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What? I posted something?! Heresy, surely… but frankly, with a long list of journalism classes in my future I figure I should keep my writing ability somewhat sharp if only to make up for my terrible people skills when I’m forced to start engaging in interrogative conversation. But enough about me- on to gaming!

At least the gratuitous Spanish isn't DLC...

Every once in a while I feel compelled to play a game even if I know it won’t go well. I can just tell a game is going to be disappointing or stupid in some way, but I still want to play it for just a little bit because I’m excited by the trailers or something. Typically this happens when I end up playing a movie tie-in or something made by Michael Bay. Pffft racing games, I love them.

My ban-kai tops out at 88mph.

Bleach: Soul Resurrection, or Resurrecion if you’re feeling authentic, is a hackn’slash game based on the popular anime and manga whose name is basically unfathomable. It’s a fairly straightforward series where Soul reapers slay demonic “hollow” creatures for the sake of the innocent spirits they prey upon. Explosions and manly yelling abound. One aspect present in Bleach that makes it a staple of the current shonen genre is that most of the characters are extremely similar in terms of functionality. This is true of pretty much the entire series with nearly everyone having transforming swords, single-tone uniforms, and the universal ability to ignore physics. The protagonist, Ichigo, is basically the archetype for all the other characters in the series as well as in the game. He wields a sword that purifies his monstrous foes while making his more squishy targets bleed copious amounts of blood. Every other Soul Reaper, or Death God, is basically a twist on this theme, not to mention most of the in-game antagonists. As a result Ichigo is one of the smoothest characters in the game, and while many of the other characters have their share of hiccups, for the most part it’s a party of button-mashing goodness regardless of who you play as.

LIke Dynasty Warriors, without the capture aspect

As you could probably guess from any picture of him, Ichigo has a fairly simple playstyle- hitting things a lot with your sword. That’s the square button. There’s also a ranged homing attack (triangle) which drains your self-charging MP bar, and a special circle-button attack that drains it completely, forcing you to wait for the bar to recharge before you can use more advanced tactics again. As you take and deal damage, a side bar known as the Ignition gauge fills up, allowing you to enter a powered-up state with the L2 button that deals more damage for a limited time. As a bonus, if you use the button again while transformed, you use a special attack that basically annihilates everything on-screen at the cost of your transformation. Add to that a dash (R2) and block (R1) function, and you’ve got the basic set-up of a hackn’slash with tight, responsive controls that showcase on-screen in beautiful cel-shaded graphics. So what’s the problem?

From a visual standpoint, the levels are faithful cutouts of the environments from the game, those being Hueco Mundo, Soul Society, the skies above Japan and a hellpit. Unfortunately the minimap shows them for what they really are, that being simply-shaped arenas and hallways filled to the brim with assorted cannon-fodder enemies. Sometimes the game locks you in a specific part of the map and spams more enemies than usual, but it’s typically just a mad-dash toward the end. Oddly, however, time isn’t really a factor in your “score.” The game is mostly about collecting little green soul points from enemies and the environment, and spending them on a cheap (yet oddly more functional) copy of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X. Essentially, the game is built around you hitting everything you see with your sword. Thats the square button, if you forgot.

Four sides of equal length, for those in need of a refresher.

Unsurprisingly, the story isn’t really the focus of the game; as with most anime tie-ins, it’s assumed that you have a basic understanding of the way the world is set up. This is even more apparent in the case of this game- it seems like the developers didn’t even consider that someone would play the game without being up-to-date with the series. Having read the manga myself I noted several major plot points and fight scenes were glossed over or ignored completely, to say nothing of the relevant characters that are missing. It could be understood if you assume that the game had a limited development cycle, but the fact that the campaign plays out flat and uninteresting isn’t going to endear anyone to the series. Add on top of that the generic half-related music and the terrible English voice acting that seems to derive sadistic pleasure from reciting random japanese phrases every other combo, and you might actually end up wanting some of your own characters to die if only to relieve your own boredom/sanity.

One area the game does excel in however is the visuals. As games get prettier over the years, most surmise that games will look more and more realistic. That’s debatable, but I think that the real potential for HD graphics is games like this. Cel-shading has been around for a while, but with this technology the characters literally look like they walked out of the show. It makes sense; if the developers aren’t trying to make it look realistic in the first place, they can be more faithful to the show and make everything look fantastic.

Admittedly, wishing for the protagonist's death isn't exactly a new thing in video games...

