PERSONA 3 PORTABLE Eleventy-brazilian out of 10!

RECENTLY I DESCRIBED Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker as the best PSP game on the market. Who knew it would lose that crown in mere weeks?

Answer? Anyone who enjoyed 2008's Persona 3 FES on the PlayStation 2 could have guessed as much the moment Atlus announced an upgraded PSP version, Persona 3 Portable. Here's a PS2 RPG that was universally praised upon release for everything from its stylized graphics and engrossing world, to its touching storyline and cooler-than-cool soundtrack—and its developer wants to make it portable? Where do I sign up?

Though the PSP nearly matches the power of the PS2, Persona 3 Portable needed slight alterations to make the leap. Previously, wandering the virtual world saw players literally wandering around as a 3D model of the protagonist. In Persona 3 Portable, each scene is a pre-rendered image, and you click on hot spots to talk to people or interact with the scenery. The change is jarring at first, but players will quickly acclimate as it becomes apparent that the game's storytelling ability is unaffected. If anything, it's an improvement, as it both cuts down on travel time and removes the possibility of a poorly coded camera being unable to track players as they move around town.

Otherwise, Persona 3 Portable is just what you'd expect from an expanded, handheld reissue of Persona 3 FES. New items, skills, and an additional protagonist combine to improve on a game that was already the single best reason for the continuing popularity of Japanese-style roleplaying. Considering that the PSP barely rates as the unloved stepchild of the PlayStation 2 on a good day, this release goes a long way toward actually justifying ownership of "Sony's Game Boy."

To put it another way, if the Mercury handed out numerical review scores, I'd be inventing integers to describe this one. Eleventy-brazilian out of 10? Yeah, sounds about right.