Welcome to my blog about, at least mostly, games. Here you can find reviews, impressions, pictures and things that I think are interesting enough to write about. If you want me to speak up on something, then write it to me. Want to discuss something in a post then write it in the comments. Hope it will be good reading for you.

tisdag 8 februari 2011

Review - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

It sometimes happens that you become totally surprised at how incredibly good a game is. Games where you initially thought "This seems like a good game" and then gets totally knocked out by how good it actually is. Last time it happened to me it was with Shadow of the Colossus, and now it has happened again.

I came for the first time in contact with Shin Megami Tensei series when I played Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer's Call. The fact that it seemed to focus on older players instead of the teen group most other Japanese role-playing games seemed to focus on, was a surprise, a positive one. You felt that you didn’t have to suffer with the annoying teenage hero, but got something more adult (though the hero was a teenager), and that is what makes Shin Megami Tensei special. It doesn’t treat us like 15-year olds.

In Persona 4, you play as an unnamed protagonist who moves from the big city to his uncle in the quiet little village of Inaba. He begins his new life in Yasogami High School and meets with a few friends who will follow him through his adventure. One day he hears a rumour that if you look into a turned off television at midnight, on a rainy night, you shall see your soul mate. It doesn’t take long until horrible things start happening in the form of murder victims that are hung upside down from telephone poles and roof gutters, and it seems that there is more to the so-called Midnight Channel than meets the eye.

To say that Persona 4 is an ordinary Japanese role-playing game is a lie, straight through. The game mixes usual RPG elements, such as cave exploration, with a bit of Pokemon coll
ecting (but not as cute) and a huge chunk of dating simulator. When you encounter enemies you fight partly with a weapon and partly with a so-called "persona”. As the protagonist, you have ability to change your persona to the personas you get by cave exploring or personas that you get by fusing two or more personas with a mysterious man named Igor.

The combat system has been improved from the already very good combat system in third game to almost perfection. You may, as usual, attacking an extra time when you get a critical hit, or if you use magic that the enemy is weak against, and can thus finish a battle without getting any damage at all. Meanwhile, an attack from the rear from the enemy to make your life short, if they happen to have magic that you’re weak against. As usual, it's game over if your protagonist dies, which is something that makes you put down the controller for a while. But not for long, because you are so curious about what will happen. What is new with the battle system is the fact that now you can block and thus prevent a critical hit or a weakness from making you fall down. This makes the fighting tactics become even more fun. The difficulty has also been lowered, from the outrageous hardcore level of difficulty that often accompanies a Shin Megami Tensei game, and is making the game more mainstream. However, there is still a expert difficulty for those who feel that they haven’t had enough.

But what makes the whole game so wonderful is, well, the rest of the game, when you’re living and working on your social life. You can meet your friends after school and that way increase your social link with that friend. This is important later when you merge personas. They will then be stronger if you have a high social link that fits that persona. When your social link is about to increase, an interactive sequence will take place, where the right choice will make it easier to level up your social link next time.

What makes social links, and even the rest of the game, so very good, is the script. All dialogue is written in a wonderful manner. You really feel for people you hang out with. The story each character has to tell feels so real that you are drawn to find out more about it, which means that you often get stuck on one person and won’t leave it until you’ve finished it. This often means that you do not have time to level up the social link to the max with all the characters before the year is over. However, you feel pretty quickly after finishing the game, the need to play it again, to learn about the history of others. From tough guy Kanji, who is unsure of his sexuality, to superstar Rise, who’s tired of her life as a celebrity and is looking for her real identity.

Something else that builds on the need to replay is the fact that there are different endings. One tip, if you can’t manage to play it again, is to save the game and restart, if you do not get the good end. It was extremely annoying when I got through the first time with a bad end, where nothing really worked out, and happened to save over my save file with a new game + file. Only the so-called "true ending" should be good enough, and it’s so incredible it's worth all the hard work.

The only thing that there really is to complain about is the fact that people often are reluctant to bother to explore the caves thoroughly and choose to run past enemies, for the game is much more fun when you walk around in your social life, and just want to clear the "cave" as quickly as possible to go back to your social life. This in turn means that it may be too weak to continue later on in the game, making it necessary to spend a lot of time on training and lose lots of time with your friends anyway.

The theme of this game, just like the theme of the third game was self-sacrifice, is not to believe that you hear and see on television, do not swallow it all hook, line and sinker. This is represented by the glasses that the heroes wear in order to see clearly in the fog found in the caves, just as the third games theme is represented by the gun pointed at yourself when you attack. There is so much to this game that you could squeeze in a review, but I think it's better if you play the game yourself. A wonderful and deep game that leaves no one untouched. Without hesitation, the best game I've played, ever, I think.

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