Persona 4 review

alex9234’s Sunday Review – Valentine’s Day Special

Welcome to another episode of Sunday Review, and this episode is my Valentine’s Day special. Though Valentine’s Day officially lands on Friday, we’re only 5 days away, and since February is the “Month of Love”, why not review a game that would fit well for Valentine’s Day and the month of February? It does have dating sim elements, after all. Though I could have reviewed a game like Fire Emblem Fates, a Senran Kagura game, or a Growlanser game today, I’m just going to go with this one. Yep, we’re reviewing the 6th gen classic Persona 4, which came out in 2008 for the PS2 and in 2012 for the PS Vita.

The Plot

Persona 4 takes place in 2011, in the fictional rural Japanese town of Inaba. It follows the story of an unnamed protagonist (<strong>or Yu Narukami if you’ve watched the Persona 4 anime</strong>), who has been sent to live in Inaba from Tokyo, as his parents are working overseas in America (supposedly). He gets sent to live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima – a police detective, and his daughter, Nanako Dojima, who is also Yu’s cousin. During his first night in Inaba, Yu has a strange dream that teaches him to use a Persona, which is his starting one, in battle – Izanagi. The next morning, Yu starts his first day at Yasogami High School, which is the school he transferred to from Tokyo. At school, he meets his new classmates – Yosuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka, and Yukiko Amagi, and the four of them eventually become friends. Chie tells the group about an urban legend called the Midnight Channel – where if you stare into a turned off TV at Midnight on a rainy day, you will see a strange figure in there. While walking home from school with Chie and Yukiko, they discover the dead body of a popular TV announcer, Mayumi Yamano, hanging from a telephone pole. This event only marks the beginning of the danger that is to come to not just Yu and his friends, but the once-sleepy town of Inaba as well…

Yu tries out the Midnight Channel thing that Chie told him about, and not only does the Midnight Channel exist, Yu has the power to physically enter the TV, but the TV in his room is too small to fit into. The next day, Yu tells Chie and Yosuke about what he was able to accomplish last night, but Chie and Yosuke are in disbelief and think that he’s smoking crack (LOL). So, Yu and company head to the Junes department store – where Yosuke works – and go into the electronics department and try to go through one of the HDTVs that are on sale. The three of them manage to go through the TV, and after falling into the TV World, they are literally trapped inside. Then a mysterious giant teddy bear named Teddie shows up. Teddie lets them out of the TV World after exploring the strange, foggy world in fear, and they find out that only Teddie can create exits out of the TV world. The next day, tragedy hits Yosuke, as his co-worker and crush, Saki Konishi, dies and her body is coincidentally hanging from a telephone pole. The group conclude that she was murdered because she was the one who discovered the body of Mayumi Yamano. Then Yu and Yosuke decide to enter the TV once again, with Chie staying behind at Junes using a rope for a lifeline. After exploring some, they discover an area that resembles Inaba’s Shopping District, which was created from the true feelings of Saki. They enter a building that resembles the liquor store that Saki’s parents ran, and Yosuke discovered that Saki actually hated him secretly. Yosuke breaks down, and then a clone of him manifests in front of him, which is his “True-Self.” His refusal to accept the clone’s claim that he didn’t enter the realm for Saki’s death, allows it to manifest into Shadow Yosuke. Yu and his persona, Izanagi manage to defeat Shadow Yosuke, and Yosuke decides to accept his true feelings, and Shadow Yosuke becomes Yosuke’s persona, Jiraiya.

After returning home, Yu decides to watch the Midnight Channel again, and this time he discovers the figure of a person that resembles Yukiko. Yosuke and Yu over the phone assume that this is because she recently appeared on the news. Fortunately, the two of them find out that Yukiko is still present in the real world. However, the next day, they find out that Yukiko has been kidnapped, as clear images of her appear on the Midnight Channel. With Teddie giving tactical and analytical support, they go to the dungeon, Yukiko’s Castle in the TV World. Yu and Yosuke use their Personas to fight through enemies, but they warn that Chie should stay behind. However, Chie ignores them, and goes to find Yukiko. The two of them catch up with Chie, and discover that her Shadow has manifested in front of her, which is a shadow that revels in Chie’s jealousy of Yukiko. Yu and Yosuke defeat Shadow Chie and it turns into Chie’s Persona, Tomoe. Chie then joins in as the third party member. The three of them eventually find Yukiko who is confronted by Shadow Yukiko. The Shadow revels in Yukiko’s disgust with inheriting the family inn, the Amagi Inn, and confesses to Yu, Yosuke and Chie, and calls Chie her “Prince Charming” (don’t get any lesbo fantasies now LOL). Shadow Yukiko begs her prince to take her someplace far away so she can escape the fate of inheriting the Amagi Inn. Yukiko refuses to accept her Shadow’s claims, and then Shadow Yukiko attacks the party. The group manage to fend off Shadow Yukiko, and it then transforms into Yukiko’s Persona, Kotohana Sakuya. Yukiko then becomes the fourth party member.

