Exploring The Japanese Persona 3 Portable

By Laura . June 3, 2010 . 5:20pm

Persona 3 Portable

Disclaimer: To keep things simple, I won’t be assigning names to the male or female protagonists in this write-up, even though the populace seems to have decided on “Minato” and “Minako” respectively.


Persona 3 was the game that drew the most attention to the Shin Megami Tensei series. Its extraordinarily well-done social links system combined with an amazing story and atmosphere drew people in, earning it numerous awards and great reviews all-around, so it was no surprise that Atlus decided to build off of it with Persona 3: FES, which included an added epilogue The Answer, and then later with Persona 3 Portable for the PSP.


Persona 3 Portable, from now on referred to as P3P, is essentially a remake of the first Persona 3 game with adjustments made to almost all aspects of the game — everything from dungeon trekking to battling to the social links were adjusted, and the player now had the option of choosing the gender of the protagonist. Let’s start from the game system changes first.


P3P was released after Persona 4, which touched up several systems from its predecessor, so it’s no wonder that some aspects of that game were moved on over to P3P. One of these changes is the dungeon. No longer do you have to worry about making it all the way to the next Terminal in the dungeon to go back to the ground floor to heal. Once you quit the dungeon through one of the one-way exits, you can go back to the floor you were last on, like in Persona 4 without any worries. Also, the moment you return to the base floor, you get healed completely. In addition, you don’t get fatigued like in Persona 3 anymore. Instead of fatigue being determined by the number of battles you face, it is now set so that you are automatically fatigued after almost every dungeon trek, but you never actually get tired during the trip (or at least, in my effort to wear my characters down to the bones, I haven’t). Other changes to Tartarus include random effects on floors. Sometimes, experience gained will increase on one floor, and sometimes (the most annoying one in my opinion) the floor is dark and there is no auto-map.



All in all, while Tartarus has gotten a lot easier to go through, the changes have also reduced some of the challenges related to the dungeons. I’m sure most would opine that going through 250+ levels is harrowing — and I’m not disagreeing — but in this case, it’s almost as if most of the challenge has been taken out of the game.


I remember when I played Persona 3 I would actually be stuck on a floor and wonder, “Should I go on and run past all the enemies, heading for the elevator point, or should I play it safe and call it a day?” With the current system, the point is moot since you can just go back to the first floor, heal, and then return right where you left off. Since you don’t get fatigued, you can run through a dungeon as much as you want in one day without any concern for your party’s endurance (although you’ll be really tired the next day). Indirectly, this also makes Social Links a little easier to manage, since, if you’re persistent enough, you could probably run through all of the available Tartarus levels in one day, opening up the rest of your evenings for your social life.


As for the fighting system, players of Persona 4 will feel right at home. First off, it isn’t possible to change weapons — you’re stuck with a short sword for the male and a naginata for the female. Another change is that you can now control the other characters manually instead of having to hope the AI makes the right moves. The knocking-down system is the same as in Persona 4 as well.


Outside of battle, the changes are more obvious. Instead of running around Gekkou High or in Paulownia Mall, you move a target around a mostly static image of the area. People you have started a Social Link with are marked by a speech button over their hards. When talking with other characters, their image is shown on the screen with the dialogue. The best addition, though, is the much-welcomed Square Button, also borrowed from Persona 4. With this button, the player can travel from one area to another almost instantaneously, making jumping between areas so much easier.


Despite all of these nifty system changes, the greatest change from Persona 3 to Persona 3 Portable is the addition of the “girl route.” At the beginning of the game, you can choose your gender. Although there are significant differences between the two routes, the general content is the same. The protagonist still transfers to Gekkou High, still meets Pharos, and still has to fight against STREGA and the twelve Master Shadows and the ensuing boss. Of course, there are a few minor changes, such as what happens if Shinjirou’s Social Link is maxed out and what happens when you go out on the quests with Theodore, Elizabeth’s male counterpart, but for the most part, the story stays the same.



Differences range from small things like dyeing the entire menu system pink and changing the “Master of Tartarus” boss theme and “Mass Destruction” battle theme, as well as most of the outdoor themes, to more important changes, like the ability to hold a part-time job that will increase stats and your money or the fact that you only earn yen in battle if you choose it from the Shuffle.


By far, though, the greatest difference would be the new Social Links. A few of the Social Links are completely in place from the male route like the Hierophant’s, Hanged Man’s, Tower’s, and all the Links with the females on your team. However, since your clubs have changed, gone are the original club-related links like Chariot, Justice, or Fortune. Instead, they are either shuffled to new characters — Hermit is Hasegawa Saori, a girl in the community service club, for example, and Chariot is Iwasaki Rio, a girl on your sports team, which is either tennis or volleyball — or reassigned to the males of your party. Kenji’s Magician arcana is now Junpei’s and Yuko’s Justice arcana is Koromaru’s — predictable since their Persona are of the same arcana – but there are also instances where the Social Link arcana doesn’t match the Persona they use. Akihiko’s Persona is of the Emperor arcana, but his Social Link is Star, and Shinji is the Moon arcana even though his Persona is of Hierophant. Perhaps this implies that the Social Link arcana is determined more by their relationship to you than by their own affinity?


Either way, the new social links are entertaining. I felt just as connected with the new characters as I did with those in the original game, and I loved learning about new aspects of the lives of your fellow SEES members.



