Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal are now available on all of the latest new-gen gaming systems. But, while they may look best on an Xbox Series console, the premier destination for these games is on a handheld device, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.
Portable consoles have always been home to all the best JRPG games. Take Game Freak’s iconic Pokémon for example; catching and battling monsters during a long flight or at a café is a great way to kill time. Fire Emblem has also seen much success in the handheld realm, as the game’s tactical battles are great for long commutes.
Like Pokémon and Fire Emblem, Atlus’ Persona games emit a cozy and warm aura that fits handheld gaming really well. Whipping Persona 4 Golden out in bed after a long day and hanging out with Yosuke or Chie just hits that sweet spot. As does exploring mementos in Persona 5 Royal while lazily watching TV with your partner.
Imagine that you’re in a café, enjoying the atmosphere, drinking hot chocolate, and making your way through Kamoshida’s palace in Persona 5 Royal. Or, you’re waiting for your flight to take off, need time to kill, and decide to partake in some of the fetch quests in Persona 4 Golden. Even better, your internet’s down and you can't play Call of Duty, but you can rescue lost souls trapped in Tartarus in Persona 3 Portable. The fact that neither of these games relies on a solid internet connection to play makes them perfect for a long train ride, a feature that’s upsettingly absent even in some Switch games.
The core Persona gameplay loop is present in all three games: Socializing, stat boosting, dungeon crawling, and monster fusion are all here and they are a joy to experience in handheld gaming. Yes, all three Persona games are quite lengthy, ranging from 50 to 100 hours each, but this is where the handheld factor comes into play. Whether you’re in a lengthy dungeon or a long cutscene, being able to put your handheld on sleep mode and continue from where you left off at any time is great. Sure, home consoles have rest modes, but they take longer to boot up and a power cut can result in losing all your progress.
Simply put, all three Persona games have that pick-up-and-play mentality that the best handheld games have. The sensation of turning on your handheld and flirting with your waifu or challenging that hard boss wherever and whenever you want just feels awesome on a handheld. It also means you can hide the screen from your real-life spouse so they don’t find out about your in-game lover.
But how do all three games fare on the handheld realm?
Persona 3 Portable still has that addictive mix of pleasing your friends and battling shadows. Since it was originally a PSP game, the adjustments to make it more handheld-friendly are still here and are most welcome. While everything is done through a cursor now, it does make the game less visually busy, making it easier on the eyes during road trips or plane rides.
Unlike P3P, Persona 4 Golden doesn’t dilute itself to be more portable-friendly but it’s still great to have on the go. Being able to visit the charming town of Inaba whenever you bring out your Switch (or even your Vita) is enough to put a smile on your face. It also makes revisiting previous dungeons for side quests feel less repetitive since they can be done in chunks.
I think Persona 5 Royal might have benefitted from being on handheld the most. This is a very long game and can get tedious on a home console if played for hours on end. Now that the game is portable, trips to Mementos can be done in bite-sized chunks, making grinding and item hunting much more bearable. Going through the Palaces is also more manageable on handheld, especially since some of them get too long as the game goes on.
While Persona 3 Portable could have used its cutscenes back, the cleaned-up sprites are nice enough and the 3D areas have been cleaned up, somewhat. Persona 4 Golden runs at a great 60 FPS on both systems and even has a newly added Quick Save that wasn’t in the Vita version. Persona 5 Royal is essentially the PS4 game on Switch but that’s not a bad thing at all, keeping the quick loading times and gorgeous UI.
Overall, all three games will give gamers their money’s worth. Though I was a bit mean to Persona 3 Portable, it’s still a landmark title that helped give birth to Atlus’ biggest franchise. It’s a coin toss on whether Persona 4 is better than Persona 5 or vice-versa but both titles are some of the best JRPGs ever created.
So, if you have a Nintendo Switch or even a Steam Deck and haven’t given the Persona series a chance, you literally have no excuse. Persona 3 Portable, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 5 Royal are available now on modern systems, but get them on Switch or Steam Deck for the best experience and you won’t be disappointed.