December 22, 2008 // 8:57 pm
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is the latest installment in the SMT series. SMT: Persona 3 was one of the best RPGs last year and Atlus' breakthrough title that got them the recognition they deserved, winning many new fans.
Many were excited about Persona 4's release date announcement, but many were also worried about the game being released this soon making them think it would've been rushed. In many interviews throughout the year, Atlus has been touting Persona 4 as an epic RPG, and they were right about that. But just how epic is Persona 4?
The game starts off with the main protagonist being summoned into the Velvet Room. In here, you are given the choice to name the main protagonist. Igor, the person who runs the Velvet Room, and his assistant informs the main protagonist that he will face a great tragedy and mystery, and it will be his mission to "seek out the truth" for the mystery. If he doesn't fulfill his mission, his future will be lost.
After waking up and leaving the Velvet Room, the main protagonist finally arrives in Inaba in which he will be staying with his uncle and cousin for a year due to his parents having to work overseas for a year. Shortly after his stay in Inaba, a mysterious murder occurs, and there are no clues or suspects.
This lone murder develops into a series of unexplained crimes, and the main protagonist recalls what Igor told him about the mystery he would face. After awakening to his Persona, which is his other self, only the main protagonist along with his friends who also awakened to their Personas have the power to solve this case and find the suspect.
Visually, the game looks pretty great. Sure it might not be the most technically advanced game on the PlayStation 2, but its art style will win you right over. The game include some anime style cutscenes, and they are drawn better than the ones in Persona 3.The characters, personas and shadows, which are the enemies, are very well created. Most of the personas and shadows are pretty much the same as the previous entries, but there are new ones present.
The characters models are somewhat similar to Persona 3's, but they seem to have a little more detail on the eyes or clothes. The city or places where you can visit in the city are a little smaller than the ones in Persona 3 for the most part, but it works out very well since Inaba is a small city. The environments have little better details than the ones in Persona 3, and it really captures the atmosphere of the little town. The dungeons are very appealing to the eyes, and each dungeon reflects on a person's hidden feelings.
The game uses a lot of the color yellow whether it's on the menus or screens, so if you hate the color yellow, this might be a little turn-off for you. In case you're wondering, there is no widescreen option in Persona 4. The game does look pretty good upscaled on the PS3, but it looks better playing it on a SDTV on the PS2.
If you have played Persona 3, then you might've recognized how great and catchy the soundtrack was, and Persona 4 doesn't disappoint in this department either. The soundtrack here is wonderfully done and great to listen to. The rapper, Lotus Juice, is no longer present in the soundtrack which means no more weird raps like the one that would play in the dorms. The music has more of a J-pop feel in it.
The battle theme, which doesn't sound like a battle theme, is pretty well done, very catchy and never gets old. The music which would be played on the dungeons are no longer the same as each other or reiterations of the previous levels. Each dungeon has their distinct music, so you'll never get bored with the music.
Also different types of music will be played in the city depending in the weather, and when its raining, no music is played making it sort of like a dark day. The voice acting is superb. There is one problem with Chie, who is one of the main characters, and it is that her voice sounds very mature for her age at times, but after a while, you'll get used it. The sound effects such as hits or spells sound just about the same as the ones in Persona 3.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is a turn-based JRPG and a dating simulation rolled into one which is pretty unique for the people outside of Japan. You are high school student and also trying to capture the person behind the crimes which means you have to balance your double life.
The game progresses by a day-by-day calendar base. Unlike Persona 3 where the shadow hunting was night, the shadow hunting in Persona 4 is after school, so it's your decision on whether you want to hang out with your friends or go to the dungeons. Since the main character and his friends are high school students, they have to attend classes, take exams and go on school trips. The school trips or events are pretty hilarious and very entertaining to watch. High school has never been this fun.
The main character has 5 different stats which include courage, knowledge, expression, diligence and understanding. These are two more than the ones featured in Persona 3, but don't worry, they are much easier to increase. Hanging out with your friends, having a part-time job or going to practice can also help increase your stats, so you won't have to necessarily waste some time just trying to build a stat on its own.
Another change in Persona 4 is the quest in which they have no deadline, and you can do more than 3 at a time. Also, there are multiple save points throughout the city which is great thing to have, and you've realize this once you play Persona 4.
The battle system in Persona 4 is similar to the one in Persona 3 which includes the one more attack, and that is when you expose a shadow's weakness, the shadow will fall down and allow the player to attack once more. Also making a return is the all-out attack which is a battle tactic that allows all party members rush out to the shadows and beat them at the same time when the shadows are down.
The battle system in Persona 4 adds a lot upgrades and tactics in the battles which makes it more enjoyable and a better way to strategize against your enemies. First of all, the player can have the choice to control each party member instead of just the main character or let the AI control the party members.
