Persona 3 Reload review: a more than deadly remake

Building on the success of Persona 5, Atlus intends to maintain its golden goose by offering a new remake of the third opus of the saga.

Persona 3 Reload review: a more than deadly remake

Building on the success of Persona 5, Atlus intends to maintain its golden goose by offering a new remake of the third opus of the saga. Check out our Persona 3 Legend review.

It was at the beginning of 2017 that P Studio and publisher Atlus shook Europe by releasing Persona 5. This new opus of the now famous Japanese role-playing game series quickly established itself as one of the best games of the year and a benchmark for modern RPGs. This will then be followed by numerous adaptations in anime, manga and other derivative products and spin-offs in order to maintain the aura of Persona 5 for several years.

Almost seven years after the P5 tidal wave, it is a remake of the third part of the license which is now offered to the public in order to (re)discover the adventures of the original opus published in 2008 on Playstation 2. We were able to test this new version in order to confirm if we have a new J-RPG gem, a good remake, or simply an excellent game. Good news: Persona 3 Reload ticks these three boxes.

Persona 3 Reload begins with the arrival of our hero at a new high school. Barely arriving in town, the taciturn teenager will soon encounter the main enemies and dangers of the adventure. "Shadows", as they are called in the game, are entities that appear every evening during the "dark hour". A period located after the 24th hour of each day and during which the entire world is covered in a dark and not very reassuring aura. Fortunately for our hero, he will not be alone to face the enemies proposed by the game and in particular Tartarus, the only dungeon of the title which stands proudly in the city during the dark hour and which seems to be at the heart of the latter.

To do this, our hero will have his Persona, a sort of ghostly alter-ego which can be invoked using an "Evoker" (a sort of fictitious pistol) which must be pointed at himself in a sort of mini ritual which clearly evokes the suicide.

If the scenarios of the Persona games have never been particularly light in their tone, this is even more the case for this third opus. The storyline of Persona 3 Reload particularly revolves around death, whether it is inevitable or saving for our heroes and the NPCs who may come across during the adventure. If you've only experienced the lighter tone of Persona 5, you may be surprised at the tone Persona 3 takes.

However, judging the P3R scenario by its seriousness would be to miss a work that is as interesting as it is complex in its themes addressed. If the game does not fail to warn on subjects relating to suicide, mutilation and harassment, it never falls into tricks too big to illustrate its points. The scenario progresses as the days pass and the clashes of our group which does not fail to sometimes question itself and explore the past of some while investigating the dark hour.

The game is also intended to be quite generous since you will have to count on a little over 65-70 hours to see the end of it depending on the time you spend improving your group and progressing in the main plot.

Persona 3 Reload's gameplay revolves around two mechanics related to daytime and dark hour. During the latter, it is possible to explore Tartare, the game's dungeon in the form of a gigantic tower as changing as it is enigmatic. The player must then progress through the different levels of the tower, making his way through the monsters and collecting any chests and rewards on his way. A path that is a little too classic as the procedural level design of Tartare smacks of the old-fashioned RPG that we could find on Playstation 2. Despite a few small surprises here and there (rare enemies, semi-bosses to face to progress, special chests...), the exploration of Tartarus is nothing really extraordinary and the floors follow one another and are similar to the point that one is tempted to complete them quickly in order to progress.

Encounters in Persona 3 Reload are turn-based. Each character can launch a classic attack, use an item, put themselves on guard or summon their Persona to use abilities. The latter can in particular have attributes typical of RPGs with elements such as fire, wind, ice, but also other less common ones such as light, darkness, piercing damage, cutting damage, etc.

The main goal of Persona 3 Reload's combat is to find the weakness in each of your opponents. To do this, it is obviously possible to use your different abilities until you find which element is effective against a particular type of enemy. As the player progresses, other methods are unlocked to find opponents' weaknesses. Using an effective ability on an enemy not only inflicts bonus damage, but above all allows you to put the latter down! Once an entire group of enemies is on the ground, it is then possible to unleash a large group attack capable of inflicting heavy damage.