Admittedly the game is a little half-assed in some areas, but the game accomplishes what it set out to do. If you want to dash across familiar locales from the Bleach universe, cutting a swathe of destruction and high combos through hordes of hollows with little-to-no resistance, then you’re golden. Sure it locks all the characters in their most powerful states, and perhaps the cast of playable characters is on the lean side, but what you do get is perfect for what the game is- a beat em’ up. That, and a cash-in, but what franchise isn’t?

This should come as a surprise to no one, but if you’re not a fan of the series, you won’t know or care about anything happening in this game. I mean it should be self-evident from the moment you look at the box. Most tie-ins in the video game industry fall between mindless cash-grabs and a unique medium to tell an original story within the franchise’s universe, with the small chance of actually turning out to be a good game.

I'm not insinuating anything

Bleach: Soul Resurreccion was developed by Nippon Ichi Software.
Bleach is owned by Tite Kubo.
I own two cats and a dog-thing.

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Burnt Toast

Ever remember being excited about the future? Yeah, those were good times… Times that have most certainly past.

They say a college education is a prerequisite for any decent job nowadays, which equates to massive debt being a prerequisite for making money, assuming I had the motivation to get it all done in one try in the first place.This may just be little more than selfish whining, but I’m a tad burnt out with the whole education=success thing. I have people on all sides yammering away telling me my education won’t guarantee shit in this economy, that people many times smarter/more diligent than me are unemployed, that I should be thankful to be among the richest demographic in the world, etc. So honestly? Yeah, I don’t even know where to go from here. Without any real passion that I can translate into a decent job with income, and no real skills or experience to apply, and no ambition left after the bombardment that is real life, I’m basically stuck. Again, whining, but really what else can I do? I see a bunch of potential outcomes for various paths I could take, and most of them end with me in a more miserable situation than what I have now.

I’ve been frantically running toward a vague future like a chicken with its’ dick cut off only to stop in the middle and realize I have no idea what the fuck is going on.

A smart person would’ve thought up some crazy scheme by now to ensure victory over the masses. Me? I seem to be capable of little more than waving at opportunity as it passes me by, pissing on my chances for a future.

Well, it’s not like I’m hopeful for anything past 45 years anyway. People don’t keep burnt toast around on purpose after all…

Had a revelation

Relevance greater than or equal to how comfortable my pillow is

I had a revelation recently. No, it doesn’t have (much) to do with the new Assassin’s Creed game that just game out, it’s more to do with life in general! So there I was, at three in the morning, sitting there waiting to either fall asleep or get a surprise text message (it was the latter, btw), when suddenly I realized the reason I could not fall asleep was because I was angry.

I wasn’t angry at the surprise text message, nor was I angry at the possibility of our government trying to kill the internet again. No, I was angry at not being able to fall asleep. The hilarious part was, my anger is what kept me awake most of the night. This kind of self-perpetuating hatred on oneself is the kind of thing that makes emo poetry and gothic lipstick prosper! Thankfully I’m in College and my feet hurt so I didn’t run out to the local 24-hour hot topic to buy aforementioned lipstick, but what if it had been some other random High schooler?! Where does it stop?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes it’s better to just not worry about things. Maybe you’re a social outcast and maybe you’re enjoying and unrewarding and irrelevant activity a little bit too much, but in the end if you’re not having a good time then what’s the point?

Totally re-enacted this shot for the lulz

Moving on, I did actually manage to beat AssCreedRevs this morning, and I have to say that Ubisoft has shown a rather embarrassing aspect of production here. They put so much thought and detail into the world, focusing on the culture and atmosphere and making it “authentic” that when they’re forced to come up with something on their own, it falls flat. Constantinople might be amazing, but the Altair segments are rushed and sloppy, while the modern day segments and the “first civilization” segments just seem silly in comparison. Even the segments exploring Desmond’s past are lazy in comparison. As much as I like the puzzle mini-games reminiscent of Portal, 3D tetris alongside Nolan North’s admittedly awesome narration don’t make up for the fact that Desmond doesn’t do anything in this game. Again. I at least wanted to play through his past in a way similar to Altair’s segments. Not to mention there are so many sidequests and hidden things that most people won’t even bother with. They’ve spent so much time on the detail that the core adventure is flawed. Overall I’d say a year isn’t quite enough to make a game all it could be. The game shows its rough edges despite the polish. Still, I enjoyed myself… while not sleeping.

Assassin’s Creed Revelations was made by UbiSoft. That pic is of a guy named Ted. I’m tired.

