693rd played so far

Genre: Role-Playing/Life Simulation
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus/Square Enix

I really enjoyed Persona 3 when I played it some time ago, more than I thought I would, with the life simulation aspects really appealing to me. I’d been holding off for a bit, but the random choice threw up Persona 4 and I had to go for it.

Notable here is that I’m actually playing Persona 4 Golden, the Vita port (which this series seems quite suitable for) that was realised more recently. It is, in fact, the only Vita game that’s been in our box to play, and I’m now happy I’ve got access to it – even if it means having to find the Vita first.

Our Thoughts

Persona 4 did not disappoint. There is a lot of life sim, requiring some optimization to make sure you build up your relationship with all your contacts as well as possible, both directly meeting them and building stats that change the subsequent conversations and increase the relationship gains. The writing might not be amazing, but the characters build quite nicely and the world you see is interesting and alive enough. There’s not loads of game, although it encourages frequent restarts with some random events, but it works well as a storytelling set up to take you through the year this game covers.

The other part of the game, the dungeon crawl, was weaker in the previous game. Here, I still struggle to really know what the relationship between the two halves of the game is – I know your powers depend on your link with the different major arcana in the tarot, but I never felt that I could actually feel the difference here. I know I’m building links for a reason, but I’m not sure what that reason actually is.

The dungeon crawl itself is good – it’s still exploring randomly generated dungeon floors (though more pre designed on certain floors than before) with the standard attack and magic items. However, first go now depends on you hitting your enemy earlier, rather than the initiative I noted before, and you restart your assault on the tower each time instead of going up in levels.

It’s a shame that you have to make a choice between the two modes: You can go into the dungeon most days, but it means skipping out on the life simulation. The latter is timetabled rather tightly, so you don’t end up going in other than when the plot demands, and that means I just don’t get enough exposure to the dungeon early on. I would have preferred a system that would have let you do both more frequently, with time limits and a plot that allowed for it. It’s close, but really not quite there yet.

Final Thoughts

I think I felt the same mismatch here as I did in Persona 3, a game of two halves that don’t quite meet up and feels less balanced than it should given the importance put on the dungeon crawl and setting up its statistics. It can feel oddly tacked on, and probably isn’t the best game that’s out there. It’s still a great game to play, though, and I’m looking forward to continuing it.