Sweet merciful lord this game is absolutely gripping in the best possible way!
I thought Persona 3 was a bit of a fluke with how good it is, as I thought the first two Persona games on PS1 stank to high heaven when I checked them out recently(Maybe they've aged badly, I don't know), but with Persona 4, Atlus have proven that they have the concept that drives the Persona series now down to a fine art, and know exactly how to make the experience better... although not by much in some places it must be said.
Once again placing you in control of an unspeaking character you name yourself, Persona 4 begins with you moving to small town Japan to stay with relatives so you can go to school, and almost as soon as you arrive, people start getting murdered in mysterious circumstances and you seem to be having dreams connected to it. It isn't long before you team up with a group of oddball students at school to investigate the murders and discover a connection to 'The Midnight Channel', a gateway to a world inside the TV made up of the darkness inside human beings(All true folks). This leads to the discovery of your ability to use 'personas'(Monsters that you use to fight battles with) and with that, you're leading a group of pesky kids attempting to find the connection between this monster filled world of corrupted human psyche and the real world murders as you venture into various people's very souls made form in the shape of large dungeons not dissimilar to the tower of tartarus from Persona 3, but smaller(There are a lot of these dungeons though).
Sounds messed up, right? Well, in places it is, but Persona 4's real charm lies in just easy to follow it is. Gone is the messed up 'experiments' and 'secret organisations' of Persona 3 as you have here a group of perfectly normal teenagers thrown into a situation beyond their understanding who struggle to cope with the burden placed on them. The characters in P4 are all so human and believable you really grow to care deeply for them fairly early on. Also unlike Persona 3, the game now has much more of a sense of humour to it's story, with a mostly light hearted approach to a horrifying situation that is occasionally broken up by moments of shockingly grim twists, such as early on the game when you're meeting your classmates for the first time, one them who seems like she'll be as regular in the game is murdered almost immediately. It isn't a game that's afraid to shock.
The game plays identically to Persona 3 with some minor differences, not least of which is you can now control all your characters in battle if you wish, or let the AI do the job yet again if that isn't your thing. The social links, dungeoning, and exploration are all as they were in Persona 3 though, just bigger and more refined. The one real drawback is that the town you live in has a lot less to do and see compared to Persona 3's large city, making the game feel quite small and confined at times.
Visuals are slightly better than Persona 3, with walking around looking a lot nicer than before, but battles looking more or less the same as last time. It's a decent looking game though, with the visuals never getting overly boring over the game's 60-70 hour run time.
The soundtrack though is a massive highlight, with a series of awesome fully vocal songs playing throughout and moody, atmospheric dungeon tunes setting the tone perfectly. The 'battle' music may get on your nerves after a while though.
This game is simply a joy to play, even with it's horrendously long dialogue scenes and initially grating english dubbing(The character's voice actors become noticeably better as the game progresses) it never fails to engage with it's multiple threads exploring friendship, loss, guilt, love and confronting the darkness within your own soul. It's an emotional rollercoaster like few you will ever experience, but it's not going to be for the faint of heart as a huge time investment to play is necessary, as is being prepared to level grind through dungeons more than a few times.
It's a tough game, but the rewards offered are richer than any game you're likely to play. An essential purchase if ever I saw one and the inclusion of a free CD of the game's excellent soundtrack is a true deal sweetener to boot.
on 28 April 2009
Having never played any of the other Personas, I bought this game because of how much other people have liked it.
The game has a slow beginning, as with many other JRPGs. There is lot's of dialogue, and you only really see your first taste of combat around 1 and half hours into the game. This is not a bad thing, the story is compelling and the voice acting is good.
You're a city boy moving to the countryside to live with a distant relative. As you arrive in Inaba, (The village where the game will take place), you hear of some gruesome murders happening in the area. You are curious about these murders, as are your fellow students in High School. You soon make friends and settle into your new home. I won't go any further into the story to avoid spoilers.
There is deep character development for the characters you meet, the story aspect of this game keeps you interested and wanting more.
The combat system is quite good, you can do the basic attack and guard. You can also set tactics for your companions and summon Personas. A Persona is a magic guardian that you summon with a card. An interesting mechanic of the game is the social links. Personas have different Arcanas (tiers). You can socialize with different people and different friends bring you different Arcanas. By strengthening your relationship with a friend, you strengthen your ability to upgrade your Personas of that Arcana. You strengthen your relationship with that friend by hanging out with them. During your free time you can attend clubs or sports teams, you can sign up for a part time job, study and of course buy equipment and items to use in battle.
