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Happy Anniversary to Persona 3 FES, Which Needs a Remaster More Than Ever

STARTING SCREEN | Kick off your week with Persona, Knuckle Sandwich's free demo, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Feature by Kat Bailey, .

My first encounter with Persona came courtesy of an online gift exchange in the waning days of 2008. I knew next to nothing about the series in those days, only that it was an RPG about teenagers who shot themselves in the head to summon demons. It was my first introduction to a series that I would come to really love.

Ten years later, it's the 10th anniversary of the North American release of Persona 3 FES—the enhanced version of the original game featuring more Personas, a hard mode, and the ability to take the dog Koromaru on walks (the original Persona 3 was released in North America in 2007). It also includes "The Answer," a 30-hour bonus episode that picks up after the conclusion of the original story.

Like its better-known successors, Persona 3 is the story of a handful of Japanese teenagers who find themselves drawn into bizarre and supernatural events. In this case, they are trying to solve the mystery behind The Dark Hour—a strange period in which humans become coffins, shadows appear, and a dark tower called the Tartarus replaces their high school. When they aren't climbing the tower and fighting demons, they're attending classes, clubs, and yes, dating.

Persona 3 was a dramatic reinvention of the first two games, popularizing the now familiar day-by-day format found in the later games. It isn't as well-known as its successors, though, mostly because it's not very accessible. Persona 5 has versions on both PS3 and PS4, and Persona 4 has a splendid definitive version on the Vita. Persona 3, however, is split between multiple versions on outdated consoles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Curious newcomers can either choose between FES, which is available on PSN but suffers badly from being locked in standard definition, or Persona 3 Portable—the PSP port that bears a closer resemblance to a point-and-click adventure than a free-roaming RPG. Each has features that the other lacks. FES has the extra chapter and open exploration, making it feel more in step with other games in the series. Portable lets you play primarily as a girl and directly control your party. Combine these features and you might have the single best Persona game ever made.

Instead, Persona 3 languishes in the shadow of Persona 4 and 5, which is too bad because it has a lot to offer over its successors. Its dark examination of fate contrasts mightily with the sunnier Persona 4, and its dungeon exploration and day-to-day schedule meshes together better as well. It's not as complex or beautifully realized as Persona 5, but it's also not as bloated. It's even possible to say some nice things about the Taratarus—the randomized tower that you must climb day by day through the course of the story.

A proper remaster for the Switch or PlayStation 4 (or the Xbox One!) would allow these qualities to shine again. It would bring together the disparate elements of FES and Persona 3 Portable into what could finally be called a "definitive version." And most importantly, it would allow a whole new generation of fans to properly experience Persona 3's story for the first time.

We roll our eyes at remasters, but they play an important role in connecting gamers with the medium's history. I don't personally care for Shenmue, but given how hard it's been to access and play over the years, I'm glad that it's getting an updated re-release for new generation. It's the equivalent of taking a movie that's only ever received a home release on VHS and putting it on Blu-ray and Netflix for the first time.

Persona 3 is more accessible than Shenmue (or Valkyrie Profile!), but it gets a little harder to play with each passing year. Without some sort of updated release, it will eventually be lost to all but the most hardcore fans.

A decade on from Persona 3's original release, the format that it helped pioneer is more popular than ever. It's time to let a new generation see where it all began.

