Persona 3 Reload is a tactical strategy adventure role-playing game developed by P-Studio and published by Atlus and Sega. It is a remake of the original Persona 3 (2016) and follows the same timeline as the original game. However, there are several new mechanics along with better visuals and voice acting to let players buckle up for an immersive adventure where the world is trapped within a reality and a dream.
You play as a high-school student who has come back to Tatsumi Port Island a decade after his parents were killed in a fatal car crash. He begins his journey by walking to the dorm during Dark Hour (a time anomaly) and notices strange coffins along the way. Upon reaching the dorm, he meets a strange kid who voluntarily lets him sign a contract not knowing what it is at the moment.
As the Dark Hour ends and the world goes back to normal, the kid disappears and he gets to meet fellow students from Gekkoukan High School. After spending a few days normally taking classes and coming back to the dorm and sleeping, a strange enemy force (Shadow) attacks the dorm during the Dark Hour. The protagonist gets to summon a Persona, a physical manifestation of his inner spirit, and defeat the Shadow.
Soon he gets to join the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S.), a group of people with the ability to summon their own Persona. The group’s main goal is to defeat the Shadow enemy and uncover the mystery of Dark Hour.
The base gameplay of Persona 3 Reload is very similar to the original Persona 3 game in which you have to take classes in the school, interact with various characters around the school and other areas of the city, participate in various activities, come back to the dorm, clear the floors in a dungeon called Tartarus during the Dark Hour or go to sleep to start the next day.
In addition to all the main gameplay features of Persona 3 Reload, time management is still crucial in the remake. Throughout the playthrough, you will get the chance to spend your day at your free will after the main event of the day. You can choose to spend your day by interacting with various characters to create Social Links, working at a shop to earn money, watching movies, playing arcade games, doing karaoke, or just going back to the dorm and starting grinding the dungeon.
As each interaction or participation in an activity costs a certain amount of time, you can easily miss out on the opportunity to do a time-limited event like talking to a character in the evening to rank up a social link or watching a certain movie on a specific day. Speaking of Social Links, it is one of the main aspects of the game in which players will get to build relationships with various characters that represent a certain type of Arcana. Every Persona in the game is derived from a certain Arcana type and building a strong relationship with a character that represents the same Arcana type as your acquired Persona at the time will strengthen your Persona.
Building a strong relationship with the Social Links requires players to interact with the characters daily and select certain choices that will help them earn Social Points which will rank up the Social Link. There are 10 ranks in total for all the Social Links that players will be able to rank up gradually on each meeting and strengthen the Personas.
Furthermore, unlocking the Social Links with the characters requires a couple of prerequisites which involve reaching a certain rank of a specific Social Stat and finding a location of the Social Link. The players who are familiar with Social Stats might know that these are the stats of the characters that will grant the protagonist various advantages. Well, it is a similar case in the remake but unlike the original Persona 3, Persona 3 Reload only has three Social Stats which include Academics, Charm, and Courage.
Academics can be enhanced by not sleeping in class and answering correctly in the classroom and the exams. Enhancing Academics increases the knowledge of the protagonist which is essential for passing the exams otherwise players will have to spend some time studying daily either at the library or at the dorm. Charm can be enhanced by answering correctly in the classroom and working part-time jobs at various jobs. It increases the charisma of the protagonist which unlocks new dialogue options with certain characters. Lastly, Courage is the boldness of the protagonist that can be enhanced by watching horror movies at the cinema and playing horror games at the Arcade Games. Increasing Courage unlocks new dialogue options that allow the protagonist to answer boldly to various situations.
Moving on to the main and fairly improved aspect of the game, Combat. Combat in Persona 3 Reload is far more smooth and responsive than the original game. It pursues the classic turn-based approach in combat where you can select up to 9 characters in your party at a time and choose an action from different actions that involve Attack, Items, Defend, and Persona. All enemies have a weakness against a certain type of element that can be used to deal a great amount of damage to enemies and stun them granting you a One More attack. Taking advantage of the One More attack can always change the outcome of the battle in your favor. Additionally, you can always get an advantage in the battle by striking an enemy first before engaging in a battle.
Similar to the original game, there is only one dungeon in Persona 3 Reload called the Tartarus. The Tartarus consists of 264 floors in total which are divided among six different blocks. Every block has a different difficulty level and as you reach higher blocks, the difficulty will increase and you will get to engage with various kinds of enemies and bosses. Defeating the enemies and bosses in Tartarus will reward you with various items like gems which are necessary for fusing powerful weapons. Alongside defeating the enemies, exploring the floors will often let you gather useful consumables and materials that can be obtained from looting the chests. Two different kinds of chests are found in Tartarus, some of them can be opened just by interacting with them while some of them require a Twilight Fragment. The Twilight Fragment is an essential item as it is used to unlock locked chests and replenish the party’s HP and MP by interacting with a clock at the entrance of Tartarus.
Last but not least, another major aspect of the game is Fusion. The Velvet Room returns in Persona 3 Reload which allows players to fuse new powerful Persona by fusing two or more than two Personas. There are three different kinds of Persona Fusion in the remake which include Dyad Fusion, Special Fusion, and Search Fusion. Dyad Fusion is the normal Persona Fusion which requires only two Personas to fuse a new one whereas, the Special Fusion requires three or more than three personas. The Search Fusion shows a list of Personas that can be fused based on the Personas at the protagonist’s disposal.
Sound and Visuals
The visuals of Persona 3 Reload are pure classic and anybody who has ever played an Atlus game before will agree and understand. Design of the enemies and characters, world, sound design, voice acting, and pre-rendered animations are all top-notch which greatly enhances the overall experience of the game.
Verdict – Score 9/10
Persona 3 Reload is an excellent remake of Persona 3 with improved combat and better visualization along with several quality-of-life improvements. The dialogues among the characters are worth listening to and reading to get more lore of the story and anybody who loves great music with cool action sequences during fighting will enjoy their time on this game.
Persona 3 Reload is now available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.