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October 4, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Persona 3 Portable

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Written by: Kristin
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Today will be a bit different.  This isn’t a manga review, as usual, but I never said I planned only to review manga here.  In fact, it was my intent to talk about various things, however I just don’t have time for much other than reading and reviewing manga.  I’ve been slacking a bit lately, mostly due to being totally absorbed in and addicted to Persona 3 Portable.

Title: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus USA
Platform: Sony PSP
Price: $39.99
Vintage: July 2010

First of all, I’d like to say that this game is the reason I finally broke down and bought a PSP.  Even though I already owned this game for the PS2.  The chance to be able to cart one of my all time favorite games around with me anywhere (and to play it in bed before sleep), and the excitement of getting to play through the game as a female, were more than enough to convince me to buy it again.  And I didn’t need much convincing.  The really nice thing about P3P is that it’s not just a port to a hand held system.  Atlus has polished up the game and made several changes.  The graphics and character designs have been polished up, new music has been added, new S-Links (for the female main character, or FeMC), new items, new Velvet Room requests, bonus bosses and dungeons, and some cross-overs from Persona 4 (jobs, full party battle control, combo attacks, pay-to-heal).  If you thought Persona 3 couldn’t get any better, even after FES, well, you are quite fortunately wrong!  It can get better; it is better.  Anybody who loved the original needs to pick this up, as well (though note this version does not include FES).  And, obviously, so does anyone who hasn’t played it.  If you’re lucky enough for them to still be in stock where you choose to buy the game (I suggest Amazon), you may be able to snag a Junpei baseball cap.  Some people argue that this order bonus is not unisex friendly.  I beg to differ.  It’s one of the more useful things I’ve snagged with a game.


Junpei Iori's baseball cap order bonus, modeled by yours truly. Apologies for that darn wayward strand of hair.


Now, when you start up the game, it suggests that if you are new to P3, you play the male main character, and that the FeMC is reserved for those already familiar with the game.  This isn’t necessary, and they’re really just encouraging you to play the original first, as it will enhance your experience playing the FeMC.  That said, this review will be geared toward those already familiar with the game, so I can talk about the changes without having to explain each little thing, but I’ll still keep spoilers to a minimum.

Persona 3 is dungeon crawling meets dating sim meets high school simulator.  Do these things go together?  You bet your ass, they do.  The bulk of the game is spent roaming the massive dungeon Tartarus, where the player guides a party through several layers of the tower, fighting monsters called Shadows.  Broken up into multiple floors that open up based on how far you are into the story, the goal is to fight your way up each floor, beating the bosses at the top, all the way to the very top of the tower, in time to fight the final boss on January 31 and stop the end of the world.  In between trawling the dungeon, the main character attends high school and spends time at the dorm where the other members of SEES, the “club” that fights the Shadows, also live.  The player can talk to dormmates and NPCs, forming S-Links (social links) that grow over time.  These S-Links give power and access to Persona, facets of the inner psyche that those with the potential are able to summon to fight the Shadows in the Dark Hour (a period of time every midnight where normal people transmogrify into coffins, and those with the potential remain aware).  A special pistol called an Evoker is used to summon these Persona by shooting oneself in the head (admittedly initially disturbing, but you get used to it).

Back and front of the P3P booklet, featuring the male and female versions of your first Persona, Orpheus.

