All souls know this from birth...
The truth is something that is chosen and grasped...
Something discovered with one's vision and will.
Only by gaining that does the seeker become truth himself,
a cord that connects past and future.
Persona 4 is an Urban Fantasy Role-Playing Game Spinoff of the popular Shin Megami Tensei JRPG franchise (specifically, the Persona sub-series), made by Atlus for the PlayStation 2, and released in July 2008 in Japan and November that same year in North America, with a European release following suit in March 2009.
You are an Ordinary High-School Student moving to the rural town of Inaba for one year while your parents are working abroad. Soon after you settle into your new home with your uncle and young cousin, a series of impossible murders begin to rock the sleepy town: victims who suddenly disappear, only for their bodies to be found hanging upside down from telephone poles with no obvious cause of death.
Meanwhile, you decide to check out a new Urban Legend called the "Midnight Channel": supposedly, if you stare into the screen of a switched-off television set on a rainy midnight, an image will appear that shows your soulmate. However, when you try it out, you instead discover a strange alternate world on the other side of the television screen, shrouded in a perpetual, oppressive fog.
Someone or something is kidnapping innocent people and throwing them into this world, where the monstrous Shadows that inhabit it will eventually kill them. Using a mysterious inner power called "Persona", you and your friends form an investigation team to rescue the kidnapped victims before they are killed and solve the mystery of who is responsible.
Persona 4 takes place in the same universe as all the other Persona games, and begins almost exactly a year after the events of "The Answer" in Persona 3 FES. The game runs off the Persona 3 engine and even on the same console, but with some upgrades to the graphics and different game mechanics. Most of Persona 3's main features return, including the popular Social Links and the calendar day system - just as in Persona 3, the game takes place within an entire school year.
One major difference is that instead of the player climbing one long tower for much of the game's combat, the player instead enters the TV World and has access to multiple dungeons that unlock as the story progresses. Plotwise, the setting is rural versus the urban setting of Persona 3, which creates an entirely different feeling and plays against the game's main themes. Notably, some of the sexual overtones present in earlier Persona titles have returned in this one.
The game has spawned a plethora of related works, including:
- Persona 4: Golden: An extensive Play Station Vita Updated Re-release.note
- Persona 4: Arena: A BlazBlue-style fighting game set two months after the conclusion of the original story and co-developed with Arc System Works, featuring several characters from Persona 3.
- Persona 4: The Animation: An Exactly What It Says on the Tin anime series adaptation. This also christens the protagonist's name to be 'Yu Narukami', which will be used throughout appearances like Persona 4: Arena and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
- Persona 4: The Animation ~The Factor of Hope~: A Compilation Movie Compressed Adaptation of the anime series.
- Persona 4 Golden: The Animation: A second anime adaptation, this time based on the aforementioned Updated Re-release and done by the studio that did the anime cutscenes in the original game.
- Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth: A crossover with Persona 3 that somehow takes place during both games. Lifts its gameplay from fellow Atlus series Etrian Odyssey.
- Persona 4: Dancing All Night: A Rhythm Game initially made by the developers of the popular Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series. Yes, really. And Miku is DLC.
- Persona 4: A Manga Adaptation running in Dengeki Black Maoh. This adaptation named the protagonist 'Souji Seta'.
- Persona 4: The Magician: A short Spin-Off manga that ran in Persona Magazine and starred Yosuke Hanamura, detailing his time in Inaba prior to the events of the games.
- Persona x Detective NAOTO: A Light Novel featuring Naoto Shirogane investigating a new case outside of Inaba two years after the original story. Originally considered to be canon and even declared as such by P4 director, Katsura Hashino, it has since fallen into Canon Discontinuity due to poor reception and was officially retconned out of existence by Ultimax.
- VisuaLive: Persona 4: A Japanese-only live stage production which ran from March 15 through March 20 of 2012 and roughly covered the first half of the game.
- VisuaLive: Persona 4 Evolution: A sequel which roughly covers the second half of the game.
Persona 4 is considered by many to be one of the best JRPGs of its generation (and more generally, in the upper echelons of the wider genre), received universal acclaim and won many awards on release, and deftly followed up on the spur of interest caused by Persona 3, cementing the SMT franchise's place in the Western gaming mainstream at last. As the related works above show, the success was enough for it to be an entire Cash Cow Franchise of its own, with spinoffs, adaptations and extra releases all based on just the one game.
Also, unlike other Shin Megami Tensei games, it is so happy that its dominant Color Motif is bright yellow. Seriously, even comparing it to its immediate predecessor, Persona 4 is quite possibly the most upbeat and positive game about Serial Killers ever made. The Golden takes this Up to Eleven by having an opening that can only be compared to The Beatles.
Since April 2014, the original game has been available for download on the Play Station Network.