Review by megaman2005
"Persona returns, and this time it's a Scooby Doo mystery!"
Continuing on the success of Persona 3 released just a year before this one, Persona 4 takes everything that was great about the third and cleans it up a bit. You could say it's more of an upgrade than a full fledged sequel, but gosh darn it, why does every single game now-a-days have to reinvent the wheel?
I'D HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT IF IT WEREN'T FOR YOU MEDDLING KIDS
You play as yourself, a young Japanese high school student who is transferring to a school out in the sticks while your parents are away on a business trip over seas. Living with your uncle and cousin, trying to find friends and handle school work is hard enough as it is. It doesn't help that soon after you arrive a series of gory murders take place, and through a series of unfortunate events (yes I know this is a book series) you are thrust into the center of it. You and your rag-tag crew of school mates must go through a strange TV world and solve the mystery before anyone else is hurt.
The story is very interesting though some plot points can be seen coming from a mile away. The true ending to the game at least throws a wrench into the gears with a few cool twists towards the end of the game, however the actual ending itself is a little lackluster, and actually doesn't vary too greatly from the games other endings.
One of my biggest loves for the third game was the characters and dialogue. Characters you actually care about are hard to make in a video game and Atlus did an admirable job in the third, though the second have of your party in P3 seemed tacked on and forgettable. Atlus avoids that pitfall this time by keeping the party count down, and bringing in the new characters decently quickly, though the last member of your group doesn't join until surprisingly late in the game.
Persona 4 is an interesting trip through the human psyche. The murderer kills people by throwing them into the TV world, and every time the real world fills with fog, the shadows (monsters) in the TV world become violent and kill whoever is in their world. The twist of the TV world is that anyone who enters it without the power of a Persona, their true self is revealed, this true self reveals secrets of that person that they would rather keep hidden. There are a lot of cool character plots that are surprising to say the least, including one that I would have never thought I would have seen in a game released in the U.S.
FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!
The battle system remains similar to Persona 3, with a few tweaks. You can now control your entire party which is nice for those that it bothered. I never really had a problem with that in number 3, but it's practically required in 4 where boss battles can be an intricate dance of timing and strategy. I usually left the computer controlling my team mates during dungeon crawls since the AI is smart enough to recognize enemy weaknesses and when allies need healing, and then switched to manual for boss fights.
You can now defend, which isn't new to RPG's but it's especially handy in Persona 4. Defending negates ally weakness, so just because you bring the wrong person or Persona to a fight doesn't mean you can't win like in Persona 3. Also allies have special abilities you unlock by leveling up their Social Links, which also makes a return from the previous title. These abilities include taking a fatal hit in place of you the leader (if you are ever killed in a fight the game is automatically over), or landing a quick strike after a critical hit to knock one or more enemies down, or even out. It was a good choice to allow team mate social links in the game, something that was absent in 3. My only beef is that some of these abilities are almost necessary to beat the game, and once you reach the point of no return in the games calendar there's no way you can go back to level up your S. Links.
J-POP: THE GREATEST MUSICAL DEVICE KNOWN TO MAN.
The music is just as good as 3's which is awesome since I have the third soundtrack actually saved to my I-Pod and the soundtrack that comes with this one quickly made it's way into my headphones as well. However, just like in 3, Atlus made the mistake of only having a handful of songs that play over and over throughout the game. It wouldn't be a problem except that this game is LONG. You can easily spend upwards for 70 hours completing it, and hearing the same songs can grow tiresome. In the future having a greater mix of songs throughout the game might help out.
Overall the game is an amazing piece of work. A new copy only runs about $30, and also fills the RPG void left by the newer consoles. If you've played the third and loved it there really isn't a reason not to pick this one up. Plus with the inclusion of being able to control your allies, people who were put off by the lack of control in three should still give this one a try. This will be a cult classic for years to follow.
(Rating scale from worst to best: Awful-Bad-Average-Great-Excellent)
GRAPHICS: AVERAGE- The graphics from P3 return, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the game is far from a graphical power house.
SOUND: GREAT- Fantastic music throughout, though nausea sets in after hearing the same songs for 70+ hours.
CONTROLS: EXCELLENT- Menus are easier to navigate this time around, given that skills and spells effects can actually be viewed this time around.
GAMEPLAY: EXCELLENT- A great blend of strategy and Persona collecting. Jumping from dungeon crawling to a life simulation works as well as it did in P3, with some fresh ideas to keep things fresh and going smoothly.
STORY: GREAT- A very interesting story full of character drama and mystery. Only problem is some twists can be seen coming.
BUY IT/RENT IT/SKIP IT? : BUY IT!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/17/09
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/09/08)
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