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Persona 3 Reload (2024)

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Persona 3 Reload (2024) - recenzja gry - rascal.pl
Persona 3 Reload (2024)

Yuuki Makoto transfers to Gokkoukan High School. UUpon arriving in Tokyo, Yuuki Makoto quickly makes his way to the dormitory where he will be staying, as it’s already quite late. As midnight strikes, Makoto realizes that something strange is happening. He doesn’t see a single soul on the streets – instead, vertically placed coffins are everywhere. Upon reaching his destination, he is greeted by a mysterious figure offering him to sign a contract. He then witnesses a battle with a dark entity called a Shadow, during which he awakens his Persona.

Introduction

Firstly, I’d like to emphasize that I always use the original voices in foreign media. This holds true in this case as well. Whenever I mention voices and characterizations, I’m referring to the authentic Japanese voice, not some subpar English dubbing. The first thing I did right after starting the game was to dive into the options and tweak something that should have been set by default.

Furthermore, I’d like to point out that I’m familiar with the original FES version. I played it many years ago, to be precise, in the fan-patched undub version, as the original Western release was dub only. So, in the review, there will be references to the most significant changes from the original. This was the first Persona game I ever encountered.

Persona 3 Reload (2024) – Audiovisual Design

Video

Regardless of how you look at it, the Reload version is a milestone compared to the original release on PlayStation 2 in terms of visual presentation. Persona 3 Reload is also the first game in this series to utilize the Unreal Engine. Initially, I was quite skeptical about Atlus transitioning from their own engine to the Unreal Engine, but after just a few minutes of gameplay, I could confidently say that they managed to create something visually impressive. Moreover (and perhaps most importantly), the game doesn’t have that specific Unreal Engine feel that plagues most productions developed on this engine.

Atlus didn’t really hide the fact that they dressed Persona 3 Reload in Persona 5’s skin. All the menu transitions, the entire motion design, it’s like it was lifted straight out of Persona 5. Opinions on this matter are divided. For me, the whole presentation is brilliant. The sense of aesthetics and coherence throughout never gets disrupted at any point in the gameplay. However, when I do compare this aspect to Persona 5, I have to admit that the creators didn’t quite achieve the splendor showcased in Persona 5. Even though graphically you can feel that the environment and models are on a higher level, artistically, it still falls short of P5.

Nevertheless, I must admit that all this motion design, well-chosen colors, and brilliant animations look stunning on my OLED TV at 120 frames per second. It’s truly a great experience.

Audio

Almost all of the voice actors from the original version returned for Reload. Unfortunately, the actor who voiced Igor (Isamu Tanonaka) passed away during the production of Persona 5 (where they reused lines recorded in previous games). Shimada Bin stepped in and really delivered. Igor sounds almost identical, his distinct speech style was brilliantly captured. Fantastic work.

Games in the Persona universe are known for featuring almost all of the best voice actors from the time each part was created. Persona 3 is no exception. Toyoguchi Megumi (Yukari), Tanaka Rie (Mitsuru), Sakamoto Maaya (Aigis), Sawashiro Miyuki (Chidori and Elizabeth), Noto Mamiko (Fuuka), Ishida Akira (the protagonist), Toriumi Kousuke (Junpei), Nakai Kazuya (Shinjirou), Endou Aya (Chihiro), Katou Emiri (Yuuko), and many others. With a cast like this, you really can’t ignore it.

The soundtrack has been re-recorded. Personally, I don’t understand the complaints about the new arrangements. Meguro Shouji and Kitajou Atsushi did a fantastic job, re-composing the already familiar tracks. I can confidently place them alongside the original versions, and in some cases, I’d dare say they’re much better (although I’d personally toss all the rap inserts in the trash). Furthermore, the new vocalist (Azumi Takahashi) also appealed to me much more. They’re subtly different, with a slightly different vibe, but they fit perfectly into the artistic framework of the Reload version.