A few days later, Yu and the group see yet another person appear on the Midnight Channel, and assume that it’s Kanji Tatsumi, a biker who recently appeared on the news. The group discover that Kanji is still in the real world, and they come across him talking with a slender young man dressed in blue. Kanji catches the group watching his actions and becomes enraged, as he chases after them. The group then lose sight of Kanji and he is eventually kidnapped, as clear images of him appear on the Midnight Channel later that night. Yu and company head to Junes and go into the TV world to save Kanji. Teddie manages to lead them to the Steamy Bathhouse, and find Kanji, along with his shadow. Kanji’s Shadow revels in him questioning his sexual orientation, his possible homosexuality, and his deep hatred for girls, as he is ridiculed by girls for having “feminine” hobbies like sewing. Yu and the group manage to defeat Shadow Kanji, and transforms into Kanji’s Persona, Take-Mikazuchi. Kanji then becomes the fifth party member. Afterwards, Yu and everyone come to the realization that all the kidnapping victims – Miyuki, Saki, Yukiko and Kanji – appeared on TV before showing up on the Midnight Channel. Their appearances on the Midnight Channel became clear and in-focus and representative of their inner emotions. The group concludes that the victims will:

1. Appear on TV

2. Appear as blurry figures on the Midnight Channel

3. Will be kidnapped

4. Will have clear appearances on the Midnight Channel until they die on the next foggy day.

They also agree that the Shadow forms of the victims are their true feelings,and that the Shadows gain their powers from their host body’s refusal to accept the facts.

A couple days later, Yu and his friends learn that a celebrity model, Rise Kujikawa, is coming to Inaba and will attend Yasogami High as well. Yu’s friends, especially Yosuke and Nanako, get really excited, but then the group becomes very concerned when they discover a figure resembling her appears on the Midnight Channel. Yu, Yosuke and Kanji head to the Marukyu Tofu Shop in Inaba’s shopping district, which is owned by Rise’s grandmother, and discover that she is still in the real world as she is working at the shop. The three of them actually get to meet Rise and buy some tofu as well, but the good times are short lived, as Rise gets kidnapped shortly after, and she appears clearly on the Midnight Channel. Yu and company then enter the TV world and Teddie leads them to the dungeon where Rise is being held, Marukyu Striptease (Jeez…). They manage to find Rise, as well as her shadow. Shadow Rise revels in Rise’s desire to…well…I’m…not gonna explain because it’s too awkward. Ahem, anyway, Yu and his group manage to defeat Shadow Rise and it transforms into Rise’s Persona, Himiko – However, Rise doesn’t become a playable character and is a support character like Teddie. Speaking of Teddie, after the battle with Shadow Rise, Teddie’s inner emotions manifest and creates Shadow Teddie. The group, exhausted from fighting Rise’s shadow, manages to defeat Shadow Teddie and it transforms into Teddie’s Persona, Kintoki-Douji. Teddie also gains a human body in the real world as a result.

Shortly after Rise’s rescue, Yu’s homeroom teacher, the heavily despised Kinshiro Morooka, is found dead with his body hanging from a telephone pole, despite the fact that he never appeared on TV or the Midnight Channel. The group’s theory about the victims completely falls apart and they go back to square one, and they assume that the killer’s patter has been abandoned. Then, the slender teen dressed in blue approaches the group at Junes as they are thinking about the case. He(?) introduces himself as Naoto Shirogane, a young private investigator who is assisting the police in the case. Naoto tells the group that the police have found a suspect who has confessed to the murders, but they have not revealed his identity, and Naoto says the suspect is a student from another high school. As summer vacation begins for our protagonists, a clear image of a teen boy appears on the Midnight Channel telling the group to “come and get me.” The teen is revealed to be the suspect from another high school, named Mitsuo Kubo. The group then head to the TV world and Teddie leads them to a dungeon that looks like it was taken from an old 8-bit video game. The group confront Mitsuo and his shadow, and after defeating Shadow Mitsuo, Mitsuo totally rejects his shadow and it disappears. Yu and his group then turn him into the police, and it’s finally Case Closed!

