It can be tough figuring out how to manage everything Persona 3 Reload throws at you. Between school life, social life, and fighting demonic shadows during the Dark Hour, your time in Gekkoukan High School is hectic, to say the least. So whether you’re returning to Persona 3 or playing it for the first time via the brand-new remake, here are some tips for how to get the most out of every day on the game’s calendar.
Take your time
First and foremost, don’t go into Persona 3 Reload stressing about the passage of time. Most days, you get to do something during both the day and evening, whether that’s meeting up with a friend to progress their social link or stopping by the local eatery to raise your social stats. Every day that passes brings you closer to the end of the game, but you will have ample time to see most of the things you want to see in one playthrough. Definitely prioritize what you want on any given day, but if you’re worried about not being able to finish social links or raise your social stats, rest assured, Persona 3 Reload will give you the time to do what you want.
Check your text messages every day
Persona 3 Reload’s cell phone is your best friend. Each day, characters will reach out to you directly if they’re available to hang out, so if you’re caught up in decision paralysis, checking your text messages as soon as your school day is over is a great way to get some ideas for how to spend the afternoon. This is less prevalent during evening hours, as only a handful of social links can be pursued at night, but even then, characters will reach out to you by text if there’s a special event of some kind. So get in the habit of checking your phone first thing.
Do not miss the linked episodes
“Linked episodes” are one of the new additions introduced by Persona 3 Reload. These are social link-esque meetups with the male cast, and they’re home to some of the best writing in the game. But unlike the average social link, they’re directly tied to events of the main plot, and can’t be picked up at any point in the game. As such, if you get a text from Junpei, Akihiko, Shinji, Ken, or someone telling you to check on the dog Koromaru, head over immediately, because if you miss your window, you’ll miss out on the whole storyline.
Be on the lookout for Twilight Fragments
Also new to Persona 3 Reload are Twilight Fragments. These rare items are used to open treasure chests throughout the game’s dungeon, the maze-like tower known as Tartarus. You can earn these through multiple means, but they also appear in the world. You can find them in some pretty random places. The first one I ever found in the wild was inside a sink at the school. So if you see something shiny on the ground throughout the city, grab it.
Don’t fast travel everywhere
On that note, Persona 3 Reload lets you fast travel throughout the city of Iwatodai, and even if the RPG isn’t open-world, it can be a time saver for getting from one place to another. That being said, because Twilight Fragments are scattered around the world and can be pretty hard to find otherwise, it’s a good rule of thumb to make time to walk from one place to another. On top of this, while Persona 3 Reload does a good job of directing you to opportunities with the phone and through some scripted events, you can still miss out on some quests and story threads if you’re just teleporting to your destination all the time. So take a stroll through the school or city every now and then, or you might miss something.
Never go to bed early
Part of taking your time is using all the time made available to you. Persona 3 Reload lets you return to your dorm room and sleep, skipping through a block of time to begin the next day. Never do this. If you have an evening, do something with it. Watch a boxing match with Akihiko or study at your desk. The next big plot beat you’re trying to rush to will still be there when you’re done. Use this time to bond with your teammates, raise stats, and buy new equipment and resources.
Elizabeth’s Requests are a great way to stock up on supplies
Speaking of resources, Elizabeth’s requests are invaluable for getting supplies you might not be able to buy at a store. Typically these odd jobs are low-lift and are completed by playing pretty naturally. This can include taking out a certain number of shadows or finding key items you get by progressing the plot, but sometimes she’ll ask for something a little out of the way. She might want to see an item that sounds like something one of your party members might have, or ask you to fuse a specific Persona in the Velvet Room. The rewards for this are usually either a buttload of money or some items that you won’t find easily elsewhere. Some of my earliest SP-healing items came from Elizabeth, and as you play, you’ll find those are hard to come by. So stop by the Velvet Room and pay her a visit often.
Sell items to Kurosawa
Throughout your travels in Tartarus, you’ll come across several items that have no use beyond being sold. It’s easy to forget about them because they occupy a different pocket in your inventory, but if you spent a night fighting shadows, swing by the police station to do some under-the-table dealings.
The antique shop is your most reliable source of SP items
When you first start Persona 3 Reload, there will be an antique shop at Paulownia Mall that won’t be open until June. Once it’s back in business, it’s good for crafting powerful equipment, but it’s also one of the only reliable sources for SP-healing items. This establishment doesn’t take money, however. You’ll need gems you collect throughout Tartarus in order to buy these items. SP is what lets your team use their magic abilities, and how sparingly you’re able to find recovery items for it is one of the biggest obstacles to progressing through Tartarus. So if you’re trying to keep on the nightly grind, you’ll need to stock up on these items, and the antique shop is the place to find them.
Always have crops growing on the rooftop
At a certain point in the story, you’ll be told about the garden the team is keeping on the dorm’s roof. You’ll be able to plant crops here that will take a designated number of days to grow. As they’re growing, you can meet up with different teammates who want to help out with the gardening, which will give them perks in battle, improve your crops’ quality, and give you a lovely conversation to watch unfold. This is a great way to both give yourself some new supplies and get to know your party a little bit better. Different crops have different effects once grown, and if you want to find different seeds, head to the flower shop at Port Island Station.
