Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Saving the world one semester at a time.
John Fox - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Mild J-RPG violence, murderers, some dead bodies.

Language: Almost every word in the book is used, besides the f-word.

Adult Content: Scantly dressed Persona, Persona have sexually accurate descriptions based on their mythology, phallic Persona Mara, some suggestive dialog and risque humor, one character struggles with the fear of being gay, one dungeon mimicking a strip club.

Other: Smoking and drinking, some crude humor.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

When a young high school student moves to a small rural town of Inaba Japan for the year to stay with his uncle, it should be a peaceful year, right? Soon however a bizarre sting of murders stirs this quiet community. The young man soon discovers he has the power to summon “Personas”, physical manifestations of his psyche as well as enter televisions and go inside the TV world, inhabited by the enigmatic living bear suit Teddie. With this power he and his friends find that they can save the next murder victim, but can they do it in time? Who is doing this and why? And how did he gain these strange powers in the first place?

This is the premise of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 developed by Atlus. Persona 4 is the sequel to Persona 3 for the PS2 with many returning features such as the turn press battle system, random dungeons and social links. However besides for a few references, the player does not need to have played any of the other games to enjoy the sequel. Compared to Persona 3, Persona 4 is more lighthearted, less dark and has more “funny” moments. That is not to say it does not get serious when appropriate, this is a murder mystery after all. Characters are more likable this time around and seem less aloof compared to those of Persona 3. The story focuses on the murder mystery, and the discovery of what exactly is happening in this quiet town.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

The game is structured similar to Persona 3. The character goes to school, raise his social stats (now 5) and increase social links (which level up Persona of a set type) by spending time with people. A new feature of Persona 4 is that the main character now can take on part time jobs which pay money, increase social stats and even raise social links.

Dungeons are randomly generated like in Persona 4. The player must complete the dungeon before the next foggy day to save the next murder victim. Dungeons are now much more visually pleasing and shorter this time around, however the layout is less interesting compared to Persona 3. Each dungeon has a different theme based on the hidden emotions, thoughts and fears of the victim. The player can now save at each floor by using an item or ability to go back to the entrance, and continue where they left off. Battles are standard turned based RPG battles like Persona 3, with the ”Turn Press” battle system making a comeback; in which by exploiting weaknesses of enemies knock them down allowing the player to get another turn. If all enemies are knocked down the player can initiate an “All Out Attack” in which all the party attacks the enemies for a large amount of damage. Some aspects of the battle system are different however; characters and enemies can now get up and act in the same turn and all attack types are now lumped into the one physical element type. The biggest change however is that now the player can control all party members rather than leave them to AI like in Persona 3, but like in Persona 3 only the main character may change Personas. This time around the social links of party members have a greater impact, granting them new abilities and at level 10 upgrading their Persona. I found there to be less cheap deaths this time around and the game seemed to be a bit easier overall, however the gameplay is still a little more challenging than your standard RPG. The game also sports new bosses, new enemies and new abilities. Sadly not every part of the game is an upgrade. Combo Persona skills are not longer available, as well as the ability to create weapons and the ability to get items from Personas. Also, the player is stuck with using two-handed swords.

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Graphics are in the anime style like Persona 3 and are in similar in quality . However this time around I did notice a ghosting effect in town that I did notice in the previous game. The quality of the new enemies graphics seem a little batter as well. Music is all new and is more memorable this time around, focusing on a variety of genres such as rock, jazz, pop etc. with the notable exception of rap.  Voice acting is good and a little more fitting compared to the previous game.

The game takes about 70 hours to finish and offers three difficulty settings. New game + is also available with two new bosses. Atlus has stated there will be no extended or FES version.

Content:
*Note to those who played Persona 3*

Content to P4 is similar to P3. Swearing (especially the word s*it) is a little more prevalent this time around, violence is way down as characters no longer shoot themselves to summon Persona and the game does not have the dark hour. There seems to be more fan service and risqué jokes compared to the last game, as well as a couple more mature themes.

