Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable is a port of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, released for the PSP.
You star as a silent protagonist who recently got transferred to a new school; Gekkoukaun High. Later, you discover about the Dark Hour, a hidden hour that occurs daily every midnight. During the Dark hour, people are transmogrified into coffins while monsters known as "Shadows" are roaming around everywhere. The only people who aren't transmogrified into coffins are the people who have the ability to face these Shadows; the power which allows the person to summon a Persona. As expected, you happen to be one of those people.
You are then taken into an organization called the S.E.E.S - Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad. The S.E.E.S is a group of Persona-users who live in the same dorm as you. The game shows you Tartarus; a tower which only happens to be seen in the Dark Hour. You must climb it, obviously, and have to reach the top.
Gameplay, changes from Persona 3/FES:
This game is the altered version of Persona 3 with the gameplay mechanics of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4.
First, a big change is the way you navigate the map during social hours. Instead of walking around the world, you are now a dot which moves around the screen. It's not that bad since you can now go to places much faster than Persona 3. Now we move on to what you can do in the whole day.
In the morning, you live a normal life; going to school, making friends & hanging out with them & taking exams. The important thing is forming Social Links with them. The closer you are to some friend, the higher your Social Link. Social Links are an important part of the game. Some Links help you in battle. But all of them, if maxed, allow you to fuse very powerful Persona.
Then during the night is when it's hero time. You are able to visit Tartarus & your goal is to reach the top of that tower. Every floor is randomly generated each time you visit with Shadows roaming everywhere. You battle when you come in contact with a Shadow, either when you hit it with your equipped weapon or it catches you when you're off guard. Battles are turned based. Now in battle, you have to find the enemies weaknesses; if you do, you knock the shadow down for a while & get another turn. Knock down all the shadows, you are able to execute an all out attack which deals damage to all enemies together. Another big change is that you can now control your allies & give them direct commands which extremely help.
If you win a battle, you get to choose a card. From these cards, you can get double the experience, weapons & Personas. Some of those cards are cursed, if you pick a cursed card, there’s going to be trouble. Drawing a cursed card means that Death is near. Death is the powerful shadow that you have absolutely no chance of winning against if you’re weak. Even your support will tell you to run since you can’t win.
The biggest change is the new Female protagonist. Although the story is like a copy-paste from the male character's story, the social interactions have been drastically changed. What the game lacks is the bonus chapter from FES; "The Answer" but that gets covered up by the female perspective of the game. The anime cutscenes are gone too.
Male Story & Female Story Differences:
There are specific scenes that only the female main character can see. The real advantage is in the Social links, with Akihiko, Junpei & others. The female perspective is quite an enjoyable story as it can be called a "what-if" story. You get to see a lot of events & think about how different it would be if the male main character wasn't there. There was no Hermit link with Maya (the girl you meet in the MMORPG, Innocent Sin Online), though, in the female story. A big bummer for me since the Hermit link was one of the funniest.
The sound track is really good, it completely suits the current situation; while in the town, the music is all calm & while you're in Tartarus, the music gets more serious. This game is worth playing with some headphones.
This game looks great for a PSP game. Characters are represented with portraits while in a dialogue. The exploring in Tartarus has become smoother than vanilla P3/FES.
Replaying The Game:
Well, you sort of have too since there are two perspectives of the story. If you've already played Persona 3 or Persona 3: FES on the PS2, you can play as the female main character. Anyone new to Persona is likely to play the game once more. Since you know what you have to do, you can do it all in the second play through, completing some Social Links. Finish the game and New Game + will unlock. You get to keep all the Persona you collected in your previous playthrough. Your statistics like Charm, Intelligence and Courage are untouched. Your level remains the same. But your friends get their levels reset.
Not many differences from the original version. In all terms, they are pretty much the same. Even in dungeons, it's the X button to attack & the analog sticks to move around. Moving from one place to another is made easier. Like in Persona 4, you could use the Square button to travel faster. You can do that in Persona 3 Portable now.
Persona 3 Portable is definitely a must buy for any one who has a PSP, even if they are new to the Persona series. If you're interested in a portable experience, this is the game you're looking for. Not interested in JRPGs? Play this and you'll definitely want to play another one.
Persona 3 is by far one of the most best games I have ever played. And also one of the best RPGs I have played. I find the gameplay quite addictive. And whenever I needed to cheer myself up a bit, I'd stop going to Tartarus and do Social Links.