Monday, November 26, 2012

Hunting Game(s): Persona 4: Golden Review

Hi! I still exist! It's just been a long week with the holiday and today has been especially long unto itself. I'll update this post tomorrow with my review of Persona 4: Golden and then again on Wednesday with my top 5 favorite comic series to make 100 issues.

Yes, I know I'm switching the normal Monday/Wednesday schedule up, but bear with me please!


Ok, I'm starting this just before midnight and know I wont submit it until it's officially Wednesday. Sorry about the delay! I'll have this week's special Extra! Extra! on Thursday and a regularly scheduled Friday at the Movies after that.

Now, on to some content!

Last Tuesday, Persona 4: Golden came out. This is a port of a game that originally came out on PS2. It is in the line of Shin Megami Tensei games, which are RPGs known for their dungeon crawling gameplay that utilizes demons to fight for you. Some other SMT games would be:

Persona 1-3
Digital Devil Saga 1 and 2
Devil Survivor 1 and 2
Persona 4 Arena
Strange Journey (I think there are two of these as well)

And there's probably a couple I'm forgetting as well. From that list, I've played Strange Journey, Nocturne, and both Devil Survivors (the first of which easily makes it on the list of my favorite games).

That being said, you don't need to play a single SMT title to understand what's going on in Persona 4. That's not to say Persona 4 isn't confusing sometimes in its own right, it just doesn't follow the story of any other game (similar to how most Final Fantasy titles work).

I own Persona 4 on the PS2, but never got very far. It was a bit difficult and there are several time sensitive elements to the game that made me nervous to play without a guide, which is something I hate doing. I put it aside on my games to play later. Then I heard about Golden being released on the Vita, with some interesting changes made.

Before I get into that, I should touch upon Persona 4's story: you are a city-boy who was shipped out to live with his Uncle in the countryside for a year. It's not explicitly said why, but there you are, living with an Uncle you don't remember and his young daughter you've never met. You have to go to a new school, meet new people, and, along the way, solve a murder case. That's right, there's murder afoot!

Almost as soon as you get there, a woman is murdered and found under strange circumstances. This happens once more before you and your new found friends at school get dragged in to the supernatural elements involved with the case, which include the "Midnight Channel" which shows the image of the next victim on TV at midnight, but only when it's raining. What's more, your character finds out that he can travel to the dimension where the Midnight Channel is taking place... inside the TVs!

A bit bizarre, which fits any SMT title, but its done artfully and, as long as you accept the wackiness, things slowly begin to make more sense.

Game play is handled as part high school simulation, part dungeon crawler, part monster collector, and part mystery solver.

The simulation takes place any time you're not inside the TV -- on a given day, you have the option to hang out with a myriad of characters or perform a bunch of different activities, including some that increase your personal stats that affect how you interact with others. Every action has a consequence, but there's a catch; most actions cause time to pass, meaning you approach the end of your year in Inaba with every event.

The dungeon crawler is whenever you're inside the TV. You and a team of three others fight through randomized floors, trying to find your way to the top floor to beat the dungeon bosses. It's pretty standard fair, but the interesting bit is that each character is given a "Persona" to fight the demons with. Your character is special in that he can change his Persona by finding and combining more and more that you find as rewards after battle.

The mystery is threaded throughout the entire story, and you need to solve it in phases in time or risk losing the game.

This leads me to the Good, the Bad, and the Changed:

The investigation team.
-Unique visual style that I find immensely pleasing. It has a lot of bright colors that pop of the Vita screen especially.
-Awesome music. I've actually got it playing "Tanaka's Amazing Commodities" while I type this.
-A really humorous cast of characters that you unlock over time.
-The writing is overall very funny, while still being able to be serious when necessary.
-There are a lot of things to do in the game, and you don't have time to do everything. This leads to some replay value, which is good.
-The dungeon crawling isn't tedious as other titles.

-The game can still be overwhelming for those new to the series or even just this individual title.

-An additional "TV Listing" section that I don't remember from the original. You can listen to your favorite songs, rewatch your favorite scenes, or learn some history about the game world.
-The way you get additional rewards after battle has been changed. Instead of having to pick through fast moving cards and hoping you get the one you want, you're presented with several choices and get a bonus when you manage to get every card shown (by use of special cards that have negative effects but allow you to pick more cards).
-The online interactions, while limited, can boost your survivability when dungeon crawling, which can be hugely important.
-There are more things added, but listing them all would be difficult and excessive. They work.

If you can't tell, I'm really enjoying this game. Other than the potential to overwhelm, which isn't an issue with me, it is just the RPG I've been looking for lately.

I'm going to rate this a 10 out of 10, something I rarely do. I have not been able to put this game down since I plugged it into the Vita, and that's probably the biggest issue I'm having with it.

Also, it game with a pretty awesome sticker for my Vita :)


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