Translation and Censorship of Persona 3 Reload (2024)

English translation

When it comes to the English translation, there are a few things I can nitpick (mostly cosmetic, but still), as they were simply silly and absurd (more on that in a moment). However, overall, it turned out quite well, which is rather unusual in translations of Japanese games. To begin with, I’ll just mention that the translation has been significantly improved compared to the original.

My main criticism is the lack of consistency. If the translators decided to leave honorifics (which is definitely a plus), then why are there exceptions? If everyone uses honorifics with each other, why do teachers get addressed as Ms. / Mr. instead of sensei? Why in a few (fortunately, few cases – unlike the translation of the original version of the game) was a different honorific used than in the original? What was the purpose of this? Or the fact that Ryuuji refers to Yukari using the nickname Yukaricchi (the っち suffix is used for close friends), yet in the translation, -tan is used. This suffix is more suitable for mascots or idols. This changes the tone of how Ryuuji treats Yukari. And the thing that is completely incomprehensible to me, especially in such a setting and translation that aims for fidelity to the original. Why is the Western name order being enforced?

Inne sprawy

I’ve noticed several deliberate changes in the dialogues. Some were due to translators’ clowning around (oh my goodness, to avoid offending someone, this needs to be changed), while unfortunately, some were forced on the creators by certain individuals already during the development of this remake (unfortunately, this form of vandalism has been increasingly prevalent in recent years) and are either altered from the original Persona 3 version or removed. This mainly concerns social links and a certain scene on the beach, which in the Reload version is simply pathetic. The screenshots below are just examples (of both tactics), they don’t cover the whole topic. There was also a considerable distaste left by the prominently displayed rainbow pin on the bag of one of the passersby in the very prologue – something that wasn’t in the original and was probably added under pressure from Atlus’ Western branch, which is known for spreading woke ideology.

Most of the following pictures come from the Twitter account of the user エニ

I have to nitpick one more thing. It’s about the translation of the name ‘twenty-fifth hour.’ In the English translation, it’s referred to as the ‘dark hour.’ In the original, it’s 影時間 (Kage-jiikan). 影 means shadow, silhouette, vague shape. Additionally, the monsters are called shadows. The only explanation for using ‘dark’ is that the translators wanted to be cool again. Unfortunately, this disrupts the coherence of the lore.

However, considering the amount of dialogue in the game, overall, it turned out very decently, I would even dare say well. Especially when we compare the script of Persona 3 Reload to other official translations of Japanese games.

For those curious – a few words about the Polish translation

I want to state upfront that I had absolutely no interest in the Polish translation. However, I did some research to write a few words. Firstly, I believe that something like translating a translation should never happen, and it’s better for such a translation not to exist at all than to be done so poorly. It’s more like playing a game of Chinese whispers (and that’s in the best-case scenario – assuming the translator sticks to the original script) than actual translation.

Of course, as usual, Polish translators showed off their skills by adding memes from Polish comedy routines, introducing errors that weren’t present in the original (English) translation (such as responses to questions), and changing key aspects of character portrayal. Naturally, they stripped away any remnants of Japanese culture. Things like Japanese honorifics and many other elements are even left in the English translation, but Polish translators, as always, know better than the creators what should be in the text. Additionally, they changed the names of iconic Personas (for example, they translated slime – something that in the original Japanese is in English). Well, I’ve already dedicated too much space in my review to describing something that’s not even worth wasting the mechanical switches on my keyboard. Not that I’m particularly surprised – I expected exactly this scenario ever since it was announced that a Polish version was planned.

Persona 3 Reload (2024) – Plot and Characters

Introduction

Each game in the Persona series has a central theme and focal point around which the entire plot revolves. In Persona 5, it was the theme of imprisonment. Additionally, the characters attended Shujin High School, and the dungeons were the prisons of each antagonist’s consciousness. Shujin / 囚人 specifically means prisoner. Of course, the name of the school was written with different kanji (秀尽), but phonetically it also means prisoner. Persona 3 followed a similar path. The characters attend Gekkoukan High School. All events in Persona 3 are tied to lunar cycles. Gekkou (月光) means moonlight, and 館 means building. It makes sense, especially since the entrance to Tartarus is located within the school grounds.

