Persona 3 Reload: Already one of the best RPGs of the year? Here’s my rating after 50 hours of play!

While the Persona series was previously considered niche, its fifth installment was a huge hit to the point that it sold 10 million copies of Persona 5 worldwide. After several spin-offs for Persona 5 and re-releases of episodes 3 and 4 on all platforms, Atlus is going all out by releasing a complete remake of Persona 3 with the resources of Persona 5. So, is Persona 3 Reload as good as Persona 5? We’ll tell you all about it in our video review.

Precisions

This article is a transcript of the video review that you can watch at the top of the page.

Summary

  • A diverse and endearing character cast
  • An addictive formula between managing daily life and dungeons
  • Adjustments to make Tartare less redundant
  • A finely-honed combat system with new features
  • Visually, a total success for an anime aesthetic
  • Conclusion

A diverse and endearing character cast

Persona 3 Reload lets us embody a high school student who is transferred to a new school and meets his classmates in the dorm where he will live. One night during a full moon, our hero and one of his classmates are attacked by a monster called Shadow against which they cannot do anything. On impulse, the student grabs a strange gun called an Evoker and shoots himself, summoning a Persona, a spirit that is the materialization of his soul.

Once the threat is defeated, our dormitorymates tell us that there is an extra hour after midnight called the Dark Hour that only certain people can experience. At that time, a strange monumental tower called Tartare appears at the location of their high school. The building seems to be linked to the appearance of Shadows and to a strange phenomenon that is causing more and more people in the city to become apathetic. Thus, the challenge for our hero will be to juggle between his daily life as a high school student during the day and exploring Tartare at night with his classmates who have the same powers as him in order to understand what is happening.

Right off the bat, let’s say this: Persona 3 Reload is a faithful remake of Persona 3 that does not deviate from its main plot. So don’t expect major innovations in that aspect if you’ve already finished the base game. However, the title includes some new interactions, scenes, and other secondary sequences regarding certain characters, which will please fans. However, it can be regretted that the content of Persona 3 FES and Portable is not present, namely an additional chapter and the ability to play as a female character.

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu !

For those who are unfamiliar with the base game, we are faced with a plot that is at times darker than those of Persona 4 and 5, and there’s a good reason for that. It should be remembered that at the time of the original game’s release, Persona 3 was still close to its parent series, the Shin Megami Tensei, which is known for its dark and occult themes. But as with any Persona game, it’s more about the characters than the story, as it’s the characters that keep us hooked and playing for dozens of hours. Even more than its two sequels, Persona 3 offers a diverse and endearing character cast that is one of the title’s primary strengths, and that we find here in this remake. And if you found Persona 5 to be too verbose, rest assured, it’s much less the case here, even though the dialogue and relational aspect still make up a large part of the experience.

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An addictive formula between managing daily life and dungeons

In terms of gameplay, Persona 3 is the installment that established the formula that has made the franchise successful over time, namely a mix of managing daily life and exploring dungeons. During the day, you thus juggle between classes, relationships, and personal development of our protagonist, which corresponds to the visual novel aspect of the title. Basically, this means that you’ll read more text and make choices than actually play as in the role-playing game part. Building relationships with new characters is important because it allows you to benefit from bonuses during dungeons that you’ll return to later. However, if you’ve played Persona 5, know that here the relationships are only used to strengthen fusion and don’t provide more significant bonuses, unfortunately.

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu!

However, Persona 3 Reload draws from Persona 5 and reuses some of its ideas for comfort options that make the experience much smoother. For example, your cell phone becomes more practical since in the evening or after class, you can receive messages telling you which friends or activities are available. This way, you don’t need to manually go around the city to know what’s there to do. Thanks to these additions, the free time gameplay loop gains fluidity, making it even more addictive despite its repetitive nature.

Thus the days pass and resemble each other until the exam period arrives, which will put your knowledge to the test, if you haven’t slept through class, obviously. To break this routine, events also occur unexpectedly to advance the plot, whether through major conversations or boss battles. But most of the time, the player is often led at night to explore the mysterious Tartare where the role-playing dimension of the experience takes place.

Adjustments to make Tartare less redundant

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu !

Let’s not lie to ourselves, when the Persona 3 remake project was announced, the big question was mostly about Tartare. Just a reminder, in the original game, it is a dungeon composed of dozens of randomly generated floors with structures that repeat incessantly. If this inspired the Memento of Persona 5, it was the most redundant aspect of Persona 3 that would be an issue if redone as it was in 2024. In Persona 3 Reload, Tartare retains its randomly generated floor structures, except that numerous adjustments have been made to make the exploration more enjoyable.

