A Product Of Its Time | “Persona 3 Portable Remastered” (2023) Game Review

Much like with Persona 4, Persona 3 got the remastering treatment early this year. Like Persona 4, actual changes made to the game are relatively minimal, as it seems Altus simply wanted to recreate the original Persona 3 experience.

While some leniency should and will be given for a game that released seventeen years ago, today’s review will aim to give the game a look. Like last time, we will handle this with a “Great, Good, Bad and Ugly” approach.

Let’s begin.


Tara Platt

Out of anything in this entire game, Tara Platt’s amazing performance voicing Mitsuru Kirijo and Elizabeth was absolutely stunning and well ahead of its time. These are two decent but otherwise forgettable characters who Platt’s performance ascends into being arguably the best characters in the game. Given Mitsuru’s major role in the game’s plot, this performance left a consistent impact on the entirety of the game.

It’s no wonder that bringing in such a talented actress worked out for Altus, and it’s hard to blame them for being interested- Platt’s career extends back as late as 2004, and given her recent involvement in “Fire Emblem Engage”, it says a lot that her role as Mitsuru remains one of her most well known to date.

Boss Fight Balancing

For the most part, none of the boss fights in this game are truly “hard” even on the game’s Hard mode. However, they all have something which could be best described as an ‘unspoken prerequisite’ to being able to put them down easily. Boss fights encountered within Tartarus are generally more challenging because they will feature an enemy who has a certain weakness the player needs to exploit, or they’ll make use of a certain status ad nauseam, and if the player doesn’t have the means to fight that status, they’ll be in for a rough ride. Boss fights encountered on New Moon days are usually much, much easier, but only if the player is up to date on their exploration of Tartarus- otherwise, these fights can be very difficult.

All in all, the fights aren’t hard, but they at least command some semblance of respect and preparation for them. That’s more than can be said about Persona 4 or Persona 5. It’s really nice to be able to make an incredibly powerful Persona with a lot of skill expression, but then not end up completely steamrolling the game once this marginal amount of effort has been invested.

Tartarus Carrot/Stick

Tartarus is a staple of the game, both directly and indirectly. How the game works around Tartarus flows basically perfectly. It’s more than moments where characters beg the main character for a little bit of combat like in Persona 4 or 5- there are tangible rewards aplenty for dungeon diving frequenters, but there are also indirect penalties for those who prefer to simply coast through the social aspects of the game while totally ignoring Tartarus. In that sense, this ‘carrot and stick’ analogy fits perfectly.

On one hand, if the player explores Tartarus a lot, they will level up to the point of being able to handle boss fights more easily, as was discussed in the last topic. As well, they will loot important items exclusive to Tartarus, gems, which can be traded to the antique shop for incredible goodies. Finally, from time to time, the player will be prompted to ‘rescue’ people who wander into Tartarus and get lost- successful rescues predictably yield good rewards.

On the other hand, if the player were to ignore Tartarus, pandemonium could ensue. People who wander into Tartarus will become permanently lost, and this will have a negative impact on the environment around the player. They will also be insufficiently geared for mandatory boss fights, and will likely struggle mightily with them. This case is furthered when considering the antique shop will become much, much less useful if the player does not gather many resources for trade.

This is “railroading” or “illusion of choice” actually done very well. Technically, the player only ever has to explore Tartarus a small amount of times, but if they do the bare minimum to coast by, the game reacts accordingly, and vice versa.

The Ending

In Personas 4 and 5, it is fairly evident that Altus expected to make added content tacked on to the base game, because the endings to those games are open ended and ambiguous. They leave room for said added content, but in doing so, they feel rather generic and lack closure. Without offering spoilers, Persona 3 Portable definitely does not do this. The ending is closure absolute, and feels really satisfying to witness. As well, even though the game’s final boss is a total joke even on Hard difficulty, it is a grand spectacle that is quite fun to experience cinematically. The true final conflict ends up taking place all the way up in outer space, which is a setting the franchise hadn’t explored up to this point and didn’t touch base with in its successors. Overall, though hardly a thrilling challenge, the game’s tail end makes up for it and then some by being thematically brilliant and well ahead of its time.