Walk Koromaru every time you can
If you’re a good-hearted person, you should want to spend as much time around dogs as you can in this life. This holds true for Persona 3 Reload as well. Koromaru will ask to go on walks some evenings, and not only will he get to frolic and have a good time, but more often than not, someone will want to join you both. So you get to hang out with a buddy, Koromaru gets some fresh air, and he’ll bring you back a useful item at the end.
Be training your social stats early and often so you don’t have to catch up
Persona 3 Reload has three social stats: courage, charm, and academics. You can increase these through several means, such as working at a coffee shop, studying, and watching different movies with your teammates in the evening. While you may feel tempted to focus on fighting through Tartarus or doing social links during your free time, don’t let these menial tasks fall by the wayside. Increasing your social stats is just as important as raising your battle stats, and as you reach the late game, there will be thresholds you have to overcome in your courage, charm, or academics to progress social links. So don’t get stuck playing catch-up in the 50th hour.
Go to the Naganaki Shrine to improve your relationships
Sometimes you’ll want to hang out with a certain social link character and get hit with a message that says you don’t think you’ll grow closer if you hang out. This means you can still chill with them, but you won’t see the next scene in their story. Doing this does improve your relationship, meaning you might unlock the next scene sooner because of it. But if you want to progress your relationship with someone and they’re not free to hang out, you can swing by Naganaki Shrine and pay a small fee to grow closer to someone, making it more likely to see their following social link scene next time they’re available.
Find social links in other social links
Part of the reason it’s worth hanging out with characters you don’t really like is that you might find different social links within their stories. For example, hanging out with the young girl Maiko grants you access to the social link of Akinari, a man dealing with a terminal illness. So keep in mind that finding new friends means meeting their friends and linking up.
Hard save often
Persona 3 Reload doesn’t have autosaves, and sometimes the game is so breezy you might forget to put a hard save down. Get into the habit of making hard saves before you head to Tartarus, and after you’ve moved up however many floors you decide to go up that night. It’s even worth heading down when you find a two-way teleporter to drop a save in the lobby. This is especially important if you reach a “gatekeeper” shadow, which is a powerful enemy that is your sole foe on a specific floor. These are usually accompanied by a teleporter to a safe zone, but even that’s not guaranteed. So if you have an opportunity to save, take it—every time.
Your characters won’t all level up together
One of the more frustrating things about Persona 3 Reload’s preservation of the original game’s constraints is that your party of 10 characters does not all gain exp if they’re not in the party during a battle. In theory, you could settle on a group of four that you like and keep them around without having to worry about your benched team, but Persona 3 Reload will have some characters rotating out of use because of story developments. So you might find yourself down a key player in your strategies and have to tag in someone who is far weaker than the enemies you’ll be fighting. You can avoid this by rotating your team throughout the game, but whatever you decide to do, know that keeping everyone around the same level will be a major grind. You will, however, reach a type of room in Tartarus where you can level up characters to the protagonist’s level, but this will be a limited resource.
Always try to reach the border floor early in a full moon cycle
Persona 3 Reload’s structure means that you’ll reach a “border floor” in Tartarus and won’t be able to progress until the next full moon. Once you reach these nights, you’ll face a powerful boss. After defeating them, the blockade will open, and you’ll be able to keep climbing. If I can offer any advice on time management as it pertains to climbing Tartarus, try to reach the border floor as early as you can in the full moon cycle. This will keep you from having to rush through near the end and having to spend nights in Tartarus when you’d rather be doing something else. You don’t need to rush to the next dead end in one night, but maybe try to reach it within a week of its opening so you’re free to spend the next few weeks however you like.
Don’t stop going to Tartarus just because you can’t go up anymore
That being said, there will always be reasons to go back to Tartarus, even if you’ve reached a border floor. Elizabeth will let you know that some humans have stumbled into Tartarus and will need rescuing. As you max out social links, your friends will inevitably show up in the tower, and it will be up to you to save them before the next full moon cycle. Failing to do so will have dire consequences. On top of this, it’s never a bad idea to grind a little and make sure your team’s ready to go before the next big fight. So Tartarus may be out of sight after you reach the next dead end, but don’t let it stay out of your mind for too long.
You can fast travel to the stairs and reach the next floor
As you’re traveling through each floor of Tartarus, your goal will be to find the stairs that lead to the next area. However, if you find them early in your search, don’t head up right away; there’s still plenty of enemies to fight, treasure to find, and ambient dialogue to hear on that floor. Luckily, if you open the map after finding the stairs, you can immediately fast travel to the next floor from anywhere. So don’t be afraid to explore some more before heading up.
