21 Early Game Persona 3 Reload Tips


Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.

Persona 3 Reload is here and it’s awesome. The quirky blend of traditional J-RPG gameplay and life management sim puts the Persona series in a class all its own, and the good news is that P3R is one of the very best Persona titles to date.


Once you grow accustomed to P3R’s unique balance and rhythm (or perhaps not-so-unique since countless RPGs have been influenced by the series), it’s easy enough to chart your own path to success. But for those who are just getting into this amazing game, or the Persona series, or maybe even RPGs in general, here are a few tips for success. Note that this guide is spoiler-free and pertains mostly to the early game, up to the point where your team receives Theurgy skills. After that you're on your own!


1) The Protagonist Always Comes First

Technically speaking, letting the protagonist (I’ll call him Makoto due to existing canon) fall in battle is the only way to lose the game. You can make poor decisions and leave situations unresolved that may affect the game’s outcome, but none of these will result in an immediate Game Over. You can let all of your teammates expire or even choose not to bring them into battle at all and the game will still continue. The only qualifier to continuing the game is that Makoto is standing with 1 HP of life.


While wandering through Tartarus, the focus needs to be on keeping Makoto healthy and battle-ready. He should always have the best armor and accessories, even a small HP bump can make the difference between life and death (although not so much on Normal difficulty, which is pretty much a breeze). He should also have access to at least one healing spell equal to the level of his team as well as several Revival items. Note that you don't need a healing spell on your active Persona since you can switch them up in battle, any Persona in your inventory will do.


One thing to watch out for are enemies with Light/Dark Insta-kill spells such as Mudo, these spells can end the game instantly no matter how much HP Makoto has. There are Personas which offer protection against these spells, and you should switch to them (if you have them in your possession) when facing an enemy armed with Insta-kill. You can also find Homunculus in treasure chests which offer a one-time protection against Insta-kill, but these are consumed automatically during battle, meaning they are used for teammates as well as Makoto.


2) Max Out A Social Link (Or Two) Early

With all of the compelling Social Link options available early on, it’s tempting to want to spread the love amongst your comrades, and that’s totally fine. But it’s also important to recognize the advantage of maxing out a Social Link early on. Maxing out at Rank 10 provides a massive level up bonus when fusing Persona within that social class, meaning you can easily end up with Personas that are several levels above your current level with additional spells and capabilities. That’s a very good thing.


3) Always Have The Proper Persona In Hand When Socializing

Hanging out with friends is a measurable key to success in the Persona series. One factor to optimizing this success is making sure you have the corresponding Persona on hand when meeting up, which provides an automatic Social Link bump. For example, if I’m focusing on Kenji’s Social Link, I always have a Magician Persona handy before meeting up with him.


You’ll know if you have this set up properly as the game will give you a notification before choosing the option to hang out. Don’t abandon hope if you don’t have the proper Persona handy, there’s always the chance you can visit the Velvet Room to summon or fuse the one you need. Or meet up with someone whose Persona you happen to have on hand… the choice is yours.


4) Don’t Sweat Battle Ailments Too Much

It can be distressing to see a teammate get… well, distressed in the middle of a big fight. Yet despite what your instincts may tell you, it’s not always in your best interest to remedy that issue immediately. For example, you may have a teammate who is charmed but have no counter spells and only a single Dis-Charm potion at your disposal. Depending on the opponent and the length of the battle, it may be best to save that lone potion for a tougher battle that lies ahead.


This strategy also applies to reviving characters who have died mid-battle. If you can smash your way through without using a Revive potion or spell, go ahead and do it. Don’t forget, most ailments only last a few rounds and are typically resolved at the end of every battle, this includes dying mid-battle (although you are revived with only 1 HP).


5) Use HP/SP Potions Early On

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a tendency to hoard RPG booty and stash it for a rainy day. It’s a sound strategy, but remember there will eventually come a time when that measly 10 HP potion isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good. Consume those low-factor HP/SP items early on when they’ll have maximum effect.


6) SP Is Your Most Precious Resource

You can take HP and SP at face value, meaning HP are your hit points and SP are your skill/magic points. But on a more effective level, HP is the statistic that keeps you in the game and SP is the supplement that reinforces that stat. For early extended runs in Tartarus, you should always be looking at maxing your HP and using SP to keep it there. Since a handful of SP can equal a boatload of HP, it only makes sense to manage these two as a combined resource.


Funneling SP into healing magic will grant you longer expeditions in Tartarus, which in turn will grant you more Arcana Card bonuses and EXP. Yukari is set up as a healer out of the box and the protagonist has no shortage of heal spells at his disposal. Therefore, having them cast elemental skills on enemies that aren’t inherently weak is typically a waste of resource since that same resource can be used to heal the entire party.


