First, I’d like to state that the Shin Megami Tensei series is my favorite RPG series and that I really enjoyed playing most of them. Persona 4 (for the PS2) was my introduction to the series.
Persona 4 is a game I had heard remarkable things about before purchasing it. It had great trailers and I really did enjoy the beginning of the game’s presentation since it was very well done. You learn of a murder mystery, obtain a Persona, and are set out on a quest to rescue people thrown into another world by the mysterious murderer. An interesting setting that sadly went downhill as I continued along with the game itself. The characters went from interestingly dynamic to static, the plot from mysterious to obvious, and the gameplay from novel to uninteresting.
I’m afraid I cannot lie about that. However, this is all just my opinion. If you think my views are short-sided or foolish then that’s that.
The music was decent. It wasn’t anything superb like most Shin Megami Tensei games. I usually have one or two tracks that I enjoy because of how ingeniously they are composed.
They’re by no means bad at all. They’re just not my taste in gaming music. I did like the music of a certain secret boss but that was all.
It’s good to see that Persona stepped-up its gameplay and allowed more than one character to be controlled at a time. The gameplay itself doesn’t have much to offer in comparison to it’s predecessors though. Press-turns are back from SMT Nocturne and you use some Japanese slapstick comedy attack as a bonus in certain instances but otherwise its basic turn-based gameplay. There’s a few weaker bonus attacks that individual party members can do but that’s really all the game offers to differentiate from other Shin Megami Tensei turn-based games.
The skill growth system in this game is a real disappointment compared to other games in the series. To be frank, there is no thinking involved to challenge the player in their choices. An example: Of course one would pick a stronger lightning spell to replace a weaker version of the same spell. There is just no strategy or thought put into this game. It may as well have been done for the player by having these skills evolve over time. There seems to be little to no strategic element in the gameplay.
The compendium and the fusion system is more interesting but they don’t have the same charm as the fusions in other games. The fusions are essentially laid out for you and you simply need to find the ingredients of weaker monsters. A certain social link tried to make this more engaging but I found it to be uninteresting.
As I mentioned, I loved the beginning of the game. However, the poor execution and ridiculousness passed off as character development seemed to really weaken the entertainment value of the story for me.
You’re part of a high school investigative team that is trying to find some killer who is supposedly kidnapping people and throwing them into a harsh alternate world inside televisions but the game makes it completely obvious who the culprit is from the very beginning. The serial killer was just too obvious for the “mystery” element of the game. It weakened the story severely.
They honestly didn’t even try to make a decent mystery in this game. I was very disappointed. Anyone with common sense will eventually recognize who it is because the game just doesn’t try hiding it at any length. Because of this, the main plot feels more like a nuisance than something of interest. The story isn’t engaging because you will immediately recognize the forced plot stupidity to keep the story going. In a murder mystery, that is damning.
I’d go on and on about why it was so obvious but that would be spoiling the game, I’d rather not ruin it for people if they haven’t already seen the nonsense that’s passed off as a mystery.
Worst of all, the reasoning behind these murders was, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. It was little more than “I’m bored” to “I’m crazy because the plot needs me to be some random crazy person now”. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the killer’s actions. This isn’t to show a sociopath, it’s done so horribly that I could only conclude that the writers simply got lazy. Providing some explanation would have sufficed instead of just unimaginative drivel.
ALL social links, the character development that the characters express in the game, all end the same.
They talk to the main character about a particular problem, they exaggerate how bad this problem is, some sob story is given in a one-sided depiction of the specified problem, a certain mary-sue brat will come in to give forcefully mundane advice, and then by the end of the social link the specific character will go on having the problem and say their complaints before were exaggerated and that there is no real issue.
Nothing really changes for the characters. They don’t try to deal with problems but just stop complaining about them. All of them just admit to being a bunch of emo-drama queens. This is completely unsatisfactory and the redundancy of this annoying set-up simply bored me.
An example? Yukiko Amagi, she shows great strides in trying to get a job and live on her own to support herself so that she doesn’t have to follow in her family’s footsteps of running a historic family inn. The direction forcefully changes from growing into your own independent person to some lunacy about some camera crew from some random tabloid magazine wanting to make a mockery of her parents historical inn. The intriguing story quickly diverges from “Yukiko doesn’t wish to be forced with these expectations of inheriting her family’s historical inn” to some sappy soap opera consisting of random workers for the family speaking about how they adored Yukiko as a kid. This is constantly reinforced by her mother’s so-called poor health, which is never really elaborated upon, and her mother crying in tears whenever the journalists come into the inn because apparently, no one saw it fit to simply ban them from the establishment for harassment. By the end of this melodramatic horror show, Yukiko defends her crying mother against these terrible people from this random tabloid company with you, the main character’s, help as moral support. If you pick the “friend” option, as I did, you will know why I say this is hypocritical.
Sadly, Yukiko is just the most overt example of this melodrama. All the other characters have this set-up in different degrees and virtually all follow the same transition periods. For me, it just became too annoying.
It was uninspiring, far too forced to be realistic in any sort of way, and honestly had no meaningfulness behind it. The characters shifted from interesting dynamic people with realistic thoughts and feelings to card-board character archetypes that simply admitted to whining too much about life.
To conclude: If you like Japanese RPGs full of high school drama or liked previous Persona games then this is definitely for you. If you like good RPGs then try to find another JRPG for you.
Final score: 4/10