Combat is pretty standard.  It’s turn based, and you can attack, defend (a new feature), summon, use items, change Persona (main character only), alter tactics, and flee.  New to this version is the blessed full party combat control.  Summoning Persona allows you to use special attacks, magic, and buffs, but each Persona has individual strengths and weaknesses.  New to the game is the ability to level up a Persona high enough that it produces a card containing one of its abilities, which you can then use to teach to other Persona (main character only); you can also trade for these cards at the Antique Shop (and still trade for items, ability cards, and weapons).  This allows for a good deal of customization.  Gone is the ability for the main character to use any weapon, but the male and female main characters have different weapons (both slash types).  There are some new cosmetic outfits (including those specifically for the FeMC) for all characters, and new items (including Persona fusion items that only the main character can use, negating the need (and ability) to carry specific Persona in order to use them).  The Velvet Room (the room where you can fuse new Persona, register current Persona, purchase previously owned Persona, and accept side quests) hasn’t changed too much, although you can now choose between Elizabeth and a new character named Theodore (FeMC only; Elizabeth is automatic for the male).  There are also some new/different quests (and the quests to perform fusions are gone).  After a certain point in the game, Margaret (from P4) opens up a door in Tartarus’s lobby that allows you to fight previous bosses under special conditions, as well as bonus bosses.  When you finish the game and load Clear Save Data, a bonus dungeon also opens up.

Combat in P3P is turn based. P3P lets you control your entire party manually.

Navigating the game has also changed.  Dungeon crawling is the same, but navigating the real world has been simplified for a portable version.  Rather than run your avatar around the game world, the world is static, and you move an icon around each area, making movement very fast and simple.  There is also a fast travel option that lets you choose which part of the current area you want to visit from a menu.  Also new to the game are rescue missions that require you to go into the dungeons to rescue NPCs before the next full moon.  And from P4, random dungeon tricks, letting you gain extra items or experience from Shadows.  One of my favorite new bits makes dungeon exploring and grinding a lot easier – you no longer tire in dungeons, forcing you to leave before you’re ready.  The characters will tire, but the status appears only after you return to the dorm.

Navigation has been simplified to fit better with a portable style of play.

Charisma, Courage, and Academics stats still exist, and are required to form S-Links with certain characters like Akihiko (Charisma, FeMC only), Ken (Courage, FeMC only), and Mitsuru (Academics).  You can still go to the coffee shop to raise your Charisma, but the accessories shop (which has moved to the Police Station weapon shop) has also been turned into a place to raise your stats.  You can choose to work a part time job at either of these places, which will net you money and stat increases.  The game remains mostly the same whether you are playing the male or female main character, and yet it’s like playing an entirely different game as a female.  Dialog was re-written and re-recorded to reflect the addition of a FeMC.  But perhaps the biggest change are the S-Links.  Several of them have been altered, and new ones have been added.  Specifically, a new sports club S-Link for girls (tennis or volleyball, Rio is the Chariot S-Link), and the online MMO is replaced by a school committee (library or health, Saori is the Hermit S-Link).  As a FeMC, the alterations are: Junpei replaces Kenji (classmate) for Magician, Akihiko replaces Mamoru (rival athlete) for Star (and you can date him now), Ryoji replaces Keisuke (culture club, which you don’t join as a FeMC) for Fortune, Koromaru replaces Yuko (sport manager) for Strength, Ken replaces Chihiro (spun from the student council) for Justice (and you can sort of date him; it’s been edited for the American version), and Shinjiro replaces Nozomi (food king) for Moon (if you complete it before he’s shot, he stays in a coma during the game).  There are a couple new S-Link extras – with Fuuka, as a FeMC, you join her cooking club (instead of a culture club) and are able to create food items that you can give as gifts; with Bebe you are able to create hand made crafts you can give as gifts.

Once you beat the game the first time, you are able to start a new game by loading your Clear Save Data.  You can restart with either the male or female main character regardless of who you played before, and retain your level (only for the MC), equipment (but not your items), Persona Compendium, and Cha/Aca/Cour stats.

With addictive game play, an engaging story, interesting characters who change and grow over the course of the game, a fantastic soundtrack, and literally hours upon hours of play and replayability (perhaps I can go so far as to say “weeks and weeks”; I played for a couple months solid), this is absolutely a must for any RPG fan.  And it’s still highly recommended otherwise.

Played the game all the way through as the female main character, then restarted another game using Clear Save Data.  Also played through first month with the male main character to compare to the original.


Game cover and booklet scanned from personal copy, in game images are from the Atlus P3P website.



