Persona mixed with Etrian Odyssey, a match made in heaven?
The studio Atlus have lead the charge when it comes to making high budget, addictive RPGs, with the two most well known being the Persona and Etrian Odyssey franchises. So it would only seem logical to combine the two and make a large scale epic that takes the best aspects of both series to create an incredibly refined RPG. And they have done so with Persona Q, to a near perfect degree.
Persona Q takes place in the middle of both Persona 3 and Persona 4’s story lines, in a time where all characters have awoken their personas but have not evolved them. The story is set in a strange high school that looks the same as the one from Persona 4. The characters from each series find themselves trapped in this phantom school with no escape, and must team with strangers Zen and Rei in hopes of discovering what’s going on at the school and how they can escape.
The gameplay is largely that of the Etrian Odyssey series. A party of characters enter a randomly generated dungeon to defeat monsters, gather loot, and draw a fancy map that will help out as you delve deeper. While this remains largely unchanged from the EO franchise, what has changed is the combat system.
Combining the best bits from both franchises, the combat in Persona Q involves discovering the enemies weakness to abuse it, but also to make sure the entire party receives buffs due to this enemy abuse.
This adds a layer of strategy not found in either franchise, to make sure the entire party gets to attack each enemy and receive a bonus for attacking. This made me use all of my persona’s abilities a lot more instead of relying on a trusty few, and encouraged me to swap out sub-personas to maximise damage given and exp gained. And you’ll want a lot of exp, because this game is unforgiving.
Persona Q is no walk in the park, even for returning fans of either series. This game expects you to grind for days if you want to stand a chance. You will die a lot, and sometimes these deaths will feel cheap. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of losing hours of game time due to a powerful enemy catching you off guard and killing everyone in one move. Thankfully you can change difficulty at any time, but the overwhelming difficulty may put many players off.
And that’s a shame, because the story is maybe Persona Q’s most entertaining aspect.
Like many Persona games, the story is at the forefront of the adventure. The story takes a good six hours to warm up and show the player the ropes, before releasing the chains and letting you go nuts. The characters from either outing all have their counterparts. Yosuke and Junpei, Teddie and Koromaru, Kanji and Akihiko, etc.
A great deal of the enjoyment of this game comes from watching these characters interact and exchange great dialogue together, often commenting on what others say or act. Seeing these characters come together is like watching a TV special with all your favourite heroes, it’s magical, but at the same time, somehow feels hollow.
Persona prides itself on having deep and complex characters with motivations that drive them to do what they do. In Persona Q, thanks to the removal of the social link system, the characters have been stripped down to only having one quirk that defines their personality. Junpei is a pervert, Akahiko laughs inappropriately, Rei likes to eat food (yeah that’s her entire character), Kanji likes cute things, Aigis doesn’t understand humanity, the list goes on.
In numbered entries these small aspects to a character would be stepping stones in social links to building a friendship or even a relationship with these characters. But now it all seems like a variety show where each character only has a small amount of time to show off what makes them so special. It’s a shame because these characters have shown us how amazing they can be, and now they’ve been reduced to fan service jokes that often fall flat.
Thankfully the music hasn’t changed. Persona has always been known for good music, but Persona Q takes the cake by being a combination of all the well loved tunes from the franchise into one neat package. Lotus Juice and Yumi Kawamura return to make a fantastic soundtrack filled with pumping tunes that had me bouncing along while I slew shadows for hours on end. Music can make or break a game that involves walking around for hours, and thankfully the music in Persona Q made my wandering a joy.
I’m conflicted about Persona Q. On one hand, it’s the best Etrian Odyssey game to date, with the best visuals and combat system yet. But on the other hand, it’s one of the weakest Persona games in the franchise. I know that this is meant to combine the two and of course elements from each series were going to be lost along the way, such as Etrian Odyssey’s ability to create your own heroes and story, but I just wished that the characters weren’t one note jokes that had no depth.
But alas, Persona Q is still a great game. If you’re a fan of either (or both) series, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick this game up. It’s a fun, addictive dungeon crawling romp that uses some of the best video game characters to date. Just don’t get your hopes up thinking this is Persona 5 or anything. It’s something else, it’s Persona Q, and that’s fine.
Should you play Persona Q?
Thanks to NIS America for supplying a review copy