Review by JimboTrigger
Style; Unforgiving difficulty; Intelligence. And some social commentray thrown in for good measure.
It's fairly simple. If you're a fan of SMT Persona 3, this game's predecessor, then here is the only part of this review you need to read:
It's no better than Persona 3, and it's no worse than Persona 3. It's just more. More Social Links, more trendsetting, more battles, and more story. And we wouldn't want it any other way.
But for the newbies, let's dance a bit. And it's alright, it's a brand new dance, so you won't know the steps. There's no need to backtrack to the other games.
For years, I've been playing the same, mediocre RPGs. The names change, but nothing else seems to. The Shin Megami Tensei series, on the other hand, has been making widely original content from the beginning and hasn't looked back. I sit here and look at Persona 4, and it's predecessor, Persona 3, and I'm just amazed at the amount of content thrown into these games. The games are so deep, I've found myself easily playing 90+ hours, just on the first playthrough. However, I'll be starting my next playthrough soon, because I haven't even begun to scratch the surface with that first 90 hour journey.
Social Links: One of the main things that makes the Persona series so spectacular is it's bizarre popularity system. You make friends. Have serious (sometimes intimate) relationships. Take tests. Become more popular if you get high scores on your tests. Get more friends. And these friendships are merely the tipping point of the game. These Social Links may seem to be pointless at first, even if they do provide some deep stories and hilarious commentary, however, once you cross over to the "other world", you'll find that these mean more to you than you think. Now, remember a few minutes back, when I said it took my 90 hours to finish 1 game? I didn't even get half of the Social Links. There are a freakin ton.
Because you're ranked high socially with so and so, you're able to form stronger and more meaningful Personas, which in turn, will be the main decider in any battle you face. If you have a terrible Persona when facing a random battle, you're dead for sure. And then, just to add a bit more to the mix, as if P4 doesn't want to be like it's father, P3 (which would be fine, if it were), it decides to ALSO make a difference in your own party members. Now, if you're incredibly close to Chie personally, she'll take deadly hits for you; knock out enemies you're struggling with; heal your status ailments. And not only that, but unlike P3, you now have control of all 4 party members. Which makes things a tad easier :) And you're going to need it, friends. Because you'll be seeing the Game Over screen more than you even have before. The game itself is really unforgiving. If you get into a battle, and you aren't prepared, it's probably a game over. The enemies can take advantage of you as if you were some drunk teen girl who just took a roofie. And the difficulty doesn't stop there. There are 5 endings. Some are great, some are terrible. But it depends on your actions. Just remember young ones: You must live with the consequences of your own actions.
Sp by now, if you're still reading this, it probably sounds like these "social links" are the biggest amount of story this game will get. That's extremely incorrect, actually. These social links are only tiny side-plots in this beautiful adventure. The main plot / theme of this game goes beyond the Social Links, and satirizes today's teenage generation. And it's dead on. Not a surprise though. They also hit the nail on the head with P3. Add the insanely eccentric style to this mix (the art, the colors, the backgrounds, the music) and it somehow manages to work perfectly with the game, and the path the own game goes down.
And I haven't even factored in the girls yet. It's like a Japanese nerd's fantasy. It's like the male version of Twilight. It's like the Breakfast Club. We have the athlete, the princess, the pop idol, and the genius. I promise you: If you're a male, there is a 100% chance you will fall in love with at least one of these girls. And if you're a guy that swings the other way, then there's always Kanji. :)
There are only a few, tiny gripes I have with this game. The first one would be the somewhat long loading times. They can be a bit of a pain, especially if you're traveling rapidly through a dungeon or through town. It'll slow you down. But the other small upsetting thing comes in the end. You know from the first 5 minutes, you, (the MC), are only staying in this town for about 10 months. And then you have to go back home and leave these new friends behind. It broke my heart. I didn't want the game to end. If you don't think that's a legitimate "complaint", then sue me. Sue my broken heart why don't know!
But I must say, just like it's mother (Persona 3), P4 isn't for children. It's rated M for a reason. Occasional strong language, occasional alcohol use, and "hints" at pretty much every sexual theme you can think of. But then again, it's about teenagers. So it's just like a normal teenager's life.
Pretty much pure genius all around. AND it's on the ps2. It's 40 bucks and it's better than almost any game out so far on the new generation consoles. Come on RPG fans. You need to get into this underrated series already.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/09/08)
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