In the gaming industry, you need to ask yourself if there can ever be too much of a good thing. I recently have had this feeling that developers these days are living in the past and can’t think up an original idea — leaning on their past successes to continue to thrive.
I’m all for it if it’s done right, perfectly executed with both the Final Fantasy 7 remake and the big hits of the Resident Evil series, but not so much in The Last of Us Part 1. It’s a fine line these developers need to walk, where they can either fumble the idea of a remake entirely or nail it on the head to make something great even more amazing. This is why I am always skeptical when I hear of a remake in the works of a game that is so beloved by the gaming community. Enter Persona 3 Reload.
Persona 3 is the entry of the Persona franchise that put the series on the map. It’s the one that got people talking about Persona in general and made it its recognizable name today. Why completely remake something perfect for most of the fans of your series? Why not leave something great alone? It’s the question mentioned earlier: “Can there ever be too much of a good thing?”
The answer is no, according to Atlus, considering Reload is the fourth version of the game. And you know what? I think I agree with them because Persona 3 Reload is not only a superb remake of one of the best JRPGs out there, but also a game that is entirely its own thing. It sticks to its roots while being a completely different experience, making you sometimes forget you’re playing a reimagining of a game that came out almost 20 years ago. Persona 3 Reload was made with love, care, and passion for the series’ fanbase, and I can’t thank Atlus enough for making it happen.
A Nostalgic yet New Experience
When I say this remake is entirely its own thing, you shouldn’t think it strays away from the original game because it doesn’t. Persona 3 Reload improves on the original while sticking to the source material through its story beats, social links, and school management system. It’s all about quality-of-life inclusions in Persona 3 Reload that lead to a definitive version of a masterclass JRPG for modern times. Anything you can remember and love from Persona 3 back in 2007 has been improved, reworked, and rebuilt from the ground up to make a two-decades-old game feel like a next-generation entry.
This is especially true in its additions to the combat system. Combat still feels like the original game but includes features and mechanics that make it more fun and addictive. For example, “Theurgy” is a new addition inspired by Persona 5’s “Showtime” that grants everyone in your party a special attack that can turn the tides of a battle. Theurgy is a complex mechanic that revolves around a gauge that can only be built up by performing specific actions during battle. Each party member has a different requirement for the Theurgy build-up, putting strategic thinking at the forefront instead of just simply selecting an attack.
For example, if you want to build up Yukari’s Thuergy gauge, you must continue to heal the party, or the gauge will stay stagnant. On the other hand, the leader must continue using Persona skills to reach “max” on Theurgy for the ability to become available. I found myself planning each battle around the requirements of filling the Theurgy bar, which made each party member’s turn more meaningful.
Combat is not the only thing that got improvements, as you’ll find many within the game’s Social Link system. All social link events are now fully voiced, removing the hassle of reading every line of dialogue. This simple addition is very welcomed and more important than you would think, as it makes conversations more engaging and adds more to the characters of Persona 3. It makes you notice how vastly different all the characters in the game are.
With fully voiced social links, you learn that each character has their own personality, tone, and mannerisms that genuinely make you feel like you’re getting close to these people throughout the game’s calendar year. The playfulness of Maiko, the shyness of Chihiro, the elderly couple’s forgetfulness, Kenji’s sarcastic behavior, etc, are all brought to life with voice acting, making their stories more impactful and believable.
A Beautiful Rebuilt World
It wouldn’t be a remake without enhancements to the graphics and visuals, and Persona 3 Reload is nothing short of extraordinary in that regard. The game is simply beautiful. Tartarus is more enhanced, emphasizing a darker tone, while the mall area and dorm are brighter, graphically looking up to par with the more recent Persona 5. It still has that anime and manga feel like the original version, but it’s scaled up with more textures and details, adding its own unique charm that only newer Persona games can pull off. Atlus knew what it was doing here.
Not only is the world rebuilt to pop on screen, but character models also got a rework. Their base design looks similar to the original, with the exception of new outfits, but they are more alive and detailed than ever. For instance, they show more range in their emotions now during social link events. Blushing, fear, shock, sadness — all emotions are now shown in Persona 3’s characters. Since the Persona series has always been about the human condition, detailing emotions further is a brilliant touch that makes the game even more beautiful than it was.
A Story That Stands The Test of Time
The improvements of Persona 3 Reload help give the story more spotlight and the praise it truly deserves. In case you aren’t familiar with the original, without spoilers, Persona 3 is about high schoolers navigating everyday life as they fight an unnerving darkness that appears at midnight. It sounds like a straightforward premise, but what seems simple soon becomes a story with much deeper meaning than anyone would expect. It slowly morphs into a story about how powerful the human spirit can be, learning about death and how to cope with it, the importance of friendship, and overcoming fears of life in general. Any person from all walks of life will find something to relate to in the powerful message the game exudes.
The story is the same in the remake as in the original, but the simple additions make it feel more real. As previously mentioned, fully voice-acted social events, enhanced graphics, and a larger range of personality for the characters are present in Persona 3 Reload. All of these additions make the game’s deeper meaning stand out way more than it did in the original.
And that is where Reload shines the most — in its ability to tell the same story as the original but make it hit that much harder. This game will hit you like a truck if you let it as you explore your mortality and the struggles one usually has to find meaning in life. I recommend anyone who plays Persona 3 Reload to take a moment and think critically about its story beats, as you’ll find a lot to unwrap, and once you do, you’ll appreciate the entire game that much more.
Persona 3 Reload is a remake done right. Everything you love about the original game is improved upon, leading to a new experience that feels fresh and brand new while not forgetting its source material. Visual enhancements, inclusions of addicting combat mechanics, more enjoyable social links — this game has it all. This is the definitive way to play the beloved JRPG, and once you get your hands on it, you won’t ever want to return to the original.
There’s a certain charm in Persona 3 Reload that I don’t think many series have the potential to replicate. You start to feel for these characters as you navigate the hardships of everyday life. Rough upbringings, determination to succeed in school, looking out for one another, and most importantly, the power of the human spirit. This is what the Persona series has always been about and Persona 3 Reload knows this, clearly shown in the improvements added to the almost 20-year-old game. Atlus has showcased what a remake can and should be.
- This article was updated on March 1st, 2024