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Well I know I said things have been busy so I hope that folks can understand but better late than never! Here's a review of the best in the series yet, Persona 4!
‘I face out, I hold out, I reach out to the truth…..’

… certainly what you’ll be doing when you play Atlus’ latest iteration of Shin Megami Tensei, Persona 4.

This latest iteration has you play as a nameless protaganist (you name him at the game’s opening) with a bowl-cut who goes to stay with his detective uncle and cousin in the Japanese countryside for one year (April-April, Japanese style.) It is from this point that you learn of mysterious murders taking place in the town whilst being immersed in fog as well as a rumoured something called Mayonaka Terebi (Midnight TV) that is only meant to be viewable on rainy nights. Couple that with journeys into the TV and wearing special glasses to see through the fog to see what is truly there (that being the shadows and more) and it is from this point that the game starts to gather speed as you and your new friends try to unravel the strange events happening within Inaba.

Whether a long-term fan or a new recruit to the SMT series, Persona 4 treats both types of player with due respect. Those familiar with the systems in Persona 3 (this game’s predecessor) will find themselves at home with the gameplay in P4 where as those new to the series will be guided enough to be familiarised with the game as it unfolds before them. A few interesting things to note are the weather which plays a large part in your progress through play, from the music to where you can go, the enemies you will fight to who you can socialise with. You can also check the weather forecast for the next few days to get an idea of what to expect as well (although much like real life, don’t rely on it 100%!)

Social links also play a large part in the game where you strike up relationships with other characters around you (some your collegues in combat, others NPCs.)
The good thing about this is that not only do your relationships develop with those characters around you the kinder you are and the more time you spend with them but will also power up and allow you to create better Persona. In the case of your battle comrades this even allows you to increase their assistance abilities in battle (a nice addition over P3.) Furthermore, build up your social links to max with the girls and they’ll become your girlfriend (figuratively speaking and you can have many at once if you want to be a pimp. Just keep it a secret from the others!)

Another great addition is that as in P3 you can give your team mates commands in battle but can also take direct control of them if you choose. This is certainly handy when you need to heal on the next turn and want to make sure rather than seeing the A.I attack the opponent knowing that your main guy is going bite the bullet. Also worthy of mention is that similar to P3 you can knock enemies down on their arse. Knock them all down and you can do a cool maul-em style team attack (cartoon dust, thwacks and all). Furthermore you can make enemies unconscious by hitting them in their weak spot twice (although do be aware the same can be done to your characters as well.) All in all these enhancements added to an already decently established system make battle and non-battle elements of the game a joy to play, even over the long hours the game will require you to commit to play to its inevitable finale.

In addition to these foundations of the game you have things such as fetch quests with decent rewards, taking parts gained from battles to the equipment shop guy to have him build new equipment for you, many, many Persona to use and create via fusion in Igor’s limousine (the puppet master of Persona it seems who you will most certainly meet early on in the game), many interesting and lively characters to interact with in you time in Inaba and overall a more streamlined gameplay experience than its predecessor in gameplay and continued fun. Add to this that there are multiple endings to the game and a Game+ mode which allows you to play through the game again whilst retaining items and stats from your first play through and we have a successor to P3 that is very much like a finely-tweaked update of what has come before but offers much more.

Deviating a little, just like the shadows in the game it just wouldn’t be a review without mentioning the shady elements within now would it? Firstly, as enjoyable as the game’s story can be there can be occasions where it can become pretty dialogue heavy (sometimes up to 5 minutes of talking if you read and hear all that is being said). The game can also be prone to grinding but this is generally fairer than P3 as it is more often than not a personal choice if you want to level your characters and their Personas up (which is thankfully done somewhat faster than P3 too.) Couple that with you only being able to get the best Persona with maxed out social links and you may just miss that Persona you really wanted to use because you couldn’t spend enough Sundays with the character of you choice for what ever reasons.

Only being able to go to dungeons once a day may seem a bit limited to some as well as you might get to the day before you need to save a friend, then find your health, magic and levels are low with no way to be at full capacity for the next inevitable boss fight and quite possibly making you play the last couple of hours of game once again to be prepared. Add to this that as pretty and stylised as the game is it may seem dated for some tastes, the story and dialogue aren’t high literature at times and the marmite-like Kuma who you will inevitably meet, be forced to spend lots of time with and either love, hate or tolerate and it may seem there is a lot to dislike about Persona 4. However, Most of the above are all in good measure meaning they never dominate the gaming experience nor drown the game’s enjoyable aspects out and leave them in the shade.

Never the less, bad puns aside Persona 4 is an enjoyable Japanese RPG for any RPG fan or general game player to invest there time andenergy in. For fans it tweaks and streamlines many of the negatives from P3 to make a superior follow up of a title and for new fans it will provide them with a decent entry in the SMT series to enjoy and may garner their interest in prior instalments in the series. Either way, fans of games will not find their time is wasted when play Persona 4.

Once again, in those hallowed words of the game’s battle theme, ‘I face out, I hold out, I reach out to the truth…..’

…..reach out and give Persona 4 a whirl. It’ll be to your social and gaming benefit!

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