Or is it? A few days after Mitsuo’s arrest, Naoto is kidnapped and appears clearly on the Midnight Channel. Just who is the prime suspect? Play the game and you’ll find out!

The Gameplay

Persona 4’s gameplay is basic JRPG fanfare mixed in with dating sim elements, as well as other simulation elements. The gameplay is split between the town of Inaba where Yu carries on with his daily life, and the TV world where you explore dungeons and fight enemies called shadows and rescue victims that have appeared on the Midnight Channel. With the exception of scripted events like plot progression and special events, Yu can spend his day however he wants to. In the real world, you can participate in various activities, such as joining school clubs, getting a part-time job or two, reading books, grabbing something to eat, make lunch to share with a fellow classmate (only at night when you are at home), stocking up on weapons and items at the shops in downtown Inaba, strengthen Social Links with other characters (will explain more in a bit), or explore the dungeons in the TV world and gain experience, items and money. Days are broken up into certain times, such as Early Morning, Daytime, After School, Lunchtime, Evening, etc. with most of the activities you participate in causing time to move on, so choose what you want to do wisely. Some events are only available on certain days during the week, with most activities being unavailable if you visit the TV world after school. Some activities and dialogue choices are limited by Yu’s 5 attributes: Dilligence, Understanding, Expression, Knowledge, and Courage, and in order to improve them, you must perform certain activities. Also, make sure you keep an eye on the calendar, as if you fail to rescue a victim in time, it’s game over, and the game boots you back to one week before the victim’s supposed death.

Now, onto this game’s dating sim elements. As you make progress throughout the game, Yu forms friendships with the other characters called Social Links, and each are represented by one of the Major Arcana (Lovers, Magician, High Priestess, Emperor, Hierophant, Hermit, Death, Empress, etc.). As your bonds with other characters strengthen, your Social Links increase in rank, which grant bonuses during Persona Fusion in the Velvet Room. Also, your main party members will be able to give them special abilities, like performing follow-up attacks, taking mortal blows for you in battle, or additional abilities for their Personas. Also, when you have the persona of a certain arcana, you will be able to make progress in your social links faster. For example, if you have a persona of the Lovers arcana, you will be able to make faster progress in the Rise Kujikawa social link. If you max out your social links with any of Yu’s female classmates – Rise, Chie, Yukiko, Naoto (Spoilers, Naoto is a girl, but you probably already knew that), Ai, Yumi or Ayane, depending on certain dialogue choices you make with them when you’re progressing your social links, you will get to spend time with only one of them on Christmas Day (Not going to explain anything else because the rest is too awkward for me to explain for this review).

The Characters

  • Only doing main characters, don’t bother asking me to add more.

Yu Narukami – Age: 17 – The protagonist, or rather Yu, is the main character of Persona 4. At the beginning of the game, he transfers to Yasogami High School in Inaba from his previous school in Tokyo, as he is sent to live with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, a police detective, because his parents have been sent overseas to the United States(?) for work. Yu’s personality and traits are shaped by the player, and he is also named by the player too.

Yosuke Hanamura – Age: 17 – Yosuke is Yu’s classmate at Yasogami High. Like Yu, Yosuke was also a transfer student from Tokyo(?), but he arrived 6 months before Yu did. He is a very clumsy and lazy student who is often made fun of by other students for his lack of muscle and body strength, and he usually doesn’t think before he speaks, which results in him sometimes unintentionally offending another person. He also fell into a deep depression when his crush, Saki Konishi, was murdered and vows to bring the culprit to justice. He works at the Junes department store just outside of Inaba’s shopping district, and his father is the owner of the Junes store in Inaba.

Kanji Tatsumi – Age: 16 – Kanji is a first-year student at Yasogami High and since middle school he has been viewed as an uncontrollable juvenile delinquent -which isn’t entirely true. For example, he got into a fight with a biker gang because they were disturbing his mother. His father passed away when he was very young and runs a textile shop with his mother, which does business with the Amagi Inn. Because of this, he is highly skilled in sewing and knitting, and he also works on stuffed animals to give to children.

Teddie – Age: ??? – Teddie is a bear mascot that resides in the TV world. Like Yosuke, he is a comic relief character and is often seen flirting with the female members of the investigation team, but fails to win their hearts over every time. Despite that, he is very cute and kind and lightens up the mood multiple times during the case. After defeating Shadow Rise and Shadow Teddie, Teddie gains his Persona as well as a human form, and he also becomes a playable character.