Tartarus makes up our dungeon crawling for this game. It is basically the same exact thing as Mementos from Persona 5, only there isn’t quite as much to do, which is forgivable due to the original game’s age. Much like Persona 4’s dungeon crawling and like Mementos, Tartarus is entirely procedurally generated.

Tartarus works better than Persona 4’s dungeons by a long shot for a few reasons. One, the atmosphere is significantly more appropriate for a context featuring our heroes battling shadows in. For another, even though it’s procedurally generated, the layout isn’t as bland and can feel interesting to explore. Instead of lengthy narrow hallways with a door or two on each side, it’s big rooms with staircases a clever player can use to ambush nearby shadows. Finally, like Mementos, each floor in Tartarus has a random chance to have its own unique gimmick which, unlike Persona 4, changes the pace of play significantly and is generally quite entertaining. From floors with lots of treasure at the expense of The Reaper arriving quickly to floors featuring exclusively mini bosses for enemies, to floors which grant bonuses to EXP or money gained from fights, it tends to happen just often enough to keep the experience reasonably fresh.

The Early Game

Doth mine eyes deceive me??? Is it possible for a Shin Megami Tensei game to produce a tutorial and an early game that don’t make me feel like a toddler? That doesn’t take an hour of gameplay to convey a few mechanics that a catatonic 80 year old could figure out in two minutes? It seems silly to celebrate such a thing, but Persona 3 manages to provide exactly that. With SMT games in general, if you’ve played even one of them, you can intuitively figure out how to play any of them quite easily. At the time of developing Persona 3, it seems Altus themselves was aware of this. Too bad Persona 4 and especially Persona 5 do not follow suit.

Choosing The Protagonist’s Gender

Uniquely, Persona 3 Portable allows the player to choose either the male character Makoto Yumi, or the female character Kotone Shiomi. Compared to a similar game in Pokémon which allows the player to choose their protagonist’s gender, there is an actual tangible difference between playing as one or the other, and this gives the game actual replayability by itself. Several social links and dialogue options change depending on the player’s choice, and the way the game is presented aesthetically and via soundtrack changes as well. The core events of the game remain unchanged, but it’s just enough to feel meaningfully different regardless.

The Story/Plot

As an informal disclaimer, this one barely made it into “The Good.” It feels easy to argue it actually should have made it to “The Bad” but here we are. The story is a mixed bag- on one hand, basically nothing happens for the first two months of in game time. In general, things seem to happen too slowly, and the mid game is filled to the brim of characters being uncharacteristically wildly stupid, seemingly for the purpose of pushing the story along. Falling in love with a random girl and spilling the beans on highly sensitive, confidential information, apprehending a girl who held a teammate at gunpoint, only to transfer her to a hospital instead of a prison cell, things like that seem like they ‘had to’ happen for the story to exist.

On the other hand, Persona 3 takes a distinctly darker approach to story telling than Persona 5 and even 4. After awhile, the main objective is to seek out twelve particularly strong Shadows during “The Dark Hour” and eliminate them, to get rid of Tartarus and the Dark Hour and crush the chances shadows have to harass the commonwealth. Unlike the aforementioned two games, it is nowhere near as personal; instead of trying to rescue specifically chosen people, or target evil people, this game puts Shadows as a whole in the spotlight.

It does take a lot to get going, and what is there for a story can at times be questionable. But nothing is particularly offensive, and it does get decently interesting at times. Thus, a position amongst “The Good” seemed slightly more fitting.


