Persona 3: Perfect
OK, are you back? Ok, now that everyone should be caught up, let's talk about the differences between Persona 3: FES and Persona 3 Portable.
I'll start off by telling what is missing from the PS2 version. Since we are dealing with much smaller media here (and MORE content in the end), some stuff didn't quite make the transition. The biggest loss by far is the elimination of the animated cutscenes. Some of them were pretty powerful, and while Atlus has chosen to recreate them with in-engine assets, the stilted animations don't convey the emotion as well as the original. Still, there were only a handful of these in original game, and you can watch them on YouTube if you so desire. Another major change was the elimination of the 3D environments to walk around in. Instead you get static shots and a cursor to move around the screen and select hotspots for actions. Pressing Square brings up a menu that lets you quickly jump to different sections of a location (think the different floors of the school) as well as go straight to the town map, which does end up saving a lot of time and mindless meandering, but the PSP nublet ends up causing even this process to be more difficult than it should be. The only other significant loss is that the entire epilogue chapter,The Answer, that was in FES is removed from this version. Which isn't as bad of a loss as it seems, as the gameplay was pretty different from the rest of the game, and was essentially a 40 hour long dungeon crawl with a few cutscenes that can also be seen on YouTube. There is more than enough compelling extra content here to make up for that loss.
So much extra content, in fact that it is hard to know where to begin. The first thing you will notice when you boot up P3P (other than the new intro, although they once again included the timeless Burn My Dread intro from the very first version if you sit on the menu screen long enough) is that you can now choose your gender when starting a new game. No longer are you limited to emo boy with his hands in his pockets all the time. Now you can also be a pretty peppy looking girl as well. Not only that, but when you choose to be the girl, the game is radically different. It starts with all the menus (and gui and EVERYTHING) going from that deep blue to a vibrant pink. It permeates the entire game, as the are new S-Links in place of many of the male ones, the S-Links that are the same have new dialogues and new stories, and many of the conversations in the game are radically different. The main plot doesn't change much, if at all, but nearly the entire social aspect of the game is rewritten for the female protagonist.
The girls don't get ALL the good stuff though. There are still a whole host of changes to the gameplay in general that affect the male protagonist as well. Let's take a look at those:
- One of the major complaints in the PS2 versions was the lack of control over your party members in combat. Personally I found the wide array of tactical settings for them to be enough, but there were occasions where Yukari just flat out refused to heal me. P3P uses the Persona 4 style of allowing you to control each party member as if they were the main character (although they cannot switch Personas) or still set them to use tactics if you prefer. This does end up making battles a bit easier, and eliminates those moments of frustration when Mitsuru tries to charm that damn uncharmable enemy for the fifth time.
- There are four new Personas, bringing the total to 170. Personas now also have a Spell Card (some still have Heart Items as well) that they give you after reaching a certain level. These cards can then be used to add that spell to any other Persona. This makes Personas much more customizable, and as a result also makes the game a bit easier as you can craft up a perfect Persona for any fight.
- Elizabeth now has a male counterpart (Theodore) and you can select either of them to be in the velvet room when you start the game (regardless of your own choice of gender). Theo's dates can be just as surreal as Elizabeths!
- The Shrine has a number of new features, including the ability to duplicate any spell card you have for free, and a shrine where you can pray and have your S-Links improved. Very helpful if you get reversed.
- There are now part-time jobs you can do if the afternoons and evenings that not only pay you a fairly decent sum of money (2500-400 yen) but also slightly increase two of your stats (Academics, Charm, Courage). These were really handy.
- New quests are available with special rewards to recover lost party members in Tartarus, given to you by Officer Kurosawa. These also add a bunch of extra dialogue to the game.
There are countless other tiny changes and improvements all over the place as you play the game. One things that has not changed however is Tartarus. It does still get a bit grindy when you are forced to do that to level up, or look for a Juzumaru for Theodore. It is still just the same single dungeon throughout the entire game that only goes through cosmetic changes and feature floor after floor of blandness. Thankfully everything outside of Tartarus is still fantastic, and you can still whizz through battles in under a minute almost every time. It certainly isn't any worse than when it was in previous versions.
If you haven't played Persona 3 before, this is absolutely where you should start if you have a PSP. The additions refine the already great gameplay so much, that they easily overcome the lack of cutscenes. If you have played before, playing as a female combined with all the other changes is enough to warrant playing it through a second (or third) time, especially since it should be shorter this time around (although in these terms that means you will finish in 50-60 hors rather than 80-100). Returning players should definitely play as a female, while new players would probably be better off going with the male side, since the female story has a lot of nods to the male side that you won't quite grasp if you haven't beaten the game already. Persona 3 was one of the last great RPG's on the PlayStation, and now it is taking it's place as one of the best on the PSP.