This Week's Notable Releases

  • BattleTech [April 24]: BattleTech returns to PC in this updated version of the original board game. Developed by the original's creator, Jordan Weisman, it's a turn-based strategy game firmly grounded in the universe of the FASA series. This has been a long time coming for MechWarrior fans, who haven't seen a proper video game release for their favorite series in a very long time. Hopefully it lives up to the legacy of the original.
  • South Park: The Fractured but Whole [April 24]: A port of last year's follow-up to Stick of Truth lands on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow. We were reasonably positive in our review, and it feels like a good fit for the Switch. Of course, South Park is a very particular taste these days. You'll know right away if you're down to spend 20 hours with its brand of humor.
  • Frostpunk [April 24]: A new city-building survival sim by the creators of Anomaly: Warzone Earth, Frostpunk is about building a civilization amid the brutal elements. It features a beautiful art style not to mention some very interesting strategy concepts. Definitely a game to check out if you're a fan of the individual elements it blends together.
  • Gal*Gun 2 [April 24]: The infamous rail shooter returns on the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4. To quote its Wikipedia article, "The player fends off waves of female classmates using the pheromone shot, a power granted to the protagonist, Houdai via the cupid, Ekoro. If the player shoots the girl, the pheromone shot will give them euphoria, subduing them in process, thus preventing them from confessing their love feelings to the player that will damage player's HP if they succeed." The original was a bit of an odd cult favorite, and the sequel is apt to appeal to the same audience. I really want to see the uncomfortable looks when someone brings it on a plane with them.
  • Super Robot Wars X [April 26]: Super Robot Wars is back on PlayStation 4 and Vita this week. While it's technically a Japanese release, a localized version can be found on most import sites. This version includes appearances by mechs from Gurren Lagann, Gundam ZZ, and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, as well as the debut of Reconguista in G. If you want to know more, you should check out my (admittedly old) guide to the series. Small piece of advice: Check out Super Robot Wars V. Depending on your tastes, it might have a better selection of robots, and it's apt to be cheaper too.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Theme of Simon (Castlevania: Bloodlines)

No one's ever called me out on how infrequently I highlight Genesis tunes on Note Block Beat Box, even though I thoroughly deserve to be called out. I guess I just don't have a lot of nostalgic feelings for twangy Genesis music (outside of Sonic games, which really knew how to make that FM synth shine), even though Sega's 16-bit soundtracks carry an indelible signature.

Well, let's finally give the Genesis' sound chip the credit it (sort of) deserves. Outside of the aforementioned Sonic games, Konami's Theme of Simon from Castlevania Bloodlines might be the best example of the Genesis' capabilities put to full use. It also has a twin: Theme of Simon from Castlevania IV on the SNES. Theme of Simon on the Genesis plays around a lot with the well-loved tune, and the experimentation works brilliantly, but Theme of Simon for the SNES has dat bass. I still favor the SNES iteration, but I won't say "no" to the Genesis version of Theme of Simon on a spooOooOooOky Halloween night.

Mike's Media Minute

I could just write "INFINITY WAR" over and over again in all caps and it would be accurate for this week. A Quiet Place grabbed number one at the box office again, ending Rampage's short reign, but everything is really just counting down until Avengers touches down like a thunderbolt.

Let's talk numbers. Avengers: Infinity War is currently estimated to take anywhere from $235 million to $255 million at the domestic box office this weekend, according to the analysts at Box Office Pro. If it hit the upper end of that range, that would put Infinity War ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the biggest opening weekend of all-time. Surprisingly, the analysts don't see Infinity War reaching the heights Force Awakens, Avatar, or even Black Panther with its domestic total, which is estimated at $650 million on the high-end. Superhero films usually aren't leggy performers, tending to be more front-loaded than most. Films like Black Panther and Wonder Woman are more the exception than the rule.

Unfortunately, this also means there's not much to talk about in terms of film this week. It's a matter of seeing how far Infinity War will go and what is going to round out the rest of the Top 10. Assuming A Quiet Place continues its strength, that could easily take second place, with Rampage falling to third. One interesting potential move is Black Panther, which was #7 this past weekend, but could see a bump from Infinity War's release. Could Marvel's tentpole push Black Panther to $700 million domestic? Doubtful, but that'd be interesting to see.

Caty's AltGame Corner

I've had my eye on Knuckle Sandwich, the adorable Earthbound by way of WarioWare RPG that's in development from Andrew Brophy, for quite awhile. The project hit Kickstarter last week (and has already hit its funding goal), and a little bit after that, got its own free demo on itch.io too. Knuckle Sandwich follows the life of boy who moves away from home to a new city, and finds himself embroiled in some mysteries. While what's only available right now is just a small sliver of all the zany minigames and other activities the game will have to offer, the demo is well worth the download for PC and Mac.