Thank you and goodni- …morning.

Quick update

So this is an update coming about mostly due to the fact that I don’t want this blog thing to die horribly in an internet fire from inactivity. Because if you leave something alone for long periods of time, it gets progressively harder to get back into. Kinda like the Water Temple in Zelda. Also, there’s the whole fact that despite having played a number of games since LA Noire, I’ve made no reviews, mostly due to me seeing the futility of that endeavor. If I were to take this review thin anywhere, I’d need more people to get it places. At this point, that just isn’t happening. I wonder if it’s common in my generation to see the potential outcomes of a situation and promptly give up the whole thing? No? Just me? Alright, just making sure.

So this is the one where I fight the dodongos right?

There’s also the naive notion of mine that anyone would read this, which I have to say is incredibly unlikely. Youtube is just so much more convenient. I could take 20 classes on making an internet blog for journalism, and I wouldn’t get any traffic. So if I do update this again, I’ll probably just do something generic with a bit of humor thrown in. Sorry non-existent fans.

Still, at least I didn’t just drop the thing entirely right?

When I first saw footage of LA Noire, I focused on the driving and gunplay. Unsurprisingly, I was unimpressed with a cheap GTA rip-off (quite literal in this case). Then I found out it was actually being released by Rockstar and took a closer look. I honestly couldn’t tell whether or not it would be worth my time, since I’m not one who buys games for looking pretty.

Heavy Rain was fulfilling story-wise, keeping me hooked throughout the experience. When I decided to play LA Noire I was hoping it would turn out to be something similar in terms of story, if not gameplay. Most of the time I can see the ending of a game coming a mile away, so it’s those little surprises that really get me. Why did I remember Red Dead Redemption? Because the ending pissed me off at how realistic it was. Infamous 2 betrayed my expectations in a frankly hilarious way. Twilight Princess was bittersweet. Assassin’s Creed consistently leaves me wondering “what the fuck” at the end of each game along with its’ characters. It’s that little twist at the end, the little extra detail that really makes me remember a game.

I picked up LA Noire after a few non-gaming media sources mentioned it. It wasn’t quite like Heavy Rain, keeping me engaged in the overall story. Frankly I could predict Cole Phelps fall from grace when he got promoted twice in the first few missions. The thing that really interested me was how everything was interconnected. Between the newspaper sidestory with the doctor, to the stolen morphine being mentioned every other mission, to Cole’s precipitous career as an honest cop in a corrupt city, everything came together masterfully. It was the execution of telling the story in a variety of ways that was unique, even if the story wasn’t exactly the most mind-blowing thing ever. Then again, story is never the grandstanding selling point of Rockstar games.

Gameplay-wise, the fact that LA Noire is essentially a point-and-click game with 3rd person shooter and driving sections lends itself well to the narrative. The game is done well enough that they didn’t even really need the face-capture technology, despite how cool it is.Another reason the game was satisfying, however, was probably because the story is self-contained. All DLC is extraneous, and Rockstar felt no need to hint at a sequel. Everything about LA Noire is in the box. Excellent. As much as I love Assassin’s Creed and Mass Effect, it’s a little irritating when you don’t get the whole picture after playing for over 40 hours. I just wish they’d polished the open-world aspects of the game a bit more. Frankly I got bored with exploration pretty quickly despite the novelty that is a 1947 Los Angeles.

The issue of having your own choices in games tends to be the childlike execution of presenting those choices. The original Infamous irked me because the game seemed to think I didn’t know right from wrong, and proceeded to color-code everything and make sure it was abundantly clear what I had to do to be a complete and utter asshole to anyone and everything to avoid being typecast as a good samaratin and not just a decent human being… with lightning powers. The second game continues this trend to a degree. Blue is good and red is bad, which is just another way of saying that everything is black and white. Where’s the middle ground? Oh, go watch TV you raging intellectual.

While the game presents heavy decisions aplenty to give you a boost in one karmic direction or another, it’s the smaller decisions that I feel really define a “hero”. I’m not even talking about choosing between good and bad. To use an in-game example, Infamous 2 allows you to stop random muggings on the street. If you beet up the perpetrators, you get a good boost. Injure the hostage, you get a bad boost. Sure, the heroic thing is simple to see, but I think it should be the fact that you stopped to deal with it at all that marks you as a hero. The way they present Cole in the game if you choose the villain option, I think you should get a bad boost if you either ignore the mugging entirely, or demand compensation after saving the victim. That is a show of not a villain, but a regular human. I don’t think they should take away the ability to be psychopathic villain who causes chaos and destruction for the hell of it, but maybe there should be more than just “good” and “evil”. What about “doen’t give a damn” and “doing things for one’s own benefit?” What if instead of just destroying the villain, you could take over his operation afterward? If you’re going to give the player decisions, mix it up! I’m not saying you need a gameplay tweak for it either, just a narrative difference in how the game plays out, or perhaps a difference in how people react to you.

