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Persona 3 Reload Review: Persona at its Peak

Persona 3 Reload Review

On February 2nd, 2023, Sega and Atlus released their remake of 2006’s Persona 3: Persona 3 Reload. This would be no simple remaster like the modern ports of Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden, but a full remake. Bringing in the graphical style and gameplay mechanics from the franchise’s newest mainline entry: Persona 5. When I first heard of this remake, I was apprehensive. I was convinced that trying to fit modern Persona mechanics into Persona 3 was like shoving a square peg into a round hole. Now that the game is out, let’s dissect it piece by piece to see if Persona 3 Reload is worth your time and money.

Battle Gameplay – 9/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

Persona 3 Reload’s biggest strength is easily its dungeon-crawling gameplay. Tartarus has always been an amazingly structured game-spanning dungeon and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Slowly progressing through this tower remains a mesmerizing and engaging experience.

The battles you encounter inside of this tower are extremely fun and satisfying. The typical Persona gameplay mechanics of exploiting enemy weaknesses to gain an extra turn or all-out attack is still one of the best-designed JRPG battle systems.

Fighting against floor bosses in Tartarus is less of a test of raw strength and more of a test of brain power. The game heavily encourages you to use skills such as debuffs and status effects like charm to handle crowds of enemies or risk being downed.

New battle mechanics such as Shift and Theurgy are more welcome in this style than expected. Because this remake uses the agility stat to determine turn order, a mechanic like Persona 5’s baton pass feels appropriate.

Theurgy on the other hand is more than welcome. While special and team-up attacks have existed since Persona 4 Golden, they were always triggered at seemingly random times. Having an actual mechanic to trigger them is something the franchise desperately needed.

One issue the game has is unfortunately its difficulty, While it’s not as simplified as Persona 5 Royal, battles in Persona 3 Reload tend to break down like paper on Normal difficulty. The added mechanics of Shift and Theurgy add to this feeling.

Thankfully Hard mode gives you an experience close to what you would desire from a JRPG, so I would recommend starting your playthrough on that setting. If this difficulty is too much for you though, the game includes a handy feature to change the difficulty at any time!

Social Gameplay – 7/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

For as good as Persona 3 Reload’s battle gameplay and mechanics are, that has always been only half of the Persona gameplay experience. The other half of the game will see you spending time in school and nurturing relations with those around you.

While the Social Link mechanics of Persona 3 may seem more simplistic to those who are more familiar with later entries, they have a surprising amount of depth to them.

For once, your choices do matter during these conversations. If you are actively mean and antagonize your social links, they will grow to dislike you until you fix that. A simple change like this means the world to me. As I have found in recent years Social Links have become a chore without the possibility of consequences.

Speaking of consequences, there is one mechanic that has been entirely removed in Reload to its detriment: the tiredness mechanic. In the original Persona 3, spending too long in Tartarus would make you tired or even sick. Causing your battle performance to suffer and even potentially cause you to lose a day of social link time.

The removal of this mechanic and all adjacent mechanics such as sleeping in class to recover drastically affects the Persona 3 gameplay structure. No longer are you limited in how much Tartarus you can explore in a single night, as most players will clear each block on a single visit.

This has led to dungeon-crawling gameplay and social gameplay being more segregated than they ever have before. Now for every few hours you spend in Tartarus, you will have an equivalent amount of hours merely talking to companions.

While this isn’t bad per se, I wish the game had a better balance of mechanics.

Remake Status – 7/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

Here’s the big one. Is Persona 3 Reload a good remake? I (and I imagine many Persona 3 fans) went into this game almost expecting to hate large chunks of it. The original Persona 3 is one of the most iconic games of the PlayStation 2 era. Any change made in Reload was destined to be scrutinized.

Reload’s opening hours do not leave a good first impression in this regard. The opening cutscenes of arriving at Iwatodai, signing the contract, and summoning Thanatos fall flat. They lack the style that made the original Persona 3 so iconic in the first place.

The scene of Yukari trying to use her evoker for the first time is a good example of the game’s issues. What was once a wordless cutscene with only heavy breathing and the sound of running water has now had a monologue of unnecessary dialogue added to it. Taking away from the ominous tone the scene is supposed to set.

However, after the opening hours, things begin to take a turn for the better. The feelings of climbing Tartarus, interacting with these characters I grew close to years ago, and listening to songs like Moon Reaching for the Stars remain the same as they ever were.

