If you listened to our last side-quest, you might have heard us mention that I gifted Madelyn with one of my favorite games from this year (if not my Game of the Year): Persona 5. Even though she hasn’t been playing it too much yet, I couldn’t help getting a little jealous of the crazy adventure she’s about to embark upon. I thought about picking up my New Game + playthrough, but I’m already hoping to live vicariously again through her, so I instead decided to dig up my old PSP from its dusty doom and instead try out Persona 3 Portable (P3P).
The original version of Persona 3 came out in 2006 for the PlayStation 2 and its director’s cut version FES came out in 2007- both fall into our “old” games category. Meanwhile the Portable edition came out in 2010 and therefore does not. There are benefits and drawbacks to checking out either version. The console versions are certainly the prettier, featuring well-directed anime cutscenes and 3D movement outside of the main dungeon where the main character runs with his hands in his pockets, but somehow never face-plants. FES also comes with an epilogue called The Answer, although whether that’s a benefit or a drawback is pretty up in the air. A lot of people really don’t like the extension. P3P meanwhile features direct control of allies in combat, turns your 3D movement into a cursor, and, more interestingly, includes a female protagonist option. Since Madelyn’s now got my PS3, P3P was actually my only option, but I’ve been checking out the cutscenes online whenever they get skipped over. They are definitely a lot more impactful than the slideshows.
Anyway, it’s definitely interesting jumping all the way back to Persona 3 from the hip, modern Persona 5, so I wanted to share my thoughts on this classic.
A couple of disclaimers:
- I have played Persona 4 as well, but just the original version, not Golden. I also never finished it. By Rise’s dungeon, it felt like there was no forward momentum in the story, and I ended up dropping it for something else. This might be damaging to my Persona cred for some people.
- I’m kinda spoiled on this game? I know the ending, but not really how things end up there. Anyway, I’m in the camp that doesn’t really mind spoilers. I find it fun to be able to pick up on signs and clues from the main story that lead up to the ending. But I probably won’t touch on anything I haven’t gotten to yet, so just a minor spoiler warning.
- I’m playing the female route! She will henceforth be referred to as the FeMC (female main character) since people do that. I knew there were different Social Links for each of the protagonists, and I thought it was kind of weird that you couldn’t bond with your male party members as a male. What can I say, I’m a simple girl with simple needs and one of those needs is hanging out with Akihiko.
Take a minute to get in the mood with the original Persona 3 opening, and then jump right in!
1. It Starts Off With a Bang (Ironically, Because No One Shoots)
I think this game actually has the strongest start out of the three Persona games from Katsura Hashino (who has officially left the series to work on other projects now that Persona 5 is done). Persona 4 started out with a train ride, a cute little sister, and a meeting with the creepy gas station attendant. Persona 5 started out with a flash forward to half a year in the future, in the middle of a Phantom Thieves’ heist (certainly the most immediately exciting start out of all of them). Persona 3 started out with people becoming coffins in the streets, a creepy child making you sign a contract, a girl being unable to shoot herself in the head, and then that same girl seemingly trying to shoot you.
All of them work pretty well for the stories they’re telling, but I felt like the tension and mystery was greatest in Persona 3. It made me want to keep playing right then, no breaks.
It’s not as strong in P3P obviously, since it doesn’t have the cutscene, but check out this beginning and try not to feel drawn in.
BTW, she’s not trying to kill herself. Just in case you were worried. It’s fine. Eeevveryyyythiiinnnggg’ssss fiiiiinnneeeee….
2. A Different Kind of Leader
The situation of P3P is also a lot different than the latter games. In those, you’re always stumbling into something entirely new with your brand-new best buddies. In this one, you’re recruited into an existing organization that already knows sort of what’s going on, even if they don’t know why yet. You’re given the responsibility to be the “leader” because you’re the only uninjured person who has previously summoned their Persona and doesn’t work only from the outside. And even then, you’re more “squad leader” than “general.” You don’t get much control over assigned missions, at least not right at this moment.
And even as so-called “squad leader”, you have the option of letting everybody go off on their own in the dungeon, trusting them to take care of themselves every once in awhile. Imagine that. It makes more sense in the context of this game where everybody has Mitsuru analyzing the situation from the outside from the very start, but it’s a cool mechanic that might have been nice to incorporate somehow into the later games. It definitely makes grinding go a lot faster, at the very least.
Uh, speaking of the dungeon though, my god. This is the grindiest game I’ve ever grinded. Tartarus isn’t particularly interesting to look at on the inside, there are no subgoals to guide your progress, and I can’t shake the awful feeling that I’m way behind where I should be right now. I had this problem in Persona 4 as well, but at least each dungeon had it’s own theme and you could take on optional bosses in the old dungeons. I never had this problem in Persona 5 because I went to Mementos to fulfill requests when I needed to level up at all. Real talk though, every time we go to Tartarus, I drive my party members to illness every single time since there’s this BS “tired” system and SHUT UP MITSURU, WE’RE FINE, I JUST NEED AKIHIKO TO LEVEL UP ONE MORE TIME OKAY. I really should not be the leader.
