Play ‘Persona 3 Portable,’ I'm Begging You
You don’t need to wait for the remake.
On February 2, Sega will release Persona 3 Reload, a top-to-bottom remake of the 2006 RPG that reinvented the Persona series. I am here to tell you why you shouldn’t play it.
I’m sure Persona 3 Reload will be great, but the definitive version of Persona 3 already exists and you can play it on Xbox Game Pass right now — at least you can until January 15. Persona 3 Portable is the most definitive version of Persona 3 that exists, and it looks like it will stay that way even when Persona 3 Reload releases. Don’t miss your chance to experience Persona 3 in the best possible way.
Remakes were one of the biggest trends in 2023. Dead Space, Resident Evil 4, Super Mario RPG, the list goes on. But if there was ever a game in need of a remake, it was Persona 3. The title has three (soon to be four) different versions: 2006’s Persona 3, 2007’s Persona 3 FES, and 2009’s Persona 3 Portable. None of these versions contain the same content, meaning there is no definitive version of Persona 3 in which you can experience everything it has to offer. Sounds like a remake could fix this, right? Wrong apparently, based on what Atlus has shared about Persona 3 Reload.
Pesona 3 Reload will contain neither the epilogue chapter, The Answer, from FES nor the female protagonist path from P3P. It will remake the original release, with some smaller features pulled from later releases being included in the remake such as the ability to control your party’s actions and a social link for Aegis.
So with the knowledge that not even the upcoming remake of Persona 3 is definitive, it raises the question of what version you should play. The answer is Persona 3 Portable. That's because P3P has the most gameplay improvements over its preceding versions while retaining one feature that Persona 3 Reload is ditching.
As PSP title, P3P scaled back the original experience of Persona 3. The game was made to run on the handheld by making the non-dungeon parts of the game into a sort of point-and-click adventure. Every area of the game’s map is presented with small icons for shops and NPCs that you can click on to interact rather than navigate in a 3D space. While some may feel this takes away from the experience, I find that this streamlines the non-combat sections of the game into a wonderfully manageable loop that keeps focus on what really matters: the characters.
Inside of combat, which retains the dungeon crawling of the original release, P3P added the much-needed ability to control your party members in battle. In previous releases, party members were controlled by AI, which could lead to some unhelpful decisions on their part.
But the biggest reason to play a fifteen-year-old handheld release of Persona 3 rather than wait for the shiny remake on modern consoles that releases next month? The female protagonist.
Persona 3 Portable is the only modern entry — meaning titles with social links, which first appeared in Persona 3 — that allows you to play as a female main character. While it is nice that it gives players the option, the female protagonist (or FeMC, as she is known amongst Persona fans) is much more than just a nice optional feature.
The FeMC route in Persona 3 Portable not only fleshes out the male cast of the game by giving them social links (which they did not have in the original release or FES) but also makes the protagonist herself a fascinating character. The male protagonist of Persona 3 is the epitome of a blank-slate protagonist who displays no emotions of his own but rather is meant to be a vessel for the player. The FeMC on the other hand feels like a true character in her own right, which is palpable in the humor, charm, and mischief that she expresses in dialogue. Not to mention that this route also contains some of the most underrated content in any Persona game.
Persona 3 Reload will have shiny new graphics and run on the best new hardware, but the erasure of the female protagonist is a massive loss that omits one of the best parts of any Persona game, period. You would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least trying it out before Persona 3 Portable leaves Game Pass.