Forget ‘easy mode,’ Persona 3 Reload needs a ‘busy people’ mode

There was a time in my life I could easily dedicate 100 hours to a single game without any regrets. I still do spend a large chunk of my free time gaming, but as an adult with a full time job, a part time job, and also a crippling addiction to an MMORPG… It can be difficult to find the time for an immersive turn-based RPG like the “Persona” series.

That doesn’t mean the games aren’t worth the time commitment. In fact, “Persona 3 Reload” is a nearly perfect remake of the original which adds graphic updates, quality of life improvements, and voice over for an immersive experience.

What is “Persona 3 Reload”?

(Image credit: Future)

“Persona 3 Reload” is a remake of the original PS2 era turn-based RPG. If you missed it the first time around, the game follows a transfer student who transfers to Gekkoukan High School on Tatsumi Port Island in 2009. The island is host to a phenomenon called the “Dark Hour,” which is a period of time between one day and the next. Normal people remain asleep, trasmogrophied into coffins, while those with potential to harness the power of a Persona can be active during that time. Persona users are able to fight the monsters, called Shadows, that appear during the “Dark Hour,” while those without Personas are fed upon and become victims of “Apathy Syndrome.”

Personas are the defining feature and namesake of the series, which function as a reflection of characters’ personalities. Each persona is related to one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Most characters are only able to access one Persona, while the protagonist can switch Personas at will.

The protagonist, generally referred to in-game as Leader, teams up with a group of other Persona users called S.E.E.S. (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) to find the cause of the “Dark Hour.” The temporal anomaly seems to be centered around the 250-floor tower Tartarus which takes the place of Gekkoukan High during the “Dark Hour.” So gameplay revolves around going to school during the day, managing various interpersonal relationships after school, and entering Tartarus at night.

“Reload” is a nearly perfect remake

(Image credit: Future)

“Persona 3 Reload” is a full remake of the original game with updated graphics, a modern battle system, updated voice over, new character interactions, and reimagined scenes. All without changing the spirit of the original game. While there is some validity to reimagining a game when remaking it (we’re looking at you “Final Fantasy VII Rebirth”), but “Persona 3: Reload” is a faithful, updated take on the original game. There are new scenes, interactions, and visuals to provide a fresh take for fans of the original, while still providing a good starting point for those new to the game.

While so much of “Persona 3” has gotten a needed facelift in the remake, there are still artifacts of the old PS2-era game that can make it feel dated. The character interactions with the “Social Link” feature, while updated, is a bit simplistic at times. The gameplay loop of going to school, managing social relationships, then entering Tartarus is satisfying, but the format is rarely broken, which makes it feel repetitive. 

Of course, historically “Persona 3” was the first game to really lock down the series’ format, so it does make sense that it still feels a bit unpolished. 

Gaming for busy people

(Image credit: Future)

The predictable gameplay loop of “Persona 3” makes it easy to pick up if you’ve left it alone for a while, but it is also a lengthy game running about 60 hours for completion. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you also factor in various life commitments like a job, or sleeping.

The idea of having an “easy” or “story” mode for difficult or time consuming games isn’t a new one. A think piece about “gaming for people with jobs” hits just about every time there’s a major release that requires 60+ hours of game time. 

But the thing is, “Persona 3 Reload” does have an easy mode. There’s even a “beginner” mode that strips out the revive counter, so you can fully relax and just enjoy the story. “Persona” isn’t a game series that’s all about punishing difficulty, although you can give yourself that challenge if you choose. 

“Persona 3 Reload” really can’t be any shorter than it is

(Image credit: Future)

The Persona series leans heavily on the fantasy trope of “high schoolers who save the world on their downtime.” It’s a combination slice of life and shonen anime with turn-based combat centered around tarot-themed monsters. A lot of the gameplay involves deciding what after-school club you’re going to attend or if you’re going to ditch to go eat Ramen with a friend. You have to answer math, science, and literature questions. 

Even with simplified enemies on “Beginner” mode, “rush” auto combat, and commitment to being a slacker, the game takes nearly 60 hours to complete on average. Which is still shorter than the 100-150 hours required for “Persona 5: Royal.”

There is no easy way to cut this game down any further than it already is. And that’s kind of the beauty of it, even if my own life makes it difficult to commit to that much game time.

If “Baldur’s Gate III” taught us anything last year, it’s that you don’t need to rush through a game or even complete it to be absolutely blown away. “Persona 3 Reload” may not have the same deathgrip on pop culture, but the same idea still applies. It’s a charming, fun romp through a fantasy world where the biggest issues facing humanity can be solved by a team of high school students who shoot themselves in the head to use magic.

We don’t actually want an easy mode

(Image credit: Future)

When we complain about wanting an “easy” or “story only” mode, we don’t actually want those things. When given the option, we don’t take the easy path. What we really want is time.

The only thing standing between me and my ability to make time for “Persona 3 Reload” was myself. So I took some time off “Final Fantasy XIV” and stopped building new characters in “Baldur’s Gate III” who will never make it out of the first act. I spent my nights like the cast of “Persona 3,” running through Tartarus and trying to keep up with my daily obligations.

I’m not actually too busy for long, single-player games. I’ve just let live-service games and grind culture take over my life. That’s not on Atlus. It’s not a game developer’s job to prioritize my life for me. I’m only 20 hours into “Persona 3 Reload” and I’m excited to spend the next couple of weeks chipping away at the tower of Tartarus.



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