Review by I Like Toast

Reviewed: 03/12/09

Persona 4 all the action of Persona 3, even without the shot to the head

Persona 4: I is can has e-friends?

Persona 4, as the 4 indicated, is a sequel to the persona series. Though there is little direct connection between each game in the series, there is some over arching plot points if you choose to seek them out. However if you’ve never played Persona 3,2 or 1, you’ll be just fine starting off with Persona 4, and to be frank I’d recommended it. For as good as Persona 3 was, Persona 4 is improved in nearly every way.

Persona 4 is a game that is half jRPG and half sim dating game. Though you might initially scoff at the idea of a game where half of it revolved around trying to get school mates to be your friends and/or girlfriends, it’s both fun and rewarding. You start the game as a nameless boy who is presumably a mute incapable of any communication other than grunts and nods. Your parents were sent away for work and you were asked to live the city and go live in the country with your uncle and his daughter for a year until they can return. Naturally upon your arrival, the small quiet town loses its small town appeal. There is an affair going on between a reporter and some other guy, and of course she heads to the renowned inn located in the town you just found yourself in. Shortly thereafter she is murdered and the fun begins.

While the murder mystery is getting started you’re getting started for a new year of school. Being Joe Cool, naturally you make friends on day one. With the only people who seem to be allowed to wear clothes that is blue, white and/or gray. One is daughter of the Inaba Inn owner and is being groomed to become the next manager of the inn. Her best friend, a kung-fu loving and relatively upbeat girl. The third being the son of the family that recently opened a superstore (think walmart+) that is ending many of the local businesses. As a result, he gets grief from many of the classmates. Given you can’t talk your incapable of giving grief and make friends with him. As your start your friend ship with them, like all good high school students they let you know about the local rumor. A channel that only appears on rainy nights that shows you the image of who is your soul mate at exactly midnight. So your new friends pressure you into watching the channel and you oblige. A girl appears on the TV and shortly thereafter the murder mystery becomes that much more complex.

You’ll quickly find out your able to enter into the “TV World” where people seem to be mysteriously disappearing to and only you and your friends are capable of stopping them. This is where the trademark Shin Megami Tensei elements show up, as this is where you’ll do combat. You’ll attack with your ‘personas’, grind through dungeons to get new personas and then fuse those personas together to get even stronger personas. Think of a more adult version of pokemon where it’s less about being cute and cuddly and more about being dark and demented. Of course sometimes that still means being cute and cuddly. I pose you the question what’s cuter than a demon giving deep thought on the john? Exactly, take that pickachu.

The entire combat system and the new way the ‘other world’ works is the reason why Persona 4 is a better rounded game than Persona 3. For starters you are finally able to control all 4 party members. You can set them up to work according to the AI, but the AI is dumb at best. It’s wasteful with its spell usage and far too often isn’t looking to exploit weaknesses. By allowing you full control his will help you be as effective as possible and really is a godsend for the numerous boss fights you’ll encounter. Some other changes were made as well. You can still knockdown an enemy by hitting them with their weakness or connecting with a critical hit, but unlike persona 3 this will not automatically make them lose their turn. You’re given a little more options here. When you crit or hit with a weakness you’ll be given a second turn. Sometimes if your party members are good enough friends, they will trigger a follow up attack. These are special attacks, some are 1 hit kills, some will be high damage hits that will crit another target, and some will crit multiple targets. If prompted you can take that route and that will replace your second turn. Alternatively you can choose to attack again, if your crit or hit a weakness against an enemy already knocked down, they will now miss their next turn. If your crit or hit another enemy you’ll get yet another turn. If you manage to knock down all of the opponents than you’ll be able to do a gang up attack, in which you’re entire party attacks the enemy for a large amount of damage. For just about any non boss, this typically results in an end of combat screen. The pacing of combat is very fast, though it’s still an old fashion turn based rpg, there is no wait time between your action and the next persons and most of the attack and spell animations are fairly quick, which helps in keeping the pacing quick. This is very welcome for a game you’ll spend 40+ hours on.

One of the other nice things about Persona 4 is there is a lot more variety in levels. In persona 3 the first level of the dungeon wasn’t much different than the final level. In persona 4 you’ll go through multiple dungeons, each designed around the person who has been put inside the TV. This makes the grinding feel less like grinding. You look forward to the next area, rather than dread it knowing you just need to be there to get the levels to beat the boss. Which is another area that Persona 4 improves on, no longer are bosses predetermined to happen on this day, no matter what. You still have a time limit you must defeat the boss of the certain dungeon or its game over, but you can rush right to it and get it done than just focus on your social ranks. Nearly every dungeon will also get an optional boss after that deadline date passes, which will allow you to pick up some relatively good gear for the point of the game you’re at. This again helps make grinding a lot more bearable.

All in all Persona 4 takes a working concept, improves its biggest flaws and churns out another enjoyable jRPG. So if you’re feeling the shortage of jRPG on the ‘next-gen’ offering, the PS2 and Atlus want to remind you that they are still there. Onto the numbers!

Graphics: 6.5/10 – If you have upgraded to the ps3/360 it’s going to be noticeable. For a ps2 game, it does look good, not great, but I’m sure many of us have adjusted to the new standards over the last 2-3 years. Come on atlus, get with the program, we want SMT games on the ps3/360.

Sound: 7/10 there is a good assortment of music and it plays well, some levels are absolutely amazing. I’d prob give it an 8, but since combat is fairly frequent the nice dungeon music gets interrupted with battle music and makes me sad face. Although, quite a handful of bosses have some very nice battle music to listen to. The game even comes with a soundtrack so you can listen to persona on the go.

Gameplay 9/10 – If you like jRpgs, which you do, you’ll love what persona 4 has to offer. It’s quick and efficient. Skills are quick so you still want to use them, but flashy enough and powerful enough to warrant use. The new follow up attack feature adds a small amount of additional strategy in some cases. While fusing persona to get the correct type is always a ton of fun.

Toast Factor 9/10 – The social aspect of the game is both fun and rewarding. Getting to learn more about each character is as much a motivation as getting stronger persona from their related social links. The game does a great job of making them not just something you have to do, but something you want to do. Between the social links and the improved combat, I logged 50+ hours in the game in just a few weeks, something my schedule and attention span usually won’t allow. If you’re a fan of Persona 3 or of turn based RPGs you can’t go wrong with Persona 4.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/09/08)

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