I am loving this game and recommend it to anyone that enjoys a good JRPG.
on 30 December 2010
First of all let's be honest, this game came out way too late. By 2009 most people's 60GB backwards compatible PS3 had YLOD'd and everybody else who decided to keep their PS2 for possible future use most likely shelved them with the Christmas decorations and old shoes, or donated them to their two year old nephews or nieces. If this game had come out in 2005, it probably would have been game of the century. Never mind final fantasy or Persona 3, this game excels them all, and here's why
PS2: First off, its on the PS2. What does that mean? It means that a lot of time and effort was spent on developing a fantastic story, believable and extremely likable characters, fluid and easy game play and no online features. In other words all the effort didn't go into fancy graphics and online game play like it so often does these days. It also means a modern game finally that's below age 18 certificate and without people being brutally torn apart and swearing like sailor men. Call me old fashioned, but I find it a grand shame that games like this are missed because people are afraid to turn back to the PS2 game because characters heads are a bit more square. Although unlike some earlier PS2 games and the first two personas, this game boasts some smooth and aesthetically pleasing graphics.
Comparrisons: If you're worried about playing Persona 4 without having played 1, 2 and 3, don't be. Like the final fantasy series, the story in no way relates to the previous games other than the follow on of the traditional Shin Megami Tensei legend. Essentially though, persona 4 is basically persona 3 but with a different story and different characters. In other words the gameplay feels identical appart from a few extra features and a few taken away. There are also repeated characters such as igor, some of the enemies and the two gossiping girls at the school gates! For those who have only played games like Lucifers call or digital devil saga, you'll recognise item names menu layouts and persona's. However unlike in previous Shin games, the monsters are now your allies and the enemy is something completely new. Just like in persona 3, as you progress through the game, more powerful personas become available as you greedily collect them all up. The fusing ability is still available, although with a slightly different 'card game' option which becomes available after you defeat some foes, the necessity to fuse is less so in this game as bigger and better personas are as easy to come by as a drunk in bar. The annoyingly consistent dillema over which personas to say bye bye to when your holding capabilities max out is still as ever present however. As well as being an obvious sister to the final fantasy series (turn based battle systems, interact with people roam around a big world) the game is also quite similar to that of the sims. An amalgamation of the two if you like. Where with final fantasy the character only changes with relation to battle status, in this you can change your character through interacting with people, making friends, investing time in relationships and getting a job etc. All of these typical everyday life activities direct the flow of the game and the story as well as build your character up to open up doors for new storylines, missions and battle skills. A lot of these after school activties are repeated from the previous game with some new ones added.
Gameplay: The flow of Persona 4 can be excessively slow and there's a good reason why the game lasts 100 hours+ It was about 5 hours down the line before I actually had some control over the character, and that was just to save the game so I could finally go to sleep at 2 in the morning. If you're a quick fix shoot em up rookie that gets bored with long stints of dialogue and beguiling narratives, then this game is definately not for you. However, once the initial introduction of the storyline was over, control over the character became increasingly more as the game progressed. The controls of the game are nice and easy, especially when it comes to the battles. The great thing about the persona games is that they don't make the battles too over complicated or give you too many decisions to make. This is a good thing if you haven't that much experience with turn based battle systems before, or if you're just down right lazy like me. While you have to live everyday like a normal person i.e. get up, go to school, have dinner, read a book, the game feels quite fluid and similar in style to Canis canem edit. In fact with the increasing demand on the characters responsibilities and social life, you'll find yourself desperate for some simple reading time (in the game) where you can build up your stats. Like in the sims, your character has many differen personality statistics which determine what you can or can't do in the game. For example, by reading a book in your room you may develop some courage skills (depending on the book). As you develop courage through various other forms you'll eventually reach a level where you move on to a new stage in courage. If during the storyline a decision requires you to be at that stage then you can move the storyline in that direction. If however you're not, then that oportunity will be lost forever. Thats why it is important to use all your free time wisely to make sure you don't miss out on things because you're still a big coward (in the game).