Chie Satonaka – Age: 17 – Chie is one of Yu’s classmates at Yasogami High, and is a second year like Yu and Yosuke. Chie is a very energetic and outgoing girl with a very tomboyish personality, she is a big fan of kung-fu and kung-fu movies, as well as a huge Bruce Lee fan. She has a love/hate relationship with Yosuke, as the two of them keep doing things to piss each other off. On the downside, she is a horrible cook who made the infamous Mystery Food X (bad curry) for Yosuke and Yu during the school camping trip, and is only good at making desserts, like cake.

Yukiko Amagi – Age: 17 – Yukiko is one of Yu’s classmates at Yasogami High, and is also a second year like Yu, Chie and Yosuke. She and her family run the local Amagi Inn, which is known famous across Japan for it’s hot springs. She is also best friends with Chie Satonaka. Yukiko is very popular with both boys and girls alike, she is very intelligent, as she always scores the best during exams and shares her study material with Chie. She also doesn’t appreciate sexual innuendo/jokes and will not hesitate to slap the person who made them. Like Chie, she is also a terrible cook who also helped cook the bad curry nicknamed Mystery Food X for Yosuke and Yu during the school camping trip, and is only good at making desserts, like cake.

Rise Kujikawa – Age: 16 – Rise is a popular fashion idol in Japan who has returned to Inaba on a brief hiatus. She works at her grandmother’s tofu shop and attends Yasogami High, but is a first-year student like Kanji. Rise has a very cheerful, cute and naughty personality, and Chie calls her a “dangerous girl” because of her flirting with Yu and her teasing of Yosuke and Kanji. She is also very childish and gets annoyed by the smallest things, and she will also get annoyed when Yu looks at another girl. She also has a competitive side and she also makes fun of Yukiko’s terrible cooking and how insecure she is. She is also in love with Yu and will always show a very obvious interest in him no matter her Social Link ranking. <strong>Also, Rise is best waifu.</strong>

Naoto Shirogane – Age: 16 – Naoto is a private investigator who was sent to Inaba to investigate the murders taking place in the city. She is of the 5th generation of the famous Shirogane family detectives. She lost both her parents in a car accident when she was very young, and she acts very maturely for her age. Like Chie, Naoto has a very tomboyish personality, as she is very insecure about her gender as well as her age, she is frustrated over the fact that the police force treats her like a child, and desires to be seen as an adult. She disguises herself as a man, as she fears that no one will take her seriously as a female in a male-dominated field. Looking at her personality, Naoto has a lot of similarities with Julia Douglas from the Growlanser series.

My Thoughts

When I picked up a PS2 for the first time 5 years ago, it was only a few months afterwards that I decided to check out Atlus and the Megami Tensei franchise. This was of course my first ever MegaTen game, and I enjoyed it when I first picked it up. I spent a ton of hours playing this in college, and thankfully, my grades didn’t suffer one bit. The gameplay is excellent, I really enjoyed the battle system, as well as the other activities you could do in the real world. I also like the Social Link system very much as well, as I spent a lot of time trying to max out all the links I possibly could, especially Yosuke’s, Yukiko’s, Kanji’s and Rise’s. The characters are all great and are all pretty hilarious at times as well, especially Yosuke and Kanji. The soundtrack is also very good, filled with tons of suspenseful tracks – suitable for a game like this since it has a lot of Detective themes. Though this is a great game, there are some flaws. I feel that some activities take up more time than necessary, like the Social Links and doing minor things like going out to eat, and the part time jobs that are avaliable can only be accessed on certain days and I feel that those days are a bit too far apart. Also, this game’s difficulty is RIDICULOUS. Even on the easiest difficulty setting it’s still incredibly hard. Enemies will sometimes dish out crazy amounts of damage to your characters, and you are forced to heal constantly and dig into your items frequently. I know it’s an Atlus game, but still. Should you check out this game? Absolutely. Though I heard Persona 4 Golden is better than the original PS2 version, I still enjoy playing the PS2 version as I feel it holds up very well. Pick this one up whenever you can. It’s also a very good game to play during Valentine’s Day, what with it’s dating sim elements. And for the rest of February I’ll try to review games that have more romantic themes for the Month of Love.

My score: 9/10


Published by alex9234

A skeptical game writer who doesn't believe the gaming press.

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