A Quick Overview of Persona 3 Reload Plot and Setting

The entire storyline takes place between 2009 and 2010. The setting is Tatsumi Port Island, which corresponds to Odaiba Island. It’s where the school attended by the characters is located. The topography of the entire area, however, corresponds to the real port city of Kobe. The locations available on the game map, on the other hand, are a mix of different places from Japan, but it seems that most of them are from Tokyo. For example, Iwatodai Station is practically Shinbashi Station – one of the major transfer stations in Tokyo. Paulownia Mall is actually the closed Venus Fort shopping center in Tokyo. The dormitory is also a real place. In reality, it was the French restaurant Crescent in Tokyo, which is also closed now. Moonlight Bridge is actually Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo. Nakanagi Temple is a mix of several Tokyo temples. Hagakure Ramen restaurant is Aoba Ramen in Iidabashi.

Similar to other games in this series, the action is divided into two parts. The first part is daily life, where we develop our personal skills and relationships with other characters (social links), explore various locations, and attend school. The second part is where we transfer all the experience gained in life onto the battlefield. In Persona 3, there are no different dungeons. There’s only the procedurally generated Tartarus accessible only during the mysterious 25th hour, of which normal people are unaware. With few exceptions, this is where about 95% of all battles take place. We have access to the Velvet Room both in Tartarus and in the normal world.

Plot outline

Yuuki Makoto transfers to Gekkoukan High School. Upon arriving in Tokyo, he hurriedly makes his way to the dormitory where he’s supposed to stay, as it’s already quite late. As midnight strikes, the boy realizes that something strange is happening. He doesn’t see a single living soul on the streets – instead, vertically positioned coffins are everywhere. Upon reaching his destination, he is greeted by a mysterious figure offering him to sign a contract. He then witnesses a battle with a dark entity called a Shadow, during which he awakens his Persona.

The boy quickly learns that the dormitory he found himself in is no ordinary place. Only highly selected students capable of awakening and controlling Personas reside here. The other residents brief him on the situation, although they themselves are not aware of all the details regarding the additional shadowy hour, of which only a handful of people are even aware.

Differences between the original version and Persona 3 Reload

Introduction

While there are no differences in the main storyline (the entire story faithfully reflects the original), there are quite a few changes. Aside from the things I discussed earlier regarding translation issues and changes forced upon the creators during development, there are quite a few differences. This time, they are changes that I consider to be a significant upgrade compared to the original.

Changes

The fundamental change lies in everything related to combat. I can’t express in words how much I was delighted by the fact that the entire team is now directly under our control. We can now control each character directly, planning every stage of the battle. Many people think that this takes away from the experience of the original, but it’s easy to guess that I don’t share this opinion. New combat mechanics were also added (similar to those in Persona 5). Everything is beautifully accompanied by stunning animations. The flow of battles is now so smooth that I simply wanted to grind. Something I can’t say about the original version.

Speaking of battles – Tartarus has also been heavily refreshed. At its core, it’s still procedurally generated dungeons, but the cosmetic changes made to their appearance and exploration greatly enhanced my traversing of Tartarus. Additionally, we now have battles with mini-bosses in the depths of Monad. It may seem like a small detail, but any variation from the highly repetitive dungeons in the original version is definitely a plus.

The soundtrack has been refreshed as well. Here again, I believe the change may not necessarily be an improvement, but the soundtrack fits perfectly with the refreshed visual style.

Activities in the dormitory have been added. Now we could spend time with our crew, reading books, watching TV, or even cooking together. There were also new activities available here and there in other places. However, it’s no secret that compared to the subsequent installments of the Persona universe, it’s still very lacking in this regard.

