Juggling dungeon crawling and social sim elements remains a joy in this RPG (role-playing game) re-release. Persona 3 Portable is a turn-based role playing game that asks players to balance fighting monsters and living life as a Japanese high schooler. After being forced to join a secret organization, SEEDS, players will begin exploring a massive dungeon called Tartarus, where they fight monsters in traditional turn-based RPG battles. You'll gain new partners to explore the dungeon with during the story, each of whom fights using a Persona, a creature that embodies their inner self. Outside of the dungeon, the game uses a calendar system to track how you spend your time, from attending classes and improving your stats through activities to bonding with people from the local community. This bonding, called Social Links, also upgrades your ability to fuse different Personas.
Jumping back and forth between everyday activities like going to school and eating lunch with friends to fighting demons in Tartarus is surprisingly compelling. As you spend time with your community and monster-fighting team, you naturally feel more involved with the story and lives of the characters in it. The fights themselves are fairly basic, but the One-Turn system, where you take extra turns by hitting enemies with their elemental weaknesses, gives enough depth to keep them engaging. The game's story and simulation elements are intriguing, but the highlights are the individual Social Links you do with different NPCs. The game attempts to grapple with mature themes in the Social Links to varying levels of success. A story of a classmate being involved in a romantic relationship with his teacher comes off awkwardly, but another with a young man dying of disease is incredibly profound, and these moments make the game shine. This version of the game has received some quality of life changes over the original, with the most important being the ability to fully control your party members in battle, but has sacrificed the cinematic cutscenes and fully 3D explorable environments outside of the dungeon. It has also included the option to choose a female protagonist, who has a number of unique social links, which more than makes up for the lost options. It's also worth noting that the game features many adult themes, violent imagery, swearing, and sexual content, and isn't appropriate for young children. Despite rough edges in some of the writing and battles, Persona 3 Portable is an excellent role-playing experience worth spending your time on.