Turn on, Tune in…Drop Dead
Ok, so I know this review has taken a while to get written, but since we know that RPG`s last longer than normal games, that’s all right isn’t it!
I’ll own up, its taken a while to write, because it took me a while to actually pick it up and play it. Let me explain, I am a big RPG fan, especially the Japanese variety. Ever since Final Fantasy VII, I have been hooked. Now the problem with Persona 4, is the fact I had a quick nose on Wikipedia, to see what it was all about, and noted it was a cross between a JRPG and a dating simulation. Hmmm, doesn’t sound like my kinda thing- one for the Sims crowd.
Hell its one of the best games to grace the dying PS2 as well, and there have been some classics
How wrong can a person be. As well as being a top drawer JRPG, it also takes some of the day to day stuff from Rockstar`s wonderfully underrated Bully (or Canis Canem Edit if you prefer) Yep, when you are not killing demons, you have to go to school, attend lessons, and chat up the laydees!(Although at one point in the game, you find one of the members of your team who is having a crisis with his sexuality, a first in this kind of game as far as I know)
So, to the plot. You play the main character, who you can mane, who moves from the big city to a small town called Inaba. There you get to stay with your uncle, who happens to be a local police detective, and his young daughter, who seems to take care of the household. The plot seems to be reminiscent of the jap horror flick The Ring, in that there is a rumour that if you look at a blank tv screen at midnight, then the face of your soul mate will appear. Only the faces that appear on this “Midnight Channel” seem to end up dead within a couple of days.
The game is split into two halves then, one half, during the day, you go to school, do lessons and develop relationships, and then pop to the local mall and shop for item and better weapons, then at night, you enter the world of TV (literally) and fight shadows and demons in a typical JRPG style. Battles take place only when the weather allows it, and you then have until the weather changes, to try and get to the end of the dungeon, beat the big boss, and save whoever happens to be trapped in the midnight channel-before they appear dead back in the real world.
Now this being a Japanese RPG, some things make absolutely no sense at all, even with a decent grasp of Japanese culture and the medium of Anime. I mention the anime, as the many cut scenes are produced as wonderfully detailed, and simply gorgeous anime. Now for the first couple of hours, you will see a lot of this anime; in fact I almost gave up after the first hour, as It felt more like an interactive movie, than a video game. But once you get into the meat of the game, and start battling using your Persona (your inner demon, that you have to accept before you can harness it’s power), and after that, thinks just seem to get better and better, especially once you realise that as well as levelling up by fighting smaller demons, you can increase your persons characteristic, by forming bonds with your friends.
The voice acting is excellent, and mostly the music compliments the game perfectly (apart from the odd dodgy jap-pop-rock track) Graphically, the anime style works well, and animations are crisp and fluid. The complex gameplay, and adult themes may take this past some casual gamers, but if you are a hardcore rpg fan, who loves their games with a good challenge, and likes something out of the ordinary, then you are in for a treat. Oh, yeah, If you happened to pick up PERSONA 3, then you are going to love this even more-takes all the shortcomings of its predecessor and makes this the best game of the series so far. This has to be one of the best JRPG`s this year so far. Hell its one of the best games to grace the dying PS2 as well, and there have been some classics. Atlus and Square Enix have another classic on their hands, like we ever doubted them!
The Bad: The first hour or so are frustrating as you are just part of a interactive movie, may be too left of centre for some tastes.
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