This Week's News and Notes

  • I'm in the process of saying goodbye to my PlayStation 2 at the moment, and I find myself unexpectedly wistful about it. I bought it way back in 2005, modded it with a fliptop in 2007, and have subsequently spent hundreds of enjoyable hours gaming on it. It's resided in a storage basket over the past year, mostly because I can't plug it into my current TV. Part of me wants to find a way to make it work through a Framemeister or another solution, but another part knows that it's time to let go. Nevertheless, I'm holding on to my copy of Super Robot Wars Alpha 3. You never know when it might come in handy...
  • Quantic Dreams is in the midst of a nasty fight with the French press, and Matt has this explainer of what exactly is happening. Suffice it to say, the accusations leveled against David Cage's studio are ugly, and they cast a long shadow over the impending release of Detroit: Become Human.
  • Like everyone else, I'm currently in the midst of playing God of War. It's still too early to have a real definitive opinion of it, but I have to say that it features some of the best use of HDR I've seen this generation. It even puts a lot of Xbox One X games to shame. In the meantime, I'm making use of our God of War walkthroughs whenever I get stuck, which is more often than I'd care to admit. Stupid traversal puzzles.
  • How realistic is the life of Kazuma Kiryu? Reid McCarter returns to break it all down in this fantastic look at the real gangs of Japan as they relate to Yakuza 6.
  • In a surprise announcement, Campo Santo revealed that they were acquired by Valve over the weekend. This whole Valve making games thing is really happening, isn't it?
  • Random Monday Musing: Here's how I would fix Monster Hunter: World's endgame. Right now it basically shows its entire hand from the start, then has you fight more powerful versions of every monster for the endgame. If Capcom wants to keep people playing, it should have something to shoot for, like a handful of unique Elder Dragons. As it is, I'm struggling to find a reason to keep playing outside of the fact that it's fun and I don't really want to give it up. Fix your endgame, Capcom! I really need an excuse to put another hundred hours into Monster Hunter: World.
  • The USgamer Podcast: On this week's USgamer Podcast, Caty, Nadia, and Mike mourn the death of both Kazuma Kiryu and Call of Duty single-player campaigns while talking Rampage, God of War, and more. Subscribe here!
  • Axe of the Blood God: In this week's Axe of the Blood God, Nadia and I finally get a chance to really give voice to our frustrations with Ni No Kuni 2. Spoilers ahoy! Subscribe here!

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Comments 21

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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #1 SatelliteOfLove 6 months ago
    "It's not as complex or beautifully realized as Persona 5, but it's also not as bloated."

    Gotta disagree cuz HOOO BOY that post-moon boss stretch. Tartarus -> school -> Tartarus -> school with very few plot points was rouuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #2 Kat.Bailey 6 months ago
    @SatelliteOfLove Funny, it's the exposition in P5 that I find bloated. What you're describing is pretty much perfect to me.
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  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #3 Kat.Bailey 6 months ago
    Deleted April 2018 by Kat.Bailey
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  • Avatar for yuberus #4 yuberus 6 months ago
    Man though... randomized dungeons are real hard to go back to after playing Persona 5. If a remake happens I'd almost prefer if they didn't have it random.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #5 riderkicker 6 months ago
    I played through Persona FES thrice, and my sibling got through A LOT of P3Portable even trying to beat Elizabeth on the first playthrough. I definitely want a Switch/PS4/PC rebuild with all the features of those games combined in a neat package.

    I think I like P3's AI better than in 4 or 5, because it really forced you to be the commander of your crew. When I played it, I did get a little frustrated that my party would end up hitting the wrong enemies, especially when they prevented us from doing an all out attack. As I got further up the tower, I knew each member's strengths and weaknesses, and the AI worked with my intentions in each battle. The final boss battle was indeed a crown achievement of this system, especially when you realize the party's Personae will never rival your own, but they were a team, a band of brothers. I may be over/under thinking this, and I wonder if anybody interviewed the programmers regarding this. These days, I just shut off the AI control, as I feel it's not as satisfying as it was before, but I should really pay attention now.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #6 catymcc 6 months ago
    @SatelliteOfLove Persona 3 has the best social links of any of the games so this structure never bothered me tbh. I feel like I felt it more in Persona 4 where the social links are just.... okay mostly.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #7 riderkicker 6 months ago
    @yuberus As someone who played the three Persona games, I found playing the SMT mainline games quite punishing. I guess Atlus knows how to shape tastes for its different players within its niche.