Another issue about this is how it affects your powers in the game. Despite events that provide a clear reason for your powers to deviate in one way or another, Sucker Punch decided that it would be better if your powers changed depending on your karmic decisions. Honestly, this ended up making no narrative sense and just confused me. Were I Cole, I would want the ability to rapid-fire my lightning bolts regardless of whether or not I healed dying people on the street, not to mention chaining lightning seems like it would be universally useful even to a burning paragon of justice. Ultimately what I’m getting at is that I don’t see any reason for my karmic identity to be linked to my super-powers. These things should be separate, for a number of reasons beyond simple convenience.

Infamous certainly isn’t alone in these karmic issues (even the famed Mass Effect series is naively simple in regards to morality, and Force Unleashed didn’t even try to make things interesting), but the game that prides itself on acting out the super-hero fantasy should go a little farther to show the weight of these choices. Even if it’s mostly just an action-romp, it’s the little things that really flesh out a universe like this. I just think trying to make everything color-coded is a mistake. Shades of grey are what make lifelike characters more interesting than comic-book cutouts after all.  This is the reason why the movie reboots of the various comic book superheroes are so popular beyond simple nostalgia (and special effects)… in some cases.

The final decision of Infamous 2 switches things up not only narratively but also provides a decision where you’re screwed either way, which I loved. Heck, it’s this kind of storytelling that makes up Mass Effect’s bread and butter, and it’s nice to see that Sucker Punch actually put something like that in here. There’s actually a sense of “weight” or importance to it, even though it kinda comes out of left field near the end. That said, I’d find it interesting if a series continued based on the evil ending for once. The fact that the game points out in the end that no one actually thinks of themselves as evil is probably the best piece of the narrative, it’s just too bad that the rest of the game didn’t really highlight that fact.

Infamous 2 was developed by Sucker Punch studios, whom are hopefully not done with this series just yet, though I would appreciate the fact that it didn’t become a trilogy I suppose…

Short Heavy Rain Review

I’m wondering if I should just do all my reviews like this from now on. Perhaps elaborate a bit more though… play-by-play? Eh, regardless…

YMMV

Heck, I may even go back and make Ragecomic versions of my older reviews…. Assuming I can find the necessary motivation… 😀

Best I can tell, the anti-drug message involved stabbing it until it went away. Just like real life.

Growing up, I’ve watched most friends drift away from this fictional medium for the most part. Whether it’s not having a life or perhaps simply unnecessary stubbornness, I play more games nowadays then most people I know. Not only that, but I play games to the end, whereas most people would put down the controller and return the game. In my experience however, playing to the end has a unique payoff, a sort of fulfillment, however worthless it might be to others.

Screw you I have... pixelated memories?

Going into this game, I was mildly intrigued. What I had thought was just another hackn’slash fantasy turned out to be a unique take on the third-person shooter genre. It’s by no means polished enough to stand up to some of the more auspicious titles around, but it conveys its story well and keeps itself contained admirably while providing smooth and solid gameplay.

The story has you playing as one of two mercenaries, I’Lara the strategically-clothed elf with a love for explosions and Caddoc the oddly thoughful berserker human. Giving them both just enough of a background to get started, the story takes off with the both of them being hired to rescue some undead goth girl with an oddly mundane origin. Unsurprise ensued. At least it has a nice anti-drug message? :3 Still, I can’t tell whether or not I should applaud inXile for getting most of the backstory across in-game through the corpses you interrogate… while the banter between Caddoc did serve to flesh out the world rather well, the plot honestly felt like a side-story to what was honestly just two buddies trying to increase their k/d ratio.

Some of the dead people are more interesting to talk to than others

Aside from the necessarily modern spin on fantasy humor that is the game’s story, there is of course the graphics, which visually flesh out the story. Ultimately I was left to believe that this world is some kind of medieval Sera, and couldn’t help but wish for a trusty chainsaw bayonet. While not quite up to par of some games that it clearly takes influence from, the game is fairly pretty (and I’Lara’s physics are a nice touch I suppose), though close inspection will reveal a rough edge to most everything.

