Gamertell Review: Persona 4 for PS2

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Persona 4

Title: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Price: $39.99
System(s): PlayStation 2
Release Date: December 9, 2008
Publisher (Developer): Atlus (Atlus)
ESRB Rating: “Mature 17+” for alcohol reference, animated blood, language, partial nudity, sexual themes and violence.
Pros: Characters don’t get tired in dungeons, you can control all party members, more dialogue options, part-time jobs can be taken, there are loads of Personas to create and customize, more things can be done at home, there are more dungeons to explore, more side quests, wonderful ambiance and an engaging storyline.
Cons: There’s a lot of exposition before you get to control your character and explore dungeons.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 99/100, A, **** 1/2 out of 5

I was into Persona long before it was fashionable – playing the questionable Revelations: Persona and Persona 2: Eternal Punishment years ago while in high school. When Persona 3 came out to critical acclaim, I was pleased that the series was finally receiving mainstream recognition. The release of the fabulous Persona 4 will help solidify the series’ rightful place in the RPG world, convince players that the success and quality of Persona 3 was not a fluke and provide hours of entertainment for RPG fans who happen to own a PS2. Persona 4 will likely be the last great PS2 RPG – it deserves to be appreciated.
Persona 4
An urban legend, a mysterious serial killer and another world that lies beyond monitors.

Persona 4‘s protagonist is sent to the rural Japanese town of Inaba from the city to live with two distant relatives, his detective uncle and young cousin, because his parents are traveling for work for a year. While traveling there, he dreams of the strange Velvet Room, a place where Personas are handled, and is told by its inhabitants Igor and Margaret that he will be making a contract once he faces a deadly mystery. He arrives and makes friends with three of his classmates, Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko, and learns about the Midnight Channel. He also arrives just as the murdered bodies of townspeople begin showing up dangling from high places around town. After the hero, Yosuke and Chie stumble into a TV at the Junes department store, and a close friend of Yosuke ends up a victim, the three decide they must take action to save the townspeople.

It is also hard to explain, but Persona 4 feels like it belongs in the series more than Persona 3 did. Persona 4 returns to the concept where an urban legend has some sort of bearing on the events at hand – in this case that anyone who stares at a blank tv at midnight on a rainy night will see their soul mate. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment had the rumor that if you called your own cell phone number, the JOKER would pick up and Revelations: Persona had the main characters playing the game Persona. While Persona 3 did have the Dark Hour, it didn’t have the same feeling since only members of SEES knew about it.
Persona 4
On par with, if not better than, Persona 3

Persona 4 not only fixes everything that “might” have been wrong with Persona 3, it also goes above and beyond to make the dual nature of the game and the experience more entrancing and addictive. Party members don’t get tired after dungeons, there are different dungeons to explore, depending on the person you have to rescue, you can directly equip, use the skills of and control other party members, there are more opportunities to interact with and talk with the other characters, you can take a part-time job, there are more parameters that the main character can improve and social links are good for more than improving/creating Personas.

Returning aspects from Persona 3 in Persona 4 include loads of Personas to create and work with, social links that can be created and built up between friends, gorgeous animated cutscenes, Japanese rock and pop music in the background and a wonderful sense of ambiance which makes the town of Inaba almost feel like some sort of character on its own.

New and improved aspects center around the main character’s life and experiences in battle. First, there are now five parameters that the hero can raise through interaction with others, free-time activities and part-time jobs – courage, diligence, expression, knowledge and understanding. If you don’t raise these attributes, you won’t be able to build certain social links. Margaret won’t even consider you worthy of quests if you aren’t intelligent. You can buy and read books, cook, do activities, join clubs (like in the previous game) and spend time with others to boost social links and make money. Since you’re in a rural town, you won’t find fancy part-time jobs, instead working at small, local places near the hero’s family’s home.

Other aspects have been tweaked to have more meaning. Social links will give Personas of that type extra experience when created, make bonding with others easier or make party members do more during battle. You can manually control and outfit all party members, so you don’t have to ask them to equip items or set computer AI and hope for the best. Dungeons feel more unique and interesting, since each one you enter is different. The best part is, party members don’t get tired after exploring, so you don’t have to dungeon crawl around sick party members’ schedules.

The after battle spoils have also slightly changed. You’ll receive money, experience and materials. Materials are then taken to a local shop in town, where the owner will buy them and use them to make new weapons. You might also get to pick from cards, getting a card that’s either worthless or gives a temporary status effect, a Persona card or a penalty card that may take away all battle spoils.

The only thing that might put people off of playing is the long introductory sequence. It takes quite a bit of time until you are able to move freely throughout Inaba and start making your own decisions, even though you will be given many chances during that early period to interact with residents of Inaba. Some people may get impatient, but RPG players and fans of Persona 3 will have no problem with, and may enjoy, the detailed expository portion that takes up the first hour or so of the game.
Persona 4
Persona 4 – the PS2’s swan song.

When people look back and wonder what the last great PS2 game was, Persona 4 will undoubtedly spring to mind. It is a fitting way to celebrate the long life of the PS2 and the many wonderful RPGs that have graced the system. It is simply a phenomenal and alluring title with hours of gameplay and replay value and a stylish presentation. Kudos to Atlus for creating such an interactive and likable game.

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  • Janine

    How were you lucky enough to score a copy of this before the release date? I'm so jealous! :O
    Well, at least I'll still have time to spend on The Last Remnant before P4 arrives for me next week 😀

  • Jenni Lada

    Press copy. Its really a wonderful game. I totally recommend it. For some reason, I find myself addicted to P4 in a way I was never addicted to P3. Maybe its the extra evening activity options, the new character parameters to grow, or the fact that I don't have to alter my dungeon crawling schedule because some character has the sniffles! XD

    You're so lucky to have The Last Remnant though! Square Enix makes some fantastic RPGs. How is it?

  • Janine

    Aside from all the bad press surrounding the graphical glitches and numerous loading times, it's actually a pretty decent and enjoyable game. However, most of the time playing the game will be spend on battling and it happens very, very often if you want to be successful in the game. I'm getting tired of battling but the only thing that pushes me forward is my thirst for the story. The voice acting is definitely top-notch in my opinion. There are a ton of side-quests and building unions is pretty fun.

    Unfortunately, I don't think that I will be able to finish The Last Remnant before P4 comes out. It's sad to say but I'll be abadoning it just like I did with Infinite Undiscovery.

  • Jenni Lada

    Wow. But sometimes level grinding like that is fun. One of the reasons I loved the Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology is because of the eternal fetch quests and dungeon crawling.

    I know exactly what you mean about the abandonment – I never finished Odin Sphere or Persona 3 FES. I got Odin Sphere before I was going on vacation, got to the middle of Mercedes story, then got caught up in Wii games. As for Persona 3, I just got frustrated by the party members getting sick and tired, and slowly lost interest.

    I really think I'm going to finish Persona 4 by the end of December though! 😀 In part because the only games I'll be playing in December are Hiiro no Kakera Portable, Rune Factory 2 and Animal Crossing: City Folk.