Preview: Persona 3 Reload Is Nostalgic in the Best Way Possible
Image via Atlus

Preview: Persona 3 Reload Is Nostalgic in the Best Way Possible

Persona 3 Reload is a ground-up remake of the original Persona 3 — a game considered to be the highlight of the long-running franchise. Recreated in Unreal Engine, it looks phenomenal. Character renders and artwork look great, the menu is just as stylish as ever, and more than anything, it captures the essence of Persona 3 and what made it so great to begin with.

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I had the opportunity to play through two segments of Persona 3 Reload, which included exploring the early levels of the near endless dungeon of Tartarus, and a more story heavy encounter on a train. Both of these segments ended with a boss fight, and each of them were fairly easy.

However, I walked into the game with prior knowledge of Persona 3, which immediately came flooding back to me the moment “Mass Destruction” (the game’s battle theme) began to play. I remembered which enemies had which elemental weaknesses, and took advantage of downing them to perform an All Out Attack, making quick work of whatever stood in my path. For those unfamiliar with the system, taking advantage of elemental weaknesses means you can perform an additional attack, with the potential to knock all enemies encountered to the ground. This always feels satisfying and keeps the tempo of combat going strong.

This is especially important when you explore Tartarus. Enemies appear in the form of “shadows” that you choose to engage or avoid as they roam each floor. Fighting them and performing All Out Attacks will reward you with buffs that last for your Tartarus run, or Personas — summons you can equip that have their own set of abilities. I fought every available enemy in Tartarus, snatching up any Personas I could just to see what was available. I managed to obtain Angel and Pixie, but still ended up using Orpheus, the protagonist’s “canon” Persona since everything on the level was weak to Agi.

Yukari provided support, topping my part up when our HP got too low. Her healing was generally stronger than the items I found along the way. And Junpei provided the extra DPS I needed to finish off enemies if I wasn’t performing an All Out Attack. Party synergy was high and I mowed down enemies before reaching the final level of Tartarus I had access to. And in a matter of three turns the boss that awaited me was down and I moved on to the next segment, which was the train players explore fairly early on.

Much like Tartarus I took advantage of knocking down enemies and eliminating them swiftly with an All Out Attack, or just finishing them off with your standard attacks. This section is more story focused, with the party investigating a mysterious train during the Dark Hour. Dialogue can be sped up, but these micro cutscenes cannot be skipped entirely. Which means if you fail a segment you can just rush through the dialogue automatically, sort of like fastforwarding on a VHS tape or hitting that 2x speed button on a YouTube video.

persona 3 reload 3

Image via Atlus


This segment also ended in a boss fight, which was timed. The more you chunked down the boss she would speed up how fast the train was moving, cutting away more than a handful of minutes from your timer. It adds a level of tension as you start with roughly 30 minutes, but end with barely three remaining depending on how quickly you get through it. She also summons adds, but can be quickly disposed of if you have the right Personas equipped.

One thing I did notice, however, was that Yumi Kawamura, the lead vocalist for Persona 3, didn’t come back to re-record music for the game. It wasn’t obvious at first, but when certain tracks played out it was more noticeable. And it isn’t an issue, but definitely pulled me out of the game for a hot second. However, the new vocalist is just as good and the tracks are effectively the same and always easy to listen to. Additionally, the new voice cast is great and does a great job emulating the previous voice actors while also adding their own flourishes. I especially loved Yukari, Junpei, and Mitsuru’s new voices. Aleks Le is also great as the protagonist, even if you really only hear him shout “Persona!” or grunt in pain, he sounds identical to the previous voice actor.

Even though my time playing Persona 3 Reload was relatively brief, it brought me back to sitting in my room as a teenager, cross legged and roaming Tartarus well into the early hours of the morning. It made me remember what I initially loved about the Persona series, flaws and all, as it drew me back in with its memorable score and simple yet effective combat system. It shows me that the Persona 3 I loved is back, and that new fans will get to experience perhaps one of the best entries in the series. And honestly, what more could you ask for from a ground-up remake?

Persona 3 Reload is in development and will come out on the PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, and Windows PC via Steam some time in early 2024.


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Author
Kazuma Hashimoto
Senior staff writer, translator and streamer, Kazuma spends his time playing a variety of games ranging from farming simulators to classic CRPGs. Having spent upwards of 6 years in the industry, he has written reviews, features, guides, with work extending within the industry itself. In his spare time he speedruns games from the Resident Evil series, and raids in Final Fantasy XIV. His work, which has included in-depth features focusing on cultural analysis, has been seen on other websites such as Polygon and IGN.