Review by Baalji_Baalstar
"Well, you all saw it coming eventually."
Criticizing the World with Baal: Persona 4
My history with the MegaTen series has been a decent one. I started by playing Digital Devil Saga 2 then moved onto P3, Devil Summoner, Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga 1 and finally this game. And my opinions? In respective order: Fantastic, Meh, Great, Great, Fantastic and I'm making this review for a reason! There's more after that but we're only mentioning what I played first before this.
Persona 4 is a special kind of game... okay, not really but we're speaking hypothetically here. If Digital Devil Saga is the King of the Megaten Castle, then the Persona series are the four obnoxious cousins of the Prince and Princess (Devil Summoner and Devil Survivor) the children their mothers (The Main Megaten Series) equally obnoxious sister (If...). The first one is a bit annoying but good at heart, the second one is a jerk with a heart of gold, the third one mopes around for about a month before somehting annoys them enough to do something interesting and the fourth one has a short-attention span. But enough of my rambling, let's get to the review in this review.
In Persona 4 you play as the Protagonist (duh), who is forced to go live with his Uncle and Cousin for a year because they're too busy with their jobs and neglecting him. When you make it to the rural town of Inaba, strange things begin happening that circulate around the murder of a famous TV reporter. You then meet up with a bunch of... "interesting" characters who pretty much force you to help them investigate these murders and find the culprit, because there's nothing better for 16-Year Old's in Japan to do, I guess. Oh and one of them has a personal grudge against the murderer, but it's not really his place to get mad about something that had nothing to do with him about a person who didn't even like him, so you'll stop caring about him soon enough.
In the process of all of this, you gain the ability to summon a Persona, a physical manifestation of your mind you can use to fight Shadows for you. They can be fused, summoned and even have some surreal designs. What are shadows you ask? Well, you're probably not asking that but humor me. Shadows are creatures that are in the World of the TV that you have to fight before they kill someone who is thrown in the TV. Oh you didn't know there was a TV World or people being thrown into the TV? WELL YOU PROBABLY SHOULD'VE ASKED. Yes, over the process of the game people will be thrown into TVs and you have to save them from being killed by the Shadows otherwise it is redo time and they spearhead you as the leader of all of this... enjoy that title, because it's not as much of a free title as it entails.
Now let's get to the game part of the video game. The gameplay of actual battles is Turn-Based, you choose your moves, hit an opponent with them and wail on them with attack, magic and skills until they die. It's a very well-constructed battle system that makes the game somewhat fun to play, but if you feel you're having too much fun and are tired of your teammates following exactly what you say (Like they're supposed to do since you're supposed to be the leader) then you can turn on the AI and they can make they're own stupid decisions that will get them killed in the end, just like they do in the story. The dungeon crawling leaves something to be desired, maybe it's the fact that the dungeons are randomized and this makes navigating them later an enormous pain in the backside. That and all of the dungeons are either have bland designs, easily beatable bosses or dumb interruptions at every given turn. Then there's Arcana Chances, which after most fights will happen. The arcana chances are made of every Tarot Card (Except The World) in the Major Arcana making for a total of 21 cards and 41 possible results seeing as how they can also end up upwards or downwards (Excluding The Fool). The cards have varying effects ranging from upgrading abilities to sapping all of your SP to 1.
Now, I'm going to need a paragraph for this because I've got a lot to talk about here, maybe two. The worst part of this game comes up now, the S. Link/Calendar System. The S. Link system allows you to converse with people and go through their stories while getting more EXP for your Persona you fuse to get them better abilities faster and get you some interesting stories. The stat system for S. Links and Jobs is made up of five different stats that level up as you do more activities such as reading books and asking the teacher if he called you a loser. The Calendar system puts things on a date, certain weather will happens on certain dates affecting who you can do S. Links with, what new shadows you can fight in the TV World to get better weapons/armor/accessories and even progress the story. It splits each day into a few sections (Morning, Lunch, Afternoon, After School and Night) Sounds fun and intuitive, right? WRONG.
The S. Link system makes the game much more tedious to play since you are limited by what you can do per day (Since only two of the parts of the day are commonly playable), the S. Links take more time to complete than they really should (Not as much as in Persona 3, but still annoying) as they overstay their welcome after a while, the jobs you get don't pay enough for you to actually do much with since money is pretty annoying to collect unless you use one of the Arcana Chance cards and even that doesn't last long enough for you to actually get much with it. What's worse is some of them can only be accesse Although some of the stories are interesting, they don't provide much to the actual game other adding more EXP to your fused Persona, so they seem entirely pointless as they could've easily been replaced with something else and it would've been even more efficient.
The Calendar System is a test in patience as you will have to make a schedule thanks to it. While making a schedule doesn't sound bad, I don't play video games to make a schedule, I play them to be entertained, a schedule is not entertaining. It gets even more annoying when you realize that pretty much anything you do takes up part of a day, yes, even eating and entering the TV take up part of a day and since you can't enter the TV at night, you're most likely going to be giving up a few days that could've been better spent doing something more important, like insulting the Twilight Franchise or Eating Stuff out of your Fridge. But at least you get a free month later in the game to make-up for some stuff but all of this is at the cost of the game's pacing.
The music is hit-and-miss. There are times when the tracks in the soundtrack are fantastic and then there are other times when it's just abhorrent. For example, the game starts out on a nice piano orchestra, then you get to the beginning when you name your character and there's another nice piano orchestral, then you get to Inaba and there's a nice instrumental piece, then when you get out of school later when you have control of the character, what of all things begins playing? Crappy J-Pop music sung by a Japanese woman who can't sing quite well and very annoying instrumentals. The music in battles are fantastic for the most part, the actually dungeon crawling tracks are hit-and-miss as well.
The voice-acting of the game is really good for the most part. Several voice-actors did well on their parts but some were just downright obnoxious compared to the very good ones. Then there's two voices that just change quality. Outside of battle one voice changes from perfect to downright bad, while the other is quite good outside of battle but in actual combat it's quite an annoying voice with some pretty badly delivered lines. Although this game does have one of the best performances from Johnny Yong Bosch I've ever seen, so we'll give it a pass on voice-acting and move on to (What I hope) is the last part of this review, the characters.
The characters in this game are... well, eccentric. Not that that's bad, it's just that... it's nothing special, they're all just a bunch of random character archetypes. You have The Obnoxious Leader, Tomboy, Well-mannered girl with problems because there is no other kind of Well-mannered girl, the stupid muscled delinquent because once again there is no other kind of delinquent, the annoying mascot character, the annoying flirty girl, and the too young to be in this profession but still does so because they're trying to do good for people and a whole bunch more. Although some are actually well-built upon these cliche's to be forgiven of this.
In summary (and for those who didn't bother to read the entire thing and just wanted the cliffnotes) Persona 4 is an average game. It has a decent story but below-average pacing, hit-or miss music but good voice-acting, fun combat system but annoying dungeon system and to top it all off, an annoying gameplay gimmick that could've taken some fine-tuning before putting this in an actual game.
But then again this is all just my opinion and I know that those of you who disagree with me will respect my opinion enough to not bug me about it.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 05/12/10
Game Release: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (US, 12/09/08)
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