Review by NinjaZidt
"It takes great courage to look at oneself honestly..."
In 1996, Atlus continued the acclaimed Shin Megami Tensei games with the brand-new spinoff, the Persona series. With its unique storyline, battle system, atmosphere, and so forth, Atlus struck gold with the game, and fans of the game ate it up and cheered for more. Years later, dual copies of Persona 2, Eternal Punishment and Innocent Sin, were released, and they had the same effect they had on fans years before.
However, since the time Persona 2 was released, it had been years since another Persona game was released, and fans were waiting in anticipation for the next game, eager to see what Atlus had in store. After many years, when it seemed as if Atlus seemed to go into a standhold, Persona 3 was released. Battle system, social link system, graphics, soundtrack, and storyline - they were all welcomed by the fans and were treated kindly. Persona 3 brought the series back on its feet for a continuation of the great series.
Considering how well Persona 3 did in the videogame market, Atlus had already set out to create the next game in the series - Persona 4. This game boasted a unique storyline, a renovated battle system, new Personas, a good soundtrack, and so on. Persona 3 brought a new group of fans into the series, and with the release of Persona 4, the games disappeared off the shelves. However, does this game live up to its acclaim, as Atlus had said? Or does it fall short in being as great as a game as the original Personas had been?
The plot for Persona 4 had great potential - an enigmatic mystery where a group of teenagers are thrown into and forced to solve, lest they let people die along the way. The story of Persona 4 follows as so: the Protagonist (Noted as MC) is sent to live in the quiet town of Inaba with his uncle and cousin because his parents are currently on a business trip overseas for an entire year. The MC has transferred out of his school and hopes to live comfortably in the suburban area.
Upon reaching the town, the MC is welcomed in with open arms by his family, and at school, he immediately meets new friends, whom he gets along with rather well. Everything seems to be going fine, and just when the MC thinks that he'll get comfortable in the town for the rest of the year, something bizarre soon happens. On the way home from school, the MC and his friends discover that a body is hanging from the top of an antenna, and the police are stumped as to what caused his, whether it is a murder or an accident, and how the person was killed. Inaba is a small and quiet little town so it is only natural for something like this to cause controversy.
Later on, the MC and his friends discover a rumor where if one looks into a shut-off television set alone at midnight, one's soulmate would appear on the screen. Naturally, the Protagonist decides to try this, and lo and behold, somebody does appear on the screen, though the image is fuzzy. Curious, the MC decides to stick his hand into the TV set and finds that it goes through the screen.
The next day, the MC tells all of his friends about this phenomenon, and of course, they don't believe him. However, this isn't until they discover the strange, ethereal TV World and the power of Personas. And to make mattes worse, another body is soon discovered, hanging from a telephone pole. And thus, the mystery begins, where the teenagers use their powers of Persona to look through the fog and see the truth as to what's behind this TV World and the murders.
Atlus didn't hold back as to making the plot for Persona 4. It all sounds interesting, and the mystery drives you farther and farther into the game, your curiosity and suspense forcing you to want to continue with the game in order to understand more about the mystery. And so, the great thing about Atlus's plot is the fact that it drives you forward and makes you want to continue playing the game.
However, thought good as the plot may be, there are some inconsistencies. After completing the game, there may be some questions that haven't entirely been answered, leaving the players in confusion. But to make matters worse, towards the end of the game, a few giant plot details entirely shut down the game and totally kill the plot. Believe me, though I can't reveal anything at all without spoiling anything to you, all I could say is that the ending and the events leading up to the ending is kind of disappointing, in my opinion.
But that's not all: the fact that this game is way too similar to Persona 3 makes it a drag. At the end of the game, you'll realize how similar Persona 3 and Persona 4 are to each other and be turned off by it. But besides these two details, the plot of the game shapes itself rather nicely.
The Persona 4 gameplay is a revamped version of the Persona 3 gameplay. Both games had the turned based battle where hitting an enemy's weakness, if they're not already down, will result in the character earning themselves another turn. Knocking every enemy down will result in the option to perform an All-Out Attack in order to inflict massive damage. Both games also offer the familiar Persona system, where the MC has a large variety of Personas he could use to turn the tides of battle and could fuse them in order to create new, more powerful ones.
The difference between the two games is that Persona 4 now allows you to control each individual character if you please. The characters could now guard against attacks, and the fusion attack system is now gone. Plus, scanning enemies will no longer result in full detail results like in Persona 3. Thus, you'll have to scout for weaknesses by continually attacking.