7) When Visiting Tartarus, Stay As Long As Possible

Visiting Tartarus means you’ve already committed to an evening of adventure, so why not stick around? There are numerous advantages to this beyond the obvious leveling up, including the powerful Arcana cards that reveal themselves the longer you remain in Tartarus on a single expedition. Just keep in mind you don’t want to linger on any level for too long, otherwise you risk getting wrecked by a Reaper.


P3R rewards the clever player for grinding, so when I sign up for an evening of dungeon crawling, my base strategy is to grind the highest levels repeatedly until my SP is depleted for every character with healing ability. I also make sure I’m maxed out on diversified Personas. By the end of every Dark Hour I’ve gained several levels with all of my Personas lined up for Social Link benefits. If Makoto ends up with a bit of extra SP I may send him on a brief solo run.


8) Visit The Fortune Teller Before Exploring Tartarus

Having your fortune told at the nightclub before hitting Tartarus will set you back a hefty $3000, so why even bother? Because it increases the likelihood of encountering Treasure Hands, which can be an absolute boon. I won’t go into detail on how to defeat these pesky enemies, safe to say if you can manage you’ll be more than rewarded for your investment.


9) Check Your E-Mail Often… But Don’t Rely Upon It

P3R’s e-mail function serves a useful tool for letting you know what options are available during any given time period, as well any activities that you may be sleeping on. Check your e-mail every chance you get but don’t rely on it as a guide for what you should be doing. If you have something else in mind, do that instead.


10) Akihiko Is Quite Good

Not only is Akihiko one of the game’s cooler characters with his lightning-based boxing skills, he also comes with Dia out of the box. This means one more character with a base healing spell, funneling SP into precious HP. This tactic becomes less relevant later on, but early game Akihiko could be the difference between cutting an evening short and heading back to the dorm or sticking around for the long haul. It's also worth noting that—unlike other early game teammates—his Theurgy does damage to multiple enemies.


If Akihiko’s not in your Tartarus expedition party, you can always travel back to the first floor from any teleporter and pick him up. Or if you’d prefer to keep someone else in your party, you can bring him in just long enough to use his healing magic then sideline him again.


11) Look Up The Class Answers

Let’s be honest: The class questions can be annoying and no one is going to have all of these answers committed to memory (if you do, you probably have a higher calling). Google, on the other hand, remembers all. Since these questions often rely upon the player’s offhand knowledge and require no skill whatsoever, I’m totally fine with looking them up online.


If you don’t know the answers and would really rather not “cheat,” you can always guess and use P3R’s Rewind feature to correct any mistakes. Similarly, you can use P3R’s Network function to see what answer other players are picking (this should be 99% accurate but does not work on exams). Just remember these academic questions are essentially free Social Stat upgrades and (I assume) no one is sitting over your shoulder to judge you on your academic prowess.


12) Seek Out The Fiery Red Shadows

Early in the game you’ll be introduced to fiery red shadows, enemies that are quite a bit tougher than anything you’ve faced thus far. The thing is, if you’re playing on Normal difficulty, they really aren’t that tough at all. Just like standard enemies, red shadows usually have an exploitable weakness that will put them on their back, not to mention they cough up a ton of EXP. Therefore, it’s usually in your best interest to seek out fiery red shadows and defeat them.


If you've cleared a set of floors in Tartarus and are grinding away on repeat, it may actually make sense to avoid all common shadows and only fight the fiery ones. It's easy enough, just keep skipping floors until you locate a red dot with energy spikes on your map, then head straight for it. You'll level up much faster this way.


13) Don’t Buy Every Upgrade From Officer Kurosawa

Officer Kurosawa is only too willing to fence confiscated weapons and armor to impressionable teenagers, rationalizing that it’s all for a good cause. The problem is not everything he offers up is worth the asking price. Some of his inventory is useful, some not so much. You’ll have to be judicious and determine what’s best for your party in any given scenario.


Never rush to scoop up Kurosawa’s latest wares simply because they’re new. Focus instead on farming the Twilight Fragments which are scattered throughout the game, these will let you open the locked treasure chests that often provide better loot than what Kurosawa is offering and it won’t cost you a penny. Fulfilling Elizabeth’s requests can net you some sweet gear as well.


14) Use Your Persona Skill Boosts On Teammates, Not Yourself

Persona Skill Boosts are awesome, no doubt. I mean, who doesn’t want a permanent +1 Magic? Just keep in mind Makoto is constantly switching up his Personas while your teammates remain the same. Therefore, it’s better to invest these cards in your teammates, particularly the members that are always in your party. For example, I keep Junpei in my lineup for melee so he gets the majority of my Strength Boost cards. Magic Boosts go to Yukari, and so on.


