by: Mike Katsufrakis
I’ve often thought that the Shin Megami Tensei (MegaTen) series of late has a lot to owe to the success of Pokemon, what with all of the Demon/Persona collecting, combining them to form more powerful allies and all, but it occurs to me that if Pokemon allowed you to date underage high schoolers and summon monsters by shooting yourself repeatedly in the head, I’d probably like Pokemon a lot more. As is, I’ll have to stick with Persona 3 Portable, a fantastic PSP adaptation of my favorite JRPG since the heady days of the SNES.
P3P takes the base formula of the FES edition of Persona 3 and adds several new features, all of them great excuses to return to Gekkoukan High and its dark counterpart, Tartarus. The most significant addition is the ability to play as a female main character, which turns most of the social interactions with other students on their heads. Your rivals as the male main character might become viable love interests as the female, and so on. Despite the fact your interface turns pink, it’s an interesting take on the existing story. Playing as the female character also changes up a lot of the game’s soundtrack, though I’m too attached to the old tunes and find I miss them.
Additionally, the battle system has received a much-needed upgrade. In the original Persona 3 (and FES), your party members were controlled by the AI, which could often lead to a cheap death due to the AI making a bad choice. P3P instead gives you the option to directly control your party members (as in Persona 4), which lowers the difficulty quite a bit.
As you’ve probably heard me say repeatedly on the Co-Opticast, I can’t recommend Persona 3 (and 4) enough. This is a fantastic JRPG series, and it really stands out from the crowd of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest clones out there. If you haven’t played this yet, this is probably the best entry point for the series, and if you’ve already explored the crap out of Tartarus, the new character and battle changes should be enough to lure you back in.