The Unreal Engine is actually fairly easy to pick out in any game it is used in. Whether it’s the physics of objects and bodies within the game world or the graphics of the environments loading at the last minute, the thing that really shows the influence of the engine is the gameplay. The fact that the game, which alternates between sword-fighting and cover-based shooting, does so in such a smooth manner is probably due to the influence of the unreal engine.
Yes, playing this game should remind some players of a the overblown curbstomp that is Gears, albeit with an enhanced emphasis on cooperation. Far from simply pointing and shooting, you have the option to annihilate your foes with bows, magic, and assorted sharp objects. The key is that all combat can be augmented by your partner at almost any time. Add to that the segmented co-op profiles and the experience can get interesting. In my experience any game that utilizes co-op well is good. This game, while most assuredly a suggested rental title, is very fun to play with friends. This is the most important influence it gets from Gears of War. The fact that the combat is simple, fluid and fun. There’s also the option to play as a half-naked elf hottie, but I have a feeling people will have already discovered that by the time they pop in the disc.

Remember, it's not slutty, just strategically placed.

Rounding out things is the sound. While the music is standard fantasy fanfare, the voices are actually done well. The problem lies with the character lines, which are a tad uninspired. I’ve often thought of not including a sound aspect in most reviews, as for the most part I really have very little to say about the sound unless the soundtrack or voice acting “grabs me”.

IN CONCLUSIONNESS (that’s not even a word)

Strawberries: A healthy of any spelunking lifestyle

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge is straightforward and for the most part enjoyable. It’s not perfect, but it gets the point across well despite the general roughness. I would have to say that anyone looking for a unique co-op experience should definitely check it out, or even someone just looking for a unique take on the fantasy genre.

Hunted: The Demon’s Forge was developed by inXile entertainment. The game also makes little to no mention of an actual forge. Ah well, maybe it’ll show up in the sequel.

So much pun.

There’s always a familiar feeling going into first-person shooters. No, I don’t mean that it’s from the same perspective as the last one, it’s more like you can tell the quality of the overall game from the first five minutes of gameplay. Five minutes of playing Metro 2033 informed me that control-wise, this game would be subpar, like various older WW2 shooters for the PS2 or the consortium of COD ripoffs pervading the industry. The controls alternated between sluggish and twitchy, the enemies randomly jerked around and ignored damage, and the level design left little room to freely maneuver without fear of getting stuck in a wall or falling through a certain section of floor. Yep, I’ve seen this all before.

Idle hands might be the devil's playthings, but at least they don't get carpal tunnel

So, having realized the overall combat quality I would be forced to deal with for at least 10 hours, I put hope in the story. It kept me interested while the game went on, but I get the feeling it would be better to read the book this game is based on. I’ve noted that there’s apparently a “good” ending, but that would be a huge pain in the ass, (every annoying aspect of this game would have to be repeated over and over in order to do so) so I just youtubed it. What do you want? I’ve got other things to do.  Important things! ….I’ll tell you when you’re older internet.

I did like the atmosphere of the game. While I have not played fallout much, I did get a similar feeling from this game, albeit more compacted. If anything this game plays far more like Bioshock, and many of the gameplay elements are ripped right out of that game. Switching ammo, scrounging for ammo, getting dirty, things falling apart to bar your path in-game, weapons that look like they’re about to fall apart, that sort of thing.  One aspect where the game shines is during the supernatural sequences. They’re mainly cinematic, but they provided an interesting break inbetween action sequences when they did pop up. That said, it’s no F.E.A.R.

Nothing strikes fear into your heart like cold, terrifying adolescence.

It’s like they took various aspects of previous successful shooters and tacked on a novel storyline. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised, but someone should have warned them about adaptation decay.

Gameplay wise, the buttons of this game are weird, though you get used to them fairly easily. Frankly I wish they just had a weapon wheel to switche between the various weapons and equipment at your disposal, it would’ve made things run more smoothly. Why the game feels the need for a clipboard and lighter to be the compass is beyond me. If they were going to take so many things from BioShock, why not make the clipboard into the pause menu complete with mini-map?!

Sometimes the game just hates you

There were a few glitches, but the only thing that really bothered me during my experience was the unnecessary stealth elements, the constant stream of identical enemies as the game progressed, and the lack of direction. Even with the navigation clipboard you’re given, it can be confusing as to where the game wants you to go, just like BioShock. While they didn’t particularly bother me throughout most of the game, they made the end nearly unplayable. Endlessly spawning radioactive bubbles+useless AI teammates? Uh… no?

