Thursday, 14 July 2016

Persona Q: Shadow Of The Labyrinth

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 8.0

(+) Pros: - Excellent blend of EO into a "Persona" game, - Decent story filled with fun-loving characters from "Persona" 3 & 4, - Regular "Persona" styled combat is a lot more strategic this time, - Fusing personas is still a blast, - Brings forth a ton of content and replay-ability with quests, post game bosses and even 2 possible play-throughs with 2 protagonists.

(-) Cons: - Its not quite there as an EO game, and its not really there as a "Persona" game either, - Starts losing momentum about halfway through the game, though the final stretch is really good.

Gameplay Time: 50 Hours+

As a huge fan of both the "Persona" and "Etrian Odyssey" franchises, "Persona Q" was simply a love letter that would be answered in a matter of time. When the game was first announced, I had a boner so large that even my largest pair of pants couldn't contain the raging erection within. Still, I held off playing "Persona Q" for a long time, and when I finally did, I felt the fun of it full force. It was EXACTLY as I imagined how a crossover between the 2 franchises would be. However, the fears of the game not being able to achieve the best of the 2 franchises that spawned it also came through, which is main reason why it took me so long to finish this game. Still, its a great entry point for "Persona" fans into EO, as well as it is the other way round, for EO fans to get into "Persona". On its own though, its simply a great JRPG dungeon crawler with a lot of character, and sometimes that good enough.

The velvet siblings having a typical 300 course lunch prepared by Theodore.

The game can be played with 2 different protagonists and can feature 2 different perspectives. Since its a crossover game, it obviously centers on the 2 protagonists from "Persona 3" and "Persona 4". The story takes place somewhere in the middle of both games, and since its in an alternate world, fabrics of time crossed, so all characters' ages are as they should be in their respective games. Anyhow, both protagonists were minding their business as usual, until a certain trip to the velvet room ended up with Igor being missing. Suddenly, their entire parties got transported to their respective velvet rooms, and both "Persona 3 & 4" parties were brought into an alternate world. This world was an alternate Yasogami high, and they encounter a pair of mysterious students, Zen and Rei. To make things even more mysterious, this world is inhabited by massive labyrinths and shadows. Both investigation teams gear up for a journey unlike any other, as they attempt to solve the mystery of this strange world.

Nothing like pulverizing low grade shadows with
the most badass team around.

The game is what is looks like, its a blend of a "Persona" and "Etrian Odyssey" game. Honestly, its more EO than "Persona", but in another's eyes, it can be the other way around. Think of playing through an "Etrian Odyssey" game with "Persona" characters and cutscenes. As for the combat....its really a mix of both, leaning SLIGHTLY more to "Persona". The game navigation is all EO though, so don't worry about that. Anyway, its almost like the 2 games were meant for one another, since "Persona" games always had sub-par to decent dungeon crawling at most, adding EO's dungeon crawling mechanics was a welcome addition. Its really a nice way to introduce a "Persona" fan into EO's style, as its not difficult to fall in love with the ease of navigation and excellent map drawing, adding a sense of discovery which no "Persona" game can offer (at least to this date).

As we all know, until the introduction of the "Untold" games to the "Etrian Odyssey" games...EO games haven't really been too big on their story. To fix that, "Persona" comes into play again, because the storytelling here is ALL on the "Persona" franchise. It adds its colorful cast of characters from both the P3 and P4 games to bring forth this massive orgy of fun and love. If you've played and loved both games, this game is a gigantic ball of fan service. Character interactions that you would never thought be possible can happen here, and the dialogue between most characters are so fun to listen into. The P3 cast's slightly more serious characters are a well match for the lighthearted mood of the P4 cast. The new characters Zen and Rei are pretty alright, and the entire story itself is decent at best, but the inclusion of so many amazing, nostalgic characters make the story a blast to play through.

Well, she kind of IS one....

Now let's get into the meat of the game. As I mentioned before, the navigation of the game is similar to "Etrian Odyssey". You go into labyrinths from the main "town screen", which is basically the school, then you explore these labyrinths as if they were stratums from EO. Before that, you gear up and select your team, composed of the all-stars from both P3 and P4. You really get the best of both worlds here, as you can compose your 5 man team with a combination of characters from both P3 and P4, whatever sick ass combination you can think of, you can do it here. You gear them up and arm them with personas, then you choose your navigator (between Fuuka and Rise, and NO they are NOT just for cosmetic purposes, they actually bring different effects into battle) before plunging into these dungeons. When you're finally in the dungeons running about, its all EO. You have a map on the bottom screen which you can map out (or let the game auto map it for you like a scrub), complete with EO standards like shortcuts, FOEs, treasure chests and the like.

