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Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 Review

Persona 4 Box Art“Inaba – a quiet town in rural Japan. A normal teenager arrives at the station to begin his year-long stay in the countryside, only to be welcomed by the news of a dead TV announcer. Shortly after, another body appears, mysteriously hung from the top of a telephone pole. The cause of death is unknown, with no leads on the suspect…”

That’s basically the main storyline of Persona 4, both a dating simulation and role playing game, developed and published by Atlus for Playstation 2.

Do not let the introduction paragraph makes you think that this will be a dark and gloomy game. Persona 4 does have a dark atmosphere but it’s also fun to play: the story, the side “quests”, the dating part, the characters development, and the game overall.

Persona 4 Characters

You will be playing as ….. (fill in the blank with your own character’s name). You are who you are, meaning you are asked to type in your first and family name at the start of the game.

You are also a 2nd year high school student and that makes your teammates..high school students. If this turns you off, then don’t. If you are so used to playing RPGs with dwarves and elves in your team, Persona 4 will open your mind to a different world of RPG games.

Persona 4 Protagonist

The characters are well designed and thought of. Each character in the game has a distinct personality and background. You will want to know each of your teammate intimately when you are playing the game. Persona  4 makes you care about them. You will be given a chance in the game to get to know each of them intimately through certain dialogues and decisions in the game. And when you do, you will be rewarded with battle bonuses when you bring that character into the group, among with other benefits.

There are also other NPC (Non-Playable Characters) in the game in which you can interact as well.

Persona 4 Graphics

Persona 4 looks awesome even in Playstation 2 with some “anime” (Japanese cartoon movies) flavor thrown into it. You won’t see a real-life-looking background or characters, but the drawings and animations are beautifully done. The colors are both dark and bright, at the right places and at the right time, to set the mood right. You’ll probably see the same effects and animations over and over throughout the game, but somehow they don’t bore me. It’s like seeing a desktop wallpaper so beautifully done that you don’t mind seeing it every day on your desktop.

Persona 4 doesn’t have the most amazing effects that you can ever see on a game but they are still amazing to watch (over and over). This, combines with excellent speech and music (which I will mention on the next section), is a well-made decision made by Atlus.

Persona 4 Music and Sound

Persona 4 music is.. the same over and over. BUT just like the graphics, the soundtracks are memorable and set the mood right. The music will still linger on your mind even when you are not playing Persona 4.

All main storyline dialogues (and a few side dialogues) are voice-acted and the dubbed version (although I hate dubbed movies/games) is beautifully done too. Each sentence that comes out is said with the right tone and the right expression.

There is unfortunately no Japanese voice version with English subtitle in Persona 4. So if you’ve been looking over the web for this, forget it. Besides, the voice acting in Persona 4 is so good that you should just let it go!

Persona 4 Gameplay

Non-Combat

Since you are a high school student, you will spend a lot of time at school. where you have the options to interact with other characters in the game (and to study). These interactions will build up your “Social Links” toward one another. The social links are useful to build up the strengths of your “Persona”s (think of a Persona as a summon). Each persona has its own stats and abilities and can be summoned during the combat. Persona can also be leveled up to gain more abilities and an increase in stats.

Each conversations with other characters have usually 3 dialogue options and you can choose which answer to reply back. Some options cannot be selected if you haven’t reached a certain status (if your Courage stat is not enough, for example). The best answer sometimes can give you certain benefits. There are five stats in the game: Courage, Expression, Knowledge, Diligence, and Understanding. Each is used and can be increased differently in the game.

Combat

Outside of town and school, though, you will spend half of your time in another world where you will be battling against monsters called Shadows. This is where you will fight alongside your team, level up your characters (you can bring up to 3 characters into each battle and command them directly if you want), and progress with the main storyline to find the killer.

The combat is turn based, based on the Agility of each unit in the battle. Since it is turn based, you can pause during your party’s turn to think about what you should do next.

Each type of enemies will have their weaknesses to certain elements (fire, ice, electric, wind, light, and dark) and it’s your job to find out what they are whenever you encounter new enemy types. Each of your Persona also has these weaknesses. When you exploit an enemy’s weakness (if you throw a fire spell on an enemy weak to fire), then it will be stunned temporarily and you will be given a chance to gain an extra turn (note that this applies to your party as well). This can also happen when you critically hit an enemy. When all enemies on the screen are stunned, you will be given an option to an “All-Out-Attack”.

At the end of each battle, you’ll gain experience, gold, and also items (that you can sell to get more gold and also new items & equipments).

There are other aspects of combats that will take me forever to explain them all but suffice to say, there are other interesting elements in the combat that makes this game so unique and fun to play.

Persona 4 vs Persona 3

If you have already played Persona 3, then you’ll definitely love Persona 4. If you haven’t played Persona 3 before, don’t miss my review on Persona 3 here.

Persona 4 has all the gameplay elements from Persona 3, but more. The characters in Persona 4 are all different than Persona 3, so you’ll probably gonna miss them when you first play Persona 4. There will be a point in the game however, where you will be visiting the town where Personal 3 took place. It does bring back some memories but you are not required to play Persona 3 in order to understand and play Persona 4!

All in all, I love Persona 3 and I also love Persona 4. Persona 4 is harder and you’ll probably hate the changes they’ve made on certain things.

Changes in Persona 4 compared to Persona 3:

  • Persona cards shuffle after the combat have more variety now (I’d say that it’s even harder now to get what you want).
  • The shuffle cards don’t contain EXP and Money anymore. They are only Persona, blank, and penalty cards. So if you already own all the Personas on the cards, don’t do the shuffle at all :(
  • Instead of having one single tower constitutes of hundreds of floors, you now have multiple places with around 11 floors each.
  • It’s now harder to sneak behind a Shadow to get the surprise/advantage attack.
  • You can level up as long as you want to and your characters will not get tired.
  • Your HP and SP can no longer be refreshed when you exit the dungeon/tower. You either have to pay for an expensive fee (later in the game) or come back again on another day.
  • More status: Courage, Understanding, Knowledge, Diligence, and Expression.
  • No more Yukari and Mitsuru :(

Conclusion

Shin Megami Tensei Persona 4 is the best RPG at the moment on Playstation 2. However, it’s not really a hardcore RPG and the dating + non-combat element of the game can bore certain people. There are some points in the game (especially during the introduction of the game) where you’ll find no actions for a while and if you are not the type who can enjoy reading/listening to the story, then you might be frustrated with Persona 4. It’s not draggy but the pace can be too long at times from one to another.

Persona 4, however, is very memorable on every aspect of the game. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to battle, and it’s fun to see the reaction of a certain answer that you’ve chosen.

If you enjoy playing Persona 3, then you will definitely like Persona 4. You may need to let go of certain things but once you’ve played the game for several hours, you’ll start to appreciate the changes.

Persona 4 should be the RPG that you pick up if you are looking for a well designed, well made RPG.

The Good of Persona 4:
+ Memorable, although, short soundtracks
+ Memorable characters with unique personalities and dialogues
+ Great voice-acting
+ Great storytelling
+ Great character development in the game
+ Fun factor
+ Lots of decisions to make, making it more challenging and fun

The Bad of Persona 4:
– Lengthy introduction and on certain parts of the game.
– No quick save except for certain save points in the game.
– No save after a long boss battle, sometimes forcing you for another 5-10 minutes of the aftermath before you can save.
– Battle can be repetitive (trying to find out each enemy’s weakness, repeat).
– Plenty of short loading screen
– Need to see walkthrough at times (or Google) to maximize
– Very similar to Persona 3, although not necessarily mean a bad thing

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