The weapons and equipment are fairly interesting. You have your own variety of Shotguns, pistol revolvers and assault rifles, but the game mixes it up to fit the post-apocalyptic setting. The good old AK-47 is actually one of the better assault rifles if only because it’s a modern pre-apocalyptic rifle that can handle the abuse of the time period, whereas the crappy spin-offs apparently produced after the world went to hell can’t match up. The game also has some “pneumatic” weapons where you have to pump them up like a super-soaker in order to effectively fire makeshift projectiles. These plus the throwing knives made the game somewhat unique, though I wish they had included a melee button instead of a melee weapon slot. And an actual super-soaker. Filled with acid.

Giving new meaning to the term "concealed weapon"

The shops were a completely unnecessary aspect of the game. This is not fallout or Bioshock, though the game clearly tries to use some of the elements introduced in those games. The “hub” levels tried to give the feeling of being within this culture, but only served as a tedious way to force you into interacting with NPCs more than necessary. Make no mistake, this game is an “on-the-rails” shooter, they just tried to disguise it with collectibles strewn about and “towns” popping up every so often. And yes, I just realized how horrible that pun is for this game. I’ll work it into the title.

The music was few and far between and didn’t really have much impact. Mostly you only hear music if someone’s playing a guitar or there’s a radio nearby. Sound, however, was very good. They make the darkness sequences much more interesting.

I hate it when they nerf the essentials

The same cannot be said about the graphics. While not bad, the graphics weren’t amazing either. This lack of graphical impressiveness was further compounded by my inability to see shit during half the game. You’d think a game set in a long series of dark tunnels would have the option to increase the brightness. Even with the nightvision that you get later on, the fact that you use battery power to use it made things needlessly annoying.  It made me miss the days of Halo and Half-Life before I remembered that those games also limited flashlight power for whatever reason. Yup, I hate shooters. 😛

 

IN CONCLUSION!
Sure, the story’s alright. I liked it well enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t save this game. Not because of quality, but because it’s not even original. They took a book series and adapted it into a Fallout/Bioshock/F.E.A.R. ripoff. Everything this game does right is taken straight from those games, albeit not nearly as refined.
Add onto that the poor control scheme, unreliable controls, broken game mechanics and glitches spread about, and you have an unoriginal game that doesn’t show you anything you can’t see elsewhere in better quality. Disappointment abounds. And considering the low expectations I had going into this game, that’s saying something.

You didn't think I'd do a review without one of these jokes did you?

Metro 2033 was developed by 4A Games, whom I hope deigns to pull some aspects from Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted in order to make a game about Ninjas. TVtropes, datteboyo!

NOTE: E3 2011 reveals that there’s a sequel for this game in the works. If they name it BioFallShockOutFear it will be the best thing ever, just to see someone try to pronounce it.

A few months ago I sat down to begin experiencing what I had been told was “one of the best gaming experiences ever.” While I disagree about it being quite that, I do agree that the game left quite an impact on me and has probably one of the best stories and themes I’ve ever seen in visual media.
Now, a few months later (ironically, the same period of time the game is supposed to begin around), I can say that I very much enjoyed a narrative experience called Persona 4. However, I also have to admit that I wasn’t really that enamored with a game called Persona 4. Allow me to elaborate (as if you had a choice).

There are two sides to the Role-playing game that is Persona 4- the “social” half and the “dungeon crawler” half. These two halves are linked in a way meant to immerse the player into the story and setting while still allowing for an entertaining game, but it ultimately ended up irritating me with the game half while I couldn’t stop playing the social half.

Dungeon Crawler

Elemental weaknesses in this game will confuse you

Persona is like Pokemon in that you “capture” said personas, which are stylized versions of various deities from a number of famous mythologies, and set them against other (corrupted) personas known as heartless Shadows. Also like pokemon, many of them are affiliated with various elements and use skills that are more or less effective against each other, though these elemental strengths and weaknesses rarely make sense. Meanwhile the skill trees follow their own spin of naming to figure out their usage at a glance, similar to Final Fantasy albeit with a limit to how many moves one Persona can perform.

Of course, no RPG is really complete without the dungeons to grind through, and Persona 4 doesn’t disappoint. Well, maybe it does. I get the feeling that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy most of the “classic” JRPGs if this is what they’re like (minus the story). I can only trudge through so many winding and mapped out hallways before I lose it, you know? The gameplay uses a turn-based system in-battle very similar to Final Fantasy and pokemon. All the basics are there- basic attacks, spells, items, running away, etc.

