At Tokyo Game Show 2023, I was able to get some hands-on time with Reload and I was excited to try it out. is my favorite of the Persona games but it’s also the one I feel the least need to ever go back and play again. My issue can be summed up in one word: Tartarus.
Tartarus is ‘s randomly generated dungeon that you need to constantly venture into. I have horrible memories of the experience. With boring layouts, save points few and far between, and random enemies capable of one-hit killing the protagonist (granting an instant game over regardless of whether the other party members are still alive or not), its 264 floors are not something I have any need to experience again—so of course the TGS demo threw me right in.
The demo was set in the Thebel Block near the end of April. I controlled Yukari, Junpei, and the main character with Mitsuru acting as external support. To my surprise, from the get-go, Tartarus feels much better than before. While rooms and halls are still repeated ad infinitum, there are now lots of moving parts like gates and walls that give it a cool otherworldly feel.
In battle, the interface has been visually redesigned to be more along the lines of ‘s layout—though with more in the way of curved lines and a blue and white color pallet. The all-out attack animations look great as do the cinematic shots you get the first time you summon a character’s persona in that battle—and each battle ends with a killer shot of the characters walking away from the battle as Tartarus’ walls move and change behind them. And the music… well, it’s just as awesome as always. It all just oozes style.
As far as the gameplay goes, it’s the same as far as I can tell. You try different attacks to discover an enemy’s weakness and get an extra attack when you hit it. Then, if you manage to get all the enemies stunned by having their weaknesses hit, you get an all-out attack which is usually enough to kill all the enemies and win the battle. Of course, this means there is always the frustration that comes from encountering enemies that have a weakness you can’t hit due to your party composition or equipped personas.
All that said, I had a great time climbing the tower and taking down its first boss. It in no way looks or feels like a nearly 20-year-old game. Hopefully, this will get fans of the more recent games in the series to give it a try. After all, those games would never exist without this one.
Reload is scheduled for release on February 2, 2024, for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.