    I'm fine with the randomized dungeons, but only if they don't create a huge hassle.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #8 yuberus 6 months ago
    @riderkicker I just rolled right into Persona 4 Golden after finishing 5 and it was just... kind of boring? Like the dungeons were mostly terrible and I really just wanted to rush through them. I liked the primary cast (though nearly everyone in the side cast I had a hard time summoning interest in) but on the whole it felt like a much worse game than 5 to play. Also, your character being the endlessly popular kid that everyone loves was a particular kind of wish fulfillment I didn't really want. Left me with very little desire to start on P3P anytime soon by the end (though I would still totally kick Persona 5 back on)
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #9 NiceGuyNeon 6 months ago
    So I played Persona 3 Portable, and to be fair, it's about as accessible as Persona 4 Golden unless there's something I don't know about barring people from buying PSP games digitally? I really liked the point and click aspect because I felt it saved me a ton of time, it took me to different social links easily and it only applied to the over world. In the dungeons you had full control of your characters. Persona 3 did have a strong beginning and ending, but that middle portion is crucial for RPGs and without compelling dungeons it just was a bit too much. That said, a remaster would still be nice.

    Admittedly, if they remaster 3 they should port Golden at least too because Persona 4 > Persona 3.
    @SatelliteOfLove You know what, that was my problem with Persona 3 too! I took a break for like 6 months because that was such a massive slog of like OK I'm doing the same thing and nothing cool is happening at all! Persona 4 got me way more invested than 3. It's not just a definite flaw, it's a major flaw.
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  • Avatar for nilcam #10 nilcam 6 months ago
    I love Persona 3 so much. I've played the original, FES, and Portable. I really liked the point and click movement in portable. I really liked the AI in FES; each character played to their strengths in a predictable way. I knew Yukari would prioritize healing and I always knew Junpei would bash enemies. That made the characters feel so real, like I really know these people. That's role playing!

    And, my god, the music. The P3 soundtrack is unbeatable.

    I also loved how quickly things felt epic. In the first few hours, you fight that monster on the roof and it is intense. The only negative about P3 is that it ruined the series for me. I tried P4 and it bored me for four hours and I moved on. It does crack me up that P4 straight up rips off Scooby Doo. Honestly, Chie has Velma's hairstyle and Yosuke is Shaggy down to the voice. I tried P5 and, while it's beautiful, the story bogged down after the first palace. When they added in the dungeon as well, I checked out. There's a beautiful simplicity in P3's Tartarus that cannot be surpassed.
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  • Avatar for GamerInTheory #11 GamerInTheory 6 months ago
    Listening to bloodlines' Theme of Simon Belmont makes me kind of sad. Because it has a rather subdued sound, because it comes from a game I missed and whose funds I presently lack to procure, because it makes me pine for the good old days? Well, yes, yes, and yes. But the *main* reason is that the designers practically ditched the moog synthesizer sound placed early in the song's beginning, and it was oh so beautiful; it could of been the whole song! This music director's not trusting What Actually Sounds Good is an epidemic, a problem that has spanned many generations, covered many games, and, sniff, has sabotaged many a gamer' s life by creating hell through a process know as non-gamer-friends-sneering. Find that difficult to fathom? Well, play Yoshi's Island Stage 1 music to a family member/friend/stranger THEN play Your Voice from Legend of Legaia Duel Saga. You'll KNOW what I mean.

    And I have absolutely no idea how to segue this into anything resembling the main topic. Nope. None at all. Probably because I've just suddenly lost the will to play a videogame for the night. If you'll excuse me I'm gonna get a box of tissues.Edited April 2018 by GamerInTheory
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  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #12 not_themilkybarkid 6 months ago
    Man, that Bloodlines music is just so good. Can't believe that game isn't available to buy at all.

