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Persona 3 Reload Review

Persona 3 Reload

Developer: P-Studio
Publisher: Atlus USA
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X (Reviewed), PC, PlayStation 5
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $69.99 USD – Available Here $109.95 AUD – Available Here


The Persona series is something of a strange one as, despite being a spin-off of the Shin Megami series, its eventual popularity ended up eclipsing what it was derived from. While most of this popularity bloomed when Persona 4 was released and especially with the arrival of Persona 5, Persona 3 and its numerous re-releases with various improvements and added content saw some of the first additions that would make the franchise as popular as it is today. That being said, it also features some of the oldest holdovers from the first few entries in the series that leave it feeling quite archaic in nature to the point that the first two Persona games are barely even acknowledged, as such ATLUS ha seen fit to give Persona 3 a full blown remake with Persona 3 Reload, looking to bring this game a bit closer to modern day while still retaining many elements of the original release. This effort proves to be quite successful in some ways while leaving some things still to be desired.


Players take on the role of a fresh transfer student on his way to the dorms of Gekkoukan High School who happens to be so entranced in his music as he heads to his destination that he doesn’t quite seem to care that the world around him has taken on an eerie green hue and mostly everyone has transformed into coffins. Even upon arriving at the dorms he finds that his new dorm mates are shocked to see him as the group finds themselves quickly being attacked by a Shadow. After proving themselves capable of wielding the power of a Persona which is needed to survive, the player is recruited into the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (S.E.E.S) in an attempt to use their unique power to discover the truth behind what they call the Dark Hour.

The Dark Hour happens every night past midnight and transforms the region of Tatsumi Port Island into a sinister one where the local high school transforms into the towering dungeon called Tartarus and dangerous Shadows spill out, slaying anyone unlucky enough to not transform into a “safe” coffin. Those that can remain mobile during the Dark Hour are few but even fewer still are Persona users capable of defeating the Shadows and with the player now joining the S.E.E.S. and leading the team, it is up to them to find out the source of the Shadows and face down the dark groups maneuvering within the shadows themselves in an attempt to save the world all while still living the life of a mostly normal teenage high schooler during the day. Just one that happens to talk to a dog and robot quite often.

While Persona 3 Reload may have plenty of bright colors and feature a very eclectic cast of characters that make up the main party, perhaps some of the most interesting ones even compared to more recent entries, it is worth noting that the overall tone for this story is far more sinister and grim than one might expect. While this is true for all of the Persona games, including both 4 and 5, this is true throughout nearly every aspect of Persona 3 Reload. This of course includes the Persona summoning tool of the Evoker being a gun pointed at the user’s head and nearly every Social Link as well with even the “happier” ending ones usually resulting in accepting one’s fate and either moving forward/giving up or trying to redeem something terrible that has happened in the past. In fact, a few of these Social Links can be downright depressing at times and these darker themes can feel rather uncomfortable despite how impactful they can feel.

Of course, this darker nature doesn’t mean that Persona 3 Reload isn’t afraid to let its lighter side show as there are still plenty of goofy moments and heartfelt ones as well. As mentioned before, the main cast of characters is absolutely wonderful here and some of the best story moments come from interacting with your classmates. Persona 3 Reload adds a number of “hangout” opportunities with your fellow S.E.E.S. members that aren’t Social Links but do eventually provide buffs to a character’s skills as well as new and unique story interactions that give players a new look at their team members, even if they happen to be longtime fans of the franchise. This, plus the various twists and reveals that happen throughout the storyline, make the game’s narrative as gripping as ever even if it mostly follows the same story beats as the original minus some of the brand new side interactions. It is worth noting however that, unless it is coming later as DLC, the epilogue that was eventually released in Persona 3 FES called The Answer is not currently in the base game.


Players familiar with the recent Persona formula will feel mostly at home still with Persona 3 Reload as the game still breaks down into two halves. During the day players will attend school, occasionally answering questions in class for a social stat boost, and after-school they will be able to choose from a wide range of activities around town. This can include those that don’t pass time like shopping at various stores, visiting a certain fox shrine, or even talking to random NPCs that all seem to have a little bit of a story of their own throughout the year. Most activities do take time however as these involve working part-time for some quick cash, visiting a store for a social stat boost of which there are only three to manage this time around in the form of Academics, Courage, and Charm, visiting the shrine to pray to be closer to someone, and of course taking part in character interactions through the Social Link system as mentioned before or even a hangout session with the gang. 

During the day players will find that nearly every Social Link will be found available over the course of the game as the title does a fairly poor job of actually balancing the split between Social Links available during the day and at night. Unlike during the day, the areas available for players to travel around the town at night are far smaller though players will immediately be able to venture out at night starting day one. Certain stores only offer specific menu options for various social stat boosts at night and there are also locations that are only available at night as well that can offer unique ways to increase the player’s capabilities. There also happens to be only two Social Links at night, meaning players will likely max these two out quite quickly if they plan accordingly with their Social Stats. It is also worth noting that while more recent entries gave players various extra benefits for raising their Social Links with characters, the only gameplay benefit for doing so here is to increase the amount of bonus EXP given to Persona fusions and unlocking ultimate Personas of various tarots.

