Review by Calamity
"My new favorite game of all time. No, really I mean it!"
Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 is a fantastic game for the PS2. I was slightly skeptical when I first got it. To be honest, I didn't like Persona 3 FES too much, but mostly because of the problems that Persona 4 got rid of or improved upon from Persona 3 FES. Really though, now that I've just about beaten it the game is now my new favorite game of all time...
Graphics 10/10:The Graphics in Persona 4 are really good. You'll notice the Graphics have a anime style to them. They were done quite nicely and have a rich feeling of being well done and high quality. Atlus certainly knew how to design the areas in the game. Especially the dungeons found throughout the game. I loved the dungeon designs in the game and thought Atlus did a terrific job with them. Character designs were done very well too. I liked them and the great enemy designs. Really my only flaw with the Graphics are the frequent enemy color palette swaps you run into throughout the game. In conclusion though, the Graphics are excellent. While the Graphics won't impress anyone in terms of sheer technical power, they do make up for it by being incredibly stylish.
Gameplay 9.6/10:Persona 4 has extremely fun and addictive gameplay. Even despite a few minor flaws. To begin with, this is not quite your normal RPG. Instead of going from town to dungeon you follow a different pattern. You go from the normal world to what is known as the TV dimension. In the normal world you do a variety of things and have access to a few locations. You can visit the Shopping District. Which is where you do your shopping in the game. Next, you have the Dojima Residence. This is where the Protagonist of the game lives. Here, you can develop Social Links which I will go into details about later. Do certain home activities to raise social stats or go to sleep and proceed onto the next day of the game. After here, is the school. At school you can find other Social Links, join a club or be asked questions that if you answer correctly raises your Intelligence social status. The other remaining areas are merely just for minor plot parts and for a few other Social Links. Simply put, the point of the normal world is heavily for plot purposes and raising social stats which can be a lot of fun. Social stats and Links affect the Storyline a lot. As well as Gameplay too.
Social stats/links are two different things, but similar. Social Links you find a person you can form one with and do so. For a Social Link it involves you spending the day with that individual and going through a mini side plot with them. Through Social Links you learn a lot about the character who's Social Link it is and you go up ranks each time you make good choices in a Social Link. Each time you go up a Rank for the Arcana that the Social Rank is for you'll get bonus EXP when fusing a Persona of that Arcana. Once you reach the max Rank of a Social Link you can then fuse the best possible Persona from that specific Arcana type. As for social stats they simply determine what you can/can't do socially. Who you can get Social Links with, and etc. There are five different ones with a few specific ways to raise all of them. While most of the game sounds like Storyline events, do not worry combat by all means takes no backseat in this game.
Combat in Persona 4 is turn based. You explore dungeons with a four man party. In order to initiate battles you come into contact with a enemy. However, to make this more involving you can swing your equipped weapon at a enemy's back to launch a surprise attack. Giving you one free round when the battle begins. Of course, the enemy ambush you too, so be careful. In battle you'll quickly learn about weaknesses. The Shin Megami Tensei series usually involves battle systems where knowing your enemy's weakness and exploiting it is incredibly vital.
It is important as well that you know your own weaknesses because a enemy can exploit it to their advantage too. There are resistances against certain elements to make exploiting far harder and more involved. Each time you exploit a weakness that character gets a extra turn. Then the enemy who was effected by the spell is downed. While downed a ally or enemy cannot do anything and will get back up the next turn. However, if hit by a spell of the element they are weak to again the ally or enemy will become Dizzy and be downed for several turns. If you manage to down all enemies in battle you can do a all out attack. Which is a very powerful non elemental attack that does a lot of damage to all enemies. After a battle is finished you then do a small fun mini game.
It involves cards moving around and certain cards are bad while others are Persona. You want to obviously get the Persona cards. If you manage to get a Persona card you'll obtain that Persona, but don't get any smart ideas. You can only hold a limited amount and that amount increases every few levels before finally stopping at 12. Well, with such a good battle system you would think P4 is quite difficult and indeed it is.
Going through on Normal difficulty the game was for the most part moderately difficult. The normal battles while usually easy are not to be underestimated. Sometimes, two slight mistakes in one normal battle can get you a Game Over. Especially towards the end. Once you reach the end of the game, exploiting weaknesses is vital or else it'll happen to you resulting in a quick game over. I can for sure say the boss fights don't DISAPPOINT in terms of difficulty. The ones I had the most trouble with took several tries and a extremely good strategy. Yet I feel difficulty is one of the flaws of the Gameplay...
Each difficulty mode seems to be far harder then labeled. For example, Normal at certain bosses seemed like Expert difficulty. One thing that troubled me as unfair was the Normal Ending final boss. Due to me always running out of SP in the second of two final fights. Grinding was hardly a option since I was a pretty high level for that part and EXP gained goes down as you gain levels. My only real option was to get better SP restorative items, but that was a major pain itself. Good SP restorative items were only very rarely found in chests. So, I had to go out of my way to do some painfully slow leveling. It took many hours, but I finally just managed to barely beat the final boss. Like this difficulty flaw there is one other thing that aggravated me in Persona 4.
