After calming down a bit (e.g. Not screaming ZOMFG PERSONA 4 SO AWESOME ASDFSDFDFLKLKH everywhere I go), I decided to review it. I’m something like 2 years late, but I need to practice my reviewing and writing skills in general so here I go.
Persona 4 revolves around a murder mystery in a small town called Inaba. You play as a young man in his second year of high school (in Japanese school system), or grade 11. He moves to Inaba for one year as a result of his parents’ work, and lives there temporarily with his uncle and cousin. Shortly after he arrives, a dead body is found in town hanging in a unnatural fashion without any evidence that points out the cause of death. The protagonist makes friends and find out about the Midnight Channel, its involvement in the murders and his power to travel into a world inside the TV. The game follows him and his friends who decide to save to-be murder victims and get to the bottom of the murders by going into the TV world and keeping an eye on the Midnight Channel.
The introduction is looooong. It’s not like the usual RPG where it throws you into your first battle shortly after the game begins, and the rest consists of dungeons and battling. No, it takes like 2-3 hours for the plot to get started. Definitely not a game to get started on if you don’t have time, patience, or both. Presentation-wise, the beginning of the game features many nicely animated cutscenes so you don’t have to click through text all the time. You also get to save at times during the introduction sequence, so you don’t have to go through all that text again in case you need to do something else. Fortunately, despite the fact that the intro is long, it’s also interesting. You may have to site through 3 hours of text, but at least it’s interesting and engaging text that introduces some major characters and fun interactions between them.
Persona 4 is a half dungeon-crawling RPG, and half life-sim game. First, I will talk about battles. Battles are turn-based, which means you make actions by selecting from a list. The options are standard RPG fare, with the exception of “Persona”, which lets you change your Persona in the middle of the game. The camera angle is constantly active, either zooming into the attacking party or the one recieving the attack. It’s much more dynamic than the usual turn-absed RPG battle system. I’m pretty sure you’ve already heard too much about how awesome the P4 gameplay is from other people, so I’ll keep it short. First of all, you get lots of customization, No more default skill sets; the main character’s skills, stats and elemental weaknesses change with the Persona he equips, and although your allies learn the same skills every time, you get to control which skills they keep/forget. You’ll be familiar with Persona fusion if you’ve played anything else in the SMT series, but in case you don’t, I’ll explain. Persona fusion is when you combine two or more Personae to fuse a different one. The fused Persona can inherit skills from the ones used as fusion material. This system can become very complex, even allowing the user to fuse Personae with attacks covering all elements. The best thing about it is to try for yourself.
If you tried tearing your hair out due to idiotic AI movements in Persona 3, then you will probably enjoy Direct Command very much. You can directly control your party members! The game is also more forgiving, as hitting an enemy with its weakness twice makes it dizzy, whereas they get back up in P3 FES. P3P has a similar battle system to P4, which I believe was the right choice since I really can’t stand not being in control of party members. Even looking at videos of P3 FES gameplay made me rage (especially The Answer bosses).
Oh, and word of warning to players not used to SMT games: Status effects and intant kill spells work. On you, and on the enemy. Also, buff and debuffs can save your life. Oh, and element boosting skills stack. It’s the fact that fighting strategically really works that makes SMT games fun.
Battle System : 9/10. I loved it that much. Persona 4 is the type of game where if you get caught up in a battle when trying to leave and save, you’d go, “Ok, one more battle!” instead of “Another one of these? Argh. *run*” The one thing that I raged over is how you need to wait for the chance to run, and once the MC dies, it’s game over even if your allies are alive and you’ve got 99 balms of life. Also, the game, instead of starting off easy and gradually getting harder like most games, starts off with a huge difficulty curve but gets easier as time goes by. I was struggling against Yukiko, had some fun with the difficulty of Kanji’s shadow, struggled a bit with Mitsuo’s shadow and completely pwned the rest. The final boss was a joke.
The system outside of battle is a bit like your standard dating sim stat-raising gameplay, except not all relationships are romantic. If you’ve played Tokimeki Memorial, then you’d know that doing well on exams raise your popularity, or in P4’s case, social link points. You’re also able to go after multiple girls, which isn’t like most love adventure games. You get part-time jobs than you can do for money and up a stat, and some even have social links! It’s a good thing, doing social links and getting paid at the same time, along with raising your stats. Anyways, the social links. Most of the game’s side stories are involved with social links. It’s like a life-sim since you get to choose who to hang out with, like in real life. The characters are not cardboard cut outs; they have depth and character development if you go far enough into the social link. Although you get social links with party members and are recommended to max them out so they reach their full potential, the story shines through the non-party members you can hang out with. This game proves that normal, everyday people can be just as interesting and deep (or even moreso) than the combat-able RPG heroes. Showing the day-to-day lives of characters make them much more relatable, like real friends. At the end, I loved the characters so much I dragged out finishing the game for as long as possible. I still didn’t finish Naoto’s S.link though…T_T
Characters: 10/10. I loved everyone. No one could piss me off except for maybe Morooka. Not even Hanako or Kashiwagi. Sure, they fall into the DO NOT WANT category, but at least strange teachers make school life interesting. My favorite girl is a tie between Naoto and Chie. Naoto for moeness and Chie because she seems like a fun friend to hang around, brings lots of lulz moments and I see bits of myself in her. Guy-wise, I always have a special spot for the comic-relief-best-friend character so Yosuke was a default favorite for me. Then his S.link came…BROSUKE!!!!
