What is Persona 3 Portable?
In a word, phenomenal.
It’s a truly beautiful and unique experience that evokes some vastly deep concepts and questions about life, friendship, growing up and the importance of the bonds you share with others, amongst other things. It’s one of those rare games that leaves you thinking about the vivid world and memorable characters long after you’ve put it down.
Persona 3 Portable (P3P) is the third instalment of the acclaimed Persona series which was reworked from its original PS2 release for the PSP. It’s a particularly hard game to pin down to a specific genre as it’s one part visual novel, one part JRPG dungeon crawler and one part life sim, all while managing to hold together and weave a rich tapestry of narrative.
A basic outline of the story is that every day when midnights hits the Dark Hour begins. This is a period of time that very few people actually know about and experience as they simply freeze till the hour is over and are none the wiser as to anything that has happened. For the few people that are able to live through the Dark Hour however, they see that the world becomes a far more sinister place in which shadow monsters roam and feast on the minds of the unaware.
You play as a transfer student new to the town of Iwatodai. Shortly after arrival you are very much flung into the deep end as you become caught up in a fight between a particularly vicious shadow and some strangers who will later go on to tell you all about the Dark Hour and how only those with the Potential are able to live through it.
Their group exists for two reasons:
* To discover the origins and bring an end to the Dark Hour.
* To protect the unaware population from becoming Lost.
A state where after their minds are attacked by shadows the victims are reduced to nothing more than a walking comatose state.
However all the members are just students and so still have to attend school everyday, as the world is unaware of their night time excisions. This is where the life sim aspect of the game steps in. Each day you must attend school, retain the knowledge from the lessons for your upcoming exams, choose friends you wish to spend time with and learn more about, strike up a relationship if you fancy, get a part time job to be able to afford items you need for battle, all while finding time to study.
Even though it sounds like a lot of plates to keep spinning, everything is incredibly easy to keep track of and it feels genuinely rewarding when you establish a social link with another character and see it deepen over time in trust and understanding. Without wishing to spoil any part of this incredible experience an encounter I found particularly touching was when I befriended a girl who explains to you over time spent with her that her parents are going through divorce. She is too young to fully understand why and worries that she is to blame, the conversations with her were very heartfelt and I enjoyed the fact that they are completely optional. You could in fact go through the whole game and never encounter the girl but it’s that choice of feeling a connection with a certain character or situation and seeing it through to the end that really feels special. You feel as if you’ve been on that journey with the character and both gained a deeper understanding.
During the evenings you have the option most every night to stay awake throughout the Dark Hour and fight the shadows in order to level up your party and make you way up the mysterious and impossibly tall structure known as Tartarus. Battles play out here as strategic turn based combat similar to that of the Final Fantasy series where you’ll need to always be adjusting your plan of attack based on the enemy you encounter.
All in all Person 3 Portable is a genuine treat of a game that is a beautiful addition to an already incredible series. If you are a fan JRPGs or are simply looking for something a little different I can whole heartedly recommend this game to you.