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What Persona 5 Fans Should Know Before Playing Persona 3 & 4

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Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden contain several key differences that may be jarring to fans who started the series with Persona 5 Royal.

Fans who have been clamoring for the Persona series to escape the confines of the PlayStation ecosystem will get their wish when Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are released on all major platforms later this month. After the massive success of Persona 5, the once-niche JRPG series has amassed a large fanbase, many of whom will be playing these classic titles for the first time. While these games are just as enjoyable today as they were upon release, fans who started the series with the most recent entry should be aware of some of the differences in the older titles.

Persona 3 Portable was the handheld version of the original title released for the PlayStation Portable in Japan in 2009. Meanwhile, Persona 4 Golden was the enhanced port of the fourth entry and was released for the PlayStation Vita in Japan in 2012. Ports of both titles will be released for the PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Game Pass on Jan. 19, 2023.

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The Older Persona Titles Feature Simpler Gameplay

The Investigation Team prepare to ski in Persona 4 Golden

One of the biggest gameplay differences between Persona 5 and its predecessors is the method used to design dungeons. Persona 5 featured dungeons that were designed by developers to provide players with a deliberate arena to battle demons. This allowed the game to have specific puzzles and party dialogue since the developers knew what players would be encountering in their playthrough.

Conversely, Portable and Golden contain procedurally generated dungeons, meaning every time players enter one, the layout changes. While this can be a strength since players will receive their own unique experience, the trade-off is that dungeons are generally simpler to accommodate the different circumstances they need to function in. It also means the character dialogue during dungeon exploration is less detailed or absent since the developers did not know what the characters would be reacting to.

Speaking of characters, the Social Links function slightly differently in Persona 3 and 4 compared to 5. The Social Links in the older titles are mostly used for character development and unlocking more powerful fusions. This carried over to Persona 5, but that entry’s Social Links (called Confidants) include additional gameplay bonuses such as the Death Arcana and Takemi allowing the player to purchase more powerful items at a discounted rate. Players are still encouraged to level up the Social Links in Persona 3 and 4, but the rewards are not as valuable.

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Persona 3 Portable Contains Even More Differences

Players can select a male or female protagonist in Persona 3 Portable.

Persona 3 Portable has some key differences from other titles in the franchise. Since the game was originally released for the PlayStation Portable, certain sacrifices had to be made so the PlayStation 2 game could run on Sony’s handheld. For this reason, Portable has some key differences from other titles in the franchise. The largest compromise is the way the player interacts with the world outside of dungeons, with this mostly being handled via a menu. This will be radically different for players used to Persona 5, as they are used to being able to freely roam to interact with Social Links or purchase items at the shop.

This map-based navigation also means the 3D cutscenes used in the original titles have been replaced with story segments being told through text. This makes the game feel much more like a visual novel with dungeon segments than a traditional JRPG. While this may be a disappointment to some, the artwork during these sections is stellar, while the PlayStation 2-era graphics do not hold up nearly as well. There is also an additional benefit exclusive to Portable.

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Persona 3 Portable allows the player to choose the gender of the protagonist. Even more impressive is that this option is not simply cosmetic, as it changes certain aspects of the game including Social Links. As Persona 3 was the first entry to introduce Social Links, it started out as mostly dating sim elements, so none of the male party members had Social Links. This stays the same in Portable if players choose the male protagonist, but players who choose the female protagonist will be able to bond with all party members regardless of gender.

Despite their age, Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden hold up remarkably well. While certain aspects are handled differently from their successor, these deviations do not impact what are some of the greatest role-playing games of all time. Once new fans accept these differences, they will find all the things they loved about Persona 5, such as the deep combat and catchy music, are present in its predecessors.

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