    Come on Konami, get M2 to make a Castlevania Collection, and re-release all those old games!Edited April 2018 by not_themilkybarkid
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #13 JamesSwiftDay 6 months ago
    I know everyone has probably said this, but Persona 3, 4 and 5 need to come to Switch.

    Dungeon crawling feels far less egregious on a handheld, and would be a good time killer on the commute.
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  • Avatar for RushDawg #14 RushDawg 6 months ago
    Theme of Simon plays at totally different parts of Super Castlevania IV and Bloodlines respective adventures.

    In SCIV, it plays in the beginning of the game, which gives it a sense of adventure.

    In Bloodlines, it plays just before you confront Dracula, which gives it a more triumphant feel.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #15 kidgorilla 6 months ago
    I always felt that Persona 3 had the most satisfying ending of the series. The Answer kind of ruined it, and 4/5 are both fine, but the latter games just feel like jumping off points for ways to spinoff the series. 3's ending felt like a fulfilling conclusion to a long, hard year.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #16 Monkey-Tamer 6 months ago
    I've played part of Persona 3 on PC using an emulator. I'd pay for a Steam release. The game upscales to HD well.
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  • Avatar for Sicky #17 Sicky 6 months ago
    I'm currently playing P3Portable, and I one of the features I miss the most from the standard release is probably those awesome, fully animated cut-scenes, which are now summarily retold with CG stills and otome-style text exposition instead. While it's somewhat disappointing, I realized that the introduced option to play as a female protagonist would entail such alterations and barring completely redrawn cut-scenes, it's hard to imagine a "fully featured" Persona 3 that included the female character option without some awkward footnoting.
    That said, I am thoroughly enjoying P3P and find its reticle- and menu-driven interface charming enough and suitable for the medium, even if some drama is lost in the transition.Edited April 2018 by Sicky
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  • Avatar for Sicky #18 Sicky 6 months ago
    @catymcc I tend to agree with a comment you made that the P3 characters are more compelling and less, um, obnoxious?, than those of P4.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #19 SatelliteOfLove 6 months ago
    But there's one thing that can't be criticised of P3: music is FIYAH

    @Kat.Bailey

    I found 5's exposition quite good cuz the plot events acted like the gears that worked the characters forward. "Oh this changed" or "oh that changed" and it always had new sociopolitcal forces or team dynamics pushing to take the handoff from solved ones. It's really neat from a holistic angle and the "RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES" that the game revels in.

    @catymcc

    P4's links are hit or miss, yah. Well, not MISS, but "OK". Nothing touches Tower or the ugliness of FeMC's Hermit.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #20 AstroDemon 6 months ago
    Persona 3 is my favorite of the series, but I don't want to buy it again after FES and P3P, and I'd rather that Atlus spend time making new things rather than polishing old ones.

    The PS Vita is still trucking along, and anyone can buy the PSP versions of P1-3 on PSN for cheap and have a good time with them. Or for those that have a PS2 or the fat PS3, you can still buy P3 FES new on Amazon, along with a handful of SMT PS2 releases.
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  • Avatar for docexe #21 docexe 6 months ago
    @RushDawg There is also a reprise of Simon’s theme in SCIV during the battle against Dracula himself, after you have depleted more than half of his health. Gives a similar triumphant feeling, I believe.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #22 secularsage 6 months ago
    The main problem with Persona 3 is that there needs to be a single edition that does it all, a P3 Midnight Blue edition (or something along those lines) that puts all of the features of the various releases into a single package.

    P3P is the best version in terms of features, but it's missing the 3D graphics during the daytime elements. (It's also missing The Answer, but that's such a grindfest with such scant plot that it's hardly missed.)

    P3 FES is next-best, but it has the flaw of P3's battle system, where your teammates do idiotic things because you can't directly control them. It's also missing the great feature of playing as a female, which was a significant mode in P3P.

    Those who complain about Tartarus have a point - it's just as grindy at Mementos in P5 or some of the dungeons in P4 - and some significant changes to the visual design of the various sections would be welcome just to make things feel different. With that said, Tartarus is pretty easy to plow through, and its monotony is a minor flaw in an otherwise brilliant game.
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