Persona 3 Reload Review


It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Persona series. There’s just nothing like getting attached to a great cast of characters, managing day-to-day activities, fusing and raising Personas and getting to uncover the overarching mysteries that feature within their games. Yes they are very long games (hence the delay on this review) but I’ve never seen that as a negative for the series, more of a feature given you get to spend more time with the game’s well rounded and deep characters and build up your relationships with each in the way you see fit.

Persona 3 was the title that kicked off what is now considered the current Persona gameplay formula, introducing the yearly calendar mechanic and core gameplay loop involving a school life and an adventure through an alternate fantastical world. It’s been widely considered to be the darkest entry in the series, and many Persona fans still say it’s their favourite entry in the whole series. Until last year when Persona 3 Portable made its way to modern platforms, it was hard to recommend the game for new players. But even after being ported, I along with many other fans were crying out for a full remake of the game. Mainly so it could be given the love it deserves and the chance to show new and existing fans just how great the series can be.

Persona 3 Reload Review

Persona 3 Reload is a full from the ground up remake of the original game. And while it doesn’t fully revolutionise every aspect of the original, or include every story component that this entry has come to include over the years. I still consider it to be the definitive way to experience Persona 3 in 2024 whether you’re new to the game or played the previous iterations of P3.

Story-wise, Reload is a very faithful retelling of the original game. Yes there are some minor tweaks here and there and some interactions with social links can differ slightly. But overall, the story, characters and gameplay loop perfectly captures the specialness the original had. Most of the big changes with this release consist of tweaks to the gameplay mechanics as well as the very noticeable visual overhaul.

For those that may be unfamiliar to the story and keen to understand what kind of narrative you’ll be investing close to 100 hours just to see the end. Persona 3 begins with your protagonist character returning to town after some significant time away to begin attending Gekkoukan High School. Before too long, things in town start to get really weird when during the evenings, the character starts to see coffins appearing within the area at night. Other students at school who pick up on your strange ability recruit you into their group known as SEES. It’s a group made of of individuals that are able to witness the Dark Hour, a hidden period of time that exists in the space between days starting at midnight. Ayer creatures known as Shadows start to invade and attack the town, the members of SEES band together to take down these enemies using their summonable allies known as Personas and enter a mysterious tower called the Tartarus that appears during the Dark Hour to eliminate the looming threats and investigate what the Dark Hour is and what’s causing it.

Persona 3 Reload Review

As already mentioned, the story side of Reload, remains much the same as what you may have already experienced if you’ve played a previous iteration of P3. But the presentation of that story includes so many new features and quality of life changes to make the overall experience different to any previous version of Persona 3.

Starting with the visuals. All of the character models, UI, maps etc have been completely redesigned and remade. The characters are closer in appearance to their key art that appears during the dialogue portions of the game and feature proportions closer to the characters from Persona 5, over the chibi-like proportions used in the original P3. These are rendered in 4K and the game itself has seen a performance upgrade, increasing from running at 30 to now 60fps.

And while it would have been a big time saver to rip the audio and written dialogue out of the original, Reload doesn’t do that and features new writing and a completely new redone dub for the dialogue. I did originally miss the original cast that I’d associated to these characters for so long. But I quickly came to love the performances of all the new voice cast. They’ve captured the spirit of each of the characters while also bringing their own take to produce something that feels both nostalgic and fresh at the same time.

Persona 3 Reload Review

More aspects of the game than ever before are now fully voiced. Including the Social Links, which is an amazing addition. The social scenes are just as special as the main story scenes and are often heartwarming and really help the bonds formed feel more genuine and impactful on an individual basis and also in group scenes that play out involving multiple members of SEES. There are new never before seen stories to be found within the social links and yes, male links are now available too.

