I finally just beat Persona 3 Portable, after sinking about 75 hours into the game. This was my first time playing through the game for a significant amount of time. I tried playing Persona 3 after beating Persona 4. Big mistake. See, Persona 4 had the revolutionary concept of CONTROLLING YOUR WHOLE PARTY, something that Atlus hadn't yet come up with in Persona 3. No Atlus, I don't care if you're trying to create a sense of depending on your teammates. If I want to do that, I'll go play an MMO. So THANK YOU for putting this feature into Persona 3 Portable, which single-handedly gave me a reason to try playing it again. Seriously, it was that big of an issue.
Now, I am HUGE Persona 4 fanboy, so I am a bit biased, but I will try to judge Persona 3 on its own merits (not likely). The story I feel faltered a bit. It seemed really interesting in the beginning, when everything was really vague, but I still feel things could've been explained a bit more. So, the Korijo group was studying shadows. Well, where did they come from in the first place? I just feel everything was just skimmed upon instead of explained thoroughly, with no epic, long cutscenes to explain stuff, whereas in Persona 4 there are numerous long cutscenes that explain pretty much EVERYTHING in the story, with few dangling threads. In fact, the true ending of Persona 4 is based off the fact that there was a dangling little plot thread that needed to be tied up. A bit more exposition in Persona 3 would've been great. While I was genuinely interested in the story,
No, the combat system was probably the best part. While I rarely look forward to grinding sessions in games, with Persona 3 being no exception, at least battles are fast paced and simple. Simple turned based, with basic elemental attacks and regular attacks, along with healing and support moves, etc. However, if you can hit all the enemies' weak points at once, you can perform an all out attack, basically ending the battle (assuming it's not a boss battle). Most battles going up the tower won't last more than a minute, in contrast to most JRPGs where they can take several minutes. The fast paced battles keep the pace going well. However, my biggest complaint is that the hit rate seems to be only 90%, sometimes lower. In my games, I want attacks to hit closer to 99.9%, not 90. It was so annoying to miss my attacks several times per battle sometimes for no apparent goddamn reason. So yeah, in Persona 5, let's make it like Pokemon, where most attacks have a 100% hit rate.
The main selling point of Persona 3 is the social link system, where you get to know various people and form bonds with them, which gives bonuses to the Personas you fuse. Social links are vital to staying powerful in battle, but they are also nice to explore the various real life problems people have. Basically, you are Jesus, and you solve everyone's problems by the time you max out the social link. Some of them are genuinely sad, like the social link with a dying young man that almost had me in tears at the end of it.
Overall, Persona 3 is a great game, if only for the social links and solid battle system, and the story is interesting enough, but like I said, it could've been fleshed out a bit more. Overall, I would give Persona 3 Portable an 8.5 out of 10.