Persona 4 – Having played it on the PS2 in 2008 I’ve been a fan of it for a long time. Not only did it not lose any of its magic in its transition to the Vita, the new editions to the game made it an even further must-play RPG.
Persona 4 starts out with a high school student going to the small rural town of Inaba, Japan to live there for a year with his police-detective uncle and little cousin. Shortly after his transfer, alongside his new friends, bodies in bizarre positions start to appear after foggy nights across the town with no known cause of death. At around the same time a rumor starts to spread throughout school called the midnight channel, a mysterious phenomenal where images of a person appear on a turned-off TV at midnight.
While checking out the rumor, our hero falls through a portal-like TV screen. Thus discovering a whole new world linked to human emotions that seem to be related to the string of murders that have been occurring in the usually quiet town of Inaba.
In this new world there are strange blob-monsters called Shadows, often hinted to be related to the negative emotions of humans, that appear and in a desperate panic a new power suddenly emerges. To fight this threat and discover who the murderer is, he gains a power called Persona. These guardians are best described as: an aspect of oneself which is gained through social links (bonds with others) and self-realization that then manifest in this unique world, the stronger the bonds or emotions the stronger the Persona created and vice-versa for Shadows negative emotions.
As the story progresses there are comical, serious and light-hearted moments. The Persona series has always had a unique feel and that makes it an instant classic and though it may seem predictable at the start, it keeps us on our toes from beginning to end.
First appearing on the PS2, some may be disapointed to find out that it was not remade and the graphics are still at the level of the PS2. It isn’t bad but it isn’t exactly pushing the Vita either, there will be slightly blurry textures once in awhile in the environment.
Cut-scenes are anime-style though there aren’t many of them and most of the game goes through in-game dialogue. With a story-heavy game there is, as expected, a lot of talking but as most following the story will find, it is interesting enough to follow and thankfully it is voiced rather then only text.
The general presentation is that of a typical old-school RPG and with the amount of content, ever-changing dungeons and fantastic plot there isn’t much to complain about here. In fact, just talking about Persona makes me sub-consciously hum the brilliant music used throughout.
As a turn-based RPG it does surprisingly well to never feel boring. Although the story is the main draw to keep playing, having the ability the mix and match your hundreds of personas is extremely fun. In the real world you are just a normal kid, you walk and talk to improve relationships with characters and go to school which, in turn, strengthens the persona related to that person. After school, once you enter the other-world, however, it becomes a dungeon crawler with dungeons that always change shape each time you visit.
One thing that may put off some, or some on, is that there is always a time period looming over the player. He only has one year in Inaba which means you may miss increasing your social status with some characters, which results in a blocked access to certain personas or interesting conversations. This gives the player a reason to play again or have some of the magic rubbed away by systematically following an online guide on what to do each day.
The turn based battle system, dungeon crawling and building a social relationship make for a unique experience with great replayability. To become stronger social links are just as important as battling shadows as it leads to new personas with their own level, skills and stats – it is a simple yet deep system.
Conclusion – 9.6:
In two words: Instant Classic.
Turn-based RPGs are on the decline but Persona 4 does it well and supports it with a fantastic story, social interactions, choices and Persona fusing. Easily one of the top RPGs available on the Vita so far, and most likely for some time to come. The only bad note is that perfectionists may be led to madness by following day-by-day online guides in an attempt to gain all personas, social links and events