08 June 2011

Persona 4 Review - Grilled Beef Anyone?

Persona 4
First let me say up front, this one is not as dark as Persona 3 and storywise it is less mature or complex. Another one off the stack!

Start up and Synopsis:
  You are a second year transfer student to Inaba High School. Your parents are both "working overseas" and you've been shipped off to live with your Uncle - Dojima Ryotaro and cousin  Dojima Nanako  for a year. As you pass through a tunnel on the train there is a vision of the Velvet room. Maybe it was a dream?  This time you are rolling in during the day,  you are met at the station by your Uncle and his daughter Nanako.  Seems you have not seen him since you were in diapers. He has to explain his relationship to your mother to you - ok I want to know the story there! Why has she not spoken to her brother since you were a baby?

You guys head back to the house, Inaba seems to be a sleepy town. But it must have been a long trip. You stop at the gas station and Nanako makes a beeline for the bathroom - but not until her father asks her if she can go by herself.  (What sort of father does not know the answer to that?)  The gas station attendant seems to know the Dojimas. He welcomes you to town, tells you they are looking for part-time help and you will probably be bored fast here after coming from the city and be wanting a part-time job.  He shakes your hand in greeting but before he gives you his name Nanko comes back and asks if you are feeling OK you look sick.

You get back to the Dojima residence,  sit down for dinner and Dojima's cell rings.  He has to go to work leaving you and Nanko alone. You find out he is a detective and that he is gone a lot.  She settles down to watch TV, the news is all about a newscaster, an enko singer and a city council member who is married to the singer and having an affair with the newscaster. Nanako finds it boring and switches channels. A commercial comes on for Junes, and she sings along happy and settles in  to watch a show. You go upstairs go to bed and have a freaky dream that involves a figure shrouded in fog that keeps asking you if you want to find the truth. You chase it through the fog, find you can throw lightning and use some sword techniques against it. It laughs at you and tells you come on then, and you awaken.

Nanko cooked breakfast for you, no sign of you Dojima. You two start walking to school together.  Along the way you see a kid a fall off his bike, you decide to leave him alone.  You are introduced in the classroom by  the homeroom and Philosophy teacher, Morooka  Kinshiro.  He goes off on a rant about morality, a girl interrupts him by asking if you can sit there, and your school year starts. As class is letting out teachers are called to a meeting and students told to stay in the classroom. So naturally people who are curious about the 'big city' come to talk to you.  You find out the girl is  Satonaka Chie she and her friend Amagi  Yukiko offer to walk home with you.  You are told to leave police working in the school zone alone, there has been an 'incident" off you go. Of course on your way, you run into the crime scene, it is a murder. You find out later the victim was  the newscaster that was in the love triangle and she was found hanging upside down from an antenna on a residence (hanged man tarot style). Dojima yells at you for being there and everyone decides to go home.

So you help Nanko with some housework when you get home and head up to bed. No freaky dreams tonight. It is raining when you are on your way to school. You see the same kid skid on the slick pavement and  wreck his bike again this time he is stuck in a garbage can.  His name is Hanamura Yosuke and he is in your class. Yosuke invites you out after school Chie horns in and Yukiko has to go home and help at the inn. The three of you end up at Junes. Chie tells you all some weird story about the midnight channel where you supposedly see your soulmate at midnight if the tv is turned off and it is raining. She makes you all promise to watch it.

Enter the unrequieted love of Yosuke's life, Konishi Saki.  She seems down, Yosuke asks what is bugging her. She makes some comment about if only she had not left school early and then ignores his question.  Eventually you  head home and you find Nanako alone seeming to think your uncle may not come home again. ( Chaos Monkey and I would up calling him Dickhead Dojima, If you follow his social link you will see why. ) Just as you are starting to comfort her, in he comes.  She puts on the news for him. The press found the high school girl who found the corpse and are interviewing her. Her face and voice are masked.  Nanako thinks it is boring and your uncle is asleep sitting on the couch.

You head upstairs remembering your promise, At midnight, a girl appears on the TV. It is blurry and you cannot quite see her.  You go to touch the TV and your hand goes through the tube and gets stuck in it.  You manage to pull it out, fall on the floor and wake Nanako who comes to check on you - giving you a very odd look.

The next day at school you tell your friends about the midnight channel. It seems you all saw the same girl and Chie is confused that her soul mate is a girl. You also hear that Saki was the person who found the corpse and she is not in school that day.  You go to Junes after school with Chie and Yosuke again  seems Chie's family are looking to buy a TV. As you are all looking through the department you stick your hand in a widescreen TV.  It goes through, Your friends freak out and run around as customers are heading that way all 3 of you fall through the screen into the "TV World". Where you meet Teddy the empty bear suit. He helps you get out then you all go home.  Eventually through various things you put together that people who appear on the TV during the Midnight Channel die - so off you all go to find out what is going on and to a clue on a student's death. You meet with Teddy again and eventually FINALLY have your first real fight.  It is almost 2 hours since you started the game.