Another important change is the addition of a significantly larger amount of fully voiced dialogue. It was nice to hear the same outstanding voice actors performing many more lines than in the original.

Persona 3 Reload (2024) – gameplay

Introduction

The game’s storyline is built around lunar cycles. All key events take place during the full moon. Many side activities and tasks have a time limit until the next full moon. It’s worth keeping this in mind from the very beginning of the game. However, it’s not as crucial as the calendar in Persona 5, which forced players to think and carefully plan every action and activity.

Modes/Genres Persona 3 Reload (2024)

Unlike Persona 4 and Persona 5, I wouldn’t label Persona 3 as a visual novel. There are significantly fewer conversations in this format compared to later installments. I’m especially referring to the long dialogues between selected characters. Social links are quite short, and conversations between events are not particularly long either. Personally, I saw this as a downside.

However, there are elements of a dating sim here. We have stat-building, which directly affects who we can engage in dialogue with and develop social links. Social links with female characters can all be developed into romantic storylines. However, this is a greatly simplified version of what we might expect from regular dating sims. Unfortunately, this relational building feels very superficial, and there isn’t as strong of a bond with the characters as one might hope. Persona 3 is the first installment in this series to introduce social links functioning on this principle. If I’m honest, none of the character storylines particularly captivated me, except for Aigis’s (although considering how the game ends, it’s possible that this was perfectly thought out by the creators). However, each of the characters had their own charm, so it’s worth maximizing each of the available romantic social links.

Battles primarily take place within Tartarus (excluding occasional story-related encounters), so like in other Persona games, this part of the game is heavily separated from daily life.

The importance of school in Persona 3 Reload (2024)

We spend a significant portion of time studying at school. The whole institution is quite extensive. Lessons often introduce us to plot threads that unfold shortly afterward. During classes, teachers often ask us questions. A correct answer results in increased stats (charm or knowledge). In other situations, we have the choice between taking a nap or paying attention (which respectively boosts our courage or knowledge). At the end of each trimester, there are exams featuring questions from the topics covered in that period’s lessons.

Navigating in Persona 3 Reload (2024)

We reach each point on the map by train, and then we have a portion of the area available (train station, shopping center, etc.), where accessory shops, vending machines with health/SP-restoring drinks, or gifts are located, which we later give to people during meetings. There are also locations that increase our stats.

Along the way, we can eavesdrop on passersby conversations about current events. In this mode, we have to manage our time, although compared to later installments of the game, there isn’t too much to explore here. There aren’t many moments where we really have to puzzle over and choose between visiting one place or another due to lack of time. It’s worth considering that in comparison to the original version, Reload still added several new types of activities.

The day is basically divided into two periods during which we have the opportunity to engage in activities unrelated to the main storyline. Depending on the day of the week, these are morning/afternoon hours and evening. Opting to spend time in Tartarus automatically forfeits our chance to engage in any other evening activities. The passage of time is signaled by a nice loading animation in the form of clock hands. We usually spend the morning at school (unless it’s Sunday or a statutory holiday), so we mostly have the afternoon and evening available for other activities.

We can meet different people at different times of the day, whom we have met before. The time of day also matters for some shops, restaurants, or services (they may, for example, be closed). While shopping in stores usually doesn’t consume time (we can freely travel to different districts and spend our hard-earned money), anything related to building stats does. To put it simply, one activity (like reading a book, meeting a friend, or doing part-time work) equals one time period of the day

Combat system, gameplay mechanics of Persona 3 Reload (2024)

Enemies

As I mentioned earlier, Persona 3 offers only one dungeon. Tartarus is a procedurally generated labyrinth that changes every time we leave it. These changes only affect the layout of rooms and the distribution of chests within them. Interestingly enough (I’ve checked it several times), the shadows (enemies) on each floor are programmed statically. This means that when we visit, for example, floor 165, the first encountered enemy will always be the same. Of course, it’s not a significant flaw and can only be discovered by chance, by returning to the same floor several times (for grinding purposes, for instance). However, I felt the need to mention this fact. Only certain boundary floors in Tartarus remain unchanged.

