While in school, meanwhile, making friends, earning money and studying are just as important as fighting the bad guys. Where other RPG's might have you finding the ingredients to make a magic potion as a side quest, P4 tasks you with joining the Drama Club, getting a part-time job or eating spicy curry to raise your stats, all of which play out through short dialogue exchanges. It really makes your mostly impassive character feel like part of the world, and it’s great to see the game reward you for doing more than blasting straight through the main quest. On top of that, there’s a ton of stuff to unlock and collect - like weapons, new Personas and tarot cards - and that gives you an incentive to keep playing even after you’ve finished the huge storyline.
That's also the only real drawback of P4: there's too much to do, and you’re given so much information at the start that it can all be a little daunting. Explanations on how a Persona works, the importance of personal connections, collecting and fusing Persona cards and lots of lesser exposition are constantly thrown at you for the first five hours or so, making you think you'll never get a handle on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for those without much time), you'll have a while to get used to it; Persona 4 is exceptionally long, easily clocking in at 50-plus hours.
Graphically, P4 is a very good-looking PS2 game. It understands its limitations very well, and its unique art design works within them. Full of lush colors, fully animated cutscenes and a catchy soundtrack, it's got some very stylish touches. If you don't want a heaping pile of Japanese culture, or don't like an odd or off-putting story, then maybe you should stay away. Otherwise, Persona 4 is a superb (if long) RPG, and probably the last great PS2 game.
Dec 10, 2008