Story: The story is one of the most engaging stories I've come across since FF7. Because there are so many cut scenes and so much dialogue you can't help but get immersed in the persona world. Although at first the storyline may seem a little over the top and thought up by a group of guys in the pub after a few too many, you quickly begin to let go of reality and start to take it all for granted. This is helped by the realistic way in which the characters communicate with each other, and the by the down to earth questions that are posed. The way you can chose how you respond or ask questions yourself as you interact with the characters adds a real sense of involvment. With several different endings as well, it's the kind of game that could potentially last a lifetime.
Graphics and sound: The graphics in this game aren't the best in the world, but they're still good for a PS2 game. With a slightly smaller area to roam around than the previous persona, more effort has been placed in creating a scenically pleasant small Japanese town. The design of the characters is fantastic, as is the way they move and act which is a lot more realistic the classic flailling arms genre of game. The voice actors are brilliant from the beginning and add a lot to the likability of the characters. Your character remains silent throughout the game which unlike star ocean or Cursed king I felt worked exceptionally well as you are pretty much making your character live his day to life. This way you can fit the role of the character without feeling like you're playing as somebody else. The music of the game reeks of cheezy Japanese Pop which while at first sounds pretty funky, starts to grate a little bit after 100 hours of gameplay. But still, it fits the game rather well and must have bee a successful soundtrack as you can buy it seperately for no small price.
Overall: This is an RPG that any self proclaiming RPG fan should own. If you've played the first five hours of the game and are unsure I would strongly recommend sticking with it. This game will provide you with a gaming experience that you will never forget. Get this game now!!
on 8 December 2012
I've had this game for a number of years now. Pre-ordered it for the European March release. Why wait so long to review a game, you might ask? Well, its been re-released with extra content on the PS Vita and if I was in the position to do so, I would snap it up like it was a hotcake made of beer, tacos, skittles and love. But I can't justify that. But some may be able to. And so, hence my contribution.
First, a bit of background. My first MegaTen (thats Shin Megami Tensei, to the ordinary, well-adjusted folks among you) was Lucifer's Call, AKA Nocturne, bought on a whim. Enjoyable, frustrating, punishing unless you learned how to use and exploit the battle system. Turn-based RPG heaven for those of us longing for the days of Final Fantasy. Then I discovered Digital Devil Saga, one and two, which blew me away. I actually imported a US playstation 2 so I could play the great RPGSs that never saw release here in Europse: thats how much I love the genre. Digital Devil was a revelation. Loved the story, loved the characters (even the silent progtagonist which is a MegaTen staple). But the Persona series had, as yet, eluded me.
Then Persona 4 was slated for release.
A title I didn't know much about. The marks of quality werre there: ATLUS software, the company behind my beloved Devil Saga franchise, and the MegaTen label. Cause enough for me to take the plunge and order it.
Best. Game. Purchase. Of. My. life (With the possible exception of Persona 3, which regrettably came after)
I can't begin to describe how fantastic this game is. The English language somehow falls short when called upon to laud such a work of genius. The story, to me, plays out like an anime themed version of Clue: its a murder mustery the main character - you - and his newfound friends must solve...and the clock is ticking. Time is precious and you can spend it in any number of ways, from building up core parameters like courage and knowledge, which help you in important choices or in establishing new social links, or evolving those links by spending time with the person in question. The game world is a suburbial village called Inaba, small but packed full of life. From start to finish, experiencing this world is just a delight, to the extent that I genuinely wished I was the main character in more than a few of the scenes. The characters are fantastic and superbly voiced, all of whom are represented by an Arcana in the Tarot. Your party members, fellow combatants in the battle system, are no exceptionh and are counted as social links like any other. They are all superbly voice-acted too. I have yet to watch the anime based on the game as the second part will not be released until January I think but I will definitely be picking that up too.
In conclusion: the battle system is brilliant. Tried and tested MegaTen. If it ain't broke, don't fix it...and it sure as hell ain't broke. The story is first rate and the characters are brilliantly conceived. Its rare I play through an RPG again just for the story and the players involved but this...this is a work of art. Its sublime. I cannot rate this game highly enough and if a person who owns a Vita (lucky so-and-so) and is an RPG fan comes across this review whilst considering purchasing Persona 4 Golden, well...go for it. You won't regret it. I sure didn't. The sentence 'best game purchase of my life' was not idle bluster.
on 9 May 2009
Just a note to add to all the other reviews, I am a huge RPG fan and have played most popular (and some not so popular) series from Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest to Paper Mario and have always maintained that Persona 3 was my favourite of all of them. Not any more - after having devoted far too many hours to playing this I can quite happily say it's the best game I've ever played . The characters are likeable, believable and well thought out, the story is dark but not too emo (like Persona 3) and it has some incredibly LOL moments! Worth far more than the £15 you'll spend on buying it! Now I'm off to play it through for the third time!
on 4 April 2009
This game is excellent even when put side by side with modern, current-gen games. Sure the graphics are certainly out of date but its charisma, art and balanced game design means it doesn't need to upgrade, in fact the low tech graphics add to the charm. The game is about creating and deepening relationships whilst balancing that with dungeon crawling and leveling up, and both improve statistics in different ways. I won't detail it for you.