When you're into combat against shadows, the game truly mixes both "Persona" and "Etrian Odyssey" together. The 5 man-styled party with front and back-line formations is exactly like EO, and the characters are even classified into archetypes. Characters like Yukari and Naoto are labeled as casters and are recommended into the back line, while hard hitters like Kanji, Chie or Shinji are relegated up front as fighters. Who takes the hit actually matters here, and it even includes new abilities reminiscent to EO skills that let you defend team mates or follow up link attacks. Otherwise, the rest is like "Persona", hitting a shadow with a weak element will knock it down, knock all shadows down and your characters can perform an all out attack. Sound familiar? This applies to bosses and FOEs as well, that's assuming these bastards even HAVE weaknesses.

The epic team-up. Its a no-brainer and every Persona fan's dream to
have both protagonists in the same team.

There's more to "Persona Q"'s combat than that though. This time, hitting an enemy's weakness will "boost" up the character who struck at the weak point. A boosted character will always move first next turn, and their ability will have no cost. This is great for sustaining through long dungeons, considering how quickly most characters run out of juice, and its also great for setting up specific strategies.  Also, now that all characters can hold multiple personas, it adds a whole level of depth to combat. Yes you heard that right, now everyone can hold 2 personas in battle, meaning that you can try a whole lot of different strategies and alternatives that you could never do in "Persona 3" or "Persona 4". Combined with the fact that plenty of new abilities have been added into the game, there are a whole lot of team combinations that can be tried out. 

Now that multiple personas can be used by everyone, its an even more dire need that you go hunting for personas, much more so than before. You can get them through doing well in normal battles, then you can get more by performing the ever so addicting persona fusion. As usual, by combining 2 or more different personas, you can get a completely new one that inherits the abilities and traits of the previous 2. Like before, there's a formula to persona fusion, and its always a joy to create the perfect persona for your party members, inheriting the best possible abilities to create the ultimate killing machine. Instead of one unstoppable psychopathic shadow slayer in your protagonist in previous "Persona" games, you now get a whole team of them if you bother to invest the time. 

Neither Aigis, he's a dumbass. A really fluffy one.

Now, with both "Persona" and "Etrian Odyssey" games being long as heck with a shitload of content in them, its only natural that "Persona Q" is ALSO boat-loaded with content. In each of the floors in the respective labyrinths, having a 100% map completion will net the player a chest that contains a really good item, meaning that there's actually an INCENTIVE to fully map out these areas, unlike the EO games where you do it for the sake of future convenience. There are also plenty of quests, which come in as regularly as they do in EO, whenever you finish a floor. Elizabeth is a complete waifu when she's issuing and briefing you on these quests, making them quite fun to listen through her instructions. While some of these are just material hunting quests, shadow hunting quests or simple labyrinth navigating quests, there are the occasional quests which involve you just hanging out with your team mates, which are fun and full of funky character interactions.

Following those quests we even have post-game content, including secret bosses and you guessed it, much more optional quests. Unfortunately, we don't have a secret 6th stratum here, but there ARE plenty more ways to eek out the most of your game. Like playing through the game a second time with the other protagonist. While a good portion of the game is the same, there are a ton of different dialogue between different characters and cut scenes that make it worth your time. The game even rewards you if you play the game twice with 2 characters, giving you a super secret optional boss that is SO HARD that it rivals that of other SMT super bosses.

Elizabeth takes charge in fusing as the
oldest of the Velvet sibling trio.

As for the cons of the game, there really is only one major flaw. It hits neither of the "Persona" or "EO"'s STRONGEST points. While it has a colorful cast of characters, there aren't any socializing options that let you get really invested into your team mates, the game simply relies on you already knowing these folks well enough to let you enjoy these cut scenes. A newcomer seeing these cut scenes won't feel as invested enough, seeing as they don't know these characters too well. Part of what makes "Persona" so fun is living an everyday life, this is absent as well. The combat, while an improvement over "Persona" games, cannot be compared to the highly in depth nature of the EO games. There's just not enough variety of skills or character types for us to truly be invested into making how each fight counts. There is just that huge lack of character customization in here that's present in EO games. This just makes the mid-game drag out, as you're not really feeling a significant change in your character's strengths and weaknesses, though late game, this does get significantly better with end game personas and power spikes.

Overall, "Persona Q" is a fun game that brings out some high points of the games that it was inspired from. However, its not as deep as it wishes to be, and that hurts it quite a fair bit. Its still an amazing experience though, and that doesn't stop the fact that game is one gigantic ball of fan service anyway. Its really hard not to enjoy it as long as you're a fan of either "Persona" or "EO", and the game is twice more fun if you're a fan of both. It might be the end of the "Persona 3" and "Persona 4" saga, but it sure ended with a bang with "Persona Q".

Happy Gaming!