Also, you’re only supposed to be in Tartarus during the Dark Hour, but I have spent more than an hour there. I have spent the majority of these ten hours there. I spent my life there. I died there. Tartarus killed me.
I actually did already have my first experience with the Reaper when I drew a cursed card, and that was pretty traumatizing for me at 10:30 at night. Thankfully, I got away and did not lose all my hours of grinding progress because I think I would have actually cried.
4. We’re All So Cute!
Now, listen, I’m a big fan of the Phantom Thief costumes, and I know cosmetic DLC is the best way to make some extra bank without pissing everybody off, but I wish that they’d kept the idea of your equipment sometimes changing your outfit in later games. Junpei looks pretty ridiculous right now, not gonna lie, but FeMC looks incredibly adorable in the sweater that resident Velvet Room dork Theodore gave her. It almost makes running around in Tartarus entertaini- HA! AS IF RUNNING AROUND IN TARTARUS COULD BE ENTERTAINING GIVE ME A QUICK DEATH.
But no, seriously, it’s a delight each time I see my characters’ new styles.
5. Familiar Voices
Ha ha, Vic Mignognia was such a dubbing star back when I was in middle school. He probably still is, who knows.
Also, whoever voices Akihiko (Liam O’Brian, I realized I could just look it up after typing this) could narrate anything to me for the rest of my life and it would be a happy one.
Yuri Lowenthal is the male MC and the creepy child- more on the creepy child later- which isn’t too surprising since I think he has a voice role in almost every single game out of Japan in the last ever. And Laura Bailey is the FeMC voice actress- she also used to be in every Japanese game but has recently moved up in the world to do a lot of Western stuff too, especially for Naughty Dog and Telltale.
I will be on the look out for more.
6. There’s A Reason She’s Got Headphones
Ugh, say what you will about Persona as a series (too long, too anime, too stressful, whatever), you have to admit that they have pretty killer music. Shoji Meguro always does a good job with his work for Atlus and always does a different and unique job too. Each of these games have their own distinct sound to them- not to mention that P3P has lots of new tracks for the FeMC. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, he incorporates English lyrics so it’s less distracting to the Japanese player which doesn’t help me because I find it very distracting, and sing along to the words I can understand which is probably about 20%. Sometimes I’ll sit in battle for a few minutes doing nothing just to jam out.
Maybe I’m biased, but I actually prefer the FeMC’s battle theme to the OG MC’s battle theme.
And I can bop my head while I’m agonizing about how to spend my time every day.
7. It’s a Girl!
So, for a game as long as Persona 3, making a female route is no easy feat. Even if they only changed the dialogue from “he” to “she” with no other alterations (which really isn’t feasible), that would still be a load of dialogue that would have to be re-recorded from a lot of voice actors. So far in my playthrough, there’s only been one glitch where the voice line wasn’t changed, which was a bit awkward. But it’s kinda excusable in my opinion, because there’s actually a whole lot of dialogue changes. The FeMC is much friendlier and more talkative than the male MC, and her dialogue options are different than his, leading, of course, to different reactions from those around her.
They introduced the character select screen by literally saying that FeMC wasn’t actually just for female players, but for returning players who want “to experience the story of Persona 3 in a new way,” and I think that’s a really awesome way to implement her. It’s hard to make a story-focused game where gender really doesn’t matter, so the experience of FeMC and the male MC should be different.
But mostly, I was sold from Mitsuru’s sternly worded warning to a whining Junpei about not disparaging the FeMC’s leadership because of her gender during the second Full Moon trial. Mitsuru is a queen.
8. A Family-Friendly Game for Everyone Guaranteed, No Lie
You know, the awakenings in Persona 5 are pretty epic and everything, but in P3P, you have to shoot yourself in the head EVERY TIME YOU SUMMON YOUR PERSONA. Nbd, it’s fine. It’s just a symbolic suicide. Everything’s okay.
9. Can Somebody Escort This Child Out of My Bedroom?
If the shootiness and bloody shadows and black tears don’t wig you out, there’s also the creepy boy who turns up in your bedroom every now and again. Why FeMC thought signing a contract given to her by a tiny kid in prison clothes was a good idea, I don’t know. Then again, she wasn’t very perturbed by the coffins in the streets either, even before she knew about the Dark Hour. You know, maybe something’s a little off with her?
10. Feat. Emma Being Bad at Making Friends
In P3P, you can not only say the wrong thing, like you can in P4 and P5 Social Links, you can say the WRONG thing. In the latter two games, as far as I know, the relationship can just advance slower if you don’t pick the ‘best’ dialogue options. In P3P, you can actually send your friendship backwards and have to make up the progress. I had to reload after I somehow managed to make Junpei (JUNPEI of all people) feel super uncomfortable and the game informed me that “our friendship was stuck in a rut.” This was not the realism I was wanting P3P.
However, I seem to be doing well with the creepy child that visits me in my bedroom, so that says something about me as a person probably. I’m just waiting for the dog character to get introduced. I’m ready to bond with the dog.
Anyway, those are my thoughts! Mostly I can say that I’m super excited to be playing this and am very excited to meet the dog who I know must turn up eventually. I love dogs. Oh yeah, and the story seems interesting so far too.
But seriously, screw Tartarus.