Persona 4 Review

I finally beat the game.

Completion Time: 103 hours 46 minutes.

Now I can have to look back at the game and compare it to it’s predecessor, Persona 3 FES. Most of the stuff here will sound generally the same as anywhere else from an official review site except that I know what the hell I’m talking about. As much fun as I had with P4, I was quite disappointed in a few things about the game. But before that, here is my analysis of the game and every other thing about it.

A hell of a lot of spoilers here. Since I do not have a TV capture card yet. I will just throw in random Persona 4 pictures I find from the internet.

The Story

You have to move into a sleepy town called Inaba from the big city after your parents are out working overseas or something. During the train ride, you go into a sleep where you find yourself in the Velvet Room, a place where you will find yourself visiting several times in the future. With the cryptic message the Keeper of the Velvet Room gives you regarding your future. Upon your arrival, you are met with Ryoutaro Dojima, your uncle, and his daughter, Nanako. Yes, you have an imouto in this game. She eventually goes to call you her bigger brother.* It doesn’t sound as cool if you’re playing an English dub.

The very next day, you are thrown into the routine you will have to endure for the next calender game year. You are quickly introduced to some of supporting roles of the game. At school, you hear rumours of a phenomenon called the Midnight Channel where if you look at a turned off TV on a rainy night, you will see your soul mate. After school, you are invited to hang out with Chie and Yukiko. On your way to the mall, you walk past a murder site where the body was found in a bizarre way. You gave the Midnight Channel thing a shot and undoubtedly see a blurry imagine of someone. As you try to touch it, your hand gets sucked into the TV but fortunately for you, the TV was too small for your body to fit in.

The protagonist tells his classmates who suggested it to you and think you’re crazy. You go to the mall to hang out with Yosuke and Chie and check one of the TVs to make sure that you’re crazy. You stick your hand in and as they see half your hand inside. You and your friends fall into that world. A little exploration and you see some weird things. You eventually meet up with Teddie, a bear or something who lives in this TV world and kicks you out of his home. That evening you try the Midnight Channel again and then conclude that it was one of your ‘senpai’ who you eventually finds murdered and the body found in an unique fashion. No simple autopsy can explain their deaths and it seems as if they died due to unexplained reasons.

Your party figures out that the people who appear on the Midnight Channel is at risk of getting murdered if they don’t anything to stop it and decide that it’s up to them to figure out what’s going on and figure out who is the one that’s going around killing people. The first real mission you have to do would be to save Yukiko before the next fog comes in and that’s where you can really start to begin playing.

*Note: In most Asian languages, there is no word for cousin. So the usage of brother and sister is often to indicate that sort of familiarity.

The Game Play

Generally, the day life has not changed a whole lot. You still go around leveling up your social links and personal status to be able to hit on girls and do other activities. It is almost the standard visual novel style where you pick certain options and try to get the maximum “points” during each conversation. You can mess up and trigger the wrong flag and you’d be left to attempt to remedy your mistake but it’s not so serious where you’d game over.

When you’re not breaking the hearts of girls and leveling up your “real” life status. You are a super hero detective trying to solve the mystery in pursuit of the murders going on in the small town. A notable change from P3 is that you are doing your dungeon crawling during the day time. This changes a lot of the things you can do since you’d be giving up time to level up your social links. So it is rather important that you do not go into the TV world too often between each event. If you choose to go to the TV world, you can only level the night time social links rather than using that time to level up your status. The social links at night isn’t very hard to level at all since it is almost always open to do. The social links that involve your party members are especially important in this game as it gives you support in battles. It’s not just simply hitting on the girls in the game trying to get laid… even though that’s enough motivation to level up your links.

Combat with shadows is still generally the same as in P3. If you can hit them from behind, you can get a preemptive attack. If you get hit before you can attack, you start at a disadvantage. And there are those neutral stand offs. The main thing that changed about this is that shadows are more aware of your presences so getting a preemptive attack against a stronger enemy is very unlikely. This somewhat makes the game a little more difficult when you venture into a new area where you can’t simply just “level” off the tougher mobs. It just means that the battle will most likely start at neutral or at a disadvantage. That being said, it’s not impossible to get an advantage on tough mobs.

The Characters

Like in Persona 3, your character pretty much says nothing with the exception in battles where he screams out the persona’s name. The protagonist is seen as a more normal person as opposed to the dark mysterious emo character in the predecessor.

Almost all the characters in this game is a lot more likable this time around, especially your party members. Due to being able to create a link with them furthers their character development. During the main story course, you learn a lot more of them and you see the their desires and such. Yosuke becoming quick friends with the protagonist dealing is likable compared to Junpei who happens to be a bitch. Chie is quite a cheerful person, probably the most normal of all the girls. Yukiko, shy and timid for the most part with an odd sense of humour. Kanji, acting tough guy with unusual hobby. Rise, former idol, who happens to be very flirty and adds quite a bit of comic relief.