All-Out Attack will un-stun an opponent
For a lot of Persona 3 Reload’s turn-based fights, the bread-and-butter strategy is to exploit shadows’ weaknesses to knock them down. This will give you an extra move, or the option to “shift” to another teammate who can target a different enemy’s weakness. After you’ve knocked all of them down, you’ll be able to initiate an “All-Out Attack.” This is a powerful move in which all your party gangs up on the downed foes and can wipe an entire team of enemies with one use. However, you can decline to use them and instead continue to attack, heal, or set up normally. The reason it’s important to have the option is because, if an All-Out Attack doesn’t kill an enemy, it will un-stun them. If you don’t use the attack, you’ll have an opening. So use some situational awareness to determine what the best tactic is rather than just going for the All-Out Attack each time.
Shift to spread SP use around
One of the advantages of being a Persona protagonist is you can switch between multiple Persona with different abilities and stats on the fly. Because of this, the natural inclination might be to use your main character to cast spells and knock enemies down for an All-Out Attack. If you’ve got a character that can target any weakness, why bother to shift during turns and swap to another character? Well, as we laid out earlier, SP is a precious resource, and having one character shoulder the weight of magic use is a quick way to exhaust it. Use shift not only so you can see the cool animation of teammates looking at each other intently but also because it’s a smart way to conserve SP.
Grab the exp or money cards in most shuffles
After most battles in Tartarus, you’ll start “Shuffle Time,” a chance to pick between different cards that give you rewards and perks for completing a fight. This can be things like money, a new Persona, or a skill card to teach a Persona a new ability. Some of these will also have perks that go away after you leave Tartarus for a night, such as a boost to All-Out Attack damage or temporary buffs to your HP or SP. However, my advice is to try and prioritize things that will last for longer than a night. I almost always picked up the exp or money cards because those were things I could take with me, rather than being dropped as soon as I decided to go home.
Check an enemy’s attacks for a hint at weaknesses
Because attacking weaknesses is such a core part of Persona 3’s fights, having your navigator (Mitsuru at first, Fuuka later) scan an enemy to reveal their weaknesses is one way to get an edge in battle. However, you can’t do a scan until the entire party has gone through a turn, so you can’t know definitively what a shadow’s weakness is until you’ve already had several chances to attack it. This makes fights a trial-and-error game for a few turns, but you can at least use context clues to guess a weakness and start setting up an All-Out Attack.
If you’re analyzing an enemy and can see what spells they have, you can reasonably discern what their weaknesses might be. It’s not foolproof, but Persona does tend to adhere to an elemental balance that can at least give you a good starting point to blindly fire spells at enemies in hopes of hitting a weakness. Fire weakens and is weak to Ice, Electric is weak to and weakens Wind, and Light is weak to and is strong against Dark. So if an enemy is using one element, try the one that typically weakens that.
Don’t be precious about Theurgy
Another new element in Persona 3 Reload is the addition of Theurgy. These are powerful abilities each member of SEES receives shortly after Fuuka joins the party. Each character has to fill up their Theurgy gauge during battle, then they can unleash an ultimate-style move that can deal a ton of damage, support the team, and just generally looks pretty damn cool. Every character fills their Theurgy gauge in different ways, such as the protagonist earning more when he summons a Persona, or Akihiko earning it when he’s buffed. But while those tactics can fill it more quickly, everyone passively earns it each time they take a turn. So while Theurgy may seem like a precious resource, don’t be afraid to let loose on some standard enemies if they’re giving you a hard time. The bar replenishes itself fairly quickly, so fire away.
There are ways to keep a Persona viable long-term
Persona games are typically scaled for you to be fusing and creating new Persona throughout, so it’s uncommon for most players to be using creatures they had at the beginning of the game by the time they reach the end. However, if you find yourself attached to a specific one early on, there are ways to keep them usable throughout the game. I tend to gravitate towards the main character’s first Persona, like Orpheus in Persona 3. To keep him in my roster, I use skill cards to give him new abilities, which keeps him versatile, so I don’t have to switch off him that often. This means he doesn’t miss out on experience points and remains viable throughout the whole game.
Prioritize survivability for your protagonist
Something the Persona games continue to insist on is that if your main character falls in a fight, that’s game over. This doesn’t apply to easier difficulty levels, but if you’re playing the average Persona 3 Reload experience, you will need to keep the blue-haired wonder in the fight at all times. Because of this, it’s a smart idea to prioritize his survival over the rest of your party. I defaulted to giving him the best armor I had in my inventory and even gave him accessories that increased his HP. If I had only single-target healing spells or items and my whole team was hurting, sorry to Akihiko, I healed my MC. Persona 3 Reload also has one-hit-kill moves that don’t discriminate just because they’re targeting the main character. If you find yourself fighting against an enemy that knows any variation of Mudo or Hama spells, switch to a Persona with immunity to dark or light spells to ensure he doesn’t succumb to instant death.
That’s a lot of tips for Persona 3 Reload, and even that only covers a fraction of all there is to see and do in this game. These games can seem overwhelming, but once you get used to their routine, they’re actually pretty breezy experiences. Just take each day as it comes, and keep these lessons in mind. You’ll end the Dark Hour in no time.
For more on Persona 3 Reload, check out the Kotaku US review.
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