Enemy Variety

While not as poor as Persona 4, Persona 3 still rather struggled to provide unique enemies for the player to fight. Moreover, enemies on certain blocks have a tendency to share weaknesses, which can make combat in between boss fights mind numbingly easy, especially if the main character can exploit these weaknesses. Sure, encounters with “trash mobs” don’t need to and shouldn’t be expected to be thrilling, but the world of Shin Megami Tensei is extremely vast- why couldn’t a simple wider variety of enemies be used?

Persona Fusion

Making powerful Personas is still just as possible as Persona 4 and 5, but the process is a little more annoying. Unlike those two games, the player cannot directly decide what powers or abilities they’d like their new persona to receive. This is determined by the “type” of persona being created as well as RNG. For example, you cannot pass Fire skills on to Jack Frost via fusion, as Fire conflicts with Jack Frost basically being a snowman. You can still use skill cards to obtain these skills though, so what’s the point? As for RNG, if the persona can receive skills, but only has a certain amount of room and can’t fit everything possible, the game will randomly decide which skills it ultimately receives. However, the player can exploit this by simply setting up the fusion, saying “no” when the game confirms if they want to go through with the fusion, setting it up again, then rinsing and repeating until luck is finally in their favor. Obviously, this is far more tedious than being able to simply manually choose the powers and abilities to transfer over. It’s a good thing Persona 4 and onward corrected this.

Male Character Romance

Much like other Persona games, the player can have their character enter a romantic relationship with other characters of the opposite gender. If choosing the female main character, it mostly works the same way as in Personas 4 and 5. If, however, you chose the male main character, things are quite a bit different. In the process of maxing out socials with most female characters, the game will not give the player the option to refuse a romantic relationship with them- meaning that in order to max all of your socials, you will have to have your character essentially ‘cheat’ on their female social links. While this doesn’t really hinder actual core gameplay to a significant extent, it’s a bit off-putting to see Altus handle these social links in a bizarrely single minded way in assuming platonic relationships between men and women aren’t possible. It also makes the romance scenes feel less weighted and generally impactful than they are in the aforementioned Persona games.



This is easily the biggest shortcoming off of Persona 3’s Portable edition, and one not present in either the FES or the very first, original Persona 3. The overworld feels very hollow as a result of this game’s graphic novel-esque approach. Instead of moving around the overworld, the player takes a ‘point and click’ approach to interacting with their surroundings. Combined with the fact that the player will find themselves scarcely even visiting some of the game’s central locations, and this can make the general world of Iwatodai out to be fairly forgettable.

Social Links

While things are slightly better for the female character due to having different options for socials, socials are still extremely generally underwhelming in this game. It’s a shame, because there was some wasted potential in quite a lot of them. The general reoccurring theme is that socials tend to involve characters just talking in circles and often never actually doing anything to create an interesting story. The social link for the Hermit on the male character end, Maya, is just her playing an MMORPG and texting the main character. For the student council social link, Hidetoshi spends half the social blabbing on and on about his investigation into a student who left a cigarette in the school bathroom. Even a character who could’ve had some real potential, the corrupt rich businessman Tanaka, ends up with a social consisting of him just info dumping the player the entire time.

The only genuinely good social link in this game that can compare to Persona 4 or 5’s best would have to be with Aigis, who both protagonists fortunately receive. Unsurprisingly, the player actually travels across the overworld of the game with Aigis, they actually do things, and there’s a significant amount of character development and emotional energy to be enjoyed. This is mostly absent for other characters, even important ones such as Mitsuru Kirijo or Yukari Takeba.


If you play Persona 3 Portable and completely turn off your brain, only making yourself receptive to the game’s surface level offerings, you will have a great time. Unfortunately, the game starts to fall apart when held up against actual scrutiny. While still a solid offering, and one Altus was certainly good to remaster, it would’ve been great if we could’ve received a remaster of the FES version similar to how Persona 4’s Golden version got this treatment. Persona 3 Portable has definitely aged very significantly, and the squeaky clean graphical remastering does not mask this. Overall, it’s worthy of a B- for a grade.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: