Final Fantasy VII isn’t the only big RPG getting a remake this month, with Persona 3 Reload re-building the PlayStation 2 classic from the ground up to give it some modern pizazz. Sure, it might not offer as deep of a re-invention as Square Enix’s title and it follows the design of the original game more accurately, but it still offers an abundance of improvements that help bring the release up to the high modern standards expected of the Persona series.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Persona 3 Reload’s story focuses on something known as the Dark Hour – a hidden hour that takes place after midnight that transforms the school into a deadly dungeon known as Tartarus. Eerie, right? Well, it turns out that the resurgence of supernatural events tied to the Dark Hour that are occurring across the whole of Tatsumi Port Island also coincided with your arrival there, with dark and deadly creatures causing chaos. Fortunately, you have the powers to stop them, and you won’t have to go at it alone, with a group known as the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES) joining you in the battle. And yes, that is without a doubt one of the BEST names that I’ve ever seen for an after-school club…

It’s one of my favourite narratives found across Persona, with the darker tone making for some dramatic moments that help give the game a more unique vibe when compared to other titles in the series. Don’t get me wrong, it stills feels like a Persona title through-and-through, but it’s a bit edgier (and I mean that in a good way). There haven’t been too many changes made to the narrative in this remake either, and whilst there are some additional details added here and there, it still follows the same outline players would have known and loved from the first time around.

As expected from the series, Persona 3 Reload sees players living out the normal life of a high school student in the daytime hours, so you can expect to go to class, complete tests, socialise with friends, work in part-time jobs to earn some cash, and explore Tatsumi Port Island. The game does a good job of streamlining a lot of the daytime activities by having a text notification pop-up on your phone when certain socialising or job opportunities are available too, so you’re rarely left to wander and wonder what to do next – this might seem like a small improvement, but it’s actually one of my favourite additions to the game. There are plenty of new tasks to get stuck into to improve your stats or relationship with your friends in a variety of ways too, with each expanding upon the world in a meaningful way and often giving players a deeper insight into the supporting cast of characters.

“There are some unusual omissions made that prevent Persona 3 Reload from being the definitive edition of the game, but it still stands out as an exceptional RPG that fans of the series are sure to love.”

Another innovative new feature that really complements the daytime activities is Rewind, which lets you go back to a previous day in the story in order to rectify any mistakes you think you might have made. Have you played a previous Persona game and found yourself completely regretting an activity you have dived into or conversational choice you made? Well, this gives you a quick fix for that, all without having to save scum to get your desired outcome. Whilst this might not seem like such an exciting feature to Persona newbies, veterans will DEFINITELY appreciate it.

When nighttime hits, Persona 3 Reload jumps away from the more easy-going daytime activities and turns into a dungeon-crawler, with the SEES scouring through Tartarus to vanquish enemies and try to find a way to stop the supernatural dangers it has set across their home. And yes, there have been plenty of new additions made to make this an even more enjoyable experience for players this time around.

Again, this may seem like a minor addition, but being able to dash makes exploring Tartarus SO much more enjoyable. Tartarus also has extra areas to explore that offer stern challenges with rich rewards, players have the ability to make the party undetectable to enemies when exploring, and there’s also a bit more variation found in the layout of some of the floors. One of the biggest criticisms towards Persona 3 came with the fact that Tartarus could be frustrating to explore, but an effort has been made to alleviate the stress. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect and it still doesn’t hold up to the dungeon designs seen in later titles in the series, but it’s definitely an improvement over the original game.

Combat has also seen plenty of cool refinements that make it more enjoyable than before. For one, you can now control your allies in combat, so you don’t have to rely on an AI that could make sketchy choices that hinder you. The new Shift mechanic allows you to land follow up attacks on enemies with your allies after landing a critical hit or attacking their weakness, which can keep the flow of a battle in your favour and stop enemies from hitting back. There is a catch: you have to have built up enough relationship with each party member during daytime activities to unlock their Shift ability, but this comes naturally through the game. Then you have the Theurgy meter, which builds up during combat – when filled, you can unleash an ultimate attack to cause massive damage. Whilst these mechanics are similar to those you might have seen already across more recent entries in the series, their inclusion here goes a long way in modernising the combat of the original game and making it more strategic, deep, and, most importantly, fun. Add to that the fact that the combat UI has been refined to be more stylish and intuitive and you’ll quickly find that the improvements to combat are some of the most significant made in Persona 3 Reload.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Of course, it can’t be a remake without a visual upgrade, and there’s no denying that Persona 3 Reload looks absolutely fantastic. The re-imagined Tatsumi Port Island looks sublime, with locales within the school and its surrounding areas all lovingly recreated to give players a sense of familiarity but with all the fancy modern bells and whistles included. The same applies to Tartarus, which looks snazzier than ever (which makes it less jarring when seeing a lot of the same environments over and over again). I think the most impressive visual upgrade comes with the characters though, with the detailed character models a substantial step up over what players would have seen in the original release.

Whilst Persona 3 Reload has a bunch of new additions that make it a more intuitive and enjoyable experience than before, there are some areas in which it can disappoint. For one, it doesn’t include the female protagonist from Persona 3 Portable, which feels like an odd omission given that it had a re-release last year. With the game in the public eye and a good comparison point for players who perhaps didn’t play Persona 3 during its original release on the PlayStation 2, it makes it feel like you’re missing a chunk of the experience. The epilogue chapter ‘The Truth’ from Persona 3 FES is missing too, which feels like an odd decision seeing as it helps cap off the story in a meaningful way. Whilst neither of these omissions harm the gameplay or make Persona 3 Reload a bad game in any way, it is disappointing that it doesn’t offer the definitive experience that players might have expected following multiple iterations of the base game.

Persona 3 Reload Review

Persona 3 Reload completely reinvigorates the original release, with excellent improvements made across the board to help the game hold up to modern standards. The combat is more enjoyable and strategic than before, the daytime activities are more substantial and easier to track, whilst the visual upgrade is top notch, with the game arguably looking better than Persona 5. And sure, there were some things that couldn’t be fixed (such as the somewhat dated dungeon design of Tartarus), but most aspects of the game have seen significant improvements that make it even better to play.

There are some unusual omissions made that prevent Persona 3 Reload from being the definitive edition of the game, but it still stands out as an exceptional RPG that fans of the series are sure to love.

Developer: P-Studio
Publisher: SEGA
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch