Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable, the third North American release of Persona 3 since 2007, would be easy to dismiss as a quick cash-in on the popularity the series has gained since its release. Those who do that however would be selling the game short and missing out on an experience that feels surprisingly original. Whether you're picking up your first Persona title or playing Persona 3 for the third time, there is enough in this game to make it feel brand new.
"Persona 3 Portable is the perfect game for the PSP..."
Anyone who has been following Persona 3 Portable should know that along with the original male protagonist, gamers can now opt to play as the new female one. Having been this through one time before, I felt if I was going to spend another seventy hours with these characters I'd rather see it from the new girl's perspective. So far, just this one simple change has been enough to make the experience fresh and exciting. Much like playing Persona 4 after Persona 3, it was the character interactions that really changed things up as the fundamentals were the same. So this time while there isn't a whole new cast, the new interactions you have with characters is very entertaining.
During my original Persona 3 playthrough, I befriended Kenji first thing, as he's the first person to reach out to you. You slowly warm up to each other and soon learn about his MILF-loving tendancies, a charming and tender moment of bonding. However in my playthrough as a female, Junpei is the first person to buddy up to you. So instead of just learning about Junpei during the scripted story events, players can now learn more about his past and his personality. Not all of the social links are brand new in this version, as the older couple that run the bookstore are still the same, however, there are quite a few new ones and it's nice to see things from a different perspective.
The other part of Persona 3 Portable that I love is that it is so much faster to do things than before. Moving around outside of Tartarus is menu-based, as you move the cursor around and select what to interact with instead of moving your character. It's quick and cuts down on time wasted moving around the world. There is also the added feature of having a single button to press to bring up a travel shortcut menu. Sure the lack of seeing character sprites interacting during social links is a little saddening, but it's worth the sacrifice to speed things up. I've only leveled up a few links to around level four, so it is possible that a maxed social link will have more visuals for the more important moments; I cannot say.
Having played the first block of Tartarus and the first Full Moon event, I can easily say that I'm hooked again. Persona 3 Portable is the perfect game for the PSP, as having a portable version of this game makes it so much easier to pick up and put down in short bursts. Further helping that is how quick the game is to progress in thanks to these new shortcuts. Anyone who missed the first two releases on the PS2 should jump on this right away, as it's an experience not to miss out on... especially since you get a free Junpei hat with the first batch of games that ships.