Outside of the game’s story and social systems, you’ll also be spending a large amount of time interacting with Reload’s combat system as you venture through the Tartarus dungeon floors. For anyone that has played Persona 5, the combat will be very familiar to you. It’s turn based and is built upon strategically using your Persona’s skills to exploit enemy weaknesses and also managing the wellbeing of your whole team as you overcome enemies and progress further through Tartarus. The all-out attacks continue to look flashy and stylish on-screen and Reload has now introduced a mechanic similar to P5’s Baton Pass that allows you to pass your additional move to another team member once you exploit an enemy weakness, allowing you to chain together big combos and deal huge damage amounts to foes.

Reload has also introduced a cool new feature called Theurgy attacks. This is an additional gauge that fills during battle as your characters perform a specific action. This action is different for each member and can range from switching out Personas to using a healing item etc. Once the gauge is filled then a Theurgy attack is able to be unleashed by that specific character on their next turn. The attack, like much of the rest of the game is flashy, always hits and it ignores enemy resistances so it’s always capable of dealing damage. I loved the introduction of this system as it provides more to the strategy layer of the combat system and really has you think more about each character’s turn in each round of combat and what would be the best move for them to be able to help out right now as well as prepare something for the future rounds.

Persona 3 Reload Review

When it comes to the music, Reload lives up to everything you expect from a Persona game. The score matches the vibe and tone of the game, it’s full of energy and has that ability to really get stuck in your head for hours after you finish playing. Reload features some completely new tracks that have been made just for this release, along with remixed tracks of many of the classic songs and theme’s from the original. I personally thought these were really well put together and captured the essence of the game but I can also see how hardcore fans of the original may need some time to come around if they’ve become really attached to the classic version of the tunes. Thankfully, Reload gives you plenty of time to come to enjoy them.

While I enjoyed just about every aspect of what Reload has to offer, there some minor gripes that hold the game back from being an all time masterpiece. The pacing of the Tartarus floors does still feel a little unbalanced. Work has gone into improving this aspect of the game, and don’t get me wrong, it is better than the original. But I still found the randomly generated floors of the dungeon to be repetitive and chore-like at times even with the much needed visual overhaul, which has made Tartarus look more visually interesting but is still a weaker aspect to the overall game and it’s pacing. An issue that is likely compounded given how great the story telling and pacing is in the other areas of the game and that my patience for weaker areas is limited given I’m already investing such a large amount of time with the game.

The next area that’s worth pointing out is that this isn’t the One Stop Shop for all things Persona 3 that I’d hoped it would be. Being a ground up remake I would have loved for the game to encapsulate everything that P3 had to offer. And while it’s still the definitive version I’d recommend people play, the argument can be made that it is missing things that were available in other versions. Things such as the female protagonist that was in P3Portable as well as the epilogue chapter featured in Persona 3 FES. During my time playing the game for review, it has been confirmed that the epilogue chapter is going to be coming to the game which is great to see, but does still require an additional purchase of the expansion pass. I wanted to still call this out, given the base game doesn’t come with this but it’s still good to see it will be available down the line for people that choose to want to play Reload’s version of The Answer epilogue.

Persona 3 Reload Review

Final Thoughts

Persona 3 Reload delivers on the long wanted dream of a Persona 3 remake. It brings one of the series’ best entries into the modern age with a ton of quality of life improvements and new features. It’s certainly a long story, but one filled with an addictive drive to uncover what happens next as there are multiple mysteries you’re simultaneously trying to uncover more about intermingled within the game’s other mechanics and the day-to-day social forward gameplay loop. Whether you’re a newcomer to the Persona series or someone wondering if you should spend another 80+ hours here, I can tell you that Persona 3 Reload is certainly worth your time.

A PS5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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Played On: PS5

  • + A faithful ground-up remake
  • + Great cast of characters and new social links
  • + A rewarding RPG that is long but worth your time
  • + The music continues to be amazing

  • - Tartarus is still a grind at times
  • - Doesn’t come with 100% of what the P3 universe has to offer

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