Ah, Persona 3, a game that takes us back to a time when flip-phones were cool and emo hairstyles reigned supreme. This RPG relic from 2006 has finally received a remake, titled Persona 3 Reload, and it's exactly what you'd expect. It's like taking an old car and giving it a shiny new paint job, but somehow losing a bit of its soul in the process.

The original Persona 3 was a strange mix of high school social simulator and dungeon crawler, set in a world where you're an outsider fighting against society. It captured the gothic atmosphere of Shin Megami Tensei and combined it with contemporary youth culture. But Persona 3 Reload takes this experience and drags it kicking and screaming into the future.

The remake recreates the entire game in Unreal Engine 4, giving it a clean and stylish look reminiscent of Persona 5. The character designs have been updated, the environments are brighter and cleaner, and everything looks great. But there's a catch – some places in the game feel surprisingly barren and devoid of personality.

One of the areas that suffer is your dormitory, the place you return to each night before diving into the dungeons. It lacks soul and character, and this feeling seeps into other locations like the corridors of Gekkoukan High School or the Iwatodai Mall. But after a while, you get used to it and overlook the visual shortcomings, because beneath the surface, Persona 3 Reload is still the same game you loved 18 years ago.

The game retains its excellent battle system, where you control a quartet of high schoolers with the power to summon badass Persona. Each character has elemental strengths and weaknesses that play a crucial role in the rock-paper-scissors combat encounters. And now, there's a new mechanic called "Theurgy" that adds a touch of spectacle to the battles.

"Theurgy" allows characters to perform devastating actions or healing spells after filling up a gauge by fulfilling certain parameters. The animations for these special moves are gorgeous and perfectly suited to each character. Mitsuru slides across the battlefield on ice, slicing her opponents into ribbons, while Yukari unleashes a flurry of arrows before firing a ray of energy from above. It's a delight to watch and adds depth to the combat.

But let's not forget the infamous Tartarus, the massive tower that only emerges during the Dark Hour. It's still as repetitive as ever, with its visually repetitive design and layout. However, the addition of destructible environmental elements, more treasure chests, and challenging enemies spices things up a bit. But the frustration of losing a battle or having to climb several floors again remains.

Persona 3 Reload doesn't reinvent the wheel; it simply gives it a fresh coat of paint. The essence of the game, with its 2009 setting and period approach to high school life, remains intact. It's a nostalgic journey that captures the essence of youth and the desire for personal growth. But sometimes, the darker aspects of the game's visuals and character work clash with the excessive style borrowed from newer entries in the series.

Atlus has tried to bring this gothic masterpiece in line with what Persona has become, even if it means leaving behind some of its defining traits. Despite its flaws, Persona 3 Reload still manages to tell a complete and emotionally resonant story. The additional scenes and expanded social links take the game's morbidly hopeful ideas further than ever before.

As you explore the game, you'll find yourself doing laps around campus to catch optional conversations, and your upgraded mobile phone keeps you informed about your social circle's activities. It's the little quality-of-life improvements like these that make the game more enjoyable. And yes, Junpei is noticeably less of a weird pervert this time around.

In the end, Persona 3 Reload is a delightful trip down memory lane, wrapped in a modern package. It may lack some of the charm of the original, but it still captures the essence of what made the game so beloved. So, embrace the nostalgia, enjoy the stylish hairdos, and dive back into the world of Persona 3 Reload for a dose of emo classic gaming goodness.

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