Persona 3 was a pivotal game for the now smash-hit role-playing game series, introducing the social simulation mechanics that have become vital to the Atlus franchise’s identity. Before Persona 3 Reload, there were already three different versions of the game, each of which introduced huge new changes and features. This begs the question, just how much of each version is in Reload, and what changes is the remake itself introducing? Before you jump in, we’ve compiled a list of the eight biggest, most important changes Atlus is making with its massive remake in Persona 3 Reload.
8. Visual Overhaul and Quality-of-Life Changes
The most obvious change with Reload is the complete visual overhaul, putting the game more in line with the aesthetic and style of Persona 3. The game uses a modern cel-shaded style, but changes go much further than just improving the graphics. The user interface has been tweaked to fall in line with later entries, such as objectives being listed on-screen below the display for date, time of day, and moon phase. The map has also been overhauled to provide more visual detail and make it easier to navigate the city of Tatsumi Port Island, as well as markers placed on key locations.
While the general layout and facilities of the city remain the same, the overworld map has been fully rendered in 3D. Another new addition is the “Network” feature of Persona 5, which allows you to see how other players choose to spend their free time on any given day.
A big quality-of-life change removes the ability to “break” social links. In the original Persona 3, as well as FES and Portable, making the wrong decision during social links could break them completely, meaning you wouldn’t be able to further bond with the character. That feature was completely removed with Persona 4 and 5, and now Reload.
7. Tartarus Changes
Tarturus is the most unique, and divisive, feature in the original Persona 3. It’s a single massive dungeon, unlike the multiple dungeons of later Persona games. While the structure and progression of Tartarus largely remain the same, there are a wealth of smaller changes to make it easier to explore.
There’s now more visual variety between the different areas, and floors have been given layout changes to encourage more exploration as well as breakable items that hold treasure. Tied to that, Reload completely removes the fatigue mechanic, which previously made the party tired as they spent more time in the tower. This should make it easier to explore more of Tartarus, meaning players will have more free time to build social links, etc.
The final big change is that party conversations have been added to Tartarus. These fully voiced conversations will happen during exploration, and help flesh out the party’s relationships further.
6. New Battle Mechanics
Battles have been drastically overhauled from the original Persona 3, with the most obvious change being able to directly control all party members, something originally added in Persona 3 Portable. Past that, though, there are a variety of other enhancements added in, including a much more stylistic design to the game’s AI.
A new feature called “Shift,” is an enhanced version of Persona 5’s Baton Pass, letting a character pass their turn to another party member after successfully knocking down a Shadow. Of course, the All Out Attack mechanic returns if you’re able to knock down all enemies. There’s another new mechanic called Theurgy. Each party member has a Theurgy gauge that fills by attacking and taking specific actions, and when full that party member can unleash a devastating attack.
The final change is a small one tied to Shuffle Time, the post-battle mechanic that lets you choose a card that provides a buff, item, etc. In previous versions, the cards would shuffle and you’d be assigned a choice at random. But in Reload after shuffling you can pick the random card you want out of the lineup.
5. New Voice Cast
That’s a good transition into the next major change, which is an entirely new voice cast for the entire game. Interestingly, the Japanese version retains the cast from the original Persona 3, but the English version features new actors for every character. It’s not entirely clear what prompted Atlus to make this change, but Persona 3 does apparently have more voiced lines than any other game in the series.
Atlus has said the general narrative of Persona 3 hasn’t been changed, but there are new story scenes and interactions added to enhance the world and characters.
4. New Music and Battle Theme
To go along with the long list of other style changes, Persona 3 Reload will feature a hugely changed soundtrack, filled with remixes of original songs as well as new ones. Most notable among the additions is a new battle theme titled “It’s Going Down Now,” which you can hear in the video above. Of course, there’s also a new animated opening movie to match as well.
A post on Reddit from 2023 talks about leaked notes from the Reload soundtrack, indicating that nearly every track in the game has been remixed or altered in some way, so it’s a pretty monumental overhaul.
3. Extra Dorm Activities
Persona 3 Reload will have all the original options to occupy your free time, like working part-time jobs, building social links, playing at the arcade, etc. However, the remake is also adding entirely new activities you can undertake at the Iwatodai Dorms. These include striking up conversations with the other residents, cooking food that you can use later on in battles, gardening and growing plants, renting films to watch, and reading books provided by the school. Many of these activities seem to fall in line with options provided in Persona 5, especially in how they provide boosts to stats or useful items.
2. Enhanced Social Links and “Link Episodes”
Persona 3 Reload will now feature full voice acting for all of its social links, and adds a new feature called “Link Episodes.” In previous iterations, male characters bafflingly didn’t have any social links, and while that hasn’t been changed in Reload, the Link Episodes will allow players to explore more of the backstory of characters, as well as their personalities.
In an interview with 4Gamer (translated by Noisy Pixel) director Takuya Yamguchi said the team wanted to “preserve” the original Persona 3 and decided not to bring social links for the male party members in because of that. However, he added, “We prepared something that portrays their relationship with the main character in a different way.”
These Link Episodes will explore male party members as well as side characters that don’t get social links.
1. No Female Protagonist and “The Answer”
The final biggest change for Reload is the exclusion of two pieces of content. The remake will not include the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable, as well as the epilogue story featured in Persona 3 FES. That also means story changes made for the female protagonist in Portable also won’t be present.
In an interview IGN producer Ryoma Niitsuma said the reason for this was because “We wanted to really genuinely work on recreating the Persona 3 experience.”
So while certain enhancements and gameplay changes from FES and Portable have been adopted, don’t expect any of the story additions from those two games to be present.