Violence:
The battles are standard mild J-RPG violence, which is very tame. The party attack with a variety of weapons and use skills by summoning Persona. The characters destroy cards to summon Personas rather than shoot themselves (like they did in Persona 3). Enemies disappear when killed. No blood is in the game besides once where you see a mad scientist’s operating table with a small amount of dried blood or rust on it, but it is barely noticeable. Since this is a murder mystery there is mention of deaths and dead bodies etc. and twice you see in an anime sequence with dead bodies hanging upside down. Finally in one area in the TV world there is a noose made out of a scarf.

Language:
Language is used throughout, d*mn, h*ll, b*stard, a*s, and to a little lesser extent s*it are used, b*tch, son of a b*tch, d*ck, p*ick and “oh my God” are used a couple times as well; also some of the ruder words like crap, sucks, p*ssed, freaking and frigging are used. Language is not too bad just going around town or school talking to people or doing social links. However in the more tense moments, such as those in the TV world, the characters can swear quiet a lot. A playable character Kanji swears a good amount when angry, which is not an uncommon occurrence. Also two of the characters swear a little in battle in battle, and when one of the characters has the rage status effect the support character mentions that she is “really p*ssed off”.

Adult Content:
Some of the female Personas could use more clothes or are provocatively dressed, such as the angel; or are topless but strategically covered. Some of the Persona have a sexual mythology attached to them such as the Succubus and Incubus (being a male version of the Succubus and is portrayed having a large phallic spike-like appendage coming out of his crotch). These tend to have sexual descriptions, such as Lilim being described as “having Sex with men like their mother Lilith”. One Persona called Mara looks like a large green penis monster on a chariot with a mouth and tentacles. Mara is entirely optional and easily skipable since (to the best of my knowledge) it is only obtained by fusion. All the main character’s Personas are optional and you can use whatever you like, however you are bound to see some scantly clad Personas when playing the game. All of your party member’s Persona are well dressed

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

Also there is a hotel in the game that is heavily hinted was a former “love shack” with a rotating water bed, but you don’t see the inside of it . Once the school holds a cross-dressing pageant, there is a female swimsuit competition afterwords. The swimsuits themselves (which were shown twice before) are a little skimpy. Once the characters are shown in the hot springs with towels on. Another time the characters accidentally sneak into  a room of a female student and teacher, the teacher tells them “I’m all yours, just don’t tell anyone”, while the student says “come here tiger” causing the guys to flee the room. Later in the game during a drinking game one the characters accidentally calls out a number of one of the guys to kiss him, in which he jumps on the guy (much to his displeasure) off screen, and the player hears a kissing noise. When the characters go to get a physical exam there is talk about measurements and it in mentioned “if I had moderately sized breasts like yours I could fit into a kimono better”. For better or worse those of the above paragraph are suppose to be humorous.

There is also a cleavage shot during one of the anime scenes. Also, there are some suggestive moments are in the game, such as a creepy director suggesting that the Inn offer special services in which the waitresses “lay down on the futon and have at it” with the customer. Also one of the teachers seems to like one of the female students a little. “You’ve got balls” is said about 2 times, and at least once to a girl. Once one of the female characters hits one of the guys and he says “critical hit to the nads”.  The character’s homeroom teacher is always thinking the kids are up to the worst romance wise. In the devil social link you can have optional romantic encounters with a nurse who is about 10 years older than you. It does not show anything but it is highly suggestive and they are obviously doing something intimate. As the link progresses however these encounters stop and it turns out she is actually a good person at heart. You can (if you want) girlfriends and at the end of the social link there is an extra scene where you show her your room, and it ends where you spend “a long time in there” with her, granted rather than spending long time with them other places when just staying friends.

