I’m a fan of Japanese school children. Sounds weird when I type that out. I’m more a fan of Japanese school children fighting world debilitating darkness, which I assume is better, though I admittedly enjoy manipulating their various social engagements while taking shopping trips to the mall. For a mace.
Persona Q has only one of those things: the children. If you’re at all familiar with the Etrian Odyssey series, you’ll be at home here. I’ve not played them, though I mean to remedy that oversight, as the mix of modern and “old school” gameplay tickled my fancy in all the right places. Having to physically draw a map in order to keep your bearings brings me back to my early gaming days. Persona Q adopts the Etrian formula of first-person dungeon exploration, mapping out your progress, solving puzzles, and facing increasingly difficult enemies with (seemingly) overwhelming odds. The marriage between these two series is a good one, incredibly smooth in transition given Persona’s equal penchant for dungeon exploration and stacked odds. While the social links of the Persona series have been done away with for this outing, there’s enough nods to them and series favorites to keep fans happy.
Q takes place within the frame of 3 and 4, allowing players to approach the story from the perspective of your chosen cast. I’ve always been partial to 3 – though 4 is great – so that’s the route I went, and I understand some story beats will be different depending on which you decide on. Eventually, the two teams merge, and you can use characters from both in your party at will, which is great. The interaction between the two is wonderful, poking fun at some of the overlapping similarities within the characters and titles, while also being careful to highlight their differences. Social Links are replaced with a “Stroll” option, which are cutscenes aimed at giving a break from the dungeons by having characters spend time with one another. Think small side-stories. One had, I believe, Junpei trying to establish himself as a ladies man with the girls from 4, which, spoiler, he fails miserably at.
Series enemies will be familiar too. The Shadows as they’re known here all look the same, act the same, and come beautifully animated. Persona fusion is still a necessary aspect, one I liken to an adult (or “adult”) version of Pokemon in a strange way, breeding demons with the powers you need to overcome that obnoxious Shadow in the 3rd Labyrinth who can’t seem to stop spamming wind spells for two seconds to let me breathe. It might be a little overwhelming for newcomers, but old Persona fans will slip right in to old habits, and old mainstays. There’s plenty to do – side quests can easily eat up an unnecessary amount of your time – but exploring the various labyrinths and unearthing the plot in this mysterious school you’ve all been ported to will be where the bulk of your hours get lost.
I suppose one complaint could be the repetition. It wasn’t repetitious for me, mind, because put me in a Starbucks line for more than two minutes and I’ll go Falling Down on the place, but grinding for days in the dark harvesting curious parts for a new sword does little to stir my feathers. Priorities. Some of the cutscenes can also be a little over-long, though that mostly falls into a “whatever” category for me. They’ve got nothing on Metal Gear, but neither does the extended Lord of the Rings editions.
Totally recommended to fans of role playing games, Persona games, Etrian Odyssey games (I assume), Japanese kids, and fun. And pain. Some of that too. I’m still working on Fantasy Life, and see myself working on it for the foreseeable future, but once that wraps, I might have to give an Etrian Odyssey game a go finally. The number of 3DS titles I desire is getting out of hand.