Atlus was nice enough to stop by Destructoid HQ to give us a first look at their progress on a the portable version of a game they already know I love: Persona 3. Persona 3 Portable came out in Japan not too long ago, and it seems like the localization process started not too long after. From what I could tell from the build Atlus brought, it seems like they're right on track for the July 6th release. Good to see.
I got to see some of of the changes in the console version as well as check out some of the key story scenes featuring the female protagonist. That's right: if you haven't heard, you'll be able to replay Persona 3 as a girl this time.
First off, let's talk about the technical changes. The PSP game will support installation to Memory Stick to dramatically reduce load times. The game is already fast, but this will make it even faster.
The new navigation cuts out walking in favor of a highlight spot that you use to select interaction points. Using either the analog nub or the d-pad, you just point to a person or object to interact. Hitting the R button toggles a hot spot indicator. While I kind of enjoyed the on-foot exploration, I like how this method is a bit faster. If you've played this game a couple of times, you'll also likely enjoy getting to the point a bit faster. On top of that, this method of navigation seems to make more sense for the portable screen size and the lack of a second analog control stick assigned to camera control.
As far as the game itself, there are plenty of changes, but I think you'll agree after reading this that they're almost all for the better.
Here are the big things: The dialogue is different as a girl, naturally. Along with this comes brand new Social Link opportunities, this time with the boys. You also have full control over your party now. There's now part-time jobs you can take, just like in Persona 4. For all the aesthetic changes you might think you're going to miss, there's significant game play improvements. I'd take more save spots over a 2 minute anime clip any day.
The cutscenes are no longer animated. Before you get too upset, think about it. It makes sense. With two choices for main characters, there would need to be double the cutscenes, with the female set requiring a full reworking. Another issue is size, as double the cutscenes would require double the storage space. Know that elements, like art and stills, have been taken from the cutscenes and are used in story segments, so you may not miss the full movies as much. Watching one early scene that takes place before the first key battle, I had to be reminded about how different it was in the original. The original had much more going on, but I honestly didn't miss it or even realize it until I was reminded.
One thing Persona 3 players had concern with is the fatigue model. It has been redone in P3P, working closer to that of Persona 4. You'll get tired less often, which means less retreating. Save spots are also far more plentiful, so you don't find yourself flinging your PSP against a wall after losing 5 floors of progress to an untimely death.
The menu looks a bit different now. There are slight tweaks, and if you're playing as a girl, everything's pink.
As far as the sound goes, there's new music. The score is a sort of upgrade, consisting of both new tunes and some remixes of old ones. I was also told that there is a lot of new recorded voice for the game, so look forward to that.
The only other change I can think of that's of note is that "The Answer" chapter from Persona 3: FES is not included in P3P. Game play enhancements and tweaks that came with FES are included, though.
Assuming you've played either Persona 3, know that I was able to check out the section of the game right after the intro, getting into the part right before the protagonist receives their power. At this stage of localization, the text was in English, but the voices were still in Japanese. They've still got a couple of months to go on this.
Even around this stage, early on, I was able to see the differences in how relations shift with a female as the main character. Just before the very first charge into battle, Junpei sounds a bit different than he did with a male protagonist assigned. For example, he sounds cautious of a female taking lead in this first battle, remarking that she's "just a girl."
Even early on, Junpei seems to show some interest in the main character. He's warming up to her, it seems. In the end, just about all of the game's major male characters will be "available." Heck, there's even a change in the Velvet Room for the girl side of the game. Get this: you can even have a relationship with Ken, the youngest main character in the game. I'm not judging you if you want to go that route.
I was able to see Yukari's budding relationship with the female protagonist as well. Yukari shares more as a friend, and relates in a totally different way than before with a male protagonist. The dynamic is totally different now. For example, in an early scene where the main character is being visited in the hospital, Yukari says, "Us second year girls have to stick up for each other after all."
As far as game play goes, I got to poke around in a few battles in different stages in the game. In the first battle, I got to hear the new battle music. It's no "Mass Destruction," but I still love it. Shuffle Time also changed, and seems a bit more like Persona 4's version. Later, I got to use Atlus' debug save file to battle in Tatarus, with all characters at max level, 999 hit points. Everything was one-hit kills. Good times. Controls were snappy and the loading was fast. Best of all, the game translates very well to the PSP's screen. In fact, the PSP's screen flatters the game a bit. At the time, the female protagonist's equipped armor was called Battle Panties.
I forgot how much I love this game.
Sure, it's smaller, but this is Persona 3 at its best and most enhanced form. It takes every improvement from Persona 3: FES and Persona 4, adds a female protagonist, many new story elements and social links, and sticks it in your pocket. What else do you even need?
Persona 3 Portable will be released on July 6th for $39.99.
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