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Persona 3 Reload (PS5) review: A great remake of a classic RPG

By Zelda Lee - 7 Feb 2024

Persona 3 Reload (PS5) review: A great remake of a classic RPG

Persona 3 Reload is the remake of the 2006 PlayStation 2 classic that has been long requested by fans. Swapping its graphics engine for Unreal Engine 4, the game adopts the polished and slick aesthetic reminiscent of its latest successor, Persona 5, giving our familiar characters and settings a visually updated lease on life. The character redesigns bring a modern edge, and the environments boast a vibrancy and clarity now only possible on modern consoles. However, not all is perfect in this glossy overhaul. Certain locales, including the crucial spaces like your dormitory – a hub for pre-Tartarus strategising or evening camaraderie – lack depth and vibrance, presenting a somewhat hollow, uncharacteristic backdrop compared to its original incarnation.

This sense of emptiness extends as you wander through Gekkoukan High School's halls or meander through Iwatodai Mall, despite the game's efforts to maintain the original's beloved musical scores, character dynamics, and gameplay mechanics, now refined in certain areas.

Yet, this initial impression of lacking depth in the game's visual narrative gradually becomes less noticeable, blending into the game's fabric as you delve deeper into its world. Reload may omit some features present in the FES or Portable editions of the original, but it compensates by delivering a coherent narrative enriched by the characters we've grown to cherish, now revitalised with enhanced designs and great voice performances (for both English and Japanese languages). Despite some artistic concessions in transitioning to Unreal Engine, the core of Persona 3 remains as impactful as it was nearly two decades ago.

Notably, the game treads cautiously around modern sensibilities, subtly tweaking characters like Junpei Iori to tone down previously questionable attributes. Yet, it's through the introduction of new scenes and the expansion of social links that Persona 3 Reload truly ascends, weaving its somber yet hopeful narrative with greater depth and nuance than seen before.

A hefty portion of gameplay is dedicated to skirmishes against Shadows within the confines of Tartarus, the enigmatic tower that materializes exclusively during the Dark Hour. Known for its demanding grind and somewhat monotonous dungeon crawl, Persona 3 has its reputation, but Reload approaches these criticisms head-on. The overhauled battle system is where the remake truly shines.

Developer Atlus has retained the core gameplay and its familiar charm. Players command a group of high schoolers, each capable of invoking powerful Personas with distinct elemental affinities and is key to navigating the strategic combat sequences, though the introduction of Theurgy injects a fresh dynamism into battles.

Theurgy activates after meeting specific criteria like landing critical hits or healing teammates, allowing for powerful attacks or beneficial spells that can turn the tide of battle when applied strategically.

The visual flair accompanying each attack is a spectacle, with animations that feel tailor-made for the characters. For instance, Mitsuru elegantly glides across the field, her ice attacks culminating in a dramatic pose atop a throne of frost, taunting her vanquished foes. Yukari, on the other hand, unleashes a volley of arrows before executing a grand finale shot of concentrated energy. The game offers a plethora of these unique moves, which players can enhance by exploring the Velvet Room's fusion options or by engaging in the game's social aspects, such as dating Elizabeth in the human world.

Unfortunately, just like the original, Tartarus in Reload retains its repetitive layout and design. Despite the introduction of destructible environmental elements that yield rewards, the routine of venturing from one floor to the next in search of exits and teleporters persists – akin to a dreaded grindfest. Reload does, however, enrich the exploration with more frequent dialogue among characters and new strategies to dodge adversaries. Yet, the sting of defeat or the tedium of retracing your steps after a loss remains a sore point, detracting from the enjoyment. This game is not for the impatient

In a nutshell, Persona 3 Reload is a great remake of an old classic for the modern age. It’s not exactly a “remake” in the same mold as Final Fantasy VII: Remake and the upcoming sequel Rebirth, where it deviates from the original story and gameplay. At its core, Reload is still pretty much the same classic we all played and loved in 2006, except that its narrative is now more incisive, battles more gratifying, and its portrayal of the game's universe more vivid than ever before, thanks to new visual and gameplay improvements.

Ready to add this game to your play list? You can purchase it on the Playstation Store, Lazada or at Shopee.

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8.5
  • Playability 8.5
  • Graphics 8.5
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Atlus has given a classic a great visual and audio facelift
Fun social interactions
The Bad
Tartaus is still a long-winded grindfest
Not a lot of new content
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