Atlus Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Persona 4 may very well prove to be the shot in the arm that the RPG genre is in such dire need of.
- Amazing story, beautiful animation, really pushes the PS2 to its limits
- Takes a while for the story to get going, so engaging that your social life may suffer
An expansive and engaging experience, Persona 4 is quirky, original, and innovative enough to set it apart from an army of mediocre RPGs. With an amazing cast of characters and fantastical game world, P4 is an experience any role-playing aficionado shouldn't miss!
An enormous fan of the past instalments in the Persona franchise, I'll be the first to admit that I was a tad sceptical when I heard that Persona 4 was dropping as soon as the end of 2008. Wrapping up my fourth run-through of Persona 3: FES, I was starting to feel like there wasn't anything else the series could throw at me that I hadn't seen before — and certainly not in such a short time span With the announcement that P4 would also be releasing on the PlayStation 2, I couldn't help but worry; would this just be Persona 3 with a fresh coat of paint and a new cast of cookie-cutter characters? I'm happy to report that while Persona 4 does hold quite a few similarities to its predecessor, it proves itself as a brand new experience from the ground up with unprecedented levels of innovation, character, and outright charisma. Persona 4 may very well prove to be the shot in the arm that the RPG genre is in such dire need of.
A Day in the Life
Similar to Persona 3, you begin the game by filling the shoes of a mysterious transfer student — this time relocated from the big city to the peaceful countryside town of Inaba. Before you can get acquainted with this passive change of pace, a series of grisly murders begins to threaten the quaint rural locale when bodies fresh out of a political scandal start showing up throughout town. The deeper you pry into this bizarre series of homicides, the more complicated and surreal your once normal life becomes, leading you into a strange world of facades, parallel universes, and a mystical roller-coaster of a plot.
The narrative aspects of P4 are told expertly through astonishing voice acting and simply beautiful anime cutscenes that truly draw you into the game's enchanting story. Met with a fantastically catchy soundtrack and a series of top-notch character designs, it's obvious that Atlus spared no expense when building the memorable world of P4. An engaging and incredibly well-translated script weaves the game's intricate plot together, creating a cast of truly memorable characters that really compliments the intriguing world that Persona 4 has created.
Thou Art I...
One of the most noticeable changes of Persona 4 is in the game's battle system, where you're now granted complete control over every member in your party. While the party AI is incredibly bright, the option to offer specific orders to your teammates is definitely appealing and rather helpful during harder battles. The game's Social Links now affect Persona's battles as well, with unique bonds formed in your social life allowing certain party members special attacks, or even the ability to push you out of harm's way at the last moment and take a mortal blow for you. The endless labyrinth of Tartarus has been replaced by a mystical TV dimension, where you're able to explore an amalgam of unique worlds or "programs" created from various characters' repressed emotions, truly playing on the "persona" aspect from the franchise's earlier titles.
Also new to the series are part-time jobs, a vast collection of new extracurricular activities and Social Links, and an amazing assortment of shops and hot-spots around town to visit, all truly bringing Inaba to life. Persona 3's moon-cycle system has been replaced by a rather intriguing weather scheme, with characters and events acting realistically to the daily change in climate. However, my absolute favourite addition to P4, hands down, has to be the new use of the Square button which allows you to fast-travel all over Inaba at any time. As much as I adored the bay-side city I called home in Persona 3, there's no doubting that running from point A to give person B object C in order to unlock quest D over in classroom E was a bit of a chore, and while it may not seem like much to newcomers to the franchise, the fast-travel option works wonders whether you're simply trying to finish up a quest given to you by a timid classmate, or run into town in order to beef up your weaponry before venturing back into the game's alternate dimension.
Catchy Themesongs Aside
I'll admit: I went in to Persona 4 with some strong reservations, and I came out of it ready to boot up my save file and start the entire adventure over again from step one. While Persona 4 isn't revolutionary or utterly groundbreaking, it does so many things right on such a small scale — not to mention so many things that have never been seen before in the role-playing genre — it'd just be a shame to pass on this gem. I can't recommend this innovative experience highly enough, and from first time visitors to the Velvet Room to jaded MegaTen fanatics, Persona 4 is an absolute must buy.
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