The normal links in the game as also a lot more normal and their link path is a lot less depressing. There are more characters you can interact with than there are links. It would require you to do a second play through to get them all since it depends on what club you join. Depending on if you join the basketball or soccer team, you will have either a guy who tries to figure what he truly wants to do or simply a guy who is bad with girls. The other case would be to join the liberal arts or the music club, who you can become lovers with. On that note, you have more choices when it comes to befriending girls in the game. There are parts where you can decide to become lovers or just friends with them. And yes, you can be lovers with all of them. I’ve experimented with it.

The Battles

The battles in this game has been reworked. The most obvious would be the interface. Although it is easy to adapt to the new setting. You are required to impose new strategies into the game. Having full party control is a major thing in this game. You will no longer have party members cast dumb spells, efficiently casting their spells, and priority targeting. As mentioned above, your party social links is an important time investment. Certain ranks will allow your party members to preform special attacks. Knocking down enemies may give them a chance to cure certain status effects, pick up fallen allies, and have them preform their own knockdowns. All this sounds good but the most important one would be to be able to take mortal blows for you. To be able to withstand mortal blows themselves, is also an important one.

Time for an all out.. wait what?

The knockdown mechanics has changed in this game. Knocking an enemy down will not make the enemy miss their turn. It will however give you a chance to make the enemy dizzy but there are some monsters that are immune to that. However, the all out attack system is still in the game and is still a valuable asset to finish battles fast.

You see recycled names such as Agi and Bufu in this game. Which is isn’t a big deal when you think of the history of the game.. All physical attacks fall into the same category now. There is no longer slash, strike, and piercing damage. The removal of combination attacks doesn’t seem to effect the game play too much since it was never really used (in my opinion at least). With the exception of two skills that were worth using, having weak personas in your list is a pain in the ass which.

The Presentation

Persona 4 is a well polished game. Just check out the opening. It’s really catchy! The unique sense of style is what really makes it one of a kind.

The interface has been changed a little bit and takes a while for you to get use to since it looks a lot different from P3. The town which you can explore is a lot larger but it doesn’t mean that you need to run around so much to jump to another section of the area. Hitting the square button will allow you a quick warp around to another section or go to the town map. Although the graphic wise, it doesn’t really push the system to the limits like in other games such as God of War 2 or Final Fantasy 12 (debatable) but it doesn’t mean the visuals aren’t pleasing. Messing with the camera at the school will show you that all the characters in the game do have faces and however they look like a cliche anime characters.

The dungeons is not like in P3 where everything looks the same with a new colour and wallpaper slapped on when you enter a new area. The areas are a lot more themed based on the character that created it. You will not get bored so quickly with the same repetitive background and seeing a change in environment is a nice thing every once in a while. The dungeons are randomly generated, so you’re not always exploring the same floor plan over and over and over again.

The battle graphics are a lot less pleasing however, it pains me to see Chie’s face because it looks all meshed up. It seems as if all the work went into the persona models which are actually very well done. They improve on the arts of some personas and has new models for some such as Susano-O.

One of the big things about this game and the last would be the music. The j-pop style of music is what really separates it with the rest of the RPG genre. The opening intro song sounds great and very addicting to listen to. The production value is very high even though it isn’t a high budget game. This is comparing it to series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Tales series. Although you have full orchestrated songs for every area and all that. Low production eroges tend to have a j-pop opening song so getting good one at the start isn’t that difficult, especially in Japan.

Anime cuts scenes are pretty much the cinematic in the game, although there isn’t much of it through out the game. A lot of the game’s story is done through just simple dialog in game with full voice acting. It is understandable considering that the script of the game is said to be 1.5x longer than in Persona 3 and that is a lot. There will definitely be problems trying to get all that in the DVD. During the cut scenes, you are often given choices that make you think about the situation and makes it a lot more interactive with the game. Your choices can sometimes increase your status or give bonuses to your social links.

Overall Thought

The difficulty in Persona 4 just wasn’t there. I felt more challenged playing P3. I although I did die a lot more playing on Expert mode due to getting 1 shotted sometimes by kamikazes dices. I didn’t feel that the rest of the game offered much of a challenge. The bosses were a lot easier compared to P3 and the final boss was very anticlimactic. I think they thought that simply increasing the health and doing more damage with bosses is what makes the game more difficult. I don’t blame the programmers because what else can you really do to make an RPG harder?

Even though I pointed out many of the flaws in the game. I still love it. A game that causes me to get immersed into over 100 hours of game play something that many things can’t do. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game, aside from MMOs, Persona 3, and Tribes 1, where I spent more than 60 hours in. Final Fantasy 7 can be easily finished in 30-40 hours playing thoroughly.

The story is so well told and even though there is a hefty amount you have to take in sometimes, you are paying close attention since it is like playing/watching an interactive movie. One thing would be nice would be a fast forward or even a skip button for those that are playing this for a second or third time.

I intend on playing this game a second time later on in the future when it is less fresh in my mind. For now, my main focus would be on school and to finish Dragon Quest 8. I’m not really enjoying it however since it’s extremely slow compared to Persona but I will finish it.

Official Japanese Site
Official English Site

21. January 2009 by henry
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