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Persona 3 reload

Persona 3 Reload Perfectly Reimagines Cosy Dorm Life

The life of a high-schooler is a complicated conglomerate of wild emotions, mind-numbing academics, social pressures and exploding hormones. Throw in the task of saving the world from soul-sucking Shadows in an epic series of battles and that’s a big day for the protagonists in Persona 3. So what’s a Gekkoukan student to do when they’re totally spent?

Thankfully Atlas’ latest remake, Persona 3 Reload, has at long last given those kiddos the real quality-of-life break they’ve always needed within the walls – and kitchen – of Iwatodai Dormitory.

Looking back, I fondly remember Persona 3’s dorm as a pretty chill spot with some excellent music. However, upon a deeper retrospective, Iwatodai was nothing more than a home base for my character, in the literal sense. It was a utilitarian locale; function only.

“Thanks to the fresh blood Persona 3 Reload injected into the original game’s formula, the dorm’s full potential has finally been unlocked.”

The only things to really do were save my progress, take Koromaru for a walk and occasionally play the MMO that was key to earning the Hermit Arcana – a kind of mild adolescent fantasy involving Gekkoukan’s hard-partying composition teacher. Thanks to the fresh blood Persona 3 Reload injected into the original game’s formula, the dorm’s full potential has finally been unlocked. 

Persona 3 reload dorms
Image: Atlus

The first changes are obvious. As opposed to a security camera perspective from the top-down, Persona 3 Reload keeps the POV at floor level, immediately opening up the Lounge and making things seem more personal. Details that were obscure in the original are now pop and are ripe for utilisation. From the minute you walk in the door, the plush rust-colored couch and armchairs are inviting to a degree that we’ve never known before.

“…the plush rust-colored couch and armchairs are inviting to a degree that we’ve never known before.”

Moreover, Persona 3’s innocuous sound-emitting box in the corner is now revealed to be an actual TV! And here’s my favourite bit: true to the spirit of the early 2000s, the students – Junpei in particular – make a big deal out of having a DVD player, which looks suspiciously like a Panasonic DVD/VHS combo (which I totally had). But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Related: Read our full review of Persona 3 Reload

Previously a room simply ignored, the dorm’s kitchen is now accessible, which sold me immediately. I mean, c’mon, the kids have gotta eat, right? Thinking about Persona 4, being able to shop, learn recipes and cook was one of the parts of the game I loved the most. It’s a slice-of-life addition that adds balance to dungeon-grinding or creating social links. As the first entry in the Persona series to really set the tone for future iterations, I always thought it was a shame that Persona 3 lacked that same seemingly mundane yet enjoyable element. 

Persona 3 reload dorms
Image: Atlus

Moving up through the dorm, the 2nd Floor Hallway now has all the feels of a tranquil study, with the books on the bookshelf available to read in order to increase your Academics. Again, a port that worked well in Persona 4 adds a dash of welcomed realism that doesn’t take much sweat, unlike the newly-added gardening mechanic.

Yet another excellent Persona 4 addition, the dorm’s rooftop – previously a place of nightmares – has now been transformed into a nursery for all kinds of produce that can help you out in a scrap. Yes indeed, these additions are an absolute (ahem) game-changer, but Atlas hasn’t gone through all this trouble just to induce cosy feels, lord no!

“Cooking, gardening or watching DVDs with a colleague not only makes you tighter, but it unlocks a character’s theurgy.”

The goal behind these dorm updates is to ultimately create bonds with your fellow SEES buds by doing seemingly tedious tasks together. Indeed, cooking, gardening or watching DVDs with a colleague not only makes you tighter, but it unlocks a character’s theurgy. Now, since we’re not all religion majors here, the concept of “theurgy” is basically the idea of a human summoning a divine being by completing a monotonous ritual, i.e. cooking cream stew with Yukari, or watching old boxing matches with Akihiko.

Once fully charged, this new theurgy mechanic allows each member of your party to unleash new spells on enemies, which is a pretty good payoff for just doing stuff around the dorm. 

Persona 3 was my first foray into the Persona universe and I love it dearly. However, with the boatload of nip/tucks and facelifts, Persona 3 Reload could very well be my new favourite of the series. The new dorm additions round out the potential the original game glazed over, especially since all upgrades can be done in the comfort of your own home. It’s like the knowledge Reload’s remixed Iwatodai Dormitory theme drops: 

“But we gon’ chill today,
Let me rock the world tomorrow.”

Well said. 

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