As for regular enemies, there are three types. The first type is the most common enemies, with whom there should be no problems in winning battles. They are marked on the mini-map with a red dot. There are also stronger enemies – these are the same within a given area of Tartarus. They are marked on the map with a red dot with spikes. The last type is golden hands. Defeating them yields generous amounts of gold and experience points.

Every few floors, mini-bosses await us. These are enemies slightly stronger than those encountered normally. As an addition, in the reviewed Reload version, Monad doors were also added, where we will find slightly greater challenges (spoiler – they are not challenging).

Bonuses, finds, chests

In Tartarus, we will find many types of chests. Some will give us single-use items (for example, those that restore health or SP), while others will contain ingredients for crafting weapons or raw materials. The last type is chests with locks. We open the lock with mysterious particles called Twilight Fragments. We receive these particles from Elizabeth for developing social links, but they are very rarely found in Tartarus. Several of them are scattered throughout all locations in the game. Chests with locks also have three subtypes. Each requires a different number of Twilight Fragments. As you might guess, the most valuable ones (containing unique weapons and other equipment parts) require the most fragments.

Arcana Burst

Each social link in the game is associated with a tarot card symbolizing the situation or mental state of the respective character. As we progress through the game and develop relationships, we receive these cards for use in Tartarus. By activating Shuffle Time (for example, through a group attack), after battles, we have the option to choose specific cards. Most of them increase the amount of experience points in a particular battle, add bonuses in subsequent battles, or provide money. However, occasionally, tarot cards that we have obtained also appear. Their effects vary – from increasing the stats of owned Personas, to doubling experience points, and even doubling the power of group attacks.

But it doesn’t end there. Some of the most crucial cards, in my opinion, were those that doubled the number of items obtained and allowed the selection of more cards in Shuffle Time. Over time, the number of cards we can activate during a single Tartarus visit increases. When we collect all the cards available at the moment, Arcana Burst is activated. Not only do we gain the ability to choose an additional card, but all subsequent cards from Shuffle Time are elevated to the next level. As a result, the bonuses are enhanced.

Persona 3 Reload (2024) – Combat

Firstly, I’ll just note that the combat system and all its nuances are highly elaborate. I won’t be able to cover everything in this review, but I’ll do my best to outline the basics.

At the core of the combat system are Personas, alter egos of our characters, which they activate in Tartarus by shooting themselves in the head with a special gun called an Evoker. Our main protagonist is the only one who can utilize multiple Personas, while the rest of the characters we control are permanently linked to one.

Starting from the beginning – the elemental affinities are heavily integrated into the entire combat system. This is the essence of the entire MegaTen universe. In addition to basic elements like fire, wind, and ice, there are also light and dark magic, as well as electricity. Furthermore, there are physical attacks – strikes, slashes, and gunfire. Almost every Persona has its strengths and weaknesses. Some rarer ones have the ability to absorb certain elements and convert them into health points or completely nullify a specific type of attack. Elemental attacks, defensive abilities, and healing skills require energy in the form of SP (equivalent to mana), while physical attacks draw energy from the character’s health points.

Each of the characters controlled by us is assigned a specific type of weapon that deals physical damage.

Our capabilities in combat

The fundamental and simultaneously most important tactic is having an appropriate and diversified arsenal of Personas. One must be prepared for any situation and exploit enemy weaknesses as quickly as possible. Striking at an enemy’s weakness is just as effective as landing a critical hit and knocks them down. Knocking down all enemy units results in the ability to perform a group attack (similar to the all-out attack in Persona 5). This is one of the most desirable situations in combat, as group attacks are very powerful. All characters participate in it. Ending a battle with a group attack guarantees the activation of Shuffle Time (at least based on my observations), about which I’ll write a bit further.