I believe this is because Reload thankfully shows restraint in what it changed gameplay-wise. My biggest fear was that they would change Tartarus to be more like Palaces from Persona 5. However, my beloved tower remains nearly untouched.

All of the important gameplay aspects of the game follow suit. Social stats remain 3 instead of the many later games had, Social Links can still reverse, and the game isn’t padded with a million battle mechanics like technical damage.

Despite everything, Persona 3 Reload is still the Persona 3 you loved.

Graphics – 9/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

Persona 3 Reload is our first new mainline Persona game since 2016’s Persona 5. Persona 5 was developed with the PlayStation 3 in mind as the weakest console while Persona 3 Reload was developed with the Xbox One in mind as the weakest console.

This naturally has led to an amazing graphical jump. What immediately stood out to me upon starting the game was that NPCs in large groups all had faces. Compared to the faceless abominations that walked around Persona 5’s Tokyo, this was truly amazing.

This graphical improvement extends to all aspects of the game. Every single attack and effect looks stunning. Persona’s distinct art style pops before the player’s eyes and is a sight to behold.

Each block of Tartarus has been visually designed to be more distinct from each other. A change that I find to be a good compromise for not changing how the dungeon is actually structured. Wondering how the next block will look is always a fun mystery as you progress.

The menus in the game are an absolute sight to behold as well, Atlus has some of the best UI designers in the game industry. I could stare at the cooling shades of blue and the water-like structure of the pause menu for hours. Making something as basic as a menu so breathtaking is an art.

All in all, this is the best-looking Persona game ever and I’m ecstatic to see future games in the franchise keep this style.

Music – 7/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

One aspect of Persona 3 Reload that has been completely remade is the soundtrack. Every song from the original Persona 3 has either been remade or replaced with new songs. This has varying results.

While some of the remade songs such as When the Moon is Reaching Out Stars can be pleasing to the ears and satisfying to even old fans, other songs such as Mass Destruction and especially Burn My Dread -Last Battle- are completely flaccid and pale to the original versions. 

On the flip side of this, all of the new songs introduced on Reload such as It’s Going Down Now and Color You Night are excellent and welcome tunes to hear during your playthrough.

The game’s DLC battle themes have also been improved from previous games. Whereas previous entries tied DLC costumes and music together, Persona 3 Reload allows you to change the music at any time from the settings.

The settings even include a lovely feature that allows you to randomize the game’s DLC battle themes. Allowing a great variety of tunes to fill your ears as you progress through the game’s ever-expanding dungeon.

The next few years of Persona discourse will be focused almost entirely on Reload’s remixes, so I will make my stance and say that they are a mixed bag that may or may not mean the world to you.

Enjoyment – 8/10

Persona 3 Reload Review
Screenshot by Raider King

Going into Persona 3 Reload, I was very apprehensive. How could I not be? The original Persona 3 is what made Persona what it Is today, but as the years went by the franchise has changed style in a way that may not necessarily fit a Persona 3 remake.

I’m more than glad to say that Persona 3 Reload surprised me in more ways than one. While a lack of mechanics such as tiredness and more simplified AI means that it will never replace the original game, it stands on its own as a nice companion piece to it.

If you are a Persona 3 fan who is on the fence about Reload, I would recommend trying it out when it goes on sale. As a fan, it’s undeniably a mixed bag and I cannot guarantee you will enjoy the myriad of changes made to it.

However, if you have not played the original game, then I cannot recommend Reload enough. This is the second Persona experience available on modern platforms, topped only by the new ports of Persona 4 Golden.

Persona 3 Reload is a magical experience just like the original game. In the nearly twenty years since its release there has been no other JRPG that has mimicked its structure. If you want a unique experience, pick this game up as soon as possible.


Persona 3 Reload Review

Official Website
Persona 3 Reload

Persona 3 Reload shockingly offers an experience that both welcomes old and new fans without sacrificing its original identity.

Battle Gameplay 9
Social Gameplay 7
Remake Status 7
Graphics 9
Music 7
Enjoyment 8
Based in Pennsylvania, USA, Skeith has been a gamer for over two decades now and has decided to take pen to paper about it. Capable of playing games at incredible speeds, you can rely on them to write about them in record time.
Skeith Ruch
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