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Persona 3 Reload review: A baton pass from a beloved classic

Back to school.

Hannah Geremia
Feb 26, 2024
Icon Time To Read4 min read

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Persona 3 Reload box art
Persona 3 Reload
4 out of 5 stars
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, XBX/S, PC
Release date
2 February 2024
🔥10% off🔥$109 $99

Reviewed on a PC.

pro Evocative story
pro Combat improvements
pro Splashy designs and bold colours
pro Updated Tartarus dungeon
con Just as repetitive as the original
con No female protagonist
con Takes a few hours to get into the thick of it

The year was 2016. I’d just finished high school and was still in the trenches of my anime obsession era. Persona 5 piqued my interest. It wasn’t long before my notebooks were bursting with drawings of Ann Takamaki’s signature blonde pigtails and Makoto Niijima’s spiked leather bodysuit.

Even after my obsession faded, I still maintained the same hairstyle as Futaba Sakura. With its vibrant character designs, captivating user interface and turn-based combat sequences, it quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. Everything that enchanted me then does so again in Persona 3 Reload.

Despite the name, Persona 3 is the fourth main instalment of the Persona series. It’s gotten three additional iterations since its 2006 release: Persona 3 FES, Persona 3 Portable and now Persona 3 Reload. This remake combines the best bits from Persona 5 with the Persona 3 that fans know and love.

While no two Persona games are exactly alike, each instalment revolves around a group of high school students led by a silent protagonist. By day, you attend school, bolster friendships and work a part-time job. Then, at night, you’ll conquer enemies and work to uncover the various mysteries of Tatsumi Port Island.

Keeping true to the original story, our protagonist returns home following the death of his parents. He learns how to use and summon a Persona (the physical manifestation of his spirit) and joins a group of other like-minded Persona users (otherwise known as the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad or S.E.E.S) as they work to solve the enigma of the Dark Hour, the secret 25th hour of the day.

Persona 3 Reload screenshot

The original Persona 3 pioneered the Social Links system, wherein personas can become stronger based on how often you engage in quality time with certain NPCs outside combat. This was part of the reason Persona 3 got so popular. It also debuted the social sim/dungeon crawler formula, where interactions in the classroom help bolster your attacks on the battlefield. 

Like its previous incarnations, Persona 3 Reload is a slow burn. It takes a few hours to get going.  But even if you’ve only played Persona 5 (or even if you haven’t touched a Persona game before), Persona 3 Reload is a great place to start.

Persona 3 and Persona 5 are different games, but P3R uses this contrast to its advantage. The remake refines Persona 3’s shortcomings and remixes it with the best bits of Persona 5. That said, it does drop one of the better parts of Persona 3 Portable.

Unlike its PSP counterpart, Persona 3 Reload does not give you the option of choosing a female protagonist. Even though the story and ending of Persona 3 remained unchanged, the addition of a female main character in P3P was a welcome surprise that offered new social links. While it isn't inherently a bad thing there’s no female main character, it would have been nice to see. 

P3R’s user interface and graphics have also received a refresh that moves it closer to the splashy designs, stylistic flair and bold colours of Persona 5. The in-game menus are so gorgeous I could stare at them all day. Meanwhile, the maps, dialogue, and messages received through your in-game mobile phone make it easy to understand and progress the story and relationships that make P3R shine. 

P3R showcases how UI and menu design can enhance an overall playing experience and draws upon the high-quality music, sound effects, and design choices of the later Persona games to create a worthy baton pass from Persona 3.

Persona 3 Reload screenshot

Speaking of passing the baton from one game to another, one of the most important P3R upgrades is the streamlined combat that now incorporates the Shift skill.

Previously known as the Baton Pass, Shifts allow you to swap characters after exploiting an enemy’s weakness, pressing the advantage. First implemented in Persona 5, this is not a new mechanic.  However, for new players especially, it adds an extra layer of strategy as you hash out the most efficient way to land the final blow on your in-game opponents. 

There’s also Theurgy, a brand-new combat ability that’s unique to P3R. The specifics of this special attack are different for each character on your team, as are the requirements needed to charge it up. Think of it as a beefed-up version of the personalized Showtime Attacks in Persona 5

Another update to P3R that can be felt as soon as you begin the game is the overhaul of Tartarus. This is the only dungeon in Persona 3. It’s where we see most of the game’s combat unfold as the S.E.E.S squad works to steadily expand the tower and uncover access to different floors, battling fierce opponents and saving lost NPCs along the way.

Multiple aspects of the dungeon have been updated to make it less of a pain to navigate, including the addition of a ‘dash’. There are also now breakable objects that contain items and locked treasure chests scattered across each floor.

Despite these efforts to make Tartarus 250+ floors more engaging, it still feels just as dull. Every 50 or so floors, the visuals of the dungeon change. From floors 119 to 172, the gang explores an opulent gold palace, while floors 173 to 226 take place in a twisted arcade-like setting. Unfortunately, even these overhauls lose their luster after 50 hours.

Although the repetitive structure remains true to the original, I often found myself trying to speedrun through as many floors as possible in one night. Doing so meant that I could spend the next few nights progressing my social links instead of being tethered to exploration that gets more monotonous by the day. There are plenty of welcome changes to the combat and quality-of-life side of P3R but there could have been more done in the remake to keep Tartarus interesting. 

Persona 3 Reload screenshot

Is Persona 3 Reload worth the money?

While it does miss the odd beat, Persona 3 Reload doesn’t deviate far from the formula that makes the Persona series so popular. The user interface and graphics are light-years ahead of the original, and the combat has just as much charm as the later Persona games. 

Persona 3 Reload is not an exact copy of the original but it keeps true to the formula that makes the Persona series so popular while introducing some overdue combat, UI, and dungeon exploration improvements. 

Even if it is a slow burn, Persona 3 Reload is a wonderful way to get a taste of the Persona series, especially if you enjoyed Persona 5. If you’re after a game that will stay with you long after the credits roll, P3R should be on your radar. 

Persona 3 Reload trailer

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What can I play Persona 3 Reload on?

Persona 3 Reload is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.

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*Pricing and deals only accurate as of last page update. 

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has over six years of experience researching, writing, and editing quality content. She’s passionate about all things tabletop and video games and can typically be found under a blanket with a cup of coffee.

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