Persona 3 Portable Review

Dan Webb

Persona 3 is to Persona what Final Fantasy VII was to Final Fantasy. It was the game that not only elevated the franchise to new levels, but was the game that changed the face of what its franchise stood for and what it would eventually become. While Final Fantasy VII was a straight up sequel, Persona was effectively a spin-off from the popular Shin Megami Tensei games. But what Persona 3 did for its franchise is unrivalled. It took a non-household name and made it mainstream. At least in Japan. It wasn't until much later that the west would recognise the brilliance of this new offshoot and come to love it.

The fact that it took seventeen years to come to Xbox is nothing short of a tragedy. But here we are, and people can finally experience not only a masterpiece of its time, but see the roots of the now globally successful franchise. Perhaps you’ll even grow to adore it as much as I do. Like most people, I got into the Persona franchise when Persona 4 dropped (specifically Golden on PS Vita) and eventually went back to experience the unsung game of its time, Persona 3 Portable. And I was not disappointed.

As I said earlier, Persona 3 is to Persona what Final Fantasy VII was to Final Fantasy, but that's underselling it. In truth, Persona 3 is far more important for the franchise. It's the game that introduced Social Links, for one, something that is now the cornerstone of the series. Persona 3 was basically an experimental game, where every single experiment paid off. And then some.

The age old question, however, when it comes to re-releases like this, is always gonna be how does this game from 2006 (2009, if you’re talking the release of P3P) translate by today's standards? And the truth is, not especially elegantly, especially if you've played both Persona 4 Golden and Persona 5 (Royal or vanilla) before it, but that’s no bad thing.

Story-wise, Persona 3 Portable has aged like a fine wine. With mature themes, plenty of anxiety-inducing moments, and heartbreak, it’s truly a story that has withstood the test of time. Gameplay-wise, it’s not aged quite as well. We’re not talking minute-to-minute battles here, as turn-based gaming is what it was back in the day. Back then, it might have seemed perfectly acceptable to plough through 250+ floors of a very samey dungeon in 2006, but by today’s standards, it doesn’t really cut it. The evolution from Persona 3 to Persona 4 to Persona 5 is stark. While Persona 5’s dungeons boasted variety and diversity, Persona 3’s dungeons are incredibly monotonous. As far as ports go, though, we can’t fault it. It’s exactly as Persona 3 Portable was when it was released back in 2009.

Now, there's a debate whether Persona 3 FES (the extended re-release from 2007) is as good as Persona 3 Portable, the version we've been blessed with, and that opinion changes from one person to the next. Persona 3 Portable not only fixed a few exploits, it added a whole new route to play the game as a female protagonist, with new Social Links, music and characters, but what it makes up for with those, it loses with the absence of animated cutscenes and 3D world navigation. The truth is, the port would have been infinitely better had it mixed the best of both worlds. That’s not to say Persona 3 Portable is worse, per se, it’s just different… and we sure miss those cutscenes and that 3D world navigation.

Persona 3 Portable on Xbox has been  a long time coming. And while it might not stand up to recent games (especially Persona 5 Royal), it's an absolute pleasure to witness the origins of the franchise. After all, without Persona 3, the Persona we all know and love would probably not exist. By today’s standards, Tartarus’ 250+ floors might be incredibly arduous and repetitive, but it’s worth sticking around for the story. Would we have loved Persona 3’s recent port to be the best of both Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable? Absolutely. But we’ll definitely take this over not getting to re-experience it at all.

Persona 3 Portable

While Persona 3 Portable’s monotonous slog through Tartarus might not have aged all that well, its narrative, characters, and soundtrack most certainly have. It’s great to finally experience the roots of the Persona franchise and the birth of the Social Link on Xbox.

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It should come as no surprise that the soundtrack is still brilliant, especially with the new female protagonist tracks that Portable brings. Shoji Meguro proving his music passes the time test.


It’s a shinier version of Persona 3 Portable. No new textures or asset packs, just a slightly more presentable version of the 2009 title.


Do we miss FES’ 3D navigation? Yes. Do we mind the new UI and interface? Not really. Is Persona 3 Portable the best version? Probably not. It’s still good, though, and if you’ve played Persona 4 Golden/Persona 5 Royal, it won’t take you long to get into the game.


The reworked Social Links for the female protagonist’s campaign truly allow Persona 3 Portable to shine. Come for the story, stay for the characters and the music. Sure, Tartarus is a bit of a grind, but the story payoffs are almost worth the trouble.


Multiple playthroughs, battles with the hardest bosses, plenty of grinding. It depends on how much you like those aforementioned types of achievements as to whether you’ll like this list. Considering the game is pretty gripping, we don’t actually mind it.

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