At this point, I think they just stopped trying

Despite the capture system employed that grants your main character any number of fantastic abilities, this is nothing new and unfortunately due to the way the element system is set up, the game doesn’t become tactically fulfilling until at least halfway into the game. In fact by the time you have personas of each elemental affinity, the entire battle system (outside of boss battles) is a series of spamming elemental attacks so that you can discover which technique one-shots which enemy. Beyond the irritating encounters of old enemies with new pain schemes, random battles become a constant cycle of switching personas, using the correct technique, and using the special party attack where the party wails senselessly on the enemy group until they’re all dead. Admittedly, some might find this battle system intriguing, especially since there are hundreds of personas and spells with which to customize your main character (your other party members maintain their personas and stat affinities throughout the game). But when you add this to the game’s demoralizing dungeons, it becomes an exercise in testing your diligence level.

Now, having covered the “meat” of this RPG, you would expect a brief overview of the story. Said basic story is that you are a high school student sent to a small town in Japan to live with your relative for a year. During that time you get involved in a supernatural murder mystery(tm) and learn the power of friendship(tm?) all the while racing against the clock to prevent world destruction. Think Majora’s mask + high school. Wait, that’s a bad example… While this synopsis may or may not sound interesting (and oddly similar to some Final Fantasy/Pokemon types), the game immerses the player in the world in a few ways that keep you interested and ultimately keeps “your” social life relevant.

sex, violence, television. Take from that what you will.

The first way is that your main character is a relatively blank slate. Sure, he’s a guy from the city with parents working overseas with a preset appearance, but your past is mostly there in order to provide a point-of-reference for other characters you interact with. As a result, the player is able to imprint their own personality onto the main character. This is helped by the conversation system, a decidedly Japanese dating-sim style option where your responses produce a myriad of different dialogue. Were it not for the fact that you need to make certain responses in order to successfully get through the game (and additionally being prevented from making certain responses based on vague stats), this would go a long way to connecting the player with the protagonist. Nevertheless, the lack of details is what allows a player to focus on his/her interactions with OTHER characters as well as the town of Inaba so thoroughly.

The characters offer a truly profound outlook of the events around them

The second way this game immerses you in the world is the characters you interact with. True, you are charged with stopping a serial killer who the police are incapable of apprehending, but in the meantime your character is still a high-school student, a status that comes with all sorts of perks, limitations and responsibilities (the latter more than the former). Throughout the game you interact with a wide variety of characters in various situations, and while there is a fair bit of drama involved, you generally end up dealing with surprisingly mundane issues, though that aspect is what really connects people to this game. Between dealing with the loss of friends/family, social expectations, relationship/human interaction problems, gender identity, the role of family and why you shouldn’t eat unidentified food, the game’s narrative is linked far more closely to reality than many of the fantasy RPGs or shooting games that you will usually find in this media. The lessons these characters learned actually prompted me to conemplate these issues myself, albeit with far less success than “I” did in-game. The theme of this game, truth, hits home and brings up painfully accurate truths about human egos (and presents a more literal portrayal of human ids, actually).

The clock is always ticking, making this game almost as hectic as real life

The third way the game immerses you is the calendar system. Time is always moving in Persona 4. Whenever you perform basically any action, whether it be a trip to the dungeon to grind or simply going out to hit on your female party members, you are limited with the amount of time you have. You only have so many days to accomplish any goals or responsibilities you take on, and since the characters you deal with have their own schedules, you are always managing your time carefully. You could almost criticize how complicated the social half of this game is. I for one wouldn’t have been able to beat the game without the extremely well-put together guide.

One would think that it would simply be easier to ignore the social aspects of this game and just focus on grinding whenever possible. However, as one of the characters is quick to point out, you have a “life” to live (not to mention you’re probably playing this game for its story in the first place). The “bonds” you make with other people in this game actually go a long way to making you and your party more effective in the long run. Not only do various NPCs give you quests that result in helpful items, but all of the “social links” with major characters produce relevant bonuses that allow you to strengthen and customize your Personas to produce the best possible team, not to mention your party members are far more reliable when you max out their respective social links.

