The original release of Persona 3 back in 2006 marked a huge jump in the series, introducing a handful of mechanics that would become franchise staples, such as Social Links and the calendar system. This pivotal entry in the series is a favorite of many Persona fans as it set the tone for where the franchise would go, and Persona 3 Reload is in a position to once again dictate the franchise’s future. That future is looking bright for both longtime fans and newcomers, since Persona 3 Reload goes above and beyond a simple remake and competently stands on its own as the next entry in the Persona series.
Persona 3 Reload is the first remake of a game in the Persona franchise since the original Persona 1 and Persona 2 duology were remade for the Playstation Portable. While elements of the original Persona 3 still hold up today, the game clearly shows its age with several outdated design elements that can make it hard for newcomers to approach. Luckily, Persona 3 Reload alleviates nearly all of these accessibility problems and delivers an incredibly approachable experience that builds upon the success of the original title and a modern entry like Persona 5 Royal.
Persona 3 Reload: All Editions Explained
There are several editions of Persona 3 Reload to choose from, and here is what is included in each one.
Unlike other modern remakes and remasters, Persona 3 Reload is more than just a new coat of paint and a few additional scenes. The amount of added content in Persona 3 Reload is deceptively substantial, especially considering the lack of Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable‘s additional content. Between the hefty amount of fully-voiced scenes, added combat mechanics, and heaps of new side activities, even fans of the original game will feel like they’re diving into a new experience with Persona 3 Reload.
The most obvious upgrade that Persona 3 Reload players will notice is the improved audio and visuals that offer remixed and redesigned versions of the original game’s style mixed with the flair of Persona 5‘s art direction. Visually, the UI is more dynamic, and scene transitions have more finesse. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than finding an enemy’s weakness and getting to see the stylish new critical hit animation that is one of Persona 3 Reload‘s most visually appealing aspects.
Persona 3 Reload also astounds in the audio department, with new and remixed tracks alongside exceptional voice acting that helps immerse players in its world. Particularly ear-catching tracks include new ones like “It’s Going Down Now” and “Color Your Night” delivering the same level of quality that had fans captivated by the original game’s soundtrack. The voice performances for Persona 3 Reload‘s new cast also impress, with none of the casting feeling out of place for their characters, and the addition of fully-voiced Social Links adds even greater character depth to what were already engaging subplots.
The real meat of Persona 3 Reload comes in the form of its gameplay, which does a great job of remaining faithful to the original while adding some much-needed quality-of-life improvements, with only a few hiccups to be found. At its heart, Persona 3 Reload follows the same core gameplay loop as the original release, with players balancing their time between their daily lives as high school students and battling shadows in the mysterious tower known as Tartarus as part of the organization SEES. With the calendar system limiting how many activities players can participate in daily, they need to prioritize the ones most crucial to their success.
During the day, players will attend school at Gekkoukan High School, where they will be expected to participate in class, answering random questions given by teachers and studying for exams on the same material. After school, players can spend time with schoolmates and others they will come to know to form Social Links, which showcase more about these characters and allow players to create more powerful Personas of their associated Arcanas. To access some of these Social Links, players will need to have their social stats – Charm, Courage, and Academics – at a certain level, which they can improve by taking part in other activities like karaoke or part-time jobs.
New to Persona 3 Reload are Link Episodes, which allow players to take part in similar subplot events with characters they can’t form a Social Link with. These characters are mainly other guys, like Junpei and Akihiko, who could form Social Links with the female protagonist in Persona 3 Portable, and these Link Episodes do a great job of substituting that missing content. Additionally, players can access even more new scenes by participating in dorm activities with their fellow SEES members, which include things like watching DVDs with Yukari, or reading with Fuuka, and these bonus activities all provide their own benefits for players to take advantage of.
While all of this new content is more than welcome, it does take a little while to unlock it all. Unlike Persona 5 Royal, which is often criticized for its slow start, Persona 3 Reload gets things going pretty quickly, but the pace at which a lot of the new content exclusive to Persona 3 Reload is introduced feels a bit slow, such as dorm activities not being available until after Fuuka is recruited and other added shops being unavailable until late July. For new players, this pacing will likely help them avoid feeling overwhelmed when jumping in for the first time, but for veterans eager to see the new content, it could be somewhat frustrating.
At night, the Dark Hour occurs just after midnight and Gekkoukan High is replaced by the enigmatic Tartarus. It’s up to SEES to explore every floor of Tartarus in search of the mysteries it holds and face off against the shadows that threaten humanity. The majority of Persona 3 Reload‘s JRPG gameplay will involve scaling Tartarus floor by floor and battling these shadows in the franchise’s classic turn-based combat, which has received some useful new additions that liven up what some might consider rather slow gameplay.
Persona 3 Reload adds enough content to feel like a fresh experience for veterans while improving upon the original’s gameplay to make the game approachable for newcomers.
The biggest updates to Persona 3 Reload‘s gameplay are the new Shift and Theurgy mechanics, which are new incarnations of similar mechanics present in Persona 5 Royal. Shift functions similarly to Persona 5‘s Baton Pass, allowing players to swap to another character who can perform a follow-up attack after scoring a One-More, and Theurgy is like Persona 5 Royal‘s Showtime mechanic, allowing characters to unleash a powerful, cinematic attack after certain conditions have been met. Shift in particular is an upgrade over Persona 5‘s Baton Pass, since it doesn’t require players to have reached certain Social Link ranks with team members to use.
However, one area where Persona 3 Reload could have improved upon more than it did is the layout of Tartarus’ floors and their designs. Crawling through Tartarus’ numerous floors still feels somewhat repetitive, as each floor’s layout starts to look similar. Clearing a certain number of floors and unlocking new blocks changes the dungeon’s aesthetic in pleasing ways, but these visual changes don’t really help improve the grind of traversing similarly designed levels, despite their reconfiguration every time the player re-enters.
Overall, Persona 3 Reload is a fantastic package that offers enough new content to satisfy fans of the original, while remaining faithful to what made that entry so special. It’s also an incredibly approachable entry for newcomers thanks to the myriad of enhancements to the Persona series’ combat and social mechanics. It’s clear that Persona 3 Reload isn’t just a remake of an outdated game, it’s an entry that is entirely its own and signals a bright future for the franchise in the post-Persona 5 era.
Persona 3 Reload
- Excellent audio and visual design
- Accessible gameplay
- Additional content feels substantial
- Combat overhaul creates a smooth experience
- Tartarus can still feel repetative
- Some new content takes a while to be introduced
Persona 3 Reload releases February 2 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Game Rant was provided with a PS5 code for this review.