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Don't believe the hype
Let's start with what Persona4 does right. The combat system's, due to the option to directly control your team-mates and a slightly refined weakness-hitting system, is a welcome improvement on the Persona3 system. Also welcome is the availability to view skill descriptions at any time. Oh, and there's a most deserved Take That to Twilight.

The story's concept is very good, if borrowing a bit from the previous entry. As a student being relocated for a year from the city to the country, you discover Another Dimension on the other side of T Vs, which conveniently ties in with a murder mystery in that someone's throwing people into this other world where they'll be devoured by a monster formed by their suppressed self when the fog arrives in the real world. You, your friends and the Persona beings you control must save the victims and identify the killer.

The concept and other ideas are good, but the execution is... put simply, there is no execution. Apart from 'rescue someone' and a Red Herring or two, nothing happens at all until the very end. A very disappointing end (and I'm not just taking about the three bad endings).

It's clear the game was meant to be more character-centric, however in this case it fails entirely. Apart from Kanji and Teddie, every single playable character is either obnoxious and/ or boring, and the supporting cast is only slightly better. The problem here was simple. Atlus tried way too hard to make the cast endearable and relatable, "just like back in high school", that they ended up with a bunch of irritating brats (Heh, just like back in high school). It doesn't help that all Character Development is confined to the social link side-stories.

There's also a lot of humour in this game, however, while some isn't so bad, pretty much all of it is groan-inducing, predictable, cliched (Lethal Chef anyone?) and unfunny.

The game centres around an Aesop of Truth and being true. Unfortunately, Persona4 is one of the most unforgivably Anvilicious games since Eternal Sonata. I wanted to punch the screen every time the word truth appeared.

Although most Persona designs are good, most of them have been recycled from Persona3.

A mostly awful cast, no subtlety whatsoever, painful humour, an overrated soundtrack, a mishandled plot and decent, but not stellar, gameplay: Persona4.
  # comments: 25
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Do Believe The Hype - a refreshing twist on a traditional concept
First of all, Persona 4 does not do anything new. Even discounting the fact it is still running the Persona 3 engine, the game is structured around a very traditional JRPG combat system and plot.

Sometimes, that's not such a bad thing. Because when a game can do "traditional" so well that it feels new all over again, you've got a real winner. And Persona 4 is just such a game.

The combat system has had some tweaks from Persona 3 - namely, no more leaving your party members to AI unless you want to. But why would you want to? Your party members are now significantly more useful contributors to your combat.

The place where Persona 4 really shines over its predecessor is the storyline, however. While the epic plots of Personas past are not present (the game centers around a murder mystery instead of the traditional "end of the world" bearing down on you at every turn), the trade-off is that the plot focuses extensively on the core cast of characters. By the end of Persona 4, I knew these people so much better than the bunch in Persona 3. This is honestly one of the most character driven games I have ever played. Even the social links you form have significantly more depth - when I'm sitting back and fretting over the fate of a single parent's relationship with her son, I know the game has done its job well. And having social links with my entire team brought me that much closer to their lives. And Persona 4 rarely chooses easy answers, a complexity usually lacking from stories centered around teens.

Most unusual about this game, especially for Mega Ten, is that the themes are overall hopeful and positive. In some games, this would feel cheap. Yet in this series, one that often focuses on futility and surviving in spite of it, Persona 4's themes of actually trying to overcome that ring a lot truer. After all, it's Mega Ten. You've got no guarantees that you, your party, or anyone else will survive.

While this game works well in conjunction with the rest of the series, it's also a good game on its own. I've played this with a friend that despised long storylines and JRP Gs as a whole and he could not stop watching me play. It's *that* compelling.

Wrap it all together with another excellent localization from Atlus and Persona 4 is easily one of the best and most rewarding games in the PS 2's library.
  # comments: 8
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A solid RPG, with flaws
If you don't know what Persona 4 is, I suggest switching back to the main page for this.

The game is interesting, but sometimes slow-paced. The Breather Episodes do as much to detract from the pacing of the game as to add to it. The game takes forever to actually start, instead of being an extended tutorial. (Four hours from "Begin game" to actual, live combat?)

The combat system is, however, vastly improved from P3. It hits that sweet spot between "Too easy" and "too difficult" on Normal, without causing controller-throwing frustration. The TV world is not Tartarus, only existing as the Level Grind half of the game, but instead is an objective in and of itself - exploration and rescue is the entire point of the whole thing. The time limits on the exploration are generally long enough to provide impetus for progress, without standing on your head and demanding constant progress and trips into the TV. The blatant boss cheating and Stupid Boss Tricks from the original have been reduced, thankfully, while still keeping them a threat. Mooks remain lethal, but still fair and interesting.

Social Links also return in this, and are also arguably just as much the point of the game as the story and combat. Social statistics have been expanded a little, adding a couple new categories. There are a few less options in P4 from FES - no arcade, no mall (Mall was replaced by part-time jobs that increase your social stats and give you money), all shops close at night, the TV world is an all-day trip. However, the social links still manage to be interesting, and to make you want to bond with them.

Atlus also did a good job with localization and voicing. There are no obvious translation errors, and the voices of the characters feel right. They go well with the types they invoke.

Two major sticking points mar the interesting-once-you-get-into-it story, though: A nasty case of "We -were- using normal logic, now use game logic!" in one instance, just after a "surprise! bad ending if you choose wrong! and there are wrong answers that look right too!" sequence, and the game itself trying to actively push you toward the regular end when it comes time for the denouement.

It's a solid game, but it does have its flaws. If those flaws are parts of the genre you're accustomed to, I can recommend this.
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