The entire P3R strategy therefore revolves around finding the element that is effective against the group of enemies in front of you in order to put them down and chain together combos. As such, this remake adds the possibility of alternating between the members of your group in order to use all available abilities. The character you control does not have an effective element against the enemy in front? It is always possible to switch to another party member if you have managed to perform an effective attack beforehand. A system as classic as it is dynamic to control your fights and chain your opponents.

Small downside regarding the difficulty: tested with the first three levels of difficulty offered, Persona 3 Reload turns out to be far too easy to navigate and the very idea of ​​seeing the "game over" screen is almost nil. This is mainly due to enemies who don't seem to want to exploit your characters' weaknesses like you would with them. Add to this the possibility of easily being able to chain the experience of your characters in the different levels of Tartarus, and you should never have difficulty being at the prerequisite level to progress.

Outside of the Dark Hour, it is possible to control your character during the day. Always following the schedule, it is obligatory to go to classes to follow the school curriculum during which you deepen the knowledge of your characters, but also their talents. There are three of them (charisma, knowledge, courage), these allow you to unlock new dialogues, NPCs or quest sequences during your adventure.

In addition to your character's talents, it is also possible to prepare your group for your next trip to Tartarus. The day can be used to buy equipment or objects that you can use against the "shadows", with the money that you can collect during the night or during odd jobs. These will also ask you to follow the calendar carefully since they are not necessarily accessible every day of the week.

Finally, each day is an opportunity for the player to build bonds with other characters in the game. These represent several tarot cards whose level can increase when you spend time or carry out activities with the characters in question. For example, by helping a certain couple in the game and discovering their past and motivations, you gain levels for the card "The Pope". The latter then allows you to grant more experience when you collect or create a new Persona of this same characteristic. However, we regret that the links are only used to gain bonus experience for Personas, and do not unlock any new gameplay or small bonuses for the main story.

Additionally, link stories vary greatly in writing quality. If some quests are quite moving, others remain quite banal or even boring to follow as the personality of the NPC in question may not please the player. The obligation to strengthen the links will, however, encourage you to understand the psychology of each character to try to please them and go their way, making certain links very superficial or even downright forced.

In addition to the addition of new small gameplay mechanics, this remake of Persona 3 benefits above all from revised and improved graphics, both in terms of cutscenes and the in-game engine. The result is convincing: by choosing the Unreal Engine 4 engine, this Persona 3 Reload benefits from neat graphics and animations worthy of a real small animation series.

But where Persona 3 Reload really stands out is in the design of its menus and animations. Drawing heavily on the themes that made Persona 5 famous, the aesthetic of P3R is resolutely pop and littered with small animations here and there which give a very lively side to the game's menus. Where those of the original opus remained very sober and classic in layouts and animations, the menus of Persona 3 Reload are a real little lesson in game design which make every little management of your game very pleasant, whether it concerns the abilities, the members of the group , the game schedule or the items in your possession.

We were able to try Persona 3 Reload on PC (via the Steam platform) and Steam Deck. The title demonstrated excellent performance on both supports, even if we still encountered several slowdowns in certain passages of the game, fortunately corrected via a later update.

By adopting a new graphics engine, some gameplay additions and a revisited soundtrack, Persona 3 Reload offers an experience that is as classic as it is gripping. If the title does not intend to redefine the modern RPG like Persona 5 did in its time, it still offers a very pleasant approach to a role-playing game with a very decent lifespan and easy-to-learn mechanics. .

We will perhaps regret a fairly non-existent difficulty (at least up to the "normal" level) as the enemies seem not to want to concentrate on the weaknesses of our group as well as certain subplots linked to social links which sometimes prove anecdotal or frustrating due to the personality of the NPCs to adopt to progress.

Persona 3 Reload, however, remains a very pleasant experience for any fan of the genre and should keep you busy for many hours, whether you are a fan of the license or not. Owners of the original opus may find the remake a little too tame, but will be satisfied with the new graphics and small new gameplay features.