For the past three months, I have been playing Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. This isn’t a rant about games that are too long – you can just look at Ethan’s latest post for that, and it doesn’t apply here anyway. Rather, it’s a short, casual impression of my thoughts on the game that will serve as a precursor to my upcoming review.
I doubt I need to tell anyone this, but Persona 4 plays almost identically to 2007’s Persona 3. This isn’t a bad thing though, and a few tweaks have been made here and there to ensure the game doesn’t feel like a beefed-up port. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the storytelling aspects have been improved, which is a very welcome thing indeed. Persona 3‘s biggest flaw was the pacing of the main storyline, which occasionally would sit still for months without a worthwhile development. Persona 4 has its slow spots as well but they aren’t nearly as offensive as they were in its predecessor.
Thank god Atlus wised up and implemented manual control for party members in P4. The stupidity displayed by the A.I in P3 was astonishing, often causing me to scream at my television set in rage. They would burn through SP like it was infinite, attack when they should heal, and refuse to ever, EVER cure status ailments. This meant that, during many of the tougher boss battles, the protagonist become nothing more than a healer/ailment-remover himself, simply because he was the only one we could trust to do it consistently.
And how about those social links, eh? Few other games allow you to build and maintain such a compelling social life. The social links in Persona 4 are possibly the most enjoyable aspects of the game. It’s amusing to consider what it would be like if real-life relationships worked the way they do in the Persona series. No, seriously; think about that for a moment. Wouldn’t it be nice if random schoolmates regularly walked up and introduced themselves with a smile, deciding right then and there that they wanted to be your friend? Wouldn’t it be nicer still if these same people would literally line the hallways, just waiting for their chance to ask you to hang out with them? It gets better still: each and every one of them just so happens to have some complex emotional problem that they deal with on a daily basis. And who is there to help them deal with and eventually overcome these problems? You, of course. This infallibly makes you a friend for life. And in the case of the female social links, (or most of them anyway) well, let’s just say you’re in like flynn. And I’ve always hated that phrase, but it seems the most appropriate.
Speaking of said female social links, Persona 4 once again allows you to acquire and keep multiple girlfriends at a time. In fact, it seems even easier this time around – I just got my fourth, and I’ve never pissed off a single one in the process. Amusingly, P4 lets you choose to either stay friends or “become intimate,” which begs the question of why, exactly anyone would choose the former. It’s not like you’re rewarded with an R-rated sex scene or anything like that, it’s just because… y’know… you can. And isn’t the point of gaming to do stuff you can’t in real life?
That’s how I look at it, in any case. How about you guys? Anyone out there who became intimate with one and only one female during the course of the game? Anyone else find themselves wishing relationships were as comically simplistic as they are here? Anyone else think Persona 4‘s greatest fault is the lack of a certain Mitsuru Kirijo?