Persona 3 was the start of something special for the series. While the previous Persona titles had a small niche following, the franchise didn’t really blossom into the successful, critically acclaimed series until Persona 3 released on PlayStation 2 in August 2007 (USA).
Here’s a quick synopsis of Persona 3 if you’ve forgotten — via the Persona Wiki
“Persona 3 follows a group of high school students trying to cope with, understand and accept death in a world surrounded by it, as well as find their own reasons for living. They form a group called SEES in order to investigate the Dark Hour, a mysterious time period between one day and the next that few people are aware of. During the Dark Hour, SEES explores Tartarus, a large tower containing Shadows, creatures that feed on the minds of humans. To fight the Shadows, each member of SEES is able to summon a Persona, a manifestation of their inner self.”
Fast forward ten years and the game has gotten two special re-releases since its initial launch.
Persona 3 FES
Persona 3 FES (also known as P3FES or P3F for short) is an improved version of Persona 3 for the PS2. The game included around thirty hours of additional gameplay over the original Persona 3. Most of the extra content comes in the form of an epilogue called “The Answer”, which is also known as “Episode Aegis” in the Japanese version of the game. Persona 3 FES was also re-released as a downloadable game on the PS3’s online PlayStation Store in 2012, but only in North America and Europe (Keep in mind it was released as a PS2 classic port, not a remaster or remake).
Persona 3 Portable
Yet another version of Persona 3 released in July 2010 on the PSP (PlayStation Portable). Persona 3 Portable (also known as P3P) can also be played on PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV via the PlayStation Store through backward compatibility. In many ways, it could be considered to be an enhanced port due to its new features and content. However, in many ways, it could be considered to be an inferior port for many reasons. For one, it lacks 3D environments and character models outside of Tartarus (exploring dungeons). Also, all anime cutscenes were stripped away, and the graphics and audio quality were compressed, which is the main thing that irked me about this port. And finally, The Answer (“Episode Aegis”) was absent in this version due to limited storage space on the PSP’s UMDs. Because of this, Persona 3 Portable, unfortunately, does not replace the PlayStation 2 version, instead lives beside it.
One awesome feature P3P allows is the player to choose the gender of the protagonist, which changes a bunch of possibilities for character relationships. Oddly enough, this feature didn’t return in Persona 4, Persona 4 Golden, or Persona 5.
The Definitive P3 Experience
You see, each version of Persona 3 offers unique features and additions. While Persona 3 FES keeps the animated cutscenes and includes Aegis’s episode “The Answer”, the PSP version lets us choose a gender, let’s you control your teammates on the battlefield, and even has a Catherine reference! It’s kind of insane that we haven’t received a definitive version of Persona 3 yet. All we can hope is that Atlus has plans for a remaster/remake of P3 that includes all of the content from both versions in one package.
When people ask me which version of Persona 3 is better it’s hard for me to give them a straight answer. Animated cutscenes go a long way with storytelling, but portability works so well with the Persona series — it’s a bit aggravating trying to decide. Also, a lot of gamers are going back to play the older Persona titles after the success of Persona 4 and Persona 5. I don’t think I’m alone when saying we’re long overdue for final Persona 3 iteration.
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