Persona 4 came out a while back for the Playstation 2, and was remade last year for the Vita with some improvements, fixes, and additions. Now up until last week I was a Shin Megami Tensei virgin, having only gotten my first experience with this cerebral and unique series of JRPGs after getting my Vita for Christmas. Well, since this is easily a 100 hour experience, I wanted to share my thoughts on it so far before I spend another month enjoying it. And make no mistake, I am absolutely enjoying it.
Persona 4 is one of the strangest experiences I’ve had with a game that I can remember. A lot of the time it feels more like a tv show than a game, which makes it truly unique and interesting. Just watch the opening and you’ll see what I mean.
This is the actual game opening, courtesy of Atlus’ youtube channel, and when I first saw it I was immediately intrigued by a game that was comfortable creating an opening without really giving away any game content and without even feeling like a game. Then I started, and the first 2-3 hours reinforced that feeling. Most of the time games are afraid of giving you a long character introduction at the start for fear of boring players away, but not Persona 4 Golden. You get about 2-3 hours of gametime which is nothing but setting the stage. You don’t even get more than the barest glimpse at combat, at the relationship systems, etc. until after about that time. Yet somehow it creates just enough tension and interest despite that to keep you pushing through… and then it just opens wide up and throws you to the wolves.
This game doesn’t baby you either, it’s not afraid to let you make mistakes. If you fail to complete one of the dungeons before the time limit you’d best hope you have a save that’s in a position to allow you to accomplish that task, ’cause otherwise it’s back to the start you go. Luckily this game does allow you to run multiple saves so it’s your own fault if you let that happen but it’s definitely something you can’t afford to forget! And, while the game isn’t the hardest game I’ve ever played, it’s certainly not easy and you can die from a single careless mistake… and on harder difficulties the only checkpoints are at the start of the level. It’s really strange to say, but this is a very refreshing concept – it brings me back to the older style of games when my fate was in my hands – not at the whims of the game deciding if it wants to autosave for you.
Combat in this game is turn based like most JRPGs, in which you use attacks and abilities to defeat the enemies. The abilities are determined based off of which “persona” you have active. You can have many persona at a time, depending on your level, and you can change which one is active once per turn without taking up your turn. This adds a very strategic element to the combat as you have to be very careful of which persona you have so you can handle any situation. Also, if you attack an enemy with it’s weakness(or get a critical hit) it will get knocked down giving you an extra attack that turn and if you knock down all of the enemies(they get back up on their next turn) you get the opportunity to perform a team-attack that does significant damage and is really fun to watch. The pacing of the combat combined with the animations and the strategy makes it incredibly exciting despite being turn based – an incredible feat.
This game is very, very addictive. There is no one thing that stands out as being either really good or really bad but I honestly can’t put the game down(I just realized today I was at about 45 hours and only a third of the way in so I decided to give you guys my impressions so far in this “8-hour review”). The voice acting is fantastic, the music is crazy, eclectic, and incredibly exciting – in fact it reminds me a lot of the music from Final Fantasy XIII-2 except improved and without any really annoying tracks – the graphics are polished and stylized with a wonderful art direction. The gameplay is exciting and strategic, the ability and progression mechanics are deep, thoughtful, and interesting. The characters are incredibly well thought out with interesting and relatable reactions, problems, and personalities.
The one thing I should mention, although for most people reading this website this will be a plus(like it was for me): This is the single most JAPANESE game I’ve ever played. The storytelling, art style, music, writing, gameplay mechanics, everything. It is incredibly Japanese. If you are not into the Japanese style gameplay and storytelling… this game will completely turn you off. If you, like me, love that style of game… this game will justify the purchase of a Vita all on its own. Even being nowhere near the end like I am, I wouldn’t miss this game and I am going to wrap this up here so I can go back to playing it because writing about it has just made me want to get back into it.