Persona 3 Reload is finally out! Our friends at Sega were kind enough to give us an opportunity to check out the game’s demo in ESGS 2023 and the early access version before its release date. It’s a sneak peek of what to expect from this game before you dive in. So without further ado, here is Sakura Index’s Persona 3 Reload Review.
■ First Impressions
Burn Your Bread, I mean Dread… in HD!
Those who played Persona 3 Portable and watched the 4-part movie will immediately recognize the opening cutscene’s familiar, yet revamped art style of 2006. The opening song “Burn My Dread” is briefly heard before protagonist Yuki Makoto switches to a new track, “Full Moon Full Life” by Azumi Takahashi and Lotus Juice.
The visuals are immediately striking, with the cast using their Evokers to summon their Personas. Anyone unacquainted with the context may get the wrong idea, but for us? It’s a welcome wave of nostalgia after ripping masks off our faces back in Persona 5. The overall vibe is similar to the old opening song, with the last lyric “Burn Your Dread” paying homage to it.
A Familiar Vibe, Now Fully Animated
Right off the bat, players will see the effects of the Dark Hour, a hidden time period that occurs every midnight in-game. The atmosphere evokes just the right amount of eeriness. Old-time players will love this scene in its full HD glory.
Everything is revealed in a matter of days though. Creatures called “Shadows” wreak havoc every midnight during the Dark Hour, and Makoto awakens to his power. He can summon a Persona, beings with powers to fight Shadows. Takeba and Mitsuru recruit him along with other Persona users to join them in their cause.
While all these are things P3 players already know, it’s gratifying to see formerly visual novel-style dialogue rendered in fully animated cutscenes.
■ The Gameplay
High Performance “Mass Destruction”
The game is forgiving on your specs and easy on the thermals. Most of the time, the CPU temperatures on my ASUS ROG Strix G15 laptop were within 69C to 70C outside of combat and only as high as 74C during battle, though I did notice some spikes to 81C for brief periods. Graphics settings are easy to configure and straightforward as well.
Overall, the settings aren’t that different from any Persona game. The difference now is that unlike P3P, you have the option to switch to Japanese audio. This lets you hear the familiar voices of Akira Ishida (Makoto), Rie Tanaka (Mitsuru Kirijo), Miyuki Sawashiro (Elizabeth) and Maaya Sakamoto (Aigis) once again.
I did notice some control conflicts when moving around the map. The game kept switching between the plugged PS4 DualShock Controller and the wireless mouse and keyboard. This led to accidental double clicks and skipping some dialogue lines, though the issue was resolved by playing in Steam’s Big Picture Mode.
Compare and Contrast the Old and New
Persona 3 Reload isn’t based on either the FES or P3P versions. This means players will be getting the OG experience playing only as Makoto and not the female protagonist. Despite going way back in time, the game looks more modernized and beautifully remade in the Unreal Engine. Locations like the Gekkoukan High School, Palownia Mall and of course, the Velvet Room never looked better than they do now.
Tartarus is also noticeably creepier, at least if the Thebel Block is any indication. Moving around it feels almost like you’re back in a Palace in Persona 5 Royal. The difference is that you can’t hide in the shadows, though this isn’t a skill issue if you’re hardwired with the fundamental gamer habit of checking your corners. There are also a lot of breakable objects this time around, which can yield important items.
Another small but welcome detail is the dialogue from your team as you explore. While seemingly trivial, the chatter adds more personality to already familiar characters much like how the P5 cast would talk in Mementos.
■ Our Verdict
Persona 3 Reload is much more than a nostalgia trip. The remake adds so much more to the original games with its expanded content, new cutscenes and some improvements taken from Persona 5. Music tracks have also been remade, and thankfully, they somewhat retain the feel of the original. If the lyrics can still be misheard, then you know the tracks are truly made in the classic Persona style we know and love.
Combat has also been streamlined, with a similar “Baton Pass” ability from Persona 5 made useable for the Persona 3 party. Unlike the former, you can execute it outright without having to upgrade the team member’s social links. There are also other improvements like how Shuffle Time became a reward selector now, and not a randomized draw unlike before.
As with every Persona game, you have to catch ’em all to fill your Persona Compendium. You’ll want to spend as much time as possible collecting Personas to fuse with the best skills possible and watch as they unleash their skills in full HD. Though tedious as usual, the prospect of seeing attacks like Megidolaon rendered in updated graphics would really be worth waiting for.
Possibly the biggest QoL improvement here though, is the ability to rewind parts of the game for do-overs. This could really come in handy if you want to redo your activities or classes throughout the day to get the correct dialogue options and max your stat gains.
As mentioned earlier, there were some hiccups with conflicting controls. However, this is probably because I use a wireless mouse and keyboard, and the game might have detected them when they tried to reconnect after being idle.
There were also times when the button guides at the bottom of the screen would disappear at times when moving and return when standing still. While this may allow for a better view of your surroundings, I would’ve preferred the option to have them up at all times or get rid of them entirely.
The Final Reco for Persona 3 Reload
Get the game. Whether you’re an old veteran of the P3 titles like me, or a new player genuinely curious about how we used to roll in the past, Persona 3 Reload offers a comparatively darker, and arguably sobering take on the franchise. Players will inevitably face tough questions about life and death here as well. It may not be pretty, but in my opinion, it still stays true to the Persona theme of confronting and coming to terms with the ugly side of things. It’s a ride worth taking all the same.