Sunday, September 20, 2015

Game Review: Persona Q: Shadows of the Labyrinth

First Person Dungeon Crawler RPG; 3DS; Atlus; 2014
Okay, first off, yes I know that Anita made another video over during the week. I haven't seen it yet because I want to maintain my sanity since last time. Also, I have a personal rule that I don't spend too long without reviewing something. This is a blog for Video Game and Anime reviews after all. And so I'm going to put her to the side for the moment and talk about Persona Q. A game where Persona 3 runs into Persona 4 and they both start pretending their Etrian Odyssey.

All of your Fanfics are about to come true.
It's October of 2012 and Yasogami High School's culture festival is underway. Attending school is a group of students who are investigating a mysterious string of murders in their town of Inaba. They are known as Persona Users, able to summon the otherselves within them to battle creatures known as Shadows. But during this culture festival all members of the Investigation Team are drawn into a mysterious world that looks like their culture festival, but the class displays are actually labyrinths with powerful shadows lurking within. Meanwhile, in September of 2009, another group of Persona Users from Gekkoukan High are pulled into the same mysterious Culture Festival. Crossing Time and Space, these Persona Users must fight along side with one another to solve the mysteries of the Labyrinths, and the missing past of the only two "real" people from with world: Zen and Rei.

This game is a cross over between Persona 3 and 4, as such you need to have played both games to get invested in the story because while the plot is unrelated to either game, you need to know these characters to really get drawn in and that's probably the biggest problem with the game's plot. Having said that, most people picking this game up probably already have played at LEAST one of these games so there should be no problem if you are already familiar with the cast. Now, the story kind of takes a back seat for most of the game, as it's only really towards the end where things are actually explained. But that isn't to say that the rest of the game is a bore. Most of the events happening up until the end are basically all fanboys and girls dream interactions. Even though most of the characters are pretty much reduced to their very basic traits (Chie is Meat obsessed, Aikihiko is Protein obsessed, Teddie is girl obsessed... okay no change there) having these characters interact with one another is fantastic, from Chie and Aikihiko falling perfectly into a Master-Student relationship, Teddie competing with Koromaru for position as most adorable mascot, Yukari and Yosuke getting into a snappy comeback battle. There is so many fun moments in this game that it is easy to forgive the lack of plot at times. Again, not to say the story is bad. Some of the twists coming can be seen a mile away, and everyone knows how this is going to end so that continuity is maintained. But Atlus still knows how to tell a good story, and when you get down to it, the plot is a perfect mix of both Persona 3 and 4 main themes. 3's theme of live and death mixes with 4's theme of truth into a very natural plot. But I've talked about the plot a bit too much. Suffice it to say, it is VERY well done.

Wait a minute. Did I put in Etrian Odyssey?
While the story is Persona, the gameplay is pure Etrian Odyssey. Over the course of the game you will cross several labyrinths in old school first person dungeon crawling style (not seen in the Persona series since the first game), and like Etrian Odyssey, you have to draw you map as you make your way through the dungeon. Other Etrian Odyssey elements include random encounters, classic turn-based combat, gather points (known in the game as Power Spots), and of course FOEs, super hard enemies that roam the labyrinths that must be avoided at first. In combat everything plays out very much like Etrain Odyssey, with battles being old school Turn-Based (no 1 More system here) and even several skills from EO makes it's appearance here like Links (skills that deal additional elemental damage for later attacks) and circles (ailment skills that hit the enemy at the end of each turn while they are out). But that doesn't mean that Persona doesn't have anything to offer in this mix of gameplay. While hitting enemies weaknesses do not net you extra turns like in P3 and P4, hitting an enemy's weakness or landing a critical hit does put that character in a Boosted state, which gives them turn priority during the next turn and also reduces all Skill costs to Zero. And yes, hitting an enemy with their weakness again maintains the Boosted state; however, you exit the boost when that character gets hit (Even if it's their Strength or they Absorb it). And since this is a Persona game there are Personas; however, thing are very different this time around. Rather then having only the protagonists having the ability to switch Persona, they too are stuck with their starting Personas (which sucks for the P3 Hero because he is fixed with a Weakness to Lightning and Darkness and NO Strengths). Instead every character can summon a Sub-Persona, which adds to their skill list and adds bonus HP and SP. These bonuses are only applied during battle but they serve as a buffer before consuming your actual HP and SP, meaning if you play your cards right you can end battles without losing any HP or SP. When you are not in the Labyrinth, the usual Etrian Odyssey and Persona options are available, healing up at the Nurse's Office, Selling Materials found during battle and at Power Spots, Buying new equipment, Fusing Persona together, and of course hanging out with your friends. Unfortunately, no social links, but then again no time limit.

And he's one of the EARLY enemies.
Unfortunately, this game does have problems. It's biggest would have to be it's Skill system. See, most characters only have 3 skills available to them through their main Persona, in order for them to get more you'd need to use a Skill Card, which can only be acquired through treasure chests, quests, or by extracting them from Personas. The last option is the most available, but it also costs the most as each Persona can only give one particular skill, and if they unlearned that skill, you can't extract anything from said Persona. Also, it requires money to do this, it also gets rid of the Persona which requires money to get back. And being in the spirit of Etrian Odyssey, Money is one thing that is hard to come by. But that's small potatoes compare to Skill's costs. See, each skill costs a lot of SP or HP depending on whether it is Magic based or Physical based, and I mean a LOT like a quarter or more of your Max SP for current level skills. This is okay for normal battles as they are short enough for the buffer from your Sub-Personas to make up for it, but for boss battles and other battles of attrition you'll be running out of SP VERY QUICKLY. Also, since this is classic Turn-Based, Skills that cost HP can be cancelled out rather easily with the character losing enough HP to not be able to cast the spell anymore. And lastly, the Map. There are a LOT of improvements to the map system since Etrian Odyssey, like having a whole slew of different colors for floor tiles, and 4 different colors for each icon; however, there is one addition that I really don't like and that's the chests that can only be opened once you've covered the entire map. And by that I mean you have to walk on EVERY SINGLE AVAILABLE SQUARE! This is a problem in non-Etrian Odyssey games, in order to fill out your map you need to step everywhere INCLUDING hazard squares that damage your party JUST so that you know that they are there. Etrian Odyssey made this non-essential by drawing in your Map, meaning you don't need to walk everywhere so long as you are good at map making. But when Persona Q REQUIRES you to step everywhere to open a chest, it makes map making also a moot point. True, you can pay Play Coins to open the chest anyway, but my point still stands. I felt like it was unnecessary and it should have just checked your map for accuracy.

I only complain so much because I REALLY do enjoy this game. It is all the goodness you expect from combining Persona with Etrian Odyssey. The game does really require you to know your Persona to get the story, and to know your Etrian Odyssey to get the gameplay. But if you are in either of those camps this is a great game, if you are in both of those camps this is a MUST PLAY! Ultimately, Persona Q is Highly recommended.

Until Next Time.

-CRES, There is no word to describe there combined levels of awesome.

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