To try and balance out the limited nighttime Social Links most of the game’s hangouts with the members of S.E.E.S. occur at night. This can involve going on a walk with Koromaru, cooking or watching a movie with various members of the team, and even tending to vegetables players can plant on the roof to add extra benefits to the produce when it is harvested. Not only are these interactions an extra bit of story for players as mentioned before, they also can unlock extra abilities for team members if pursued properly.

Alongside these nighttime activities players will also find that night is when they will be traveling into Tartarus and venturing up the endless floors while facing off against bosses and countless Shadows along the way. Despite being given a facelift, Tartarus is still randomly generated as players progress through the dungeon with certain set locations where players will face off against bosses and eventually reach a “roadblock” that will prevent them from climbing higher until a certain date has passed. This generally means players can explore Tartarus as much as they want and as often as they want thanks to its randomization but it isn’t necessary for a number of reasons, mostly due to repetition and the general grinding feel of climbing the tower. While not necessary, it often feels like players are meant to crush through an entire stage of Tartarus in a single night and it is certainly possible on Normal or even harder difficulties even at the beginning and there are very few actual rewards for going back through previously completed stages.

Of course, this is partially do the fact that the largest overhaul to Persona 3 Reload over the original release is its combat system. In the original, players could only control their character and while that option is available, it isn’t recommended as players can now control their entire party in combat and dictate exactly what skills and attacks they want them to use. Players can still target various elemental weaknesses to “down” an enemy and any time an enemy weakness is hit or a critical is struck the attacking party can make another attack or “shift” their attack to an ally. This allows players to shift their follow-up attacks to specifically target a number of enemy weaknesses at once to down every foe and give players the chance to trigger the “All Out Attacks” that deal immense damage and almost certainly slay most normal enemies.

Alongside the ability to actually control your team Persona 3 Reload now features “Theurgy” attacks that work as ultimate attacks for the player’s team members and charge up through various means, be it healing in the case of Yukari or buffing the party for Aegis though it will still fill normally as well. These powerful moves are incredibly effective as they ignore resistances and can deal plenty of damage to bosses. To go along with these new attacks players can also find new “Monad” doors where they can challenge new harder Shadows that often hide useful treasures, extra costumes, and most importantly extra tarot cards behind them.

Since players do not directly fight the Personas that they are using on their team, the actual recruitment of Persona is far simpler this time around and a bit more random. Every battle has the chance to trigger “Shuffle Time” at the end of a fight with All-Out-Attack finished fights always triggering it and during this time players can choose one card (initially) that will provide a reward. This can be some healing for the team, some money, a skill card, extra EXP, a Persona that will be added to the player’s roster, and larger Tarots that provide additional bonuses. The usual Persona fusion methods remain the same with players choosing exactly what Persona they want to fuse for and selecting skills to inherit, though there is the chance for some fusion accidents to happen though this appears to happen incredibly rarely to the point that it happened only one time in our entire playthrough. 

Audio & Visuals

One of the biggest draws of Persona 3 Reload is of course the fact that it now features updated graphics alongside a brand new voice cast and set of background music. The visuals this time are incredibly striking with all of the character models being lovingly recreated to modern-day standards and every party member even having a large variety of costumes players can unlock for use in Tartarus. As for Tartarus itself, while the floors are still almost all randomly generated they now follow certain themes as players travel up through various floors. Some locations can be dark and difficult to navigate while others are a mix of confusing neon colors, adding some extra spice to an otherwise randomly generated series of stages that, even with this extra touch, can feel repetitive. The Personas that players acquire remain impressive as ever looking and the Shadows players fight are also recreated nicely, and it is worth noting that unlike the most recent game, Personas and Shadows are not the same meaning players won’t be always fighting the same things they are recruiting.

Atlus USA has released Persona 3 Reload with both the brand new English voice track as well as the Japanese voice track and players can choose to swap between them at any time. The new voice actors do a solid job with their characters here, especially in some cases such as Akihiko coming off as far better sounding characters compared to the original release while Aegis’ stylistic approach is also quite wonderful here. It is also worth noting that nearly every element of dialogue involving a named character is entirely voiced, this includes every step of all Social Links, not just the beginning and end. This does an incredible job at making these scenes more impactful, especially with how heavy some of the Social Links in this entry can be. The soundtrack features a redone version of nearly every piece of music from the original game including a number of new tracks as well. The vocal tracks do have different vocalists this time around though and for the most part they fit perfectly fine with some wonderful battle music though some extra variation in battle themes would have been nice.


Atlus has done a surprisingly impressive job at keeping the Persona 3 still in Persona 3 Reload. The remake features just enough in the way of updates to make it play better than ever and look as impressive as fans would hope while still trying to make sure that its various themes and mechanics remain mostly untouched both to its benefit and detriment. This has led to some unbalanced time constraints for certain interactions that require some tight planning and repetition with the exploration of Tartarus but these issues are minor when compared to the grander package that delivers an emotional tale that fans will be eager to see through to its ending, hopefully one that will be expanded upon properly again in the future. 

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Persona 3 Reload’s mechanical and graphical overhaul make this RPG and its amazing storyline wonderful to play even if some of its aged elements hold it back at times. 
Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.
<i>Persona 3 Reload</i>’s mechanical and graphical overhaul make this RPG and its amazing storyline wonderful to play even if some of its aged elements hold it back at times. Persona 3 Reload Review