Compared to other RPGs. I remember when I was reading about it, it sounded a lot different than other RPG games I've played like Final Fantasy, Fallout, Diablo, Pokemon, Elder Scrolls or Knights of the Old Republic.
"If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower." - Adolf Hitler
Well, for Persona 3 & 4; it's a combination of social simulation RPG + dungeon crawling game.
It's still a traditional JRPG though.
You could still talk to NPCs, turned based battle with enemies.
But for the social simulation, the story passed in days to weeks & months.
So in one day, you could either; talk to NPCs & raise their relationships with them, or raise you stats, getting part time jobs, or go to dungeon & grind levels.
The storyline fixed in exact dates, so, more / less you have deadlines until that day come.
This is the old PS2 Persona 4 trailer, but there are some in-game game-play in this you could see.
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PS3 exclusive game YAKUZA DEAD SOULS English version released in March 13th 2012!!!
The combat is turn based and begins when you enter a boss room or hit an enemy or an enemy hits you, If an enemy hits you it has a very high chance of getting an advantage in battle it'll get an extra turn at the beginning of the fight and get to go first. It works the way around too but Player Advantage seems to come up far less often so you'll mostly want to attack to avoid Enemy Advantage
In a fight you get these options:
Analysis - Once you've hit an enemy with a physical or elemental attack you'll be able to see whether it's weak to the attack, resistant to it or if it reflects, nullifies or absorbs (is healed by the attack) for future reference
Tactics: Only the MC can use this, you can use it to set up the other character's AI or set them to direct control - you'll probably just want to assume direct control of everyone.
Guard: take less damage and avoid being knocked down. If you're hit with an elemental attack you're weak to your character will be knocked down and the enemy will get another turn
Skill: Either magical skills that use up SP or physical skills that consume HP
Persona: MC only, switch Persona
Item: use one
Escape: Wait for your chance to run away. If you have the advantage you'll escape immediately otherwise you'll have to keep fighting until you get a chance to run at which point you'll have to confirm if you want to run or not
A lot of the fights come down to hitting all the enemies with something that they're weak to - once all the enemies are knocked down you can do an all out attack that will usually finish off every enemy. However if you hit an enemy with an attack it's weak to twice it'll get dizzy and miss is next turn. Sometimes that's a better way to go
The difference between this game and most other games comes from the fact that your skills and the main character's stats are decided by which one of the 187 (?) different Personae you have equipped
There are two ways to get new a new Persona - after a battle you might be presented with a series of cards some of which will have a Persona on, you'll have to pick the card but there'll be some challenge, either the cards will be moving and you have to stop them at the right moment or you'll have to turn over two matching cards etc.
Once you have some Persona cards you can perform a fusion and combine 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 12 cards together to make a new Persona - this Persona will inherit some of it's ingredient's skills - getting Personae with particular skills can be a big part of the game depending on how you want to play.
The other part of the game is related to the Persona fusion mechanic, you see Persona level up very slowly for the most part the best way to level one up is by increasing your "Social Links" (or S-Links). The main motifs of the Persona series are mostly based on two things - Jungian psychology and Tarot. Each of the people that you can interact with and form social links with represent one of the Major Arcana from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck (with a few exceptions) and each of the Personae you can have belong to one of those Arcana. If you level up the Magician link (for example) and then fuse a Jack Frost with, for example, Izanagi and a Principality it'll gain an experience boost. And might learn... Twin Shot and Zio (watch now, someone'll probably come along and show that I've got it all wrong and Jack Frost can't learn those moves)
A max S link will often be enough for a Persona to learn all of it's moves (depending on the weather). You also need to max S links to fuse the Ultimate persona of each arcana eg max the Emperor to fuse Odin.
As Modest_Modsoul said this is true only of Persona 3 and 4. I just started playing Persona 1 and it's quite different.
Nooooo, I'm fish
*cook myself* -Leo4999