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Attack on Celebrities Intro: Can you imagine real life at its most basic form being a good game? No! Not at all, Sims is a boring game. But if what if you took some elements of real life, cut down on some of its most mundane parts and make it into a JRPG? Thats what Persona achieved. And while I havent played Persona 3 or any of the others, I can safely say that Persona 4 does it in Spades, and heres why. Story: Persona 4 fools you at the beginning by making you think that its story is going to be about normal school kids doing their everyday lives. But like any story that follows the Heros Journey structure (AKA most stories out there) There will always be that inciting incident that forces the hero to leave their ordinary world and cross the threshold to the extraordinary world, Persona 4 takes that concept very literally. The game starts with the player character who I shall refer to as Yu Narukami from now on as thats his canon name, leaving his city life to study in Yasogami High School in Inaba. When he arrives there, he meets with his new friends Yosuke and Chie, and some people he didnt want to meet like Mr. Morooka AKA King Moron (Yes, they call him that). At that point, it doesnt take too long for Yu to adapt to the new environment and consider Inaba like its his home But then, you guessed it, the inciting incident happened! A big one, too. An announcer called Mayumi Yamano was found dead with her body hanged on a streetlight. The cause of death is unknown, no physical signs on her body, nothing. Before that was when a rumor about the mysterious Midnight Channel was spread, and after the death of Yamano occurred, Yu and Yosuke decided to check it out. When they did so is when they found one of their friends called Saki trapped inside, Yu tried to reach out for her and weirdly enough, he got sucked into the TV, but not all the way since it was too small. Its not too long after when the fog appears on Inaba and Saki being found dead, now is when Yu and Yosuke come to the conclusion that something fishy is happening, and somebody out there is killing those people by throwing them in the Midnight Channel. So Yu and Yosuke decided to use the mysterious power of entering TVs to investigate the murder mystery. When they entered, they encountered a bear named Teddie and some evil beings called shadows, thats when Yu unleashed the power of Persona and a spirit of his soul called Izanagi appeared and killed all of the shadows. This power was later given to Yosuke after he faced his shadow self. With this newfound power, Yu, Yosuke and Chie promised to help Teddie return the TV world to order. And from that point is when the real journey begins, people get kidnapped and your goal is to save them in the TV world before the fog lifts and they die. Along your journey, most of the characters you rescue will join your party, and they are mostly exceptionally written, three dimensional characters. The side characters are also interesting, throughout Yus journey, he will forge bonds that allow him to create new and more powerful Personas to use. The story and characters will always be there to keep you engaged and excited to see what happens next. And the murder mystery is one of the most intriguing Ive seen in fiction. There are a lot of mysterious plot elements presented such as the velvet room, Igor and Margaret. But they are all part of the world and get enough explanation in the plot. Every plot element comes together in the end to present the truth to you. I wont give it away, but when you piece it together near the end, itll blow your mind. Especially when you see the true ending. Graphics and Presentation: For a PS2 game, Persona 4 looks alright, its not a technical masterpiece by any stretch, but its visuals get the job done. Its 2D anime art is where its at, the characters look good and have facial expressions that fit them perfectly. As for the environments, half of the game looks like an ordinary world and the other half looks like a twisted manifestation of ones imagination of the real world, sometimes worse. But the most impressive thing about thee visuals is that they never feel repetitive, the first dungeon is a castle, and then the second one is a steamy bathhouse? The third one is a striptease? I dont want to give anything away but this dungeon crawler action RPG will never run out of new things to make you look at, and theyre all very creative. The animations look pretty cool, too. The how the players break their persona cards is always in a way that makes sense with their character. And the battle animations as a whole are pretty impressive. Every persona has different animations based on their personality. Its all epic stuff. The sound design is superb! From the haunting ambience of the dungeons to the regular worlds traffic sound, to the attacks the player performs, it all comes together to create this cohesive world that makes sense. Immersion is pushed further by the games phenomenal voice acting, the characters feel like they are real people, thats how good it is. The dialogue rarely feels cheesy or forced and its always there to keep the player engaged and immersed in the games world. Gameplay: Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay. Most modern JRPGs rely on their narrative to hide how shallow their gameplay is, there are exceptions, this one is one of them. Before I talk about how good the gameplay is, theres this pet peeve I have with a lot of modern JRPGs, its intro sequence is sooo slow. It feels like theyre ordinary school kids forever, this one is even slower than the average JRPGs because you could potentially spend 4 hours before anything cool happens. Kingdom Hearts 2 was similar in that regard, but it at least had activities that were exciting enough to keep the player going until the real game starts. And with that out of the way, lets talk about how the basic game works. Persona 4 is first and foremost a dungeon crawler. Your primary goal is to finish every dungeon before the due date. But what sets it apart is the social links system. In a day, you could spend your time either hanging out with friends and party members, make a girlfriend if you so desire, take part-time jobs, read books, have dinner or of course, go to the TV. On weekends and holidays, you have double the time you usually have to do