Addition of a sprint button and destructible items, introduction of challenge rooms, much more varied environments… all together make progress more appealing than in the original game. Believe it or not, we even have a small rogue-like dimension with cards that give permanent bonuses during exploration, which encourages longer sessions. And this is even more true since the fatigue mechanic has also been removed, allowing exploration for as long as desired.

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu !

Despite all these good ideas, Tartare remains composed of rooms that repeat with the same structures, and that might not please everyone. This is particularly the case for players of Persona 5, in which there were thematic dungeons in addition to Memento which is inspired by Tartare. But nonetheless, it should be highlighted how much the exploration is much more enjoyable than before thanks to these adjustments, especially with the ability to run, which makes it feel less like a chore. On the other hand, the good news is that what didn’t need to be changed is still there, namely the characteristic combat system of the franchise which is still as effective.

A finely-honed combat system with new features

Okay, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably understood that Persona 3 Reload is primarily a role-playing game with turn-based combat. And if you only played Persona 5, don’t worry, you’ll feel right at home since all the basics of the gameplay were already there in 2006. To put it simply, battles take place turn by turn, and the goal is to exploit the weaknesses of enemies to knock them down and finish them off with an all-out attack.

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu

If each of your allies has their own Persona, the protagonist has the particular ability to possess several Personae at once. To obtain them, there are no recruitments as in Persona 5, everything is done after battles where the player can choose different cards corresponding to rewards. Also, note that these cards are no longer flipped and rotated, as could happen in the base game. With all these Personae in hand, you can then fuse them in the Velvet Room to obtain increasingly powerful creatures. So, the gameplay of Persona 3 is a well-oiled and effective mechanic that we find with pleasure in Reload. However, while everything works very well, it must be admitted that it wouldn’t have hurt to have an option to speed up the pace of battles.

Beyond that, the remake goes further by introducing ideas inspired by Persona 5, as well as new features that make the battles even more exhilarating. For example, we find the Baton Pass mechanic from P5 that allows you to give your turn to an ally so that they can play immediately after knocking down an enemy. And we also find a very practical comfort option that selects the right spell automatically against an enemy whose weakness is already known. Finally, Persona 3 Reload also introduces a new mechanic called Théurgy, which is simply an ultimate attack that can be used after filling the intended gauge. These skills provide the opportunity to enjoy magnificent animations that are one of the many witnesses to the visual success of the title.

Visually, a total success for an anime aesthetic

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu

We haven’t talked about this so far but as you can see, Persona 3 Reload is a real success from a visual standpoint thanks to its anime aesthetic. Obviously, the graphics have been completely redone and modernized compared to the 2006 game thanks to the Unreal Engine, allowing this installment to be seen in a new light. But between the combat animations, particularly detailed character models, and the polished interface, we can tell that Persona 5 left its mark and set new standards.

The artistic direction plays a central role in the graphical quality of the title, allowing us to overlook the fact that, technically, it’s in line with current standards without being mind-blowing. For example, in the dialogues, the character artworks are particularly large and detailed so that we are less aware that the character animations are quite simple. Nevertheless, the choice to focus entirely on the aesthetics pays off as we are truly immersed in a game that pays attention to its details to give the sensation of being truly beautiful.

Persona 3 Reload : Déjà l'un des meilleurs RPG de l'année ? Voici ma note après 50h de jeu!

To go even further, Persona 3 Reload also benefits from an equally polished soundtrack that takes compositions from the original game and offers reprises of them. Thus, we find catchier and more dynamic themes while maintaining the pieces from the base game, evoking the musical world of Persona 5. Thanks to that, the soundtrack plays a major role in the overall ambiance of the title, making it all the more enchanting.

Conclusion

Well, it is clear that Persona 3 Reload is a model of a role-playing game remake. In short, the title takes everything that made the original game charming, modernizes it, and corrects its flaws, inspired by Persona 5, the series’ greatest success. With its comfort options, the formula that mixes managing daily life and exploring dungeons becomes even more addictive.

Thanks to that, we are even more drawn in by its cast of endearing characters and its perfectly well-honed combat system. And the icing on the cake is that all of this is offered through a frankly successful anime aesthetic and a fabulous soundtrack. In a word, Persona 3 Reload is an excellent way to rediscover Persona 3 and the perfect game to await Persona 6.

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