What if there was another world inside of your TV? A world filled with a dark reflection of us? A world populated by our fears and vices?
What if that world began bleeding into ours, and at midnight after every heavy rainstorm a special TV channel appeared for a few moments featuring a member of our community, one who would soon turn up dead?
Sound like an intriguing concept for a supernatural horror game? Well, that's not quite what Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is, but it's as close as we'll get trying to pigeonhole it into a genre.
The latest in this very Japanese RPG series features the usual cast of high school students investigating strange events in their hometown and encountering monsters and their inner demons along the way.
You assume the role of a teenage boy who is sent to live in a rural village with his uncle. Just as you arrive, a news anchor, accused of committing adultery with a government official, is found murdered and strung up from a power pole with no witnesses and no indication of how or why she was slain.
This murder kicks off a rather bizarre tale of inner turmoil and the importance of personal relationships. You enter a mysterious otherworld in an attempt to unravel the mystery and prevent future murders.
Persona 4 plays like a standard turn-based RPG. You control a party of three characters with supernatural abilities thanks to their "other selves," called personas. These represent gods and heroes of Japanese mythology and enable the characters to battle the evil shadows that lurk in the world of the Midnight Channel.
When not adventuring into the television, Persona 4 plays like a Japanese high school simulator. You attend class and join clubs, gaining friendships and establishing social bonds that benefit your character in the use of magical personas. Americans unfamiliar with the Japanese education system will get a crash course playing this game.
Still, Persona 4 handles some pretty adult subjects. The monster designs and language are not filtered, and the storytelling is fairly deep and intricate (though it takes a while to get rolling). Once the story takes off, the game offers an interesting tale with fun RPG mechanics. Fans of traditional Japanese RPGs should consider picking this one up.
"Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4"
System: Sony PS2
Rated: M for Mature
Who Should Buy It?: Amateur high school detectives
Game On! Grade: B+
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