Now you’re probably thinking “Oh no, this is going to be some biased review of a four year old game and this Sheepguy fanboy is going to give this a 30/10”
Well, sort of. Yes there will be some biased comments but mostly this is how I feel about this wonderful, wonderful game (See?)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is the fourth major release of the Persona spin-off series by Japanese developer/publisher Atlus. Following the success of Persona 3, Persona 4 has a fresh set of characters, a brand new plot and an entirely different setting.
Set in the quiet, rural town of Inaba, you (the protagonist) are to live for one year with your uncle Ryotaro Dojima and his young daughter Nanako after your parents decide to work abroad. Ryotaro is a detective in the police force but is still trying to deal with the sudden death of his wife and Nanako, a shy but helpful elementary school girl. In spite of all their problems, Ryotaro and Nanako gladly take you in.
Initially the atmosphere in town appears to be friendly, quiet and normal, but that quickly changes as a series of mysterious murders in town leave the police completely baffled as there is no murder weapon, no witnesses and no exact cause of death.
Shortly after, however, the protagonist discovers he has the ability to enter a strange world (Aptly named the Midnight Challenge) through television sets, and the Midnight Channel is filled with yellowish fog, and consists of monsters known as ‘Shadows’. The protagonist slowly realizes that the killer also has the same ability to enter the TV, thus allowing him to throw people in and leave them at the mercy of the Shadows.
This is where you and several classmates boldly go inside the Midnight Channel, using the strange power of your Personas to fight the Shadows and rescue the people being thrown in before it’s too late, as well as to look for clues to apprehend the killer.
It is a very strange premise and setting albeit interesting enough to keep you hooked all the way through (And as JRPGs are likely to do you’ll sink in 70-100 hours’ worth of your life)
Persona 4 essentially builds off of gameplay of its predecessor and vastly improves it from the Social Links to the Battle System. The battle system is fairly easy to pick up and the game gives you a quick lowdown on seven attack types. Enemies have weaknesses to certain attack types and if you manage to strike a Shadow’s weak spot, that Shadow is knocked down and you are given another turn.
You can either opt to attack the same Shadow or go after another one in order to knock them all down and initiate an All-Out Attack, an insanely powerful and awesome sequence that sends your party charging down on the enemy and will often deal an insane amount of damage. Although the dungeon crawling becomes tedious at times, the boss battles are challenging and will keep you on your toes.
Weather dominates much of the activities in Persona 4, and if there is someone trapped in the Midnight Channel you must rescue that person before the next foggy day. Once it becomes foggy in the human world, the fog lifts in the Midnight Channel and the person trapped dies.
It’s really all about careful planning and preparation, from choosing which days you’ll face off against bosses to which days you’ll take a breather and hang around with friends. You can’t exactly grind all the time or spend most of your days hanging around town with friends. There needs to be a balance between both.
When you’re not out fighting Shadows, you’ll be attending the local high school answering dull questions from uncanny teachers and socializing with other students and residents of Inaba. The mainstay of Persona’s gameplay is the Social Links, which allows you to interact with NPCs and develop a relationship with them.
Spending more time with certain people will allow you to form better Personas and interacting with party members outside the TV World will enhance their abilities and give you a significant advantage during battle. What makes this system so endearing though, is that the characters involved aren’t exactly perfect.
They all feel genuine and human, and they have their own set of problems (And their personal problems often turn deadly) From an intelligent young sleuth trying to hide her feminine traits in order for the police force to take her seriously, to a fellow schoolmate who is generally viewed as a tough guy and has trouble being accepted for his ability to sew cute stuffed animals and so on. There are plenty of characters I found I could relate to, and it made maxing out their S. Link all the more satisfying.
The soundtrack is from the work of Shoji Meguro, the com and plenty of projects from Atlus. Consisting mostly of J-Pop and J-Rock, the game has plenty of good and catchy songs and the game has its share of pretty annoying songs.
In terms of voice acting, Persona 4 features the likes of Yuri Lowenthal, Troy Baker and Laura Bailey. There’s some pretty quirky dialogue during battle and cutscenes, but for the most part the voice acting is spot-on.
Graphically, Persona 4 uses the Criware engine and while the visuals are not exactly stunning they’re not abysmal either. The UI is well done and the style is very distinct, and the menus and animated cutscenes are really well done.
All in all, Persona 4 comes off as a very charming RPG and what I consider to be one of the best video games ever released. While I don’t believe that the plot is truly excellent and that the grinding becomes a chore at times, it has one of the most well written and memorable group of characters that you can't help but love.
So if you've reached this sentence, thanks for reading my first ever review of a video game. x)