Many enemies are rehashed in this game, but that doesn't stop the battles from being fun. However, it seems the enemies in this game are much tougher than the enemies from Persona 3. Sure, Persona 3 had Berserking-casting dice, but this game had Megidolaon spamming sigils. Though the various, individual dungeons you'll be crawling through throughout the game are short, that doesn't stop it from being at a reasonable difficulty.
As stated above, Persona 4 had abolished the giant, one-steam dungeon with the 200+ floors to explore, each block not looking much different from the last with the same remixed song playing over and over again. This game instead has different, ~10 floor dungeons to represent individual characters in the game. It's the same dungeon crawler with the occasional mini-boss, but this game offers a radically different area to explore each time.
Finally, the bosses are really interesting and fairly challenging. The problem is, most of the challenge results from whether of not you have enough SP last the entire damned long fight. I mean, each boss has a ridiculously large amount of HP, and it takes forever to whittle it down. And should you lose against one of these bosses after a 10+ minute fight, it is what people would call a "pain in the ass".
Oh, and let's not forget the Social link system. While you have free time, you could choose to hang out with various friends and people in order to create a bond between them and you. As you gain more social links, Personas are able to get stronger, and other various things also assist you in battle.
The soundtrack for this game is more lovable that the soundtrack of Persona 3.
Is that even possible, you ask? I mean, Persona 3 used rock, J-pop, rap, opera, and orchestra, trying something different other than generic rock or the monotonous orchestra. Persona 4 does the same thing, offering a large variety of songs to listen to, each having its own charms.
The opening theme in itself is amazing. And the first time you hear "Reach out to the Truth" playing during your first-ever real battle in the game really sets things going - and also throughout the rest of the game afterwards. The other versions of "I'll Face Myself" really sets the slow mood, and each individual boss battle themes - "I'll Face Myself," "New World Fool," "The Fog," etc. - gets your adrenaline pumping and your mind set to take the beastly thing down.
Each dungeon has its individual theme, all of which reflect not only the dungeon itself but sometimes even the character it's supposed to represent, kind like the song "Heaven."
And it doesn't stop there. On casual school days, or staying at home, songs like "Heartbeat, Heartbreak" and "Your Affection" covers the day well. But when it's dark and rainy outside, Atlus knows you won't need any music - all you have to hear is the silent pattering of the rain outside.
Take Persona 3's graphics and make it brighter and more cheery - you now have Persona 4's graphics.
Persona 4's graphics are smooth and well-done, with everything looking grand and nice with plenty of detail going around. Little actions like picking up a phone or jumping up and down in glee or tacking somebody are all portrayed unmitigatedly. Character portraits are drawn beautifully, and the school and dungeon environment all have a special and likable charm to them. After all, who could forget the retro game dungeon?
As stated before, enemies are reused but still remain interesting-looking as ever. Bosses look amazing and awesome and are always a treat to look at.
The character designs for the characters in Persona 4 are all things a persona could relate to with their own friends, and each character seems to be more drawn out. They all look like ordinary teenagers, yet each had a special charm that sets them apart from others.
The anime cutscenes are much more detailed and colorful that the cutscenes from Persona 3, making it a huge improvement. The framerates for these little movies are smoother than before. However, the same problem persists in the fact that their lip syncing looks awkward and strange.
Voice Acting: 9/10
Simply stated, not only do the voices match the characters they're supposed to represent, they also sound good.
Each character has their own distinct, interesting voice actor that doesn't jarr the ears and instead makes the characters look and sound interesting. Their voices accurately portray the mood and atmosphere without sounding dull or monotonous.
The only time where voice acting sounds relatively...strange...is probably with Yukiko. Personally, I think her voice sounds...preppy. Yeah. I went there.
And Nanako. STOP SINGING THE JUNES SONG!!! ARRGH!!!
This game was totally worth the time, money, and countless hours of being stressed out and frustrated over specific dungeons. Ever since Persona 3 brought me into the series, I never stopped following it, and with the advent of Persona 4, I'm nowhere near disappointed. Persona 4 is a great experience, as a game and as a story. It drives you on throughout the game in suspense all the while keeping you entertained. This is truly a great game, and if you enjoy RPGs, this is definitely a must-buy.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 04/14/09
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/09/08)
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