Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are finally playable on modern consoles
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Featured Image Credit: Atlus/Sega
As someone whose first game in the series was Persona 5 on PlayStation 4, and who adored it, I’ve had a desire to revisit the series’ past titles for years now. For a while that was only possible through previous generations of consoles, namely the PS2 and PSP. Persona 4 Golden came to PC back in 2020, but my potato PC at the time couldn’t even run the cutscenes without stuttering uncontrollably. Luckily, things are different now.
Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are now available on modern consoles, and these two JRPG juggernauts are both packed full of content. If you’ve played Persona 5 Royal - which itself was ported to modern platforms in October 2022 - then it won’t surprise you to hear P3P and P4G are chonky games.
See an introduction to Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden here
The title screen of Persona 3 Portable presents a striking image of the male protagonist, canonically known as Makoto Yuki, accompanied by a delicate piano track that sets the mood perfectly. It’s clear from the off that we’re not in for a feel-good romp here, instead staring down the barrel of an arduous but gripping journey.
Our hero is the new kid at Gekkoukan High School, and before the first day of classes even dawns, we’re made aware that something is amiss. As the game progresses, we learn that an extra hour occurs at midnight - the Dark Hour - where ordinary people transform into coffins and are completely unaware that monsters, known as shadows, take to the streets.
It’s then revealed to the player character that the school dorm he’s joined is for students who stay conscious during the Dark Hour, and are tasked with defending the world from evil by using their personas, which are basically shadows that can be used for good.
In terms of gameplay, there are dungeons to explore in third-person fashion, enemies to battle in turn-based combat, NPCs to chat with, and a map to explore using a cursor system. That last part is a reminder of the fact this is Persona 3 Portable, which was changed slightly from the PlayStation 2’s Persona 3 FES, presumably to accommodate the PSP back in the day.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noted I said “male protagonist” above, and that’s because there’s also a female main character, usually referred to as Minako Arisato. Without spoiling anything because that would be cruel, the female protagonist exists for a reason and is best saved for your second playthrough, but you can play as her right away if you choose.
Persona 4 Golden only has one protagonist though, and that’s the male character Yu Narukami. This is just one of the key differences between P4G and its predecessor’s port, with the most notable difference being the bright title screen art and whimsical music that’s paired with it, not that this game is all sunshine and rainbows.
In fact, in the opening few hours there are two rather gruesome murders reported, and these tragic deaths unite the main character - another new kid on the block - with his new friends at Yasogami High School, as they vow to find the killer. To do this, they’ll need to enter a special world found within television sets.
The Midnight Channel is an eerie place that seemingly exists in its own dimension, accessible only through TV screens. Once the protagonist and his mates Chie and Yosuke uncover this bizarre realm, the game really gets going as this is where the shadows dwell. Just like Persona 3 Portable, our heroes wield personas against shadows.
While both of these games are similar, I recommend picking up both of them with all my heart, especially if you’re a fan of Persona 5/Royal (like we are) who has yet to explore the franchise’s past. Persona 3 Portable is the renaissance game of this series, instituting much of what we know and love about the games that followed, and delivers a narrative that will impact you like nothing else.
Persona 4 Golden is a fantastic game in its own right, evolving what P3P did with aplomb. It also helps that P4G keeps the exploration in third-person instead of using a cursor system (which is my only real complaint when it comes to Persona 3 Portable), making for a more immersive gameplay experience.
Whether you’re a fan of the series and its spinoffs, a JRPG fan or a total newcomer to both franchise and genre, Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are two outstanding games that you won’t want to miss now that they’re so readily available to modern audiences.
Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden release for Xbox, PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch 19 January, 2023. Persona 3 Portable also releases for PC while Persona 4 Golden is available now. Games tested on Xbox Series X with coded provided by the publisher.