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Persona 3 versus Persona 3 Portable

The most shocking change to Persona 3 Portable is the complete overhaul of the game’s world map. In the original Persona 3, every room in every location from your dorm to your high school could be explored in 3D. Now, all these areas have been completely redrawn as isometric maps that have you pointing and clicking on NPCs, objects and doors with a cursor.

As with the loss of fully animated cutscenes, P3P loses some of the original’s charm with this new look. Memorable scenarios from the original that showed characters interacting with each other in the game’s gorgeous 3D world are now reduced to just the recorded dialogues while the area map sits motionless in the background.

Above: A shot of the dining room of your dorm’s first floor lounge in Persona 3

Above: A similar shot of the first floor lounge in P3P

But it’s not all doom and gloom for purists. Even though we were turned off by the new design at first, much faster load times and being able to quickly mouse over to where we want to go makes navigating the world much more convenient in P3P. Those who remember the frequent loading screens in the original and trekking back and forth from Paulowina Mall to your High School library and back will appreciate the smoother system. Also, Persona 3 still has a solid story and a strong cast of characters at its core, so it’s still entertaining to explore its world even if the new look may not agree.

What Else is New?

The biggest new addition is the introduction of a new protagonist. When you start a new game in P3P, you now either pick the male protagonist from the original, or the new female protagonist. Some of the differences that come when you pick the female protagonist are superficial, like the way other characters refer to you as a “she” instead of a “he.” But choosing her also opens up some new Social Links that give you a different perspective on some of the game’s subplots.

You can create more powerful Personas for battle when you improve your Social Links with other characters outside of the Dark Hour. This Social Link system is what made Persona 3’s characters and story so interesting. Follow the Social Link stories, and you’ll find yourself befriending a young girl who’s coming to terms with her parents’ divorce, or an alcoholic monk who has lost touch with his family. That’s why the new Social Link options that come with picking the female protagonist are more than welcomed. So far, we’ve met a new sports coach who unlocks some new background stories of one of the side characters from the first game.

Above: Thankfully, exploring dungeons and battling is almost visually identical to the original Persona 3

There are lots of other subtle tweaks that smooth out some of the repetitiveness from the original. Grinding up the protagonist’s charm, courage, and academics stats used to take forever. Now, instead of just paying money to spend time sipping coffee to improve your charm, or singing karaoke to improve your courage, you can now spend time working part time jobs to increase several stats at once in addition to earning some extra cash to spend on items. It saves time, and makes managing your daytime and nighttime hours a lot more fun.

Above: Elizabeth will now give you optional missions to rescue citizens trapped in Tartarus during the Dark Hour

Direct control over your party members has also been added to the tactics menu when battling in dungeons. In the past, you had to rely on the AI to choose actions for your party members, which led to many frustrating deaths, so this change is more than welcome. Party members can now sacrifice themselves to take lethal blows in place of the protagonist. When you hit an enemy with an element that they’re weak against, individual party members now have a chance to join you for a quick double team attack for an automatic critical hit and knockdown.

Above: New battle features add double team attacks and the ability for party members to prevent lethal blows from landing

Persona 3 Portable is scheduled to release in stores and on PSN on Jul 7, 2010. Be sure to check back here for a review as its release date draws nearer.

Jun 9, 2010

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