I have a great amount of love for Persona and of course the Megami Tensei franchise as a whole, I would say it is without a doubt my favourite RPG series and I can’t see anything overtaking it now or in the future. One of the more popular games in the series is Persona 3, in which you play as a transfer student living in the Iwatatodai Dorms who is dragged into a fight for the fate of the world when you realise you possess the power of the Persona, specifically that of the Wildcard, which allows you to switch Personas at will. You must balance school life and world-saving between the game’s Social Link system, in which you spend time with various main and side characters and the dungeoning side, being a slightly less punishing version of the common SMT press turn system, in which you are rewarded extra turns for exploiting the weaknesses of enemies, but they also get extra turns for exploiting yours. I know it sounds like generic anime nonsense, but it’s good, I swear. One thing people ask about the game is, “Which version should I play? FES or Portable?”. People argue that they both have their pros, from FES’ “The Answer” epilogue to Portable’s, well… portability and their cons, such as FES’ inability to directly control your party members or Portable’s lack of 3D graphics in the overworld, and anime cutscenes being replaced by visual novels. Through dozens upon dozens of threads on the /r/MegaTen board of reddit, no consensus has ever been decided on. To me, at least, the most important element that makes Portable the better game is the option to have your main character be female. You may be thinking, why does that make such a difference? Surely not having a penis doesn’t just take it “from good to great”? Changing all the UI from blue to pink doesn’t make a masterpiece.
Of course, it does a bit more than that. The first improvement is the character herself. While original protagonist Makoto Yuki (or Minato Arisato if you prefer) is somewhat of an emo block of wood, FeMC is more of just a broad character, with her dialogue options having more snark than apathy to them. What I think is the biggest improvement is the overhaul of her Social Links, the majority of them have been uprooted and replaced. The best element of this is actually giving you non-romantic Social Links within your party, leading to far more development. One of the best examples I can think of here is Junpei. In the original game, Junpei is a piece-of-shit sleezeball, this would be made orders of magnitude worse with the sexist overtones his character takes on in the main FeMC story if not for his Social Link, which was absent in the original, and the male route in Portable. Another prime example I won’t go too deep into for spoiler reasons is that your connection to one character, who dies, is expanded upon greatly with the female route compared to the male. The female route also introduces new music and controversially, I think a good deal of it is better. I think Wiping All Out is a better battle theme than Mass Destruction, whether or not Mass Destruction is better fuel for bad internet jokes.
Overall, I think P3P is definitely the better version, because of all the context it adds to the characters. While in the male route, you call upon the power of bonds that are just sort of assumed, in the female route you can see it all. The more experienced, post-P4 P Studio manage to deliver a far more polished version of the mechanic, taking the game from great to essential. And if you want the game just for the dungeon crawling side of things, direct control over your party members improves it a bunch too, unless you’re one of those crazy people who prefers switching tactics in a menu and hoping Marin Karin isn’t used too many times.Of course if you want even more, The Answer offers a good few extra hours of pure, rock hard dungeon crawling for you in FES. To me, Persona 3 is good, but Persona 3 Portable is great.