From a design perspective it seems like the social half of the game, while being the primary half that presents the story, was meant to be a hub that allowed the player to gather their strength before heading off into the great unknown of infinite hallways. However, in practice the game left me feeling as if the dungeon crawler aspects were actually almost tacked on in order for Persona 4 to be labelled as a proper “game” and not just another dating sim. I wasn’t even halfway through the game before I began experiencing a fair amount of irritation whenever I was forced to explore a new dungeon or level up more of my personas. In the end I was content to while away my time improving my virtual social life rather than fight hordes of copy-pasted enemies in strangely configured hallways for 3 hours at a time.

"Small" Japanese towns seem to have a different population densities than their counterparts in the US...

The first thing you will notice about Persona 4 is that it uses a japanese “anime” style. This works very well since the PS2 wasn’t exactly known for its stellar depictions of realism. That said, the experience is similar to that of FF7, where you interact with undoubtedly deformed “chibi” character models most of the time. It’s not hard to get used to, but is a bit off-setting, particularly considering that the cutscenes use a decidedly more mature look. The personas were apparently designed separately from the human characters as well, for they present far more “defined” character models than your party does.

As a JRPG, you spend a lot of time in the menus, which are thankfully unique as far as interfaces go. I can honestly say the bright yellow color scheme didn’t bother me that much. YMMV.

The Town of Inaba, which is its own character, is presented cleanly and clearly regardless of weather. Each area you visit is discernable and becomes familiar quickly. It portrays the feeling of a small town, though the Japanese have a different population density and standard of technology for their small towns than what Americans do. Still, it becomes familiar fast, and you stop having to guess where you’re going after a very short amount of time. I almost feel as if I could navigate the real city of Inaba, were it real.

The dungeons, as you may have surmised from my hallway complaint, are a series of hallways. That said, the aesthetic behind them is unique and original, from “heaven” to a strip club, the dungeons do at least vary in theme. Too bad the designs don’t hold up under scrutiny. Atlus should have taken its own advice: “People get excited fast and lose interest even faster… it goes round and round. There’s no underlying reason for it.”

This is how you stand out in a crowd

NPCs don’t stand out much, as they are designed to look like random passer-by, though they look just different enough from one another to not break suspension of disbelief. That said, major characters REALLY stand out at school, though the distinction isn’t as bad when other NPCs can be seen wearing brighter casual clothing.

Connected with the anime art-style of the game, characters often depict emotions with “e-motes” (sweat-drops for example) and body language in light of not having very descriptive faces. This actually helps convey the humor a great deal and makes for some hilarious scenes, though the more serious emotional scenes rely on subtler body movements and certain music in order to get the point across. It’s actually interesting how characters can portray emotions and dialogue more clearly than some of the nicer-looking next-gen games out there. Another point for the “graphics vs aesthetics” argument I suppose.

The dungeons, based on their themes, are presented clearly and uniquely. The TVworld has many stylistic designs and ultimately the world itself is a fitting contrast to the more rural Inaba. The hallways are still damn repetitive though. The spells are not particularly original in their depiction, but they get the point across and honestly that’s all you really need from a PS2 game.

Enemies, meanwhile, start out as being unique and an interesting departure from contemporary anatomy, but the sense of wonderment at their appearance quickly fades after the first dungeon when you realize there are basically 20 enemies in the game, constantly being re-used with different paint schemes and stat bonuses. While I am aware this issue is not limited to this game alone (or even this series for that matter) it is still offsetting. At least the bosses never get re-used.

MUSIC

The game comes packaged with its own soundtrack for a reason. It is one of the most unique soundtracks I have ever listened to. I’m not particularly sure whether I find the music amazing or simply different, but I could not help but enjoy the soundtrack whenever it made itself heard.

Sound effects are fairly basic, and are handled quite well. The Voice actors are very good in my opinion, though it varies from character-to-character. Random bits of dialogue popping up during conversations are a bit unsettling though. There’s also the problem of character voices being somewhat hard to hear during cutscenes.

I liked this game a lot more than I was expecting. Hell, I loved the story, as evidenced by my enduring endless hallways for hours on end. Few games have pulled me in and kept me engrossed in the way this game has, and NO game has hit quite as close-to-home for me. While I doubt I’ll play it again, I will always remember the story fondly. That, and I will also probably be able to employ the easier option of simply buying the TV anime adaptation that is supposed to be coming out soon. Let’s hope they don’t cut out too much.

In the end, though, the thing I got most about this game was probably… that every day is great… at your Junes. That or “Hasou Tobi is broken.”

Persona 4 was developed by Atlus

EDIT: Apologies if this review seems oddly cobbled together. After all, I did make it over the course of three months.