Yes, you do have to grind occasionally and it can sometimes feel like a chore but the fuel that pushes the player on are the supporting characters and the narrative. The characters might seem like cliches or stereotypes of many anime movies but being able to interact with and guide the characters, sees them blossom into deeper personalities and creates touching bite-sized, sub-plots as well as a bond and a fondness for them. The detective story of the game involves a group of high schoolers trying to find the culprit behind a string of murders, whilst saving the victims by entering the TV world. This provides suspense and intrigue throughout the game as well as a host of new characters. Everyday gives you something to do; socialise, study/work, dungeon crawl etc. And day by day somethings gonna keep you glued in to that seat. All these elements tie in perfectly to become the game equivalent of a page turner.
The soundtrack is the best, most original in-game music I've heard for years. The J-Pop music is exuberent, catchy and unrestrainably joyful, it makes all the epic, orchestral music in many modern games seem stodgy, tired and unoriginal. And it's just one of many things which standout for me. Not to mention the enemy character design is crazy and bizarre, I mean, how did they come up with them?
After many 'next-gen' console games being decidedly dull and underwhelming, this gem is a breath of fresh air that has turned me into an instant fan. This game has certainly shown me what is lacking in many, many cutting-edge games- a sense of humour and vibrancy. I'm not particularly partial to RPGs, I like them but I like everything else as well, and still, I find this game a rare treasure. It's a keeper and it will be remembered as a defining experience.
on 22 March 2009
For me, Persona 3 was the best game to come out last year - it managed to have a plot and gameplay that put Final Fantasy XII to shame, and more ideas than six months worth of 360 and PS3 titles these days. So when I heard P4 was coming, naturally I wanted to get hold of it.
The first thing to say is that it isn't a sequel to P3, so you don't need to play any of the previous games to understand it - the only real references are Igor and the Velvet Room appearing in the intro and throughout the game, as well as Tanaka's shopping channel on Sundays (OK, and some enemies are replicated).
This time, the plot involves a string of disappearances and deaths related to a dense fog that falls on the rural town of Inaba, which begin to happen just as the protagonist moves there from Tokyo. The people who disappear all have one thing in common: they're feeling pressured by life's difficulties, and end up being sucked into a world within a TV, and when the fog comes to Inaba they're found dead. It's a plot that combines Paranoia Agent and Serial Experiments Lain - and, considering the world inside the TV and their doppelgangers reflect their fears, there's a bit of Silent Hill 1-3 in there, too.
The game, however, isn't a facsimile of these by any means - it takes the ball and runs with it.
Just as with P3, the actual plot is half the story, with the rest taken up by your day-to-day life, as you juggle school, your social life and even your job, all of which lead to improved stats, Social Links and money. Social Links work the same as before, with each improvement meaning you can improve your Personas, whilst your stats are more balanced as you also have to improve your Expression, Diligence and Understanding as well as Knowledge, Charm and Courage in order to access further quests, Social Links, and jobs - improved Diligence, for example, means you can spend more time on the fishing mini game that will gain your items.
Combat is similar to before, although this time it's harder to avoid initiating battle with Shadows as a lot of the corridors are quite slim, so against the larger ones you're likely to have to fight them anyway if there isn't a way around them. However, the actual combat is afflicted with the sort of cheesing that made Lucifer's Call so irritating: say an enemy casts a spell on your whole party, and it knocks down one of them because it corresponds with their weakness - then they get a second attack, and regularly use this to decimate your party in the most irritating fashion possible. True, you can also do this to them in return, but this issue didn't exist in P3, and as a result there were far less frequent cases of seeing the Game Over screen at frequent intervals, in the jammiest way possible. Indeed, this is a major let-down in the game, because it was this sort of pseudo-cheating in combat that had me stop playing Lucifer's Call for some time, because it was so frustrating.