Now, the fun starts almost every time you save someone they are added to your party.  Of course there are social links as with the other one.  No one I really cared about died in this one, One us under the threat of dying at some point after they are saved. Eventually you uncover the plot withing the plot or do not. If you make wrong choices at crucial moments, the game fast forwards to your leaving to return to live with your parents. If you make the right ones, you get the final answer and leave satisfied.

 The game again combines a card fighter with a High School RPG. By day you attend classes -except holidays. You fight shadows to level up and use the Velvet room to fuse personas.  Your time however is very limited with less leeway than Persona 3 even, so you will have to make choices. You must balance your after school time trips into the TV,  with school clubs, working and other social activities to raise your social links.The social links affect the types and levels of Persona you can fuse as well as when it is with a group member how much they will assist and how. Some will take death blows for you. It is better to complete a social link than to have multiple ones almost complete. Only completed ones count in the end. Part time jobs and books help raise your courage, understanding, knowledge, diligence and expression. Some of these must be at certain levels before you can start a social link with some individuals. Some can be done at night.  Also there are the usual side quests and this time there is fishing added which raises diligence and gets you things you need for some quests or just better eq.

  Battle in the TV world can be is easy enough each persona has different strengths and weaknesses. Like any RPG of this nature, you gain more party members as you rescue more people. You can bring 3 into the zone with you and each has their strengths and weaknesses as well.  You can set characters to act as they see fit or to support or to play them a individuals and you set their actions.  The latter is definitely suggested for boss battles after the first one maybe even for that one and I found some characters I wanted to control because they are SP hogs and blow through all the SP in the first few levels.

With a little forethought you can have a party ready for almost anything. There is no limit on the time you can spend in the TV world.     But you have a time limit to save each person based on the weather forecast. The person must be out of the TV world before it becomes foggy in Inaba. Fog usually occurs after "several days" of rain.  Boss battles take place on the highest level of a zone and most have a mid boss of some type. Your real life intrudes frequently in the form of exams and school trips so you sometimes have less time than you think.

 You gain money through quests, defeating shadows, from your part time jobs and from selling things you gain in the TV world.  There is a shop that makes interesting weapons for you. And the usual supply store that sells healing things.

 None - GOOD Job!

I preferred having the weapon types to the streamlining of just physical.
It is not as dark as I like - less for mature audiences than the previous one.
Teddy is annoying, I hated when he was my support as soon as I got Rise I ditched him.  He is just as bad in your party. I refused to use him.
To much grinding needed still and you have to spend longer bouts of time in the World.
The music wears on your ear after a while no variety in choices (unless I did not unlock it).
Having to enter the velvet room to save persona, leave to dismiss persona then come back in to take others out of the compendium STILL.
The start took too long.  Almost 2 hours before your real first fight and I was blasting through the choices when I timed this, having already done it once.
I liked the combo persona specials in 3 and am sorry they took them out of this one.
Sometimes the forced story portions went on too long. I needed places to break or save. 

The multiple endings and the fact you can fail, more games need a game over.
The part time jobs made a nice change from the reading to raise the stats.
The gameplay was solid and consistent. No technical issues
Lots of slots for saving. I like this in an RPG lets me branch decisions.
Engine for battle seems better, I prefer not having my time set by Death or being tired.
I can SKIP the card shuffle THANK YOU!
When I fuse a persona it is now immediately added to to compendium.

I liked the game. I have already started another one to see how many social links I can get done. The boss is good and hard, not a cop out. The story is good and the solution odd enough but it is just not dark enough nor is it anything innovative, I mean a bunch of kids outsmarting the police department in their investigations - how scooby doo . The protagonist and the people are not as mysterious overall and most of the social links were not as interesting in their stories, too pat, set seen it before. Where Persona 3 had Bebe, the girl whose parents were getting divorced, the drinking monk and Tanaka - this had only Kanji and the nurse that I actually enjoyed the story on the links. The rest were rather ho hum and I felt like slapping the a few of them for being idiots and not seeing the answer. The battle engine is much smoother and the annoyances that detracted from Persona 3 are for the most part gone, although I did like being able to tell the group to split up in 3, it made the grind go a little faster, I rarely missed it. I do recommend it. Out 10 I give Persona 4 an 8.

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