Final Fantasy is arguably the biggest JRPG series of all time, but there’s something different about the more recent entries of the franchise. Final Fantasy started out using turn-based combat, but the newer games dropped that in favor of more active-style combat. The debate continues on if this is the right move.
One JRPG franchise however has stayed with its roots and has always used turn-based combat in its main entries. I am talking of course about the Persona franchise from Atlus. Aside from a few spin-offs, Persona hasn’t shied away from its turn-based past.
Most modern gamers will have already had a chance to play Persona 5 which is arguably the best game in the entire series. However, Persona 3 and Persona 4 have been hard to get because they were only released for PSP and PS Vita.
Knowing the popularity of the franchise, Atlus has now thankfully released Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden on newer gaming platforms. Aside from PlayStation gamers, players on PC, Switch ad Xbox platforms can now play the best games in the Persona franchise!
The first thing you will notice about Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden is that they’re not as flashy as Persona 5. Don’t expect to see modern-style graphics or gameplay as these releases are just remasters and not remakes.
Persona 3 Portable is quite old by today’s standards, although that does not mean you should avoid it. Graphically, Persona 4 Golden is visually more pleasing, plus the setting and gameplay are a little more advanced than its immediate predecessor.
The one thing I don’t like about Persona 3 Portable is the fact that it plays more like a point-and-click PC game. The sad thing is that you cannot control your character when you are roaming around town or socializing with people from school. The original Persona 3 on PS2 allowed you to do this, but they changed it for Persona 3 Portable on PSP which is the version we got.
Another thing that disappointed me about Persona 3 Portable is that the game only has one major dungeon called Tartarus. The main thing I didn’t like about Tartarus is that it’s the only major dungeon in the entire game and it has over 250 floors that all look the same! The game gets repetitive really fast because the dungeon looks the same and is unexciting to play through.
That being said, many people will like the story that Person 3 Portable offers. The game centers on the Dark Hour which is a mysterious period of the day that occurs after midnight. During this time, Shadows appear and the heroes have to fight them. There’s more to the story than this, although I will say the game has a slow start before it gets interesting.
Persona 4 Golden on the other hand learns of the mistakes from Persona 3 Portable and is a much better game overall. The graphics look much better, and the main character can now walk around the town on his own instead of relying on a mouse cursor.
The fourth game also has a more interesting story because you will have to figure out a murder mystery that is happening in the small town called Inaba. Someone in the town has allegedly been killing people by throwing them inside TVs. Inside the TVs, they get killed by shadows.
Since the police won’t believe a story like that, it’s up to the player and their friends to go inside the TVs to save those that have been thrown in. It’s a very interesting story that grips you from the beginning. Not to mention the characters are more likable in Persona 4 Golden than in Persona 3 Portable in my opinion.
Another thing I liked about Persona 4 Golden is that you can actually get to visit different dungeons. While the dungeons aren’t as elaborate as the palaces in Persona 5, they’re much better to explore than Tartarus from Persona 3 Portable.
Outside of dungeon crawling, a big portion of Persona games is having a social life. Both Persona 3 and 4 offer many different characters that you can hang out with. The more you hang out with friends, the stronger your Personas can get during battle.
Speaking of battles, both games offer turn-based combat much similar to that of Persona 5. Aside from a normal attack, the player can collect many Personas during gameplay that will offer different types of abilities. You can even fuse two Personas together to make an even stronger ally.
Unlike older Final Fantasy games, Both Persona 3 and 4 don’t have annoying random battles. Instead, you can see the enemies roaming around the dungeons, and you can initiate battle by approaching them. If you approach them from behind, you can get the first strike.
Aside from yourself, the other members of your party also have Personas of their own. They too can aid you in battle with their special moves. You can choose to play the other characters yourself, or you can tell the AI to control them for you if you wish.
While both Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden feel outdated compared to Persona 5, the games are still enjoyable to play mainly thanks to their strong stories. Persona 3 Portable is the weakest entry thanks to repetitive combat, but Persona 4 Golden is quite good. Both games are worth playing if you did not play through them before.
[Editor’s Note: Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden were reviewed on Xbox Series X, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.]