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Atmospheric, suspenseful, a map that becomes more intimate and familiar the more you traverse it, an ammo economy that forces you to pick and choose what to fight and what to run from while still giving you enough to deal with the mandatory threats. Then there’s Mr X, who throws a wrench into your rhythm once you start feeling comfortable, and raises the suspense up to 11 with the knowledge that he can smash through the wall like the Kool-Aid man at any given moment and corner you in a tight space full of enemies that you tried to avoid. The only thing I didn’t much care for was the bosses, but otherwise this game is excellent.

This feels like a fake game they'd play on the Disney Channel or something. Anyway its pretty neat.

Persona 3 Portable is the biggest "mixed bag" game I have played in a long time. There are obviously a lot of good elements here, I would not have played for nearly 90 hours if there was nothing redeeming this game. However, there are also a lot of things holding this game back and I hope that within this review, I can break down what works and what doesn't.
I would like to start with the good, the best of the good being the characters and theming. There is some absolutely excellent writing being shown off here by the Persona team, and the introduction of social links to the series makes for compelling gameplay. Between Persona 5 and Persona 3, this game absolutely has P5 beat for social links. Akinari, Maiko, Mutatsu, President Tanaka, Saori, and Bunkichi are the greatest standouts of the side characters, each grappling with the theme of loss in their respective stories. In terms of the main cast, Akihiko, Shinjiro, Koromaru, and Mitsuru stand out as excellent examples of how to write believable high schoolers without making them feel like stereotypes or archetypes. There are very few characters I would really call bad in this game, although Ken is seriously wasted potential considering his place in the main story compared to his social link. I have to say that I could not completely get into Aigis' character the way others have, not to say that I disliked her character but I simply did not feel she resonated with me the way she did others. Meanwhile, the themes in this game are as strong as ever. The persona summoning is done through means of suicide, the music constantly mentions the coming destruction, and the arcana ends in the Death 13 card. I can see why some people consider this their favorite game of all time, because going purely off of themes, this is one of the best games ever.
However, I do not critique games purely on theme alone, so allow me to indulge my mixed feelings before heading directly into the territory of what I consider bad. First off, the story, which starts off very passively, gradually grows into a much larger narrative toward the middle, before entirely halting just before the climax. This makes the game's story feel really slow at one of the most important parts. The entire month of December lacks any social links, which means your daily life goes from hanging out with friends while the threat of the end of the world looms over everyone, to a boring month of doing absolutely nothing while the characters learn to accept the things that they already accepted months beforehand. I partially understand why this was done from a theming perspective, December is supposed to be an incredibly depressing month for the game's story. But from a storytelling perspective, giving the player nothing to do as the story reaches its peak really kills momentum and just had me going "Can this be over already?" by the time January rolled around. Secondly, menus and UI. The main system menu is decent but a little bland. The battle UI wheel is a little confusing, with left going right on the circle and right going left, as well as inconsistent UI memory in battle. The real struggle with UI comes in the Velvet Room. Because of the limitations of the PSP, I understand why menus had to be dulled in some places, but cutting manual selection for skill inheritance and being unable to sort by name in the Compendium really made me want to tear my hair out. The mechanic that the game gets its namesake from should not be unfun to interact with but so many times I found myself skipping out on a visit to the Velvet Room that would have been otherwise beneficial to my playthrough, simply because I did not feel like it. The lack of skill inheritance picking especially made me feel really unattached from my personas and I found myself not interacting with the card systems, simply because I knew I would be throwing my personas out during my next Velvet Room visit anyways. Finally, for my mixed feelings, I want to discuss the combat. At certain times, the combat feels really fun to go through. Balancing SP usage, using critical hits and co-ops to save SP where I could, and landing a powerful move exactly when you need it all made me feel very connected to my party members and really pushed me through the worst of Tartarus (don't worry, we'll get to it soon). On the other hand, there were times when combat felt like I would press three buttons and then mash A to get through the all-out attack cutscene as fast as I could. The lack of enemy diversity is more so a problem with Tartarus than it is the combat, but ultimately it is the combat that suffers because of this choice. On each block of Tartarus, there are, at most, 10 unique combat encounters. Combine this with the fact that each floor of Tartarus has you go through anywhere between 5 or 10 combat encounters and you tend to run out of unique problems to solve by about a third of the way through the block.
Now I really get to tear into this game's worst features. First off, the obvious, is Tartarus. It really is a marvel of modern game design that in the year 2009, P-Studio can look at 263 randomly generated hallways with no visually unique style separating one floor from another aside from a hue shift and the occasionally added decoration and go "yeah, change nothing." I really do not know how you would go about making this better but P-Studio sure did not do it. I would always reach my Tartarus day, put my headphones in, turn on some music or a podcast, and just accept that the next 5 hours of my playthrough would be mindless RPG grinding and walking down long hallways. Finally, my greatest critique of this game, exclusive to this version of the game, is the presentation. The presentation of this game cost it a full star in my mind. Almost everything else, even the mind-numbingness parts of Tartarus could be excused if the entire game were not presented in this disgusting visual novel style. I understand that the PSP was a very limited piece of hardware and I'm not asking for fully animated cutscenes for everything, but man they could at least let more than 2 PNGs on screen at a time. It's really hard for a scene to emotionally capture you when the scene consists of 2 still characters talking at each other over a crunchy jpg and sound effects convey each action the characters take. This is not a big deal for when two characters are talking in class, but a major death scene in this game is ruined because you can hardly even tell when the character has been killed because all that signifies their death is a gunshot sound effect, the character grunting, then the sound effect of the character falling to the ground while their sprite stays completely still. This is then followed up by every single character onlooking to gasp or interject with a scream, simply to remind you that the character is there. It shouldn't even be too much to ask to have the 3D models in the background of these cutscenes, even doing simple actions, since one of the final cutscenes has this happen for dramatic effect. This presentation takes away a lot of tension and emotion from scenes that would otherwise be the most emotional game of all time.
Ultimately, do I think Persona 3 Portable is a good game? Yes. Do I think it's a great game? Almost. There are a lot of pieces holding this back which really sucks since this seems to be the only way you can play a good amount of the content. But it also seems to be lacking content from other versions of this game. It ultimately feels like the game you play after you play Persona 3 or Persona 3: FES. This really sucks because for many people, myself included, this is the only way they can play Persona 3 at all. It seriously makes the news that the Persona 3 Remake will be excluding both FES and Portable content, only furthering the gap of content in this game. I would say, play Persona 3: FES first if you have the opportunity, but if you cannot, this is not the worst substitute.

like i said in the other darkstalkers review

capcom why do you hate this franchise

My favorite Zelda game before they changed the formula up with BOTW, dungeon design and the story is what really makes this game shine, and better motion controls is a huge PLUS

morrigan should go out with me tbh

Despite suffering quite heavily on a gameplay front due to its very repetitive game design that suffers a lot when playing singleplayer, NMH:TSA is still able to hold up incredibly well due to its style, music, and incredible method of storytelling. Travis's character development is at an all time high as we can see the full effect of all his struggles and development over the past few NMH games, and the subtle inclusion of a pseudo biography of sorts for Suda51, each level representing a part of his game development journey as he reflects on the decisions he's made over the course of his life, provides a refreshing sense of personality and care not too dissimilar to what can be felt in many games of the indie scene, of which Suda is known to adore.

i wish i played this 10 years earlier, because sneaky killing and parkouring around are two of my favorites activities in video games.

its a solid ass good ass dragon ass goku ass ball game z. good shit. wish it had rollback at the start but we ball

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