Two of the greatest Japanese RPGs ever made have finally come to modern gaming systems in high definition, brought to you by Atlus Persona 3 portable and Persona 4 Golden for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One (and i Portable‘s case, PC). While it’s easy to be intimidated by their length – both clocking in at over 60 hours apiece – they still offer two of the genre’s best experiences and are well worth the investment.
These classics haven’t been tampered with too much, thankfully, as Atlus has instead focused on adding some solid quality-of-life upgrades rather than overhauling everything. For example, players can switch between any of the five difficulty levels at any time, which was not a luxury in the previous releases. This is great as there are a few difficult boss fights that can be quite difficult without being the right level or having the right personas. There’s also the ability to quick save at any point in a dungeon rather than having to reach a designated save point, reducing the stress that save points often bring and the tedium associated with tracking one down. Players can even now revisit moments of social links in Golden via a photo album, a small touch for those who want to relive these moments in a more convenient way.
Although both have been slightly modernized, new players, as backward as it may seem, should check out Persona 4 Golden first. A remastered version of the PS2 hit includes one of the most memorable casts of characters in all of gaming, an extremely satisfying battle system, and a story that revolves around a dark murder mystery in a small Japanese town. While the opening hours start off a bit slow, the world and character building all pay off when players head to its shadow world, where players will encounter all manner of demons while solving the supernatural case.
Regardless of starting position, both are great games because they take the time to flesh out their characters in ways that are still impressive today. Using a calendar system, the two allow players to choose how they want to spend their downtime in the world. Whether it’s taking a part-time job to earn more money and develop their own abilities or grinding in a dungeon, this gives a large amount of choice and variety to each person’s playthrough.
However, the most rewarding aspect is spending time with party members and developing friendships with them. Each character has a social link that can level up, rewarding players with new combat abilities and backstories for each character. Over the course of the several hangout sessions, sometimes closed between your own social skills (such as the amount of kindness or courage you’ve developed), you’ll get to know and care about the characters on a new level. You can even start a romantic relationship with someone special if you wish (or even more so if you’re a double time monster).
It is almost impossible not to grow and love these characters through the twists and turns of the story. While there are other games that compete with its length, like the recent ones Assassin’s Creed contributions and other RPGs, they are often bloated with uneventful side quests and characters that do not undergo meaningful changes in their own story arc. What is so special about the latest Persona titles is that each cast member is given time to grow and there’s little fluff despite the length – it’s long because there’s a lot of story to tell rather than just being padded to keep players engaged in its ecosystem longer . Even the moments that seem inconsequential to the core story, such as a class field trip, lead to character dynamics changing and meaningful moments occurring.
Even though Persona 3 portablethe oldest of the three moderns Persona records that are now playable across all modern systems have aged gracefully. The story is a little wilder than that Personas 4 and 5s more grounded narratives, as there are some sci-fi elements, such as androids, and high-stakes, worldwide threats. Despite these twists, its darker themes still resonate today and Portable refining its gameplay and features to be more like Personas 4so it won’t feel like a step back in any way.
This is true of each of these ports, and they all feel varied and different enough to where it never feels like a rehash of the same ideas. Time has also been kind to these entries, as they both stand out enough from each other and the gaming scene as a whole. The small tweaks made here have only further cemented them as some of the best RPGs of all time and made them more comfortable to play.
Disclosure: PlayStation 4 copies were provided to us by the publisher Persona 3 portable and Persona 4 Golden function. The game on version 1.00.