Persona 3 was my favorite game of all time, and surpassing it was going to be difficult, so I allowed myself no expectations and went into this one with an open mind.
It started out well enough. A nameless protaognist moves into a rural town where grisly murders occur. You and your new friends discover that the murders are linked to a world behind the TV screen, and that a channel called the Midnight channel, which on rainy nights is supposed to show you your true lover, actually shows the next victim. Can the case be solved? Fortunately, your friends have beings called Personas awakened in the TV world to fight it's shadow residents.
The game system follows Persona 3 pretty closely, dungeon crawling mixed with dating sim(called social links which with advancement can increase the power of your and your character's Persona) Social linkinbg involves going through a scenario with a character and choosing the right response when given the option, choosing the right one allowing the relationship to advance. It's mostly common sense so there's no real difficulty. However the way the gameplay is set up makes the entire game suffer.
Levelling up is a ridiculously painstakingly long process, and you need to level up more then ever with these extremely difficult boss fights. It becomes more of a chore then it needs to be. Not to mention the fact you have to choose to either social link/up your stats(stats that can affect what social links you can have and how you can interact with them) or level grind, making the game horribly inbalanced. If you want to stand a chance, you need to spend most of the time level grinding. In general it's just far less fun having to choose between the two on a daily basis rather then being able to do both in a single day. I mean, in real life if I wanted to go see a friend, study, and go home dungeon crawling on Warcraft, I could easily schedule all in. Why this game limits you is beyond me.
The voice acting and soundtrack are quite good, up to par with Persona 3 while remaining distinct enough. Not a weak performance to be found here. The graphics are nice to look at, not as highly detailed as more powerful consoles but they have their own appeal.
Now for the storyline. The story started out incredibly.The first half was pretty damn good even. However after awhile the story falls apart. I'll list some flaws, some fatal, some minor.
1.Some events just mirror Persona 3 way too closely, practically ripping it off at points. The story certainly didn't need to do that, and it comes off a bit worse for it. Minor complaint.
2.Far too many unrelated events. The occasional happy go lucky cut scene of them just having fun is fine, but they often rarely relate to the plot, and it becomes tiring as so much of the game's story ends up going nowhere for it. Big flaw.
3.In the second half the actual story really begins taking a nose dive, with the final few twists being entirely disappointing and pretty much killing the momentum of the story. They're not dramatic, they're not compelling, they're ridiculous. Fatal flaw.
4.It get's very repetitive at times, like they have to follow an exact formula for certain sequences of events. Minor Flaw.
5.The initial character development of each character was great. Problem is, that's all the character development they get in the main storyline. After that, they just stop developing and remain static. Seeing as P3 easily managed at least a few if not several arcs of development for each of their characters, there is no excuse for P4 not being able to pull off more. Fatal flaw.
Overall, it's not a terrible game, but it's nowhere near as good as it's made out to be. It could've been so much better but it appears to have been rushed. It had all the means to be fantastic but some weak writing and lack of gameplay balance hurt it. I'm sure rabid fans will rate this review not helpful to get back at me but I just do not think this should be rated higher then Persona 3.
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