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Avatar ImagePersona 4 Review
By: | January 25th, 2009 | PlayStation 2


Everyone who’s ever lifted up a controller, or set hand to a mouse, to play a game knows that some games  are good, some games are bad, and some games can be so enthralling experience that they defy any such  label. Those are the games we find ourselves playing when the alarm clock buzzes at six in the morning,  and we realize we forgot to sleep. Those are the games that drive us to become what we are: gamers.

Persona 4 is one such game. I could call it a good game, or a great game, but neither term fully captures  the essence of Persona 4. Persona 4 is a game that will devour a great swath of time from your life—and  you will be thankful for every spent hour.

Are You In Love Yet?

Persona 4 is a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) whose story revolves around a group of high school  students gaining superpowers, fighting bad guys, and having fun, while all the while balancing both the  supernatural and mundane aspects of their lives. Sounds clichéd? It is—not that it matters in this case, but  I’ll get to that later—and it should also sound very familiar. The premise of Persona 4 is painfully similar to  that of Persona 3, which was released to critical acclaim in 2006. It is true that Persona 4 introduces  nothing new to the JRPG genre, or even the Persona series itself. The premise, story-structure, character  archetypes, presentation, graphics and gameplay are virtually identical to Persona 3, and even were we to  forget that, the basic presentation and mechanics are nothing unique. But, even with that, Persona 4  remains an exceptional game.

Gameplay in Persona 4 is rigidly divided into two distinct areas: the “real life” part of the game, where the  player runs through town making friends, working, and going to school, and the “fantasy world” part of the  game, which is devoted almost entirely to combat. This rigid divide means you’ll always know when to  expect dialog-led social interaction, and you’ll always know when to expect a fight. Things can be a bit  predictable, but Persona 4 endeavors to maintain a laid-back atmosphere throughout, so the stark  juxtaposition never becomes too disconcerting.

The fantasy-world of Persona 4 is very different from Persona 4′s Dark Hour thematically, but very similar to  it structurally. The game plays out in the Japanese town of Inaba. At the player’s discretion, you can go to a  particular point in town and, from there, travel to the fantasy realm to progress through the story, level up,  or search for various items that the people of Inaba want you to find for them. There are a handful of  different dungeons you access one-at-a-time as you progress through the game. Each time a dungeon  opens up, you have a set amount of time to beat the dungeon (which advances the story) or the game will  end. Once you’ve cleared a dungeon, however, you can move back through it again, at your leisure, and  attempt to defeat that dungeon’s hidden boss.

Though the aesthetics of these dungeons can be very, very cool (ranging from a strip-club to an 8-bit  themed Dragon Quest tower) the actual layout of the dungeons is very simple. In a change from Persona 3,  the dungeons in Persona 4 are no longer random, so every level will always look exactly the same—though  there are some hidden and extra boss battles that spice things up. The various enemies are represented in  the dungeon map as either hovering black balls or floating semi-sentient black puddles. These enemies  move around along very short pre-determined paths, and when you encounter one you either attack it, or  flee. When you attack an enemy—or when an enemy gives chase and catches up with you—you initiate a  battle and shift to the combat portion of gameplay we’ve seen in every JRPG since the NES days. Attacking  an enemy in the dungeon can give the player an advantage, but letting an enemy attack the player will give  the enemy an advantage: the advantage is usually a full extra turn.

Kill It With Fire!

If you’ve ever played a JRPG, you should be pretty familiar with how Persona 4′s combat works out. You  control 4 characters—either directly, or allow the AI to control the three additional characters with a handful  of pre-selected behavior scripts—and take turns beating the crap out of monsters. The monsters also take  turns beating the crap out of you. It’s all so very… symmetrical. Certain enemies have weaknesses, which  will require the standard fire and ice-themed elemental spells to take down. The combat is fast-paced and  the battle music is catchy, so combat is generally fast and fun, but every once in a while you’ll find yourself  fighting a monster that is immune to ever single kind of attack save one. Those battle can be particularly  infuriating when no one in your party is capable of causing any damage.

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  1. Very nice, lengthy review. I haven’ played Persona since 2, but I definitely want to start catching up.

  2. Yea I was never really into them, until you guys have done nothing but talk about how great this game is.

  3. I’ve never played a Persona either but after the amazing hype and rave reviews from this game makes me really want to buy it. I might have to hook up the PS2 one last time.

  4. nice lengthy review, nice work and thanks!

  5. ….

    Albeit with far more verbosity than most people (even myself) can handle…..

  6. Do you have MSN at least? :)

  7. Nah. No IMing at all. I’m always doing a bunch of stuff at once, and am never on the comp. long enough to sustain chatting.

  8. Haha Fox, not only do you have a cool name, but a keen sense of journalism. I love your writing style, and I’d like to talk to you more.

    One question: Are you typically into oldschool JRPGS?

  9. I’m into *all* RPGs.

    So, yeah, I one of six people who picked up Ar Tonelico 2 last week.

  10. Very very nice reviews. Possibly the longest review we have. haha.
    and Ricky, probably best to keep this kind of discussion to the forum.

  11. avatar Akab

    Dungeons are actually random . they just made them simpler in designs and less numerous

  12. avatar Aguro

    I get exactly what you’re saying. I never felt anything when Aerith died in FF7, but the events on December 3rd in P4 had a tear roll down my cheek.

  13. avatar Anon

    You mention an option to switch between Japanese and English voices: where in the game are you able to do this? Other sources say that the Japanese audio track was removed for the US release, and I myself am unable to find any way to enable it?

  14. avatar Buy oem software online

    S3SDxH Yeah, now it’s clear !… And firstly I did not understand very much where there was the link with the title itself !!…

  15. avatar Daniel Kulkarni

    Huh? Since when did the localized game include the original Japanese voice acting?

  16. avatar Nounou

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  17. avatar Sylvia

    hmm im really bored with the games on my ps3 im trinyg to get saints row 3 downloaded from someone but nobody is nice if anyone would PLEASE fileshare i promise i wont hack or anything i just got to get the download and im done so? please anyone .

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