After dealing critical damage or hitting an enemy’s weakness, we get the opportunity to pass an additional turn to another character we control. This provides ample maneuverability because we can choose the type of the next attack based on the skills of the given character.

Theurgy

The final type of attack is Theurgy (from the Greek word for Divine Action). It’s a powerful ability unique to each team member, activated by inserting a special cartridge into the bottom of their Evoker. It can only be triggered by filling up the Theurgy gauge of the respective character. This gauge can be filled by performing actions such as melee attacks and Persona skills. Depending on the team member, certain actions will increase their gauge faster.

Theurgy is arguably the most potent attack in the game. Each character has two types of this attack to choose from. They are unlocked by spending time with a specific character in the dormitory. The main character also has much greater capabilities in this regard, one of which (Armageddon) is simply overpowered. But what makes Theurgy so powerful? These attacks never miss and hit the enemy, ignoring all resistances. Each of these attacks features a beautifully crafted and immensely satisfying animation involving the initiating character.

Velvet Room

An integral part of every game in the Persona universe. As usual, we are welcomed by Igor along with his assistant. In Persona 3, this assistant is Elizabeth (the younger sister of Margaret from Persona 4 and also the older sister of Lavenza/Caroline and Justine from Persona 5). While we’re on the subject of Elizabeth, I must once again commend Sawashiro Miyuki for her voice acting. Brilliantly performed role.

The Velvet Room is a space located between consciousness and subconsciousness. Its appearance and décor vary slightly in each installment, but it’s always presented in deep blue tones. This is where Personas are managed and fusion is conducted. The room is invisible to everyone except those with a high spiritual sensitivity. In Persona 3, Igor states that only those who have made a contract can be guests.

Miscellaneous

The game features a highly extensive glossary covering all Personas. Personas are a collection of beings from various cultures, religions, and folk tales. There are plenty of youkai, angels, demons, and other entities. For instance, there’s the Sandman from European folklore, the ancient goddess of fertility and abundance Cybele, or the four celestial guardians from Chinese mythology, also known in Japan (Byakko, Seiryuu, Genbu, Suzaku). There’s a wide variety to choose from.

I managed to complete the game in just under 83 hours. I’ve read comments from people who finished it in around 40 hours. I have no idea how they did it, but I suspect they skipped through all the dialogue, which completely distorts the purpose of playing Japanese games because characterization is key to understanding and appreciating the whole experience. If I had tried a bit harder and didn’t grind in Tartarus towards the end, I probably could have finished it about 10 hours faster. I don’t think I could have shortened the playtime any further without skipping dialogue.

Evaluation and Summary

At first, I was quite skeptical about this remake, even though Persona 3 definitely isn’t my favorite part of the series (although I must admit that I liked the ending in both versions – it was the same). Many people raised concerns about too many changes and censorship. I decided to assess it myself, especially since there weren’t that many examples of actual damage compared to the original. I didn’t like a few changes, but they were so rare that they got lost in the midst of the entire 80-hour material as background noise. What I liked about the original remained, and a whole bunch of things were polished and improved – including the translation (as I mentioned above).

I dare to say that if someone hasn’t played the original, there’s probably no point in struggling with it. Well, unless it’s to have a retro session on a cathode-ray tube TV played with the PlayStation 2 (but in this case, definitely go for the undub version! :)). It’s still Persona 3, with a slightly altered atmosphere, but the same message and tone. The ending can really tug at your heartstrings. My only serious criticism concerns the difficulty level. In Hard mode, I had almost no challenge. So, I recommend starting with the highest difficulty level right off the bat to anyone who has played any turn-based JRPGs before.

It’s a very worthy title, but for now, it might be worth waiting for the Nintendo Switch version, as it will likely include all DLC on a physical cartridge (including one very important – Aigis’ episode).

Finalny werdykt

Final evaluation

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