what you want because you spend half the day in school on weekdays. Every activity you do will have benefits and some cons. That presents the player with a lot of meaningful choice, and meaningful choice is one of my favorite things in a game. Having the player choosing between good and bad is not nearly as interesting as making them choose between different choices that have different benefits. Going to the TV allows you to progress further in a dungeon, grab loot, experience and money but the huge drawback is that after finishing a day after TV, your character will be too tired to do any evening activity whatsoever, he just hits the bed when he comes back home. Doing any of the other activities will allow you to still have enough energy to do evening activities but you wont go any closer in solving the murder mystery. Choosing between the characters to spend time with is also a meaningful choice in its own right. The player gets different arcana levels from them that offer different Personas each. That brings me to the fusion system. It allows you to craft personas if you will, you fuse different Personas together to create one stronger Persona. This is a masterful system since it cuts down on tedious grinding that JRPGs are infamous for. It lets the player get stronger by doing relaxing activities. It still doesnt replace grinding in a dungeon because Yu still needs to increase his level in order to get stronger Personas, but it at leasts makes it minimal in a way where its not too powerful or too weak. The games exploration in the real world allows them to go to different locations in Inaba to do different activities, and it always has a fixed camera with the exception of Yasogami High School. The TV world mostly offers free camera, though. It allows you to go to current dungeons or dungeons previously visited. If you go to dungeons previously visited, they have a new boss thats sometimes tougher. Most kidnappings require you to ask questions and investigate in the real world in order to get enough clues to get to the new dungeon, which kinda slows down the gameplay, but it makes sense with the narrative. The games battle system is turn based, an improvement over Persona 3 is that it allows you to command every party member separately if you wanted to. Thats very useful considering that the player mostly makes decisions better than the AI will. Or you can leave them on specific tactics if you feel like its too much for you. Different Personas have different strengths and weaknesses to specific elements, and the same goes for enemies. The tutorials are mostly taught by NPCs rather than having giant text boxes appear which they sometimes do, but they dont feel overwhelming. Theres also Teddies commentaries that allow you to know quickly if youre facing a tough or weak enemy, he also keeps track of the enemy's strengths and weaknesses for you. There are a few issues I have with the gameplay, but not enough to ruin the game at all. First of all, the animations are quite slow, which is a problem that some modern RPGs such as Bravely Default and Fire Emblem: Awakening solved easily by allowing you to speed up animation. The rush command in Persona 4 makes it bearable but still not fast enough for me. Its not that I always want animations to be fast but when I spend a lot of time grinding or fighting the same enemy over and over again, I get the point. Another problem is that theres quite a bit of RNG BS like enemies getting critical hits, they generally speaking have more health than the player, so they can afford getting critted more than the player does, I had this very same problem with Bravely Default, but the difference is in this game, getting critted will make you fall until your turn comes, leaving you vulnerable to dizziness and preventing you from dodging attacks. I get that its a huge part in the game since having items that cure that will be useless then; but Im frankly not a fan of it. Another problem is that theres no solid SP restoration items, SP are spirit points, this games equivalent of mana. Theres soul drops, snuff souls and soma. And in the mid to late game, somas are the only ones that are useful in restoring mana, and theyre super rare, I mostly keep them for really tough bosses. Another problem is that the checkpointing is horrendous like most JRPGs up until today. Its not as big of a problem with dungeon crawling since you can always use Goho-Ms to get you out of the dungeon to save, but its annoying with pre-boss battle save points since you have to watch the cutscene over and over again all the time, but this ones more of a nitpick since Im used to it at this point, but Xenoblade spoiled me since it mostly restarts the game right next to the boss with no cutscene thanks to landmarks. But oh well *Sigh* I guess this isnt the last JRPG to pull this move on me. And with all of that out of the way, lets get to the final verdict. Final Verdict: Persona 4 is a masterpiece despite anything bad I said against it. Fire Emblem 7 and Awakening showed me how much meaningful choice the Fire Emblem series has, and its a huge reason for its popularity. And that is why I love Persona 4 as much as I do, because it has an insane amount of meaningful choice. And while in the events of the story in this game dont change as much as Mass Effect or Dragon Age, I still prefer it. in the end, its all about the overall experience. And Persona 4 delivered one of the most enthralling stories, some of the deepest and most engaging gameplay, and one of the most immersive, believable worlds that Ive ever had the pleasure of experiencing. But its also one of the greatest video games I've ever played. Final Score: 10/10 Masterpiece Kirbys Platinum Medal of Approval ;) Update on Upcoming Reviews: Im sorry, a lot of change of plans happened since I got my gaming PC and Playstation back to me. So I played Persona 4 instead of Okami, and as you can tell, I loved it. It looks like The Witcher 3 will be my next game, a game that also has its fair share of meaningful choice. Though I will probably only post that review on the other sites that I usually post on. Well, it's been fun everyone, but I have to go for a while. I'll come back for the occasional Nintendo game or JRPG review and of course, Fire Emblem discussions. Can't forget dem Fire Emblem discussions. And I will play Okami sometime in the near future.