One of my biggest complaints with the original Persona 3 was that, even if I just wanted to be friends with any of the girls in my party, the game’s social sim elements required you to enter a romantic relationship if you reached the end of their route. When this became clear to me, I stopped seeing their storylines through because otherwise, I would end up with a harem against my will. This is why we have YouTube playthroughs; to watch things we don’t want to play. This mistake hasn’t been repeated since, and Persona 4 and 5 allow you to see friendship paths through to the end. Now that I’ve played through Persona 3 Reload, I’m happy to confirm the from-the-ground-up remake, out on February 2, finally allows you to see every character’s relationship—without having to initiate romance.
Each romance option in Persona 3 Reload now has a divergent path in which you can just be friends. This extends to both the party members, Fuuka Yamagishi, Mitsuru Kijiro, Yukari Takeba, and Aigis, as well as classmates outside of your shadow-fighting team. As a result, a handful of Persona 3 Reload’s side stories have new conclusions that weren’t in the original game, as it was impossible to give any of the girls the Christian side hug in Persona 3 or the PSP port. Broadly, Persona 3’s old social links aren’t up to par compared to Persona 4 and 5, but they’re still important to see through because they make your characters more powerful in combat, and give you a look into those characters beyond the main plot.
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While the original plotlines are mostly unchanged from the original game, Persona 3 Reload adds new stories for the male party members who were given the short end of the stick in the original game until the female protagonist’s route in Persona 3 Portable. Having played through all of them, the new “linked episodes” for teammates Akihiko Sanada, Junpei Iori, Shinjiro Aragaki, Ken Amada, and the dog Koromaru are easily the best side stories in the game. It makes me wish they’d spruced up the girls’ stories a bit more, but at least we got some great stuff for the guys.
For more on Persona 3 Reload, check out Kotaku’s review.