Persona 3 has been an important entry in the series. I still recall first learning of the game while watching the G4/TechTV video game show X-Play. A RPG where the characters launch summons by shooting themselves in the head with special pistols? Well, it became the first Persona game to find widespread popularity and acclaim both in Japan and in the West. In fact, Persona 3 reportedly was the game that saved its developer ATLUS.
That level of success led Persona 3 to develop into its own sub-franchise, complete with spin-off games, games, anime films, manga, stage play, plenty of merchandising, and more. With the size of the fandom, it came as no surprise for ATLUS to create a remake of the game that started it all. I went hands-on with Persona 3 Reload at Tokyo Game Show 2023, coming away with mostly positive impressions and captured gameplay video.
Life-size statue of Aigis at the SEGA / ATLUS Tokyo Game Show 2023 booth.
Persona 3 Reload is a remake or “reimagining” of the original Persona 3. This is likely great news for fans who were disappointed with ATLUS’s decision last year to release a remaster of the PSP’s Persona 3 Portable. Many would have preferred a remaster of PS2’s Persona 3 or especially the expanded and improved re-release, Persona 3 FES.
The good news is P3 Reload is a proper remake, built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 4, and it shows. Characters and environments look sharp and colors pop. There could be a little more visual detail, especially with environments. You could say it is too faithful to the original’s visual style in that regard. Perhaps ATLUS was cautious about straying too far away from the look of the original.
Initially, I didn’t find myself impressed with Reload’s visuals when seeing its announcement trailer a few months ago. However, upon playing it myself, I found Reload largely looks leagues better than last year’s modest remaster. That should make it an easier entry into Persona 3 for newcomers.
Likewise, Persona 3 Reload plays remarkably well overall. Your protagonist character controls fine as you move him through the dungeons. The UI menus are intuitive, feel snappy, and look flashy. That feeling carries over into the battles themselves, which are nicely fast-paced. Turn-based combat isn’t usually my favorite, but I never found Reload’s battles to be a drag. ATLUS clearly brought what worked from Persona 5 to Reload.
Persona 3 Reload dance performance on the stage at the SEGA / ATLUS TGS 2023 booth.
A Persona game is a difficult one to demo in order to adequately convey the full experience. My demo had me exploring and fighting in Tartarus, the main dungeon of Persona 3. The dungeon-crawling battles are only one facet of the game. So much of what makes a Persona game an enthralling experience is everything else: the story, the characters, the side-stories, and extra activities.
Nevertheless, the small taste of Persona 3 Reload that I got left me wanting more. I walked away from my hands-on time with more interest and excitement than before. If you have never experienced Persona 3 before, Reload is shaping up to be a great entry point for you.
You can watch my hands-on gameplay below. While the text is in Japanese, the audio is in English (allowing you to hear some of the new English dub cast).
The Persona 3 Reload Limited Box edition in Japan will come with the game, DLC, 2-CD soundtrack set, an artbook, and an exclusive wearable S.E.E.S. combat uniform armband. The Aigis figure will come in the Persona 3 Reload Collector’s Edition in North America, the U.K. and Europe. In Japan, the Aigis figure is sold in limited Persona 3 Reload bundles.
Thank you to SEGA and ATLUS for having me at their booth at Tokyo Game Show 2023.