Shoji Meguro. That is all.
On a more serious note, the music is excellent, as with Persona games. The regular battle song is an earworm, and the regular boss battle themes made me tingle with excitement when fighting. I’m not very critical about music, especially videogame BGM. The vocal pieces are also very well-done; the ending theme totally got me with the quality of Shihoko Hirata’s singing and the lyrics. Oh maaaannn…the lyrics. They make the MC look less like a dick, since his straight face during the ending where everyone else was crying fet unnatural. The ending song was just a whole touching friendship speech, coming from the silent protagonist. Damn, I get touched very easily by friendship and bonds between family, don’t I? Back to the point though, the game’s music is undoubtedly fitting to the cheery atmosphere. My major complaint is “Why no long version of the OP!?”. Seriously, why didn’t the P4 OP make it to the Persona Music Live Band CD? The P3, P3P and even Trinity Soul openings got remade…why can’t I have my P4 opening?
Music: 9.5/10. Giving out such high scores make me look like I have no standard, but even to the most critical person, there will always be one game that blows them away. Heck, that game may be what made them critical. I was in kindergarten or earlier during the hype of the revolutionary FF7. I basically missed out on the entire PS1 and most of the PS2 library. My first console was a Wii, and my first handheld was my DS. I’m like a little kid who got wowed by a cool big bro from a shounen manga, and that’s fine. Persona 4 is an amazing game. Cooler than my shounen manga awesome big bro.
Nothing ground-breaking. Persona 4’s graphics don’t push the PS2 system to its limit, but they are pleasing to the eye. Although the graphics aren’t too impressive, the art direction is great. Soejima’s artstyle is more distinct than your usual big-eyed moe moe manga style girls. The character designs are great too. The 3D models have rather realistic proportions–what’s great is that they don’t use chibi-fied sprites or models during free roam or battle. The animations of each individal character during s.links made it more enjoyable, and some character, especially that of the MC, was lost in the more visual-novel style P3P. There aren’t all that many expressions for the character portraits, so it’s the 3D model that does the showing, and not the expression of the character.
Graphics: 8/10. I don’t have much standard for graphics, TBH. I liked the art direction, and the graphics, although not ground-breaking, served their purpose. What I like most, as mentioned in the gameplay section, is the movement of the camera during battles. The backgrounds are not bad, but Inaba feels more beautiful at night, when you don’t get to roam around town.
Story, I decided, was a seperate category from characters. Good characters can make a sucky plot interesting, whereas bland characters can ruin a well-written story. I felt that the story of P4 had less of an impact than what happend in P3. P4 had good pacing, as opposed to P3’s where nothing surfaced until the final 2 months that had very good writing. The murder mystery aspect started off interesting, but gradually lost its shine. The killer really didn’t have a reason other than “he was bored.” The true antagonist didn’t surface until the very end, and the game basically doesn’t want you to get to her and directs you away from the true end as much as possible. Izanami was basically non-existant for most of the game, and the Big Reveal didn’t really surprise me. I was basically like “oh, she’s behind it…yeah, whatever.” I didn’t feel the tension or excitement before facing her like I did for the entire January of P3. It didn’t help that she was piss easy.
Story: 8/10. Started off very good, and kept my interest. Dulled at the end, but overall a solid story. I kinda liked the fact that it was on a smaller scale, and involves a small country town instead of the entire worl right away. The final boss was a let-down, both story-wise and battle-wise. Sorry Izanami, you don’t compare to the tension before and during the fight with Nyx.
Overall: 44.5/50, or 8.9/10. I’ll round up, so 9/10.
We’ve all heard debates about what is the most important part of a game. The countless gameplay vs. graphics or gameplay vs. story arguments we’ve seen too much. When it comes to a quality game like P4, it should be great in every category. A good game may excel in its battle system or have an amazing story, but many different aspects make up a game. You have to do well in all or most of them to make a great game. Remember, the main girl/guy in dating sims always require you to be high in every stat. Other guys have several stat rquirements as well, so it’s not recommended to just pump “study” for the nerdy glasses character. Heck, it even works this way in real life: you’ve gotta have high grades, good attendance record, lots of vounteer hours, good relationships/teacher reference, high involvement in clubs and extra-curricular activites and pleasant personality and attitude for the best jobs/universities. Persona 4 did it for me – it excelled in everything. If I start being harsher on games I play in the future, it’s probably my fault for playing a quality game so early.
I really wanted to give this game a perfect score. I ended up being a bit harsher, because I know I shouldn’t give a perfect score. Sure, I love this game, but it has its faults and I believe that a even better one can exist. I have hope in Atlus, and I will believe that they can blow my mind away once again. Persona 3 and 4 are my favorite games, but I do believe something better can exist. I don’t want to limit my optimism just yet. Perhaps I’ll never give out a 10/10, but it’s too early to decide what is perfect right now. I’m only getting started in gaming afterall.
I definitely recommend Persona 4. You may never look at generic RPGs the same way again, but it’ll give you a good impression of the genre through gameplay alone.