What if you want to take the relationship one step further and start dating? Since you’re now a girl, you can start a relationship with the male characters in your party … but with limitations. Ken and Koromaru are automatically removed from the list of potential candidates, and Junpei is already taken (yes, I tried). This only leaves two people, Akihiko and Shinjirou. As far as I know, it isn’t possible to start a relationship with those outside of the SEES either.


This extremely small pool of choices makes me wonder about some of the changes made to the game from the original male route. It seems like Atlus tried to keep all the same possibilities open, which is great, but there are some aspects that don’t work as well with a female character simply with the choices presented. With the Junpei route, it is almost essential to complete his route before he meets Chidori because after that he starts visiting her whenever he has free time, and with the Shinjirou route, you have to invest all your time on him to finish his route as fast as possible or else it is impossible to get a Rank 10. This happens with the Fortune route as well, which belongs to a character I won’t spoil here.


Another point I noticed character-wise is that I had gotten the impression when I had played the male’s route in the original Persona 3 that he was very passive. Usually, his words were soft-spoken and often whatever the person he’s talking to wanted to hear. (A better description of his personality can be found in this discussion.) However, in the case of the girl protagonist, it seemed to me that most of her words had a lot of energy behind them. She was cheerful and bright and, more importantly, she had her own personality. This change made it slightly hard for me to relate to her, but it also suited her appearance more. We’ll have to wait for the English release to see if this impression remains the same after localization.


All in all, I enjoyed playing P3P. However, it is very much the same old Persona 3, just with new Social Links and certain aspects of the system from Persona 4 fitted to it. Oh, and for those curious, I named my character Reika Higurashi – 日暮虹花.

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  • superdry

    Great write-up on P3P. You really explained a lot of the differences from the original PS2 version. I’m perfectly fine with the changes since I played and beat P3, but never played The Journey in FES (I just jumped right into The Answer). I know there will be people who did play P3: FES and moan about the changes in P3P.I like the changes in the Tartarus dungeon crawling. As in P3 and P4, I would spend as much time as possible to get as far as I can in a dungeon in one day so I free time for social links. That and the changes seem more attuned for bite sized portable gaming and it makes grinding a lot easier. =DI haven’t done much gaming on either my DS or PSP, but I think P3P might change it due to fact that I thoroughly enjoyed the original. Another note – it would be cool in the game if both the female and male character could meet each other depending on which one you choose to play as (social link? haha…)

  • It sucks how Junpei still remains faithful to his woman even in the female protagonist’s path. I thought they would be an official couple in my eyes.

    Oh well. I guess it’s either Aki or Shinji (though I’m sure Aki will want some of that Mitsuru. lol)

  • Slashlen

    Looking forward to it, even though FES still sits in the backlog…

  • holyPaladin

    I want to max Aki S.Link
    and curious about other sports S.Links

  • The populace didn’t decide on Minato, it’s from the official manga. I imagine Minako is derived from that.

    • SeventhEvening

      The manga also assigns him a personality, although in the game it is determined in large part by the player. I’m glad this article didn’t use Minato. I personally reject it.

    • Yeah, the Minato was from the manga, so it’s expected most people would go with that name. The “Minako” I’m pretty sure doesn’t come from anywhere official other than Minato’s name.

    • Hraesvelgr

      The populace has decided on it in the sense that it’s totally fanon. While the manga may have given him that name, it is in no way his official name, and people really should stop claiming as such.

  • I thought the most popular name for the female protagonist was Hamuko… I guess that’s just a Japanese thing. I preordered this game, and I’ve never played Persona 3. But I don’t think I’ll mind the difficulty changes…I’m kinda lazy…

  • Hey, I’m just here for the Akihiko, so any of the other alterations are pretty inconsequential to me.

  • Nekobo

    Neat article. This will be the second time I triple dip for a game (the first was Final Fantasy 3/Final Fantasy Anthologies/Final Fantasy VI Advance). Kudos Atlus.

  • meganeshounen

    If I remember correctly, no, you don’t get healed instantly but you need to spend yen at the golden grandfather clock/save point, just like the Fox in P4. The price per HP/SP refilling goes higher as the game progresses, but that’s fine when your yen earned per Tartarus run goes up as well. Not to mention when Monad block is unlocked.

    Akihiko gets the Star arcana since he’s the so-called “star athlete” of the Boxing Club. Shinji gets the Moon Arcana… well, you can only meet him at night, in the Dorm Lounge.

    Remember that tear-jerking scene in the very last day, when Aigis cradles MC’s head as he rests on the rooftop? I think if you play your cards right (read: max out a love interest’s S.Link, then spending an extra day with him/her), he/she will replace Aigis as the person staying with the MC. Not sure if it works for Theodore, but getting Shinjiro alive and well, staying by the FMC’s side doesn’t make your heart twinge, well…

    Oh, and Butler suits for the guys, and the Santa suits for the girls. Awesome stuff. Then there are the P4 cameos in the game during the Yakushima trip and the FMC’s trip to Yasoinaba…

  • Aw, the fact that Junpei can’t be dated bums me out. I understand Ken and Koromaru since some people would view it as pedophilia and bestiality, but Junpei seriously should have been available.

    Since Junpei isn’t available I demand they give us access to the spectrum of females dating females. It only seems fair to open up more dating social links for the female side.

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