Persona Fusion. I know people are going to hate me for this, but it was VERY AGGRAVATING in my opinion. This process involves getting certain Personas and combining them together to form usually better higher leveled Personas. Now, my main problem with this is it requires a lot of research and dedication. Since, once your done researching what Persona you want to fuse, you must then go get the needed ones. Either by doing battles and getting them from the cards after a battle or fusing. If you do the fusing method to get the components needed for the Persona you want you must then look at the Persona's needed to make those ones. On the positive side, the Persona Fusion does add a lot of customization by opening a opportunity to make several different Persona's with different capabilities. Not just that, but it's incredibly satisfying when you fuse a new extremely good Persona. Back to more positive things about the Gameplay though, is it's one of the few strategic RPG's out there.
Many RPG's tend to be ridiculously easy. To the point where random battles are won by simply spamming physical attacks. Boss battles in those types of RPG's aren't much more strategic either. Just use your most damaging skills then heal. However, in Persona 4 you really need to think of good tactics in order to win. Especially during boss fights. You need to cover your own weaknesses while exploiting the boss's. Not just that, but also buffing/debuffing, healing and just in general conserving resources. Overall though, the Gameplay in Persona 4 is a lot of fun.
The game took me about 60 hours to complete by getting the best ending. Not just that, but the game never felt like it dragged on. I tend to get really impatient once I get near the end of any game. No matter how good, I just want to beat the game already. However...In Persona 4 the game only dragged a little towards the end. My tendency to rush through the end of the game wasn't as bad compared to other experiences with Persona 4. Throughout the whole game, I had fun, was thinking, and just in general having a blast. That's why the Gameplay gets a 10/10. It does have it's minor flaws, but the Gameplay is so close to flawless. Aside from the Gameplay, Persona 4's Storyline like the Graphics and Gameplay, is nothing short of exceptional.
Storyline 10/10:Persona 4's Storyline is excellent simply put. To give a brief summary of the plot:You are a silent protagonist conveniently named Protagonist. Your parents have gone oversea and your moving from the big city to a small rural town named Inaba. At Inaba you move in with your Uncle Ryotaro Dojima and his daughter Nanako. As time progresses you make several friends at school and after a incident discover the TV Dimension. Your party learns that a serial murderer is on the loose in Inaba and is possibly using the TV Dimension in order to do the killings. After making a promise to someone to stop the killer you then seek out the truth as to who's the mastermind behind the killings.
Throughout the Storyline you'll find a large cast. Despite the pretty large cast of around 8 characters, each of them are developed extremely well. You find out a lot about them and there's probably at least three characters you'll like a lot. The Protagonist despite being silent you'll like too. Simply put, the whole point to the Protagonist is for you the player to be him in the game. You immerse yourself into the role of the protagonist by making choices that have a minor effect on the outcomes of scenes throughout the game. As for the other part of the storyline the main plot...Similar to how the characters are so incredibly well crafted, main plot of Persona 4 is too.
Main plot of Persona 4 is done amazingly well. As you progress throughout the game your slowly given several clues as to who the murderer is. What I mentioned in my brief summary of the main plot earlier, was merely the tip of the iceberg as far as the Storyline is mentioned. You discover truckloads of evidence, suspicious characters and some downright odd events. From start to finish there will be several good shocking plot twists and each of them usually leads to another bigger plot twist that in the end all comes together once you discover the murderer.
Discovering the murderer was another crucial part too. You'll be very surprised when you discover who was doing the murders all along. The amazingly well written dialogue also helps the Storyline move along well. While the main plot itself is very serious and mostly dark there are a few hilarious light hearted scenes throughout the game. Some of the funny scenes of the game just had me completely laughing for like five minutes straight when I saw them. The Main Plot doesn't just drive the Character development as well, but Social Links do too.
Yes, Social Links. Compared to Persona 3 they got a major improvement in my opinion. They are far more interesting then they were in Persona 3 and just extremely refined .Especially the Social Links for the main characters in the game. In a Social Link you learn a lot about a character's past, motives, and current situations. You hang out with them and help them through some very rough times as well occasionally. The main Storyline in Persona 4 is fantastic. It has large and diverse cast of well developed interesting characters. Great dialogue and a overall excellent main plot with several plot twists that all connect together in the end. So, Storyline gets a 10/10. Like everything else so far Music is excellent too.
Music:10/10:Shoji Meguro did a amazing job with the soundtrack. Now, I'll just say most of the battle songs are heavy metal. So, if you don't like heavy metal you may have a difficult time enjoying the battle and boss songs. Aside, from those songs the rest is mostly typical J-Pop or atmospheric RPG songs. Really though, the songs use a wide variety of instruments, sound great and are extremely memorable. Music scores a 10/10 from me. Persona 4 so far is outstanding...
Overall:10/10:Persona 4 is a outstanding RPG for the PS2. Graphics have a nice anime style to them combined with impressively cool area designs. The Gameplay is fun, addictive and pretty strategic. It has some minor flaws, but they are overlooked. Storyline once again amazing. Interesting large and large diverse cast of characters that get developed well. The dialogue for scenes is extremely good and the overall plot is extremely well done. Scene direction was done just about nearly perfectly as well. Like everything else the Music is amazing and I loved the soundtrack for Persona 4. So, overall Persona 4 gets a 10/10.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/08, Updated 05/24/11
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/08/08)
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