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Persona 3 Reload review – A fourth try at the fourth Persona game

Well, they say that the fourth time’s the charm

Persona 3 is the fourth mainline game in the Persona series. That won’t come as a shock to long-term Persona fans or even JRPG fans, as numbering games has never been their strongest trait – looking at you, Final Fantasy X-2. However, just because it’s the fourth game in the series, it doesn’t need four versions, but this isn’t a game for the classic fans.

Persona 5 took the world by storm, with its heartfelt storyline and art so stylish that it made menus seem exciting. It brought a whole host of new fans to the series, and this is exactly what Persona 3 Reload aims to do. Persona 3 FES gave the original game tweaks and an extra post-game story, while Persona 3 Portable gave the game a new protagonist and new social links while changing cutscenes to 2D. Persona 3 Reload throws out these improvements and brings in a whole range of its own.

Persona 3 Reload screenshot

One of the best changes is to the combat system, which brings in the shift system from Persona 5. There is also a new special attack called Theurgy, which is a high-powered move that you can only pull off after doing a number of actions. Persona 3’s main dungeon, Tartarus, has seen a complete overhaul, with a drastically different look for each block. There are also Great Clocks on certain floors that auto-level other party members up to your level, and new corridors with rarer items.

Persona 3 Reload encourages you to switch up your party and use all members more than the other versions of the game. It helps you with this by using Great Clocks and giving you more party member-specific armor. While there still aren’t any social links for your male party members – as you can only play as the male protagonist – a number of scenes have been added for each of the characters with whom you don’t have social links. While this is a nice change, I still miss some of the Social Links from the female route, including the best boy, Koromaru.

Persona 3 Reload combat screenshot

The Social Links for the female protagonist helped to change a number of balancing issues with the in-game time. For the male protagonist, there are only the Businessman and Unusual Monk Social Links to complete at night, and this is the same in Reload. While the female protagonist can hang out with Koromaru, Ken, or Shinjiro at night as well, the male protagonist ends up with far more than he needs to do in the day compared to the night.

Other balancing changes have been made in order to account for this. Fewer points are needed to max out your Charm, Courage, and Academics social skills, giving more time to max out your Social Links. This is a much-needed change, as in other versions it felt impossible to max out all of your Social Links unless you played perfectly. While there are also more ways to earn social stats, it still feels difficult to max out your Academics. Studying in the library or at home only boosts your stats by half of what they used to, making it a difficult stat to raise.

Persona 3 Reload

The biggest change that people will notice is the overall art design. Given the whole Persona 5 makeover, everything is more stylish, making the usual JRPG menuing much more fun. However, there is a lot of style over substance, as there are lengthy cutscenes each time you use your Persona. On top of this, the extra-long cutscenes for All-Out Attacks and Theurgys are unskippable, and you can’t even fast-forward through them. These long cutscenes occur even with simple tasks like opening doors, which can make the repetition of the procedural dungeon Tartarus even more tedious.

The issue that most Persona 3 fans will have is that Persona 3 Reload is another incomplete version for them to play. However, if all you know of the Persona series is Persona 5, then this is the version you will want to play, with all the modern conveniences thrown in. One day, we dream of the extra episode from FES, the dual protagonists of Portable, and the updated battle system of Reload all in one package, but until then, I think Portable remains the best version.

Score: 8/10

  • Story: 7/10
  • Combat: 9/10
  • Presentation: 7/10
  • Balance: 8/10

Version tested: PS5

Persona 3 Reload technical performance

Persona 3 Reload plays perfectly on PS5 with a consistent framerate, and no stuttering or crashes. We found no issues with bugs, and it feels technically on point.