PS2 Review: Shin Megami Tensei – Persona 4

Proof that the PS2 can still shine

I loved Persona 3. It had a great, but unusual story that fit well into the JRPG genre. It had some mind-bending ideas and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I wasn’t sure if Persona 4 could improve upon it but how wrong could I be? Very. Persona 4 topples its predecessor with yet another off-the-wall plot and improved combat, making it the best in the series…or at least I think so.
The story follows a new character that has moved to the countryside town of Inaba for a year stay with a relative. Murders start occurring and then you suddenly notice that you can put yourself through a TV screen to a new world which holds some of the answers to the killings. It’s strange stuff, almost as crazy as 3’s idea of shooting yourself in the head to unlock your powers or people turning into coffins. Maybe it’s not as crazy as the last game, but the story is much easier to get to grips with and it’s more accessible.

What I like about Persona 4 is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The characters can crack the odd joke at the most inappropriate times to lighten things up. I’m a little confused why the series has yet to make its way on the PS3, it’s in a definite need of a next-gen version with spruced up visuals and HD anime cutscenes, luckily though it is fully backwards compatible with the machine. The cutscenes in Persona 4 are incredibly well animated and will please fans of japanimation.
The social link feature returns in Persona 4, it’s nice to see it come back. Your character also lives a double life of intense battles and a normal school life with friends, part-time jobs and classes. It follows the same kind of pattern that Persona 3 did, but it flows a lot better in this. I have to admit, there is a lot of dialogue in the game and you can go ages without actually doing anything…like the first few hours of the game are mostly just cutscenes and dialogue. It opens up after that, so expect a slow start for the game to then pick up.

Persona 4 can take anywhere over 60 hours to complete, it’s huge when compared to most games these days. The characters are also great to get to know, I wonder if Atlas will do another version in a few months like they did with Persona 3 with an extra story included. It’d be nice if they did, although I guess it depends on how well it does financially. I hope they do, the story of Persona 4 has some more potential to be explored.

Combat is turn-based, but more focused on working as a team. It works well and is pretty good overall, it’s not the best out there…but it gets the job done. I have to be honest, I’m not even that bothered about fighting in Persona 4 because I was totally engrossed in the story and wanted to learn everything about it, the rest is just a bonus. Character models are fairly the same as they were in Persona 3, but the new locations look fantastic as do the great cutscenes. Voice-acting is a mixed bag but good for the most part, the soundtrack is pretty impressive and surprisingly catchy.

The Verdict

Persona 4 is a great follow-up to the last game, it improves upon almost everything its predecessor did and left me wanting more. Its 60 hours of great storytelling, good combat and a nice cast of characters. Whoever said the PS2 generation was dead needs their head examined, Persona 4 just proves there’s still some life in the system, although for how much longer I’m not sure.