  1. Only one out of the three gaming genres you mentioned would actually interest me in that group. However I guess if the time is taken to put all of those together right then you could have a pretty good game. It looks like a decent game and any company that takes the time to add that many new bells and whistles to a port deserves a pat on the back!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: For #MangaMonday we play the #videogame PERSONA 3 PORTABLE by @atlusUSA on the #PSP!! https://comicattack.net/2010/10/bbwp3p/ #comics #manga […]

  3. Kristin

    The game is pretty freakin’ awesome, man. It’s incredibly addictive. And, like you pointed out, it’s not just a simple straight port. They added quite a bit (the fact that they brought the cast back and recorded extra dialog really impressed me).
    Atlus does a really good job with their games. And they love giving out cool free shit. The original Persona 3 came with a soundtrack and I think an art book, Persona 4 came with a CD soundtrack, and one version of the game also came with a stuffed animal. Many of their games come with soundtracks and/or art books. They’re a game production company, but they also do many localizations for the US, of smaller, niche titles, like Riviera for the PSP from Level 5.

  4. Jade

    I’m glad you decided to do a little game coverage, Kris! It’s fitting, I think.

    I love all the Megaten games. I have P3 and P3:FES already and I’m still giving consideration to buying a PSP just for this, haha. I wish they would release both episodes of Persona 2 on PSP, then I’d be sold.

    One note I’d like to make is that while most of the fans worry about people being bothered by the dating sim style aspects, people who dislike the game seem to have a lot more trouble with the day-to-day schedule system and don’t really mind the social stuff at all unless you say ‘dating sim.’

  5. Kristin

    Haha…hmm…maybe I shouldn’t have used the term “dating sim”?
    I did forget to mention about balancing a day-to-day schedule. It’s really hard at first until you figure out a solid balance between socializing, raising attributes, and dungeon crawling.

    I had planned to review JRPGs now and then, but I haven’t had time to play many lately….
    Er…. OK that’s not entirely true. Since ComicAttack started I’ve played Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, NIER, Nostalgia, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, and…maybe one other. If I have my time line straight…. I just wanted a break from manga. Also, I stopped reading as much manga because I got addicted to P3P. ^_^

  6. Jade

    No, you’re not the first person to call P3 part dating sim and it’s a term that’s become really closely connected with the game by now. I blame all the people who say stuff like, despite the cheesy dating sim stuff, it’s a good game. They have to overcompensate for all the aggro FPS drones or something.

    I actually started playing Nostalgia recently and just finished TWEwY and Phantom Hourglass. I’m glad you talked me into sticking with TWEwY, thanks!

  7. Kristin

    The dating sim stuff ROCKS, though, is the thing. I mean, I basically bought this version of the game solely to get to date Akihiko. That made me soooooooooo happy.

    And I’m glad you enjoyed TWEWY. Glad you stuck with it.
    Nostalgia is OK. It’s lacking in some areas; it doesn’t go beyond mediocrity too much. It plays a lot like Skies of Arcadia, and if you’ve ever played SoA, you’ll notice immediately, because there are many similarities. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, because SoA is an awesome game. But while Nostalgia is reminiscent of SoA, it doesn’t measure up, so really…it just kind of made me want to play SoA again instead. But it’s decent enough.

  8. Jade

    Haha, I want to date Akihito too. Also, I’ve seen fan pictures of the P4 MC as a girl and I’d like a version like that, but there’s no guys I’d be interested in, Kanji is only interesting as a gay character and the other guy is just annoying. Maybe Naoto, but I doubt they’d do that considering why the first episode of Persona 2 got nixed for English.

    Nostalgia is really the bare bones minimum you’d expect from an RPG with the vehicle combat being the only bonus. That would be nice but the challenge level in the sky goes up and down so much that it’s best just to avoid it. I actually really like the skill development too. Mainly, I think it needs a healthier chunk of dialogue added and characterised to get the theme of the world across better; as it is, it seems like it was developed by people with zero patience for anything but grinding. It makes me want to play Phantasy Star 4, haha.

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