PSP Game Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (RPG, 2010)

One thing I love about the PSP and DS is that they allow me – a long-time PC/Mac laptop gamer who is not a fan of couch-based console gaming – to get a glimpse into the console gaming world on my own terms. By this I mean that since my tendency is towards gaming on the go, handheld systems like the PSP are very much in line with that. The Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series of RPGs are a classic Playstation franchise, making their second entry on the PSP. How does it work? Read on and find out!

The Hype:
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is a single player, AI team-based RPG that brings the thought-provokingly addictive fun that made Persona 3 a runaway hit on PlayStation 2 to PlayStation Portable (PSP). The game contains most of the content from the original Persona 3 as well as some elements of Persona 3: FES, and features the new and crucial abilities to play as a female character and to directly control your teammates in combat. Additional functionality includes Skill Cards, part-time jobs, one-button menu shortcuts, streamlined team equipment changes and shortened load screens optimized for PSP.

* Improved playability: one button menu shortcuts, streamlined team equipment changes, incredibly short load times, and other tweaks and enhancements create an ideal pace for portable gaming
* Classic, Persona RPG gameplay in which players construct wieldable physical manifestations of their thoughts through their social interactions, later taking these into team-based battles against Shadow enemies in Tartarus
* Contains almost all the content from the original PS2 Persona 3 game, and elements from Persona 3: FES
* Significant improvements over earlier games including Skill Cards, part-time jobs, and ability to directly control your teammates in battle
* The important new ability to play as a female character, giving the player a whole new perspective on the events of the game and providing a dramatic impact on the game’s intricate social dynamics

The Reality:
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona was originally released for the PS1 in 1996 in Japan and has been a huge hit there ever since. However, in North America it has been a ‘slow burner’ that didn’t really take off until the third entry – Persona 3 – came to the PS2. Since then there have been a couple of extended versions of Persona 3 and more recently Persona 4, all of which have been excellent games that have added to the franchise and fan base.

In Persona 3, you take on the role of a high school student who juggles social commitments and education at Gekkoukan High by day. But at night, you and your friends tap into your Personas, warriors buried deep within your subconscious, to battle the Shadows and other ghastly creatures to save the world. In a graphic move that had earned the franchise controversy, you use an ‘Evoker’ to release your Persona … basically you shoot yourself in the head!

A solid port of a great game is by definition a great game … but Persona 3 Portable goes far beyond a simple port.

In terms of visuals and sound, Persona 3 Portable looks and sounds every bit as good as the PS2 version I had gotten for my kids, which means it looks great! Characters are distinct and expressive, areas are very detailed, and enemies and battles are exciting and memorable.

One major change is that while in a ‘dungeon’ area you run around just like in the original Persona 3, when you are in town or at school the game controls more like an adventure game, where you select things to interact with using the cursor. This seems to have divided fans, but for me I prefer the PSP version.

Social interactions are very important and have a bearing to the story and character development, as your character sometimes can’t get new quests if you haven’t been staying awake in class and working with others. There are many quests and other endeavors that require you to raise your charm, charisma or academics levels by making sound choices with your interactions and classes.

The combat system borrows heavily from Persona 4, which is a great improvement over the original game. Encountering enemies launches you into a turn-based battle, where you use your Personas to battle a variety of monsters. Defeating enemies leads to an array of rewards, and also unlocks abilities and can sometimes unlock a new Persona that you select from a rotating deck of cards.

But the most amazing addition was an entirely new campaign where you play as a female. While the core game remains the same, there are enough differences in the interactions alone that it makes for a worthwhile time taking on the 80+ hour campaign again!

Some folks have hedged on calling this the definitive Persona 3, perhaps because it is on a handheld game system. I have no such qualms – this IS the ultimate Persona 3, with enough new stuff to seriously rival the latest entry!

Recommending this game is pretty easy: Persona 3 was a great enough RPG to truly stand out on the PS2, which was the ultimate RPG system in the last generation. And the new PSP version refines just about everything in logical ways and adds another 80+ hour campaign with enough choice and variety to keep you engaged throughout. Persona 3 Portable is one of the best games ever to land on the PSP and is one that all PSP owners should put on their ‘must have’ short list!

Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable

Where to Buy:

Price: $39.99

What I Like:
+ Great story
+ Best combat system yet
+ Amazing amount of content including all-new campaign.
+ Looks and sounds great.

What Needs Improvement:
– The music in the new female campaign doesn’t live up to the original.

Source: Personal Copy

Categories: Gaming, Reviews


4 replies

  1. PSP Game Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (RPG, 2010)

  2. PSP Game Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (RPG, 2010): One thing I love about the PSP and DS is that…

  3. PSP Game Review: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (RPG, 2010 …: One thing I love about the PSP and DS is t…


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