However, you do have the option to control all of your team in battle, which at the very least means you can have your team healed when they need it or characters not go out of their way to perform the wrong actions in battle. The problem with this is that you really have to set your party to your control for this reason, especially for boss battles where you need to be on your game.
Also, after you spend the afternoon exploring the TV world, when you return home your character can't do anything apart from boost their social links with the characters at home, or watch the Weather Channel. Again, in P3 you could study after exploring Tartarus - so why can't you spend the evening studying, reading or working? I should also warn you that the animation for entering or leaving the TV world does carry the risk of giving you a headache if you see it at frequent intervals, as it certainly gave me one - and you see the animation a lot in the opening two or three hours as the game is easing you into its world.
Yes, I have a few complaints, but as with P3 the writing is top notch, there's a good balance of the serious and the humorous in the script, and everything in the game is a natural fit for it. There's more creativity on show in an hour of gameplay here than full back-to-back walkthroughs of both Resistance 2 and Killzone 2, and once you get to grips with the game it's supremely addictive due to how it plays, and wanting to see how the plot develops.
As a probably swansong for the PS2, it's a great send-off, simply because it's a great achievement yet feels so effortless.
on 7 March 2016
A great mystery choice game that is left in the hands of the player what path they go down. If you like the previous Persona games then you'll like this one since it keeps the same battling style, social link levelling and anime-esque art style. It has got a riveting storyline that will keep you on your toes and is just a fantastic game overall.
on 8 June 2011
P4 is kind of odd.
It takes a life/dating sim, dungeon crawler and Dragon Quest Monsters:Joker and squooshes them all together to create Persona 4.
It's weird actually, because you assume that it won't work at all, but it really, really does.
Each element of the game adds a new strategy to it, which for new players can seem either overwhelming or monotonous, depending how you play it (I personally found myself with a lot of days and nothing to do, before I realized that if I had days to spare, I was doing it wrong). The game rewards you for learning the characters' likes and dislikes, their schedules etc. and for constantly checking the weather to get the most out of it.
Something to bare in mind with this game is that you will be devoting hours on end to it, and on the first run through you won't be able to 100% everything with or without a guide.
Besides that though, the game is really good, and pretty fun. The elements seem jarring at first for old school RPG fans but become natural as you involve yourself in P4's world.
The dungeons in this game are where all the battles happen; enemies appear onscreen (the system works like BOF:DQ's PETS system where you can get an extra turn if you strike first.Letting the enemy get the first strike gives them an extra turn however)and the floors are all randomly generated. You get your usual chests, locked chests, mini-bosses and end bosses here. The challenge comes in surviving and conserving SP (magic points) for around ten levels of dungeon, though later in the game you're able to warp out.The battles commence in turn-based fashion.
The soundtrack is superb(the CD is included in the game bundle)especially the vocal tracks.Unlike many RPGs the style is kind of R&B/Pop based instead of orchestral or rock, which gives it a unique feel.I particularly like the song 'Reach out to the truth' which plays during normal battles, and the music played when you're in the entrance preparing to enter dungeons. Each dungeon has their own unique feel and theme music, which doesn't seem to get old, even after hours of dungeon crawling.
The story is pretty good, and the characters lovable enough to take you through around 80-100 hours gameplay. If you don't mind grinding and are itching for something different from the usual RPG formula, i recommend Persona 4.
on 30 December 2010
Persona 4 is no doubt one of the best RPGs to me on the PS2, right next to Final Fantasy X!
Persona 4 is has very simple story to it, your a transfer student that has to move out of the City for about a Year because your Parents are working somewhere far. So you move in with your Uncle and Cousin. You go to school and such and such, but you soon realize that a series of bizarre murders begin to follow. I'm not gonna say a lot now.
There have been alot of changes in Persona 4. You can now control your entire party. You health does replenish by going back to the main dungeon exit. The reaper only appears in Playthorugh 2. They have also removed the Fatigued system now. And also if an enemy uses a skill that is your weakness and knocks you down, you will not lose a turn.
Yeah that's alot of changes, secondly the game is alot harder.
The Soundtrack is amazing funky songs to mystery solving songs and sexy Striptease songs. If you loved the P3 soundtrack, no doubt you'l love the soundtrack in Persona 4.
So to me,if your an RPG fan and played P3 go ahead and buy. However if you've played Persona 3 well then, P4 will be a breath of afresh air for you.