Persona 3 Portable & Persona 4 Golden Nintendo Switch Review


Following October’s port of Persona 5 Royal, several of the series’ older games are making their way to all modern platforms. While Persona 4 Golden has been on Steam since summer 2020, Persona 3 Portable has been a PlayStation Portable exclusive since its 2009 release, and no version of Persona 3 has been available since the PS3 and Vita era. Given how many were introduced to the franchise with Persona 5, this will likely be the first time newer fans are able to play older Persona games.

After spending some time playing both titles on Nintendo Switch, I can say with confidence that Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are perfect fits for the hybrid system, just like Persona 5 Royal. While these two games certainly show their age, the Switch is the perfect place to experience these massive and incredible adventures.

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Persona 3 Portable & Persona 4 Golden Are Products of Their Time

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Before playing either of these games, it’s important to understand their history. Persona 3 Portable is a PSP release of a PlayStation 2 game that both added and removed features from the original version and the other expanded version, FES. P3P introduced the option to play as the existing male protagonist or his new female counterpart, which comes with a slightly different telling of the game’s story and new Social Links for her to complete, and some quality-of-life improvements, such as the option to directly control allies rather than depending on AI.

However, bringing the game to the less powerful PSP hardware required technical sacrifices. Instead of exploring the overworld like in the original version (and later Persona games), Persona 3 Portable takes a point-and-click approach to interact with environments outside of Tartarus. It also excludes “The Answer” storyline of Persona 3 FES, which serves as an epilogue to the main story, called “The Journey.”

Beyond that, the game maintains other limitations that are products of their era and may frustrate contemporary players. The most obvious two examples are the inability to choose which moves a Persona will inherit through fusion and the fact that party members will replace old moves with new ones automatically, reducing the player’s freedom in shaping and customizing their team. The former makes it particularly hard to complete Elizabeth’s fusion requests, essentially requiring players to select and deselect Persona until the random generation pulls the move they need. Things like this aren’t game-breaking, and Persona 3 Portable is certainly enjoyable despite these issues, but it is a pretty clear reminder of the PS2 era’s weaknesses.

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<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>an all-out attack screen from Persona 4 Golden featuring the protagonist, Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko

As for Persona 4 Golden, it’s a truly expanded version of the PS2 original made for the PS Vita. The more powerful hardware meant Atlus didn’t have to make sacrifices when porting the game, even adding new Social Links, events, a bonus dungeon, Wi-Fi features, and more. Still, while the story, artwork, and anime cutscenes certainly hold up, the character models and dungeons of both games have clearly aged, reminding players that these are essentially PlayStation 2 games at their core.

That by no means makes these games outdated or not worth playing; far from it, Persona 3 and Persona 4 (in any form) are must-plays for any JRPG fan. The things that make these games worth playing — from their compelling stories to their character designs to their battle systems — far outweigh any clunky mechanics or antiquated character models that come with their origins as mid-to-late-00s releases. The option to customize each game’s difficulty (a feature included in the Steam release of P4G) even addresses a major issue many gamers have when playing older games: the need to grind in the face of punishing difficulty and level jumps. In addition to five set difficulty options, players can choose to increase (or decrease) how much experience they earn from each battle and whether they get another chance after falling in battle. Golden has additional options, like increasing or decreasing the amount of money earned from combat.

Still, while Golden is clearly the definitive way to play Persona 4, that’s not really the case for Persona 3. Portable is obviously becoming the most accessible iteration of the game, and its female protagonist and improvements to the battle system are welcome, but “The Answer” and true overworld exploration are major exclusions. Should recent rumors of a remake be accurate, Atlus will have a chance to create the ultimate version of Persona 3, but until then, this is a good — though imperfect — way to experience an important game that has been hard to access for years now.

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Nintendo Switch Is the Perfect Home for Massive JRPGs Like Persona

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>official artwork of the main character's of Persona 3, Persona 4, and Persona 5, including P3P's female protagonist

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden run fantastically on Nintendo Switch considering their ages, where they originally released, and the fact that Persona 5 Royal runs without issue on the platform. In fact, these games are even smoother; I can’t recall an instance where I actually noticed the loading time on P3P the way I did when playing Royal on Switch, and the occasional minor image quality issues are absent here.

Beyond that, these games are simply perfect fits for a handheld/home console hybrid like the Switch. It’s hard to understate how great it is to have the option to take massive JRPGs like these on the go. Even a main story-only run of P3P or P4G will take at least 60-70 hours, and those who want to experience all the games have to offer can easily sink 100+ hours into each. On top of there, there are the bonuses New Game+ adds and, in Persona 3 Portable‘s case, the option to experience “The Journey” from a new perspective by playing as the other protagonist.

I’m sure the games run a little better on other systems (I can say from first-hand experience that P4G‘s load times on Steam Deck are barely noticeable the way they are on Switch), but the flexibility and availability of the Switch makes it the ideal home for these games. Atlus has finally made two of the best JRPG ever made accessible to even more players, and whether you’re a longtime fan looking to revisit an old favorite, among the many introduced to the series by Persona 5, or a newcomer curious why every modern JRPG gets compared to Persona, that’s something to celebrate.

Developed and published by Atlus, Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden release on Jan. 19 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. Review copies were provided by the publisher.


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