Persona 3 Reload is a faithful remake of the 2006 original—and I loved it—but given that the remastered Persona 3 Portable released on Steam just last year, one might wonder why Atlus chose to return to that source material so soon.
Speaking to PC Gamer in an interview translated by Atlus West staff, Persona team general producer Kazuhisa Wada said that Persona 3 deserved its Reload update to give a modern audience a way to enjoy its stellar story on modern specs—and that the Strega villains deserved more time in the sun (and the Dark Hour).
"Good things do not get old with time, and greatness does not fade away," said Wada. "So I thought it was necessary not only for us, but also for posterity, to keep the story and game experience of Persona 3 in a state where it could be enjoyed with today's specs—Persona 5 Royal level—and hardware."
Persona 5 Royal's strong showing only reinforced that desire. "We felt that many of these fans were playing the series for the first time," Wada said. "Therefore, we wanted them, as well as fans who had played the original Persona 3, to enjoy the definitive experience of the game."
The graphics, audio tracks and combat systems were updated to modern standards. The story remains the same, with a few notable changes. Summer beach scenes that have been criticized for sexism and transphobia were toned down.
"In our remake policy of creating a natsukashiku mo atarashii [nostalgic yet new] Persona 3 in the production of Reload, we were extremely careful about the areas to be changed and how to adjust them," Wada said. The characters and settings of the original were left mostly untouched.
"Basic character designs and designs based on historical settings—eg, cell phones—are areas where we wanted to stay true to the original," he said. "As for revisions and minor adjustments, we tried to keep the original impression of Persona 3 to be natsukashiku mo atarashii, and to give it a fresh rewrite of the present."
In one major exception, the intriguing Strega gang storylines were beefed up.
"Something I had wanted to do since we had made the original Persona 3, but never got around to—I wanted to increase the portrayal of the Strega," he said.
The Strega villains, whose name means "witch" in Italian, are a trio of Persona users like the main characters, though their powers were artificially created. They seek to preserve the Dark Hour and its lethal Shadows in order to hold onto their own powers.
Reload sees the main character interacting more directly with the Strega trio, and even fighting alongside Takaya against one particularly strong shadow. The Stregas' portrayal is much more nuanced in Reload than it was in the original.
"They are a very fascinating and puzzling group of enemies," Wada said. "So I wanted to make sure that their backbone and ideology were conveyed, and I wanted our fans to feel the catharsis of the story by digging deeper into the theme."
The result, as I discuss in my Persona 3 Reload review, feels like a new battle uniform for an old classic: a smart outfit that doesn't strive to be a whole new style.