoy it, but I am just not able to turn a blind eye to the issues this great game has.
While there’s a lot of things here that I’m not too happy about, it isn’t to say it’s all bad. Persona 3 is a great game. It’s a great RPG experience. It has everything you want in a classic JRPG. Memorable characters, music you’ll hum to yourself later on, fun combat, character growth and constant progression. It really has it all. It’s just hard to recommend this particular version of Persona 3 when the version everyone agrees is the definitive version is not what we were given. This is a deflated port of a PSP game that fit right at home on that system, but fails to shine on modern hardware for whatever reason. If you’re like me and you have been waiting to play this game forever, and you’re more lenient when it comes to performance and visuals, I say give this a try. It’s been released at a super budget price (which is awesome) and will likely go even cheaper with sales. Persona 3 in 2023 should have been a no-brainer of a purchase but unfortunately the caveats presented make it a hard recommend. Hopefully, they’ll re-release Persona 3: FES in the coming years and I can give this game the glowing review it deserves.