Another update into the battle system is the ability to guard. Guarding allows you to well guard the enemies' attacks which lessen the damages taken and also guard against weaknesses thus not allowing the enemy to get another turn. Additions to the battles include taking a mortal blow for the main character, follow-up attack, helping a knock down ally, curing ailments and so on.
That's right; your allies can push you out of your way and take the blow for you. If the main character dies, it is game over. The other tactics occurs after a shadow has been exposed to its weakness, and they can only be obtained by having a helping relationship with them. This is where the dating simulation comes to play.
Just like Persona 3, the player is able to hang out with his friends, meet new people and build a relationship with them. The social links play an important role because having a strong relationship with your allies allows them to learn new battle tactics that will certainly be helpful. In addition to the social links, you are able to choose whether you want that person to be your girlfriend or not.
There will be some lines that you aren't able to say due to your lack of courage or other stat. It sort of encourages you to build up your stat or replay the game in the new game mode. Having a strong relationship with several people will help your personas gain more experience when they are fused.
In the velvet room, the player is able to register their personas or fuse their current personas to get new personas. If you have a strong relationship with some people, you might get extra experience after you fused a persona and that persona will level up and gain new abilities.
This time, you are able to know what the spell does which is a huge plus since newcomers won't know what many of these spells mean. Each persona has their strengths, weaknesses, nulls or drains. They play a very important part into the battles. If the shadows expose your or your allies' weakness, then they will get another turn to attack which gains them an advantage in battle, but the player can also expose the shadow's weakness.
Strengths means that the person won't be hurt a lot by that particular attack or spell. Null means that the player won't be hurt at all and drain means that the player will gain some HP by getting attack by a particular spell. The main character is the only person who can change personas while the others can't, but they each have their own strengths, weakness and skills so use them wisely.
Just like Persona 3, the player can get a player advantage which means that they are able to go first, and this happens when the player attacks a shadow from behind while in the corridors. The shadows can get an advantage if they attack the player first. The difficulty of the game is hard for newcomers but luckily there is an easy option.
Like I said before, each dungeon is unique to each other such as having a different environment and music. The characters can no longer get tired which means you can spend a lot more time in the dungeons trying to level grind.
Also, there is now a motivation to go to the dungeons instead of just wondering what's up there. The game removes the full moon calendar and adds the weather system in which you have to save a person right before several days of rain occurs, so you'll be checking out the weather forecast a lot.
The story starts off with the main protagonist arriving in Inaba for his one year stay and going to school for the first time. While walking home with his friends, they noticed that a crime has occurred in the streets where a body was found hanging from an antenna upside-down. The protagonist's uncle, who is a detective, informs him that the situation is under control.
The next day, the protagonist hears a rumor about the midnight channel which is said that your soul mate will appear on TV during rainy days. Curious enough, the protagonist and his friends check it out, and the rumor appeared to be true and an image of a girl is shown.
The protagonist touches the TV and for some reason, he was able to get his hand through the TV. The next day, the protagonist and his friend recall what happens with the midnight channel, and each had the similar experience except that the protagonist's friend didn't believe him about his stand getting stuck in the TV.
After a while, another murder occurs, and it's a high school student known by Yosuke, who is the protagonist's friend. This was the same person who appeared on the TV. Later on while being in the electronic department near the TV section, Yosuke and Chie discover the protagonist being half stuck in the TV. Panicking, they all enter the TV world. What is this TV world, and why did the person appear on the midnight channel?
For the first 2-3 hours, it is very story driven, and it will be overwhelming for newcomers to the series. After those hours, the player is able to battle or build up relationships, so you need a little patience at the beginning. The story is very well done with its twists and suspense. There will be quite a few shocking moments. The story is kind of unique for a JRPG since most of the JRPGs have the save-the-world type of story.
The writing and dialogue is excellent, and there are a lot of funny lines or dialogues in the game. This is pure entertainment at its finest. There will be a few occasions where you will be waiting for the plot to advance, but until then you have the freedom to explore previous dungeons or build up your social links or stats.
The characters in Persona 4 are excellent, and their personalities are very realistic; the cast is very memorable, and there will be some characters that you mighty actually relate to. Pretty much every character has their own problems and don't want to admit them, but the way the problems are presented in Persona 4 are very well done and not controversial.
Persona 4 is an amazing and unique RPG that pushes the genre forward and fixes all the flaws Persona 3 had. There are so many things to do in Persona 4 that I probably didn't cover in this review. The game will take you over 60 hours to complete, and after that there will be an option for a new game mode which transfers all your stats to the new game and unlocks a new dungeon.
Every aspect in the game is done with quality such as the amazing story, catchy music, memorable down-to-earth characters and addicting battle system. Persona 4 is one of the best RPGs this year and well worth your money and time.
Launch video can be seen here
courtesy of GamePro!