shinmegamitenseipersona4-6

*The following contains early game spoilers*
One dungeon is set to the TV show “Steamy Hot Bathhouse Romance (Men Only)” (but is not a real bathhouse) and stars one of the character’s shadow, who acts flamboyant and gay and is wearing a loincloth. In the beginning of the dungeon  you hear voices saying (to no one in particular) stuff like “Come here pussycat.”, “What well defined pecks you have”. The victim who you have to save fears that since he feels more convertible around men (girls in the past have not liked him and called him “a queer” for liking to paint and sew), he is gay. After the dungeon the character decides to sort out his feelings about girls, and it is made clear in the game that he does like girls; tough he is obviously struggling with the issue throughout the game. Constantly he is trying to prove his manliness to himself and others, and he is questioned and teased about what was seen in the dungeon throughout the game by one of the characters. This is not a part of him he readily accepts however, and the game certainly does not promote homosexuality.

The other dungeon is a striptease club (again not a real one) and the victim’s shadow is her in a skimpy bathing suit promising to “bear it all”. You don’t see anyone in the dungeon but it is very pink and has silhouettes of lips and women on the walls as well as the odd pole dancing poles. When you get to the shadow she is pole dancing and she turns into a rainbow covered monster that is dancing around the pole, sometime running her hand over her body and a couple times making pelvic thrusts towards the pole, the rainbow monster herself is completely covered.

*Endspoilers*

Spiritual Content:

A small pentagram (which is the SMT symbol) is on the spine of the game case but is not in the game. In school for a side quest a student asks you to find a demon statue for an occult club’s fortune telling, but you cannot join the club. Also one of the teachers has you get a dousing rod for her. At the beginning Igor reads your fortune using tarot cards. Like the other games, the Personas and social links are organized by some of the tarot suits (fool, tower, hanged man, magician, devil etc.) The Personas look like cards when you fuse them and you destroy cards to summon them. After battle sometimes a tarot card appears that causing a special effect if you choose to use it. In the game there is an eastern shrine which is the backdrop of some festivals, also a greedy fox’s social link has you doing “Ema requests” for the shine, which is helping people so that so that they will think the shine is lucky. Some of the requests are addressed to God. There are a couple mentions gods in item descriptions, such as shoes blessed by the god of war.

The characters summon Personas to use a variety of skills, some which resemble spells form RPGs such as healing, fire etc. but there is nothing pointing that this is really magic. The Personas are based on various characters and creatures from myths and religions, demons, gods, monsters, creatures, angels etc. Though the game takes liberty in their appearance, such as some of the angels don’t look very angelic looking. Most of your party’s Persona seemed to be based on Japanese myth with some gods, such as Susano-O. There is also Satan, Lucifer and Beelzebub as Personas. One of the weapons is called Christ Mirror (or Jesus Mirror).

*Late Game Spoilers*

A goddess has a small but important part very late in the game.

*Endpoilers*

shinmegamitenseipersona4-2

Other Negative Elements:
Your uncle is seen smoking a couple times during the game and a couple people get drunk. As I mentioned before, once the characters go to a club and some of the characters start to act drunk, even though they (probably) have not been served alcohol.  A foul mouthed homeroom teacher is called by the kids “Mr. Moron”. There are also a couple crude things in the game, like at the beginning when one of the guys almost urinate on the wall. Also one of the Personas is a demon sitting on a toilet. Once during camp the homeroom teacher gets sick upstream from drinking too much and the characters are in the water downstream

Positive Elements:
One of the things that the game makes clear is that the characters are on a mission of justice rather than revenge. They only want to help people and stop the murders from happening. Late in the game it deals with what happens when people take revenge too far; the search for truth is also a theme late game as well.

Persona 4 could be the last great RPG for the PS2 and it is definitely my pick for RPG of the Year for 2008. If you played the last game there is only a couple things you might find offensive in compairson, for newcomers however there is enough content concerns that will give most people pause before considering a purchase. Hopefully the next generation of Persona games will have fewer issues to worry about.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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