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Following the global success of Persona 5 Royal, Atlus saw it fit to share its whole series with the wider gaming public. This was honestly a great decision. Before the latest influx, most people were forced to play Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden on the PlayStation Vita or PSP. While these are both great options, it meant that a whole generation of gamers had only played the last, admittedly enjoyable, entry in the series.

To say I have a PlayStation Vita is an understatement, and I’ve played every entry in the Persona Series. Persona 3 always stood out to me as the best. The soundtrack is whimsical and powerful, the characters are detailed and well written, and the story has a clear background, framing and thread. However, the first version of Persona 3 I played was FES, an update to the original with a new post-game story.

Despite the fact that Persona 3 Portable lacks several additions that FES includes, I would still say it is the better way to play. The Answer – FES’ additional story – is mediocre, and while it plays in 3D rather than Portable’s 2D you’re not missing much here either. Both games play in a top-down isometric view, and while running around the city may be nice, there’s something in instantly jumping from one point to the next.

Persona 3 Portable respects your time better than FES ever did. I finished P3P in 50 hours compared to FES’ 80, before even looking at The Answer. Transitions and movement are faster, and you have more control during battle. The ability to control the actions of each of your teammates turns fights that may have felt hopeless into achievable. There’s more depth to this strategy, and less grinding, and fights go by more quickly as a bonus. P3P also widens the number of difficulty settings, adding in the setting from Persona 4 and 5 that stops you from dying. This means if you want to focus on the story, you don’t have to worry about the battles.

Transitions and movement are faster, and you have more control during battle

Transitions and movement are faster, and you have more control during battle

On the other hand, it has harder difficulty settings, and a wide net of personas to use and fuse. It allows beginners to enjoy themselves, and brings a challenge to hardcore fans. As always, the best personas require maxing out all of the social links, which is done more easily thanks to P3P’s tweeks to their availability, and starting requirements. The new route with a female protagonist gives you a number of new social links adding a level of replayability to those who have played a different version of P3 before.

In fact, P3P adds more to the story than any upgraded version of Persona ever has. It feels like it has truly learned from the gaming landscape, and given us a game that people would be eager to play twice. Not to mention there are eight different characters that can fight alongside you, meaning that you can switch up the battles the second time around. P3 is also the only Persona game that lets you fight alongside a dog carrying a dagger in his mouth, and that’s just cool.

That doesn’t mean that P3P is a perfect game. It is still very much almost exactly the same game that came out in 2009, though it admittedly ran a lot smoother on my Switch. There are some questionable choices when it comes to the storyline. Many characters are left off the table when it comes to romance, and yet 11-year-old Ken Amada is very much available. I wanted to romance one character as I heard you can save their life if you do. However, the rest of the game plays out the same, with all the other characters acting like they had perished. Talking to a random NPC at the end I had saved their life, but this change was hardly felt in the game as a whole.

P3P has tightened up the social links, but they can still feel impossible if you are doing them in the wrong order.

P3P has tightened up the social links, but they can still feel impossible if you are doing them in the wrong order.

While P3P has tightened up the social links, they can still feel impossible if you end up doing them in the wrong order. You might not know but you pretty much have to complete your links before the end of November as you are rushed through December, and focused on the last links in January. Without this knowledge, it’s a real struggle to get ready in time even if you know all the answers to their questions.

Despite this, I still think Persona 3 is the best Persona game, and Portable is the best way to play it. It may not have all the shiny, flashy, high-end graphics and animations of Royal, but it offers a touching story, bombastic boss fights, and one of gaming’s best-ever soundtracks.

Score: 9/10

Version tested: Nintendo Switch