Digital.Complex: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 review - Digital.Complex

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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 review 95/100 Rate Topic: -----

#1 User is offline   Rocky Trigger 

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 01:10 AM

zOMG!1 First review on DC that's not by Shonen! :O Mind if I use my own template?

Name: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (ペルソナ4, Perusona 4)
Genre: High school simulation/RPG
Platform: Playstation 2.0
Developer: Atlus (Worship them)
Publisher: Altlus (Worship them too)
ESRB Rating: "M" for "Mature" (Mostly for strong language [Doesn't go any worse than "shit" or "bitch".] and issues such as homosexuality. No, you don't shoot yourself in the head to summon Personas in this game. Despite the rating, this game is actually recommended for younger teens for its real-world lessons.)

Visual: 95/100

Persona 4 has noticeably better graphics than Persona 3. More detail is put into everything from the characters to the menus to the backgrounds. Even the character portraits that pop up next to their dialogue boxes have improved quality. You are reminded that your characters are in the TV World thanks to the static that is seen on the corners of your own TV screen, which is also a metaphor on its own. Some of the bigger bosses look especially good graphically and stylistically.

Persona 4 is set in the fictional Japanese rural town of Inaba. And Atlus was able to stay so true to that rural Japanese feel that I am reminded of my own time in Japan.

The anime cut-scenes however are sort of a letdown. While the quality of these scenes have improved, the frame rate is slower than Persona 3.

Sound: 95/100
Persona 4's voice acting is the best I've ever heard in a video game. Some characters, especially Teddie, are what made the story and experience all the more better. The voice work was what made all of the comic relief extra hilarious. In fact, I personally prefer the English dub to the Japanese one. The only time I felt disappointed in the voice work was during a couple anime cut-scenes and Naoto's lines during battles. Another problem with the voices was not the quality, but of how voices transitioned. During battle, the support character's voice would be cut off frequently when performing actions. This would become especially annoying when it gets cut off before All-Out Attacks. Risregarding the small voice problems, extra kudos goes to Atlus USA for being able to produce amazing voice work in less than only 6 months.

As for music, Shoji Meguro does it again. This time, Meguro uses his electric guitar and techno along with some J-Pop. The main battle theme's J-Pop-style may get some getting used to, but eventually becomes as catchy as Persona 3's "Mass Destruction". "Facing Myself -Battle-", the boss battle theme, is another fine example of Meguro's electric guitar music style. Also, the opening and ending themes sung by Shihoko Hirata are one of the best songs I've heard since Persona 3's "Kimi no Kioku". However, the final battle theme, "The Genesis" doesn't do Persona 4 justice compared to Persona 3's epic ("One-Winged Angel" pwner) "Subete no Hito no Tamashii no Tatakai".

Gameplay: 95/100
Persona 4's gameplay is basically an enhanced version of Persona 3's. That's not a bad thing, for it's taking what's good and making it better.

First off, the "high school simulation" gameplay. Basically, everything is the same as Persona 3: the silent Protagonist (Whom you can name anything you want, although is official name is Souji Seta.) you control go to school during the day, do something after school, and then do something at night. After School/during the Daytime, you can do various things from hanging with friends (Called Social Links), raising your stats, buying equipment and items, or exploring the dungeon. Besides buying things, doing these activities will consume one block of time, in which it will become Nightime. Persona 3 had you going to the dungeon during Nightime, where it didn't interfere with many Social Links. But this time in Persona 4, that's a bit limited since you can only explore it After School/during the Daytime. While it does limit the amount of things you can do during the day, there are still many fun factors to make up for it.

Persona 4 includes five base stats (Courage, Knowledge, Expression, Diligence, Expression, and Understanding) versus the three that were seen in Persona 3. While there are more, it is much easier this time to level them up, with Rank 5 being the max. These stats are required to various things from getting jobs to establishing/increasing Social Links (Bonds with your friends as you hang out with them.). They are enhanced because they feel more like how a dating sim works this time. For example, you have to be very Diligent to be able to work at the hospital at night. Some Social Links won't start unless you are at a certain level at a stat (One Social Link requires you to have Rank 5 Courage to be able to ditch school with this one person.). Some requires a certain level of a stat to be able to continue Social Link as well (They're hiding something. You need high persuasive skills from your Expresson stat to be able to get it out of them.). And during Social Links, depending on the level of your stats, you may or may not be able to say certain things (If you have low Courage, then you can't directly ask for that cute girl's phone number.).

While these limitations do slow things down a bit, it is balanced by more opportunities to increase stats and Social Link "experience". During a cut-scene, if you ask if your friends are alright, your Understanding will increase. Killing two birds with one stone, if you a friend in class answer a question, both your Expression and your friend's Social Link experience will increase. These new features make Persona 4 a more engaging experience, and allows those not in Japan to try something close to what real dating sims are like.

