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[PSP Hands-On] Persona 3 Portable

Written by: guuzen on 12 July 2010 at 4:07 am 8 Comments

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Persona 3 Portable is the latest game from the Shin Megami Tensei Persona franchise to hit the PlayStation Portable. It is basically the PS2’s Persona 3 FES with a few additions. Currently, I have clocked in 4 hours in the game and I am having a great time with it.

This is only my second Persona game that I have played, the first one being Persona Portable. However, I stopped playing that after a few hours because it was really not my type of game. It has two really annoying features which I dislike in an RPG: random chance of encountering enemy base on number of steps taken; and grid battle system. In P3P, all these are gone (hooray!).

For those of you who have not played Persona 3 before, it is something like your dungeon crawling JRPG mixed together with a visual novel vibe. You can level up your character, buy items/equipments, do side quests, and even get yourself a girlfriend/boyfriend. Well, here is what I have experienced in the first 4 hours of the game.

Guided Experience

I wanted to write this article after 1 to 2 hours of gameplay, but I found out that it was impossible. Why is that? Because I was still only allowed to press the X button to go through dialogue after dialogue as the game was trying to set up the story. As the game progresses, it will slowly unveil the features to you and you will be able to control the character more and more. I didn’t mind this at all because the story, character design and character voices were keeping me entertained.

After about 4 hours later, I was pretty much able to roam around the town freely and also plan my daily activities out according to the days. I bet there are more tutorial messages that have not yet appeared, but at this point in the game you are free to do what you want.

Visual Novel Style

During times when you are not fighting in the dungeon, the game plays out like a visual novel. You will have a character portrait and a box of text below it. Sometimes, you will even get to choose what you want to say which in turn will have different reactions from the other party.

When travelling around places, you will not be running around in a 3D environment. Instead, you will be moving a cursor around something like a background image of place and selecting points of interest.

In Persona Portable, some of the cutscenes were animated. However in P3P, they just remain as visual novel style. The only time when I saw in-game cutscene was right before my first battle. I really hope there will be more of them as the game progresses.

Mind-Boggling Activity Planning

There is a lot of decision making in P3P, from dialogue options to battle tactics. But the most perplexing one is activity planning. Sometimes I will be forced to visit certain places due to story progression, but there are times where I am free to do anything I want. During this time, I can choose to find a friend to hang out with and build Social Links, fight in the dungeon to train up my party, visit a mall to purchase items and equipments, fuse personas, go on side quests, or improve on my character’s personal attributes (charm, courage, etc).

Buying/selling items and fusing personas will not have any side effects, but all the other activities will take up time. For example, it is a Sunday afternoon and I chose to go to the karaoke to increase my courage. This will be counted as an activity and so after that, the game will proceed to evening. From there, you can decide the next course of action to take.

This may sound easy, but I find myself at a loss when I try to decide what to do next. This is because there are just so many things to take note of if you want to maximize your time spent. I have joined a club and it has practice every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. At the same time, you can go to the Student Council Room every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. To top it off, sometimes I want to work part-time to earn some money and also improve on my character’s attributes and that has its fixed days as well. This can be a nightmare for some of you, but at the same time it just goes to show much you can do in this game.

Dungeon Crawling Made Easier

Dungeon crawling through an ominous tower is not as bad as I thought it would be. In almost every floor, there will be a randomly placed portal in the map and when you find it, you can use it to teleport back to the dungeon entrance where you can heal up your party members, save the game or return to your dorm room.

On the 5th floor of the dungeon, there is another type of portal which looks more like a small gateway. Like the previous portal, it will teleport you back to the dungeon entrance. When I used it again, it allows me to jump straight back to the 5th floor. I guess this portal will help to mark those key floors that you can revisit.

When you are at a floor and you want to find an exit quick, you can order your party to split up. Your party members will then go in different directions and cover the whole map for you finding loots, exits and staircases. If they wander too far from you, you cannot interact with them until you move closer to them. If you encounter a monster during this time, you will fight alone. I have not tried this with a floor filled with monsters, so I don’t know if they will attack your party members as well.

Enjoyable Turn-Based Battles

I am usually not a fan of turn-based strategy games because my brain is just not up for it. However in this game, the battle just felt simple and streamlined. I actually enjoy finding out the enemy’s weaknesses and watching the little animations happening on screen.

When you are engaging an enemy, you can choose to attack, defend, use a skill, change Persona, change tactic use an item, or flee. There is also a very useful feature called rush. What it does is you and your party members will continuously fight the enemies with the normal attacks. This helps to save a lot of time on those weaker enemies.

There is a level of tactics to the battle system. You may or may not be aware of some of them depending on the difficulty setting. On higher difficulty, more thinking is required whereas on easy it will be a breeze. I have chosen normal so that I can have a bit of both sides.

Frequent Save Points

Save points are pretty easy to come by in P3P. Although there are only 3 save points that I can think of, I see them quite frequently. They are at the dormitory lounge, your classroom desk, and the dungeon entrance. There may be more in the future, but just these 3 will suffice.

The only time I felt the need to save is during key events with long lines of dialogue. Some of you may not care about this because it does not affect you, but for those of you whose PSP has a loose battery like mine, you will be constantly wishing for a save point.

Final Thoughts

Persona 3 Portable is definitely a game worth checking out if you own a PSP. It is really amazing what this game has to offer in the palm of your hands. I find myself hooked onto it because every step in the game just seem so engaging to me. I have absolutely no problem with the game, other than the lack of in-game 3D cutscenes.

I have read on the internet that if you choose to play as the female protagonist, the dialogue is inconsistent because sometimes the NPCs will refer to you as a guy instead, so it is advisable to choose the male character. However, if you have already played like 10 times in the PlayStation 2 version, then you may want to choose the female character instead just to see a slight change in perspective.

I hope the game will remain this fun throughout and I hope you guys like it as much as I do!

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  • Paul said:

    Thanks for the review.

    I’m still waiting for my copy to be delivered, but I’m looking forward to playing it.


    guuzen Reply:

    Awesome! Great to see you’re excited as well =)


  • Mikoto said:

    Another reason I’m tempted to buy a PSP.


    guuzen Reply:

    There’s Project Diva 2nd and a new God of War game coming to the PSP soon as well haha.


  • Genny V said:

    Dude, I love the game so much after I downloaded it.. that I actually went and bought the game :) And I was never a big fan stradegy games either LOL


    guuzen Reply:

    Haha yeah! Highschool setting & social linking… Those features are the main reason I’m so into the game =D


  • soanichan said:

    i played that game and oh i was addicted !!!!1
    it’s the first game which i played in my brother’s psp that got me interested except for tekken
    but i want to get a boyfriend ahhh
    i played it the whole and still figuring out !!!
    but anyway it’s really a good game


    guuzen Reply:

    Damn right it’s addictive! Gotta give credit to Atlus for making such fine games.


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