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Dark, Long, and One of the Best RPGs I've Played In a While

Possible spoiler alert!!

 

With Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, Atlus continues their tradition of dark and lengthy JRPGs.  This means as a JRPG this is of those you are either going to love unconditionally or absolutely abhor.  Persona 4 takes place about a year after the events of Persona 3.  You start out Persona 4 as an unnamed high school junior sent to live with your uncle while your parents are out of the country for a year.  Instead of living in a major city like previous Persona titles, you’re sent to live in a middle of nowhere town which is best described by the word boondocks.  The situation changes however when a series of strange murders strikes the quiet town.

 

Personally I believe games should be judged in part on their predecessors.  Therefore in parts of this guide I may compare aspects of Persona 4 with aspects of Persona 3 as a means to show improvement.

 

Just as in previous Shin Megami Tensei titles, there are a wide range of characters from which the game draws upon for plot development.  For the most part the plot seems a lot more comical than Persona 3.  The story is a little more adult too, dealing with more advanced sexual themes that make the story seem not so kid friendly.  The social link and relationship systems are back and slightly improved on.  For your battle team, getting a social link established means that you get some advantages in battle like players taking killing blows for you or performing follow up attacks.  A possible positive consequence of this was Atlus removing the whole jealous girlfriend problem from persona 3.  Since reversing a social link could have negative effect on your battle team, Atlus removed this and now you’re free to date as many girls as you want.  The only issue I still have with dating is you go through all the effort of getting a girl to be your girlfriend and the most you ever do with her is hug, I dunno seems kinda anticlimactic to me.

 

The battle system is where Perosna 4 improves best on Persona 3.  The primary difference is that you can now take direct control over all characters, not just the main character.  This means that the days of sometimes bad AI making characters cast expensive and unnecessary spells are gone.  In my opinion this is a major improvement that allows for on the spot tactic changes that this game requires.  There are however new issues introduced to add complications.  Sp recovery becomes an issue at times.  You can’t simply go to the entrance and freely restore hp and sp, to do that you need to actually leave and come back the next day. This leads to other issues, in Persona 3 Tartarus never really got in the way of the regular school stuff and social link activities.  Since it was always a nighttime activity and nothing really ever happened at night it never really caused an inconvenience.  However in Persona 4 the TV world does tend to get in the way, it’s an afternoon activity whose consequences carry over into the evening where this time there is stuff going on.  Evenings tend to be when you do part time work which provides an extra source of income.  This is important because weapons and armor tend to drain your cash reserves fast and money in the TV world is hard to come by.  I may make this system sound worst than it is it’s just an annoyance that one notices when playing this after playing Persona 3.

 

Just like Persona 3, Persona 4 has a lot of those “chuck the controller at the TV moments” everyone loves.   I can’t even begin to count the number of times I would get ambushed by groups of five enemies that would manage to kill me before I could even get a turn in.  I don’t mind op enemies, I kinda enjoy them actually, but situations like this are times where you just feel cheated.  These situations are the biggest weakness to the game imo because they play off of the knock down system so well. It doesn’t even have to be a group of five ambushing you; it can be a group of three you engaged normally.  If they each have party elemental attacks that at least one person on your team is weak to, they can basically chain attack.  The battle ends up becoming more about luck than skill or strategy.  Oddly enough this seems to be the only way I would ever die in normal battles, which is most likely why they annoy me so much.

 

Apart from all this the game delivers on multiple levels, it has a rich and very deep storyline that makes it hard to put down.  By requiring some level of strategy the battle system never really gets all that old and further adds to the enjoyment of the game.  Furthermore the fact that the game can take well over 60+ hours to beat makes it well worth a buy right now considering how cheap you can get it.

 

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