Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Review: Persona Q : Shadow Of The Labyrinth (3DS)

100% Less Bowie Crotch Shots! 

Review copy provided by NIS Europe.
Atlus decided that with the success of crossing Persona 3 & 4 together with Arena that giving it another shot in a different genre would be a worthy venture. The main question on everyone's lips is, was passing it onto the Etrian Odyssey team a good pay off or just something better left in the shadows.

Persona Q is an interesting title in the case that's it's technically a triple cross over, you have aspects from Persona 3 & 4 including the main casts, all this is then thrown into the system & art style of hardcore dungeon crawling Etrian Odyssey, yes it seems a strange mix & it often is but the payoff is massive.

Storywise it's your typical crossover event, this goes for the standard error in space and time which then effects The Velvet Room thus drawing in SEES & The Investigation Team from P3 and 4 respectively. The main narrative though inretesting is fairly weak as opposed to the series it draws from but fortunately is perked up with the brilliant Character Dialogue and events lovingly written by Atlus.

Here is the main draw for fans of the series, to finally see with a little more detail just how the characters would interact with each other. All are fairly true to how they were in the main games unlike Arena where they seemed to just focus on 1 trait. The game has a fairly light hearted nature so expect a good amount of laughs and smiles as the 2 teams undertake this adventure.
Another factor to consider is the game has two paths, Persona 3 Main Character & Persona 4 Main Character (Yu Narukami for mouth breathers). The early hours of the game are where the main story differences are but it's still worth playing both routes to get the full impact of the game.

That's the key to why the downtime in this game just works so well, you have a brilliant written set of characters who the game assumes you know well enough to understand each trait and quirk they have (sorry newcomers) and expands on that. It does exactly what you would expect from an extention of an established universe in that it doesn't spend too long recapping everything and it just takes the very best of what makes each character tick & honestly it really pays off well!. 

Visually Q takes the art from Persona 3/4 though more so the vivid style of 4 and fuses it with the art style of the previous Etrian games. This works really well and once you get over the initial "Chibi" styling of the characters you'll realize it's still the same crew you have grown close to over the years.
On the audio side of things with have some amazing music as expected from both Persona & Etrian, we have some tracks from the previous games, some remixes and some original. All help to make this feel alot more like a bona fide Persona title and give you something to tap your feet to when exploring the labyrinth. 
Main cutscenes feature voice acting from most of the original cast but side scenes unfortunately don't, when playing with the standard speakers the quality of the audio is just about passable so if this is a big deal for you it's time to get them ear phones in!.  

Persona Q differs from Persona 3 & 4 in that the main aspect of this title is the actual dungeon crawling experience, this means you'll be spending less time hanging out and more time questing, mapping and battling.

You explore dungeons in the first person perspective like Wizardry, SMT 1/2, Persona 1 & of course Etrian Odyssey. This could be a deal breaker for some people as I know we are all used to 3rd person by now but I found it never once effected my enjoyment. Movement is on a grid allowing you to plan your moves round traps and FOES. FOES are tougher than usual enemies which appear in the dungeons with you, these help keep you on your toes and give you something to build up to throughout the quest. 

While you walk around the dungeons you'll see the other major aspect of Q, Map drawing!. Unlike the majority of RPGS Q gives you the task of drawing your own map, this is another marmite aspect but something I loved and spent alot of time on making notes and making sure my Map was 100% complete, also helps each floor has a chest in which can only be opened with a 100% map (Or via Play coins but where is the fun in that!), 

Battles are also done in the first person and are a little different than what many Persona fans will be used to. The major different is that hitting a weakness only has a slight chance of knocking an enemy down, same applies to activating an all out out attack, it does however put your character into a focused state which lets them using skills with no MP/HP loss and generally stronger but this only lasts until they are hit or the next turn.  There are also a few new status effects to be aware of such as bind which stops particular abilities depending on what's been hit by it.

On the subject of battling lets talk about the party layout, Q gives you the chance to make a Persona dream team!, you can choose whoever out of the main roster of Persona users you want but you have to make sure they are suitable for the place you put them. For example Teddie has his claws for his weapon and as such would be redundant in the back, same if you put Bow wielding Yukari up front. It's stuff like this which really draws you in making the perfect squad for the dungeons, couple that with the sub persona system and you have the tools to succeed . Each member can equip another Persona alongside their original one, this sub Persona is only at half power but what this means is it boosts your main stats and also gives you access to abilities you wouldn't normally have.

With all these tools you'd think it'd be a walk in the park but no, this game is tough!. Even on the lower difficulties you'll find you can't just blind walk through the game, as with Etrian planning is everything. The best example I can give is that every time you level up, the nurses office where you heal goes up in price, if you blindly wander and run from battles without bringing home spoils to sell then you aren't going to be able to afford the ever rising cost of restoring health. Another plus to this is you unlock more equipment from the items you sell and unlike alot of games it's more about your loadout than your level which separates you from being too weak to just right. 

As distractions from the main story you have the option to stroll, this is a collection of side stories for all the characters and are fun little time wasters before you head back, side quests aswell are abundant and ready for you to run all over to complete for a little money and exp. Finally as always Persona Fusion is back and works just like always if not a little awkward to work round the menu at first, it all goes a long way to recreating that "Persona" feel even if it's missing the more VN style scenes and god forbid Social Links.

Overall Shadow Of The Labyrinth is a total package for RPG & Persona fans,  spanning at around the 80 hour mark and the choice of 2 stories means you are looking into well over 100+ hours of dungeon crawling goodness. The story is a little throw away but you'll laugh with the characters and feel the drive to see the narrative to it's natural conclusion if nothing more for the reason why? (& yes it's canon). It's not a casual game and unfortunatly the art style at times does make it look like one so I can imagine it will claim more than a few victims, for those wanting a time consuming yet amazingly rewarding titles look no further than Persona Q : Shadow Of The Labyrinth. 


Who Should Buy This? 

  • Persona & Etrian Odyssey fans 
  • If you enjoy tougher old school RPG games
  • Enjoy getting more than your moneys worth out of playing time

Who Should Avoid This?

  • Casual fans, they have toned alot down but it's still a demanding game 
  • If you have a dislike of colourful artwork and chibi art style
  • Want something world shattering from the narrative 

WELCOME TO OUR NEW FEATURE!!!! If more than one of our reviewers have or are playing a title we will include a "mini" review or second opinion in this space going forward, to help debut this feature i'd like to thank our writer Vincent!. 

As a long time (however I would not say hardcore) fan of the Persona series and RPG’s on a general I was very excited to get my hands on Q, and I was not disappointed!

I was tasked with playing the side of Yu Narukami and the Persona 4 characters (While Andi played as P3MC and the Persona 3 cast), although the core story elements are the same for both character sets, the social interactions between characters are obviously totally different in the early game. I don’t have any comparison of if the story changes once the two sets of characters join up depending on initial choice but I would assume the differences continue in some form. I personally have very much enjoyed all the elements of the story immensely even with the removal of the social link system.

I feel the new combat system would be closer attributed to a first person Final Fantasy on the surface but it holds true to the fundamentals of the Persona combat style so is fantastic fun, however the one gameplay element I was unsure about was the manual map writing. For somebody like me who grew up on pen and paper RPG’s this is both fun and refreshing to see in a modern game but I did have a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that it was simply filler content. Regardless of it being filler or not though this system will heavily divide players.

All in all I love Persona Q and will very likely be playing through it several times in the coming years.

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