Review by Keith_da_Hybrid
"A game so good, it brought me to tears!"
I'm dead serious, this is the first game to actually make me shed tears. That's how good this game is!
So what exactly is this game?
Persona 4 is the fourth installment in the subseries of RPGs in the Shin Megami Tensei series. The game borrows many elements from Persona 3: FES, so to those not familiar with the series, it may just seem like P3 with a new coat of paint. While that may be true to some extent, Persona 4 manages to take everything about the previous game and improve upon it in practically every way conceivable.
The game picks up a couple of years after the end of Persona 3, beginning in the spring of the year 2011. As the game's silent and nameless protagonist, you move into the sleepy rural town of Inaba to spend a year with your relatives while your folks are out of town. Things seem pretty normal, and almost kinda boring in boondocks. It doesn't stay that way for long, though, as a series of strange murders begins to shake the town. Eventually, you and your compatriots happen upon a strange alternate dimension located inside everyone's televisions, where the victims seem to appear. It is left to you to rescue the victims and foil the murder plot.
Obviously, the story is a departure from the previous game, with a story about preventing the end of the world being changed to a whodunit murder mystery, with you and your friends playing Scooby-Doo as they try to dig into the mystery of the murders. The story twists at every turn, and you never know just what's gonna happen next. Not only that, but the story goes deep into subjects of human psychology, such as self-identity and sexuality. It's kinda like Neon Genesis Evangelion, but a lot less confusing.
The game is split up into two different parts: your interactions in the human world, and your adventures in the TV world. During the day, it's school time, but after the final bell rings, it's time to explore the other world.
During the day, you'll go to school and take tests like any other student would, as well as participate in clubs and sports activities. These activities, as well as improve upon your stats, open up the game's Social Links, which are important to your TV World excavations. When you activate and improve upon a Social Link, Personas that are created from that Link's respective arcana will gain bonuses. In turn, having a Persona of that arcana will improve your communications with that particular person.
The aesthetics for the game are quite decent, especially considering this is a game for a last-generation console. While the PS2 may not be cutting edge technology anymore, Persona 4 still manages to limits of the system. There is occasional slowdown, but with how rarely it occurs, and with how much fun you're going to have playing this game, chances are it's not even worth noting.
Of course, an RPG wouldn't be so without its fair share of battles, which this game has plenty of. In the TV world exist shadowy monsters that you have to fight through.
In the previous Persona game, you only had direct control over your protagonist while the computer controlled your teammates. In Persona 4, though, you have the option of controlling your comrades in battle as well, which will come in real handy for the harder battles later in the game.
Speaking of hard, this game is not just hard, it's nearly controller-smashingly hard. Even on the easy difficulty settings, the bosses will make quick work of you if you don't watch your step. However, this only serves to make the feeling of accomplishment after defeating a boss that much sweeter, and the rewards that await you for persevering are great.
One of the strongest aspects of Persona 4 are in its characterization, with excellent voice acting for most of the characters, and even the characters with subpar voice acting aren't all that bad. That's because, the way the story is written and told, the characters aren't just characters, they're much more than just animated pixels. They're humans, just like you, and you grow to feel for them as the game goes on. Their suffering is your suffering, their joy is your joy. When I mentioned how this game made me cry earlier in the review, this was what brought me to tears. I guarentee, if nothing else, you'll play the game just so you can interact with the people that inhabit Inaba.
This game isn't just good, it's DAMN good! If you find it in a store, it's worth letting your check bounce. It's rare to see a gem like this in today's gaming market, and I assure you, this game is worth well more than the price tag says it is.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/16/09
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/08/08)
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