15) Make The Most Of Your (Free) Time

Time management is perhaps the single most critical component of the Persona series. Most actions consume an afternoon or evening and your options are varied. It’s kinda hard to screw this up, nonetheless you’re occasionally left with the gut feeling that maybe you could have handled this better.


The good news is there are plenty of things to do in P3R that do not consume time at all, such as taking the train to various stops, visiting most shops and kiosks to purchase items, duping Skill Cards at the Inari Shrine (more on this later), talking to citizens, consulting with Igor in the Velvet Room and asking Elizabeth out. Do these things and do them often, knowing that there is absolutely zero risk involved in doing so. If you’re about to expend precious time on an activity—even accidentally—the game should ask for confirmation before doing so.


16) Choose Shuffle Cards With Permanent Effects

Post-battle Shuffle Cards are just one of the many ancillary gameplay factors in P3R. All cards are beneficial but some far more than others. For example, getting the entire party healed or your Theurgy meter filled is convenient for dungeon crawling, but this usefulness also disappears once you’re done for the evening. By comparison, EXP is a permaboost which benefits your party for as long as you’re playing the game.


I typically choose my Shuffle Cards in this order; 1) EXP; 2) Skill/Persona Cards (if I don’t already have them); 3) Money; 4) everything else.


17) EXP Is Always A Wise Investment

A lot of what's written here is pretty much common sense for RPGers, and EXP investment is no exception. As with most RPGs, more experience means higher leveling, which means more hit points and skill points, bigger inventory, and in this game access to more powerful Personas.


If you use the aforementioned tips to remain in Tartarus longer and rack up EXP, you'll end up with a well-leveled party that can blow through even the toughest early-game bosses. I also opted to pick up the EXP ring from the bartender at the nightclub as soon as I had the necessary 100,000, the price is steep but +15% EXP on top of cumulative dungeon bonuses is nothing to sneeze at!


Another key thing to remember about EXP is that it is a shared resource among party members. So if your EXP is 500 for a four-party battle (plus Fuuka), that's 100 EXP per member. If you're finding the game a tad too easy, you may want to consider a Makoto solo run and see how you fare. You'll level up quickly and there will eventually be an option to catch the other members up as they don't gain EXP when they're out of the party. Just keep in mind you're basically making the game 4x more difficult with no options for party healing.


18) Fuse New Personas Whenever Convenient

It doesn’t need to be a top priority, but you should definitely get in the habit of stepping into the Velvet Room and fusing new Personas on a regular basis. Even if you don’t plan on bringing your newly created Persona into battle, the advantages are numerous. First, you can earn new abilities based upon how many different Personas you’ve discovered/owned. Second, your Persona capacity is limited so you’ll need to merge them or risk filling your inventory. Third, as mentioned above, you can fuse some really powerful Persona if you take advantage of maxed out Social Links.


There are other advantages as well, but I’ll save those for you to discover on your own.


19) Assist Is Great For Targeting Enemy Weaknesses

Part of the new P3R experience is about making battle as convenient as possible. Case in point the new Assist feature, which automatically dials up enemy weaknesses that you've discovered. This really comes in handy if you haven't memorized said weaknesses, it will also notify you if there are no weaknesses to exploit. Just keep in mind Assist can switch the protagonist's Persona automatically, so don't be surprised if your spells and skills get all switched around. Assist will also auto-select any qualifying items in your inventory (ex: Maragi items against enemies that are weak to fire), so confirm that you really want to use them.


20) Use Theurgy… A Lot

Your team gets their Theurgy skills early on, they’re awesome weapons and it seems like you’ll want to save them for a tough battle. The fact is the Theurgy meter fills up pretty quick and you can use them more often than you think. Fuuka’s Theurgy is especially useful as it essentially nets a 33% chance of refreshing SP, and if you’ve been following along this far, you’ll know that more SP equals more a powerful team. Even if you’re in an easy fight and lacking SP, it may be worth expending Fuuka’s Theurgy just to see if the RNG gods are on your side.


21) Dupe Skill Cards At The Inari Shrine

Do this as often as you can, it is a free daily activity that consumes no time and rewards you with an extra Skill Card, which are extremely beneficial toward building both focused and balanced Personas. Over time you'll amass a wide assortment of quality Skill Cards and will be able to use them at will without fear of exhausting your supply.


Bonus Tip: Have Fun!

Persona 3 Reload is a game that throws a lot of conventions at you, sometimes it seems as though there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything you want. But it's still a fairly easy J-RPG compared to other Megaten games such as the SMT3: Nocturne remaster, which wisely included "Merciful Difficulty" DLC. The Persona series marches to a different role-playing beat, so don't forget to relax and enjoy all of the quirky moments and episodes. P3R is an unforgettable ride from start to finish and well worth repeated playthroughs. - BW


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Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.
Kung Fu poster by BIll Wood.
The Cramps poster art by Bill Wood.