There are a lot of reasons to review Persona 4 on here, none of which is more compelling than my internal drive to review all video games that I play in order to staunch the “I’m wasting my life” feelings that tend to come with them. However, that being said, this game is not for kids and so this review won’t be either … life just works out that way some times.
Persona 4 starts with you, the male main character, arriving in town at the same time that a series of bizarre serial murders start cropping up. You team up with a band of plucky misfits and are charged with totes saving humanity via your “persona” powers, which allow you to control a vast array of mythological beings. As a grrl gamer I’m generally offended by the fact that, nearly all the time, I am forced to play games as a dude. I don’t want to be a dude, even in a fantasy world wherein I can summon monsters, but I don’t get a choice. You say, “But what about animated scenes?” well friend, your character never talks during them. Think they can’t make you androgynous enough? Tell that to the tranny! Yes sh-ma’am, you read right, there’s a tranny – a girl who masquerades as a boy and doesn’t stop, even when she’s “outed” as being female (ie: she keeps speaking – for the most part – with an artificially lowered voice and continues to wear the boy’s school uniform). There’s also a guy who may be homosexual, the game leaves it somewhat open for interpretation, but on the whole, the game deals with gender and sexuality a lot, in fact you can date (you have to be hetero), and you can even be a scumbag and date more than one girl at once (if you’re smart they never even find out). That’s a positive message!
All my griping aside it’s a fun game to play if you can handle 1) the responsibility and 2) the lulls. There are periods of time when you just need to level grind and the game isn’t for the irresponsible player. Don’t put an hour into dungeon crawling without saving, you’re begging to be knocked off by an enemy, which really would be a waste of (your real) life. The battle system is easy and I like it, it’s not something I discuss unless it’s terrible so … As the main character you have the ability to “fuse” new persona which have solid grounding in myths from a myriad of cultures (with educational blurbs!) – in fact the main plot of the game is grounded in a Japanese Shinto myth, and it’s nerdy attention to detail like that which makes me play Persona again and again. The persona art is gorgeous, I adore it, but some of the renderings are so bad it’s embarrassing. Many of the persona are repeats but there are a lot of new ones – think Pokemon but so much cooler.
The thing about this, and all Persona games, is that they are not for the causal gamer, there are tons of chances to beef your game completely and you really need to play it with Game FAQs open if you want to see every cut scene. There is a Social Link system wherein you become besties with everyone and if you want to get them all, good luck to you. I had more than a few people up to 9 out of 10 and you know what? I still didn’t get them in the last scenes. Frustration, I have walked with thee.
Also there are multiple endings, a good one, a bad one, and a normal one. You need to work to get the good one, and work hard. I ended up going ahead and putting the effort into chasing it down and, while it wasn’t a nightmare, it was a concern because, unless you’re prepared there’s a chance you can get down to the wire and simply not have the resources to pull it off. If you do you get the good ending and, either way, get to try and do it all again in new game plus mode. 97 hours in I’m not really interested in playing for 97 additional hours for a few extra cut scenes, but it’s nice to know the option is open for me to finally see Kanji come to terms with the fact that he’s awesome at making stuffed animals. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
In the end I’m really glad to have played Persona 4, I found myself laughing at more than one point, and photographing bizarreness on the screen to boot, and you can’t go wrong with that.