Sunday, May 24, 2009

Persona 4 Mini-Review

If you enjoyed other SMT games and haven't picked this one up yet, I would reccomend doing so! Helpful, right?

To be slightly more detailed, it's about a highschool kid who moves to rural (or more like suburban from my view) Japan for a year to live with his uncle and cousin because his parents are working abroad. Gruesome and mysterious murders start shortly thereafter. The plot progression is a bit formulaic at parts and characters will kind of restate the obvious in blatant expositions a bit for my liking, but it's full of twists and turns I didn't see coming on my first playthrough. What really makes the story for me is the likeable characters and interesting but not particularly difficult "social sim" aspects with Social Links.

You end up with an "Investigation Team" of sorts of a few other highschool students trying to get to the bottom of the murders. Hanging out with your buddies will strengthen your friendship with them and provide in-battle bonuses like them taking a moral blow (which results in an immediate Game Over otherwise) for you, providing additional attacks, and curing status ailments. Getting to a nearly capped relationship level also allows your pals to survive mortal damage themselves.

The combat is a modified "Press Turn" system from SMT: Nocturne. If you score a critical hit or exploit an elemental weakness, an enemy will be knocked down. Further exploiting a weakness can make a foe dizzy and cause them to be unable to act on their next turn. This works both ways though which provides some momentum in battles. If you knock all the enemies down, your group can launch an all out attack that seems to do several critical hits worth of damage and ignores any physical damage resistance. This is pretty cool looking with a very cartoony clouds of dust and "bam!" "splat!" sort of text bubbles.

I'm not sure if enemies can have a similar all-out bum rush, but it would be really hard to get all your party members knocked down at the same time because of their different elemental weaknesses.

The combat takes place in some dungeon-crawly mazes which are integral to the plot (which I'm not going to spoil). Enemies appear as shadowy blobs and you can gain an advantage of a free round of attacks (or a penalty round) by striking by surprise from behind.

Player characters get their elemental strengths and weaknesses depending on what Persona they have. One character gets Ice magic spells and physical attacks and has Ice immunity and Fire weakness. The main character can obtain probably well over 150 different Personas all with varying strengths and weaknesses through a process of fusing existing Personas. Much of the battle strategy is in bringing party members capable of exploiting the more common elemental weaknesses in a particular dungeon and having your main character with Personas that aren't particularly vulnerable.

Boss fights tended to be against targets with no particular weakness which makes them fairly long, so having buffs and debuffs available is very important for them. One particular boss spams a variety of super charged elemental magic on your entire party and is very difficult unless you have a spell that reflects the damage back onto it. In general you will be able to win boss fights unless your characters are grossly undereleveled or your main character has no suitable Personas.

The music is...pretty repetitive. There's about 20 tracks or so I'd say, which isn't much in a game that can take over 100 hours to finish your first time through. Most of it I find catchy or at least tolerable though, so I can't complain much about it.

The game progresses through about a year of time and each day is split into several segments. You choose what activities to engage in whether it's soccer practice, going into a dungeon to kill shadows, or trying to impress and date whichever one of your female classmates strikes your fancy. Managing this is something of a balancing act, but not overly difficult with a list of what activities you can do when being available in-game.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend Persona 4 to anyone that's a fan of JRPGs. With the interesting Social Link interactions it may also be something that you could play with your significant other (maybe minus some of the dungeon crawling) and both be entertained. The story is interesting, though hardly mind-blowing, and the characters are likeable. There is also Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty modes available for people who aren't too hardcore on learning about the battle system.

And this was supposed to be a mini-review, but it's long as hell, so I'll say it's mini because I'm too lazy to add spoilerfic pictures.

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