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‘Persona 3 Reload’ breathes new life into cult classic

Before 2024 there wasn’t a definitive best version of “Persona 3.” Any new fans who wanted to go back to play the cult classic would have to decide between two versions that had their own flaws and advantages. Now, with “Persona 3 Reload,” there’s a version of the game that combines the best features of all past iterations with remade graphics.

The basic premise of “Persona” is the same. You play as a high schooler who unlocks the ability to summon powerful entities that used to fight monstrous shadows. Players must juggle daily life and combat as they strengthen their party and build social links with others.

This game’s darker tone helps to separate it from its more popular sequels. Accepting death and dealing with loss is a central theme of the story, creating a gloominess that permeates the whole game. One aspect of the presentation that doesn’t stack up to the old version is the soundtrack. The new songs and remixes do a decent job of recreating the sound of the original, but there’s just no replacing those old songs. The new English dub is also hit-and-miss.

A divisive aspect of “Persona 3” has always been the dungeon, Tartarus. Unlike other RPGs where players go through different areas and dungeons throughout the entire thing, Tartarus is the central location where most combat takes place. It can be tiring to just ascend floors over and over again until you hit a boss fight, and the lack of visual variety adds to that sameness. Thankfully, the developers added some features like monad passages, locked chests and removing fatigue to spice things up.

“Persona” games are known to have great combat, and even though the “Reload” combat isn’t as good as it is in “Persona 5,” it’s still great. The turn-based system is still centered on exploiting weaknesses playing carefully. New attacks called theurgies were also added, which are a huge help in challenging boss battles. As time goes on it feels like the brutal difficulty that Atlus’ games were known for is going away, so while combat is still satisfying, it doesn’t feel as rewarding when the game is handing the player so many tools.

Due to all the changes and the fact that this is a remake of a game that came before the ones that made the series explode in popularity, I would say this game is perfect for newcomers. With “Reload,” new players have a path to get into “Persona 4 Golden” and then “Persona 5 Royal.” They make for one of the best RPG trilogies out there, and they’re must-plays for fans of the genre.

This game’s story has good pacing despite being dozens of hours long, and it has some of the best characters in the entire series. Even though the script was redone, the writing isn’t full of all the fluff that so many modern, anime-styled RPGs have. It’s a fantastic game that is unfortunately held back by some boring dungeon design and mixed presentation. “Persona 3 Reload” earns four stars out of five.