Next is the dungeon gameplay. Persona 4 uses a turn-based battle system that's fun and unique. The battle system has been slightly improved to become more user friendly. You are allowed full control of your party this time, which is a big relief to those that played Persona 3 (Everyone other than the Main Character of Persona 3 was AI controlled.). Ally AI control is still available to those that didn't mind that. The advantage of AI control is faster battles and the fact that it makes the characters feel more real since they make their own decisions. The improved AI also certainly helps, although occasionally bad decisions are still made, which can also mean burning through their HP and SP (Magic points, if you will.).

The 1 More (An extra turn if a target's weakness is exploited or if a a critical hit is landed.), Down and All-Out Attacks (If all enemies are Down, then you can do a bum rush against them.) are still here, only with some slight changes to the 1 More and Down system. In Persona 3, 1 Mores were not given when multi-target skills (Ma- spells) were used. This time, a 1 More is granted as long as one target is knocked Down (Targets that are already Down don't count.). The trade off is that even if the target is Down, they still can act on the next turn. In Persona 3, a turn is wasted for the character/enemy to get up. However, there is a 50% chance for a target to become Dizzy (Can't act for one turn.) if a normal attack is used and a 100% chance is a weakness is hit or a critical hit is landed. That means that targets can't be kept down throughout the battle. A sense of fair play is here, meaning this applies to both allies as well as enemies minus the All-Out Attack. Overall, the battles are easier in Persona 4, although the difficulty is still higher than your Final Fantasy games.

Persona 4 does away with the fatigue system of Persona 3. Instead, the amount of time you can spend in the dungeon depends almost entirely on the amount of SP you have. That's because unlike Persona 3, you won't heal entirely when you return to the entrance of the dungeon. The only way to heal is through a certain (expensive) Social Link character and your own SP healing items (The better ones are better left kept for tough boss fights.). While the trade off is a bit more friendly, it does take away some of the realism Persona 3 had (You and your allies could become tired and even sick the next day if you stayed in the dungeon too long. Also, in Persona 3, characters occasionally couldn't go to the dungeon because of business they would have to attend to.) Characters are always available now in Persona 4 to explore the dungeon.

And speaking of rain, Persona 3's moon phase system is replaced with the weather system. Anything can be done on sunny and cloudy days. And like real life, not much can be done on rainy ones (Although certain special things can be done only on rainy days.). In Persona 3, you were given a specific date to fight a boss. In Persona 4, you must defeat a boss before a certain date, which is after it rains for a few days.

One complaint I have about Persona 4's gameplay is the small about of things being carried over to the New Game+. Persona 3 allowed you to keep your level, stats (Courage, Knowledge, etc.) Yen, equipment, Personas stored in the Compedium, and the ability to fuse the ultimate Persona from each Social Link's Maxed Arcana. Persona 4 brings it down to only keeping your stats, money, Personas stored in the Compedium, and the ultimate Persona fusion abilities. Although it keeps the challenge going since the Protagonist's level is reset, there is a bad drawback. You won't be able to use the stronger Personas you've stored in the Compedium anyway, since they would cost too much HP and SP during battle for resetted level Protagonist to use. Keeping at least the level would have been nice.

Control: 90/100
One of the greatest additions to Persona 4 is the Square button feature. Pressing the Square button on the field brings up a shortcut menu that allows to warp to any place in the area. Never more (Pun not intended) will you have to run from area A to area B.

Persona 3 made you talk to your allies in order to look at their Persona's stats and change their equipment. Never more (There's that pun again...) will you have to do that, as Persona 4 uses a traditional central menu system for ally customizations.

However, the good stops there. One of the most frustrating things about Persona 4 is its dungeon camera. It's one of those cameras that zoom in against the player's will whenever it hits a wall. This is especially dangerous when being ambushed by enemies on the field as stronger enemies can wipe out the party or if not cripple it if given the upper hand. Why Persona 3's great dungeon camera wasn't used, I'll never know.

Story: 100/100
The story is what ultimately made Persona 4 my all time favorite game as well as my game of 2008. The amazing voice work put into this game is what largely makes the already awesome story work. Persona 4's story is a mystery one, and a great one at that. The mystery and the way it's executed is so interesting and engaging even I was thinking hard about what the cause of the strange happenings was. The jokes and odd scenes are so well done (Again, much thanks to the amazing voice work, especially Teddie's.) that it makes Persona 4 a great game to play for laughs. I haven't laughed so much playing a game since Radiata Stories.

But what also makes the story great is the characters. Persona 3 had the obvious 2-D cliche anime characters such as Mitsuru, the overly-mature girl that looks like she doesn't belong in high school and is clueless about the lifestyle of normal people (Like Ouran High School Host Club *Cough*). The characters this are so fleshed out that they aren't 3-D, but 4-D. These are probably the most believable and realistic anime characters you'll ever see in any J-RPG or anime/manga. Unlike most anime and games, most of these characters don't have over-the-top childhood tragedies like the ones in Persona 3. These are your normal Japanese high school kids who just so happened to caught up in a great murder mystery. They don't want to save the world like every other J-RPG character out there. They simply want to stop the murders from happening in their hometown.

Overall: 95/100
Besides the dungeon camera, some of the voice issues during battles, and the New Game+ limitations, this is an unforgetable experence that should be played by all anime and J-RPG fans. My game of 2008.

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