The absolute rock bottom of the Persona series, and one of the worst Megaten games as a whole. Every bit of gristle and texture that Persona 3 used to make its otherwise simple combat system meaningful is gone, in favor of being more "convenient." The three distinct types of physical damage are condensed into a single generic type, reducing depth and overemphasizing physical weaknesses/resistances. You now get extra turns from AoE attacks even if one of the enemies you hit isn't weak or is already knocked down, meaning you can mindlessly spam weaknesses without caring about getting your own attacks reflected back at you by half the enemy mob. The reworking of the Shuffle Time system means you can gain immense, completely broken advantages like full level-ups or skills you shouldn't know for the next 10-20 hours, just because you got lucky. Dungeon floors are nothing but long, empty, randomly generated hallways with chests and enemies. And of course, the lack of direct party control that lent so much to P3 mechanically and thematically, is gone, because too many babies who couldn't be bothered to learn the tactics system complained about it.
That's beyond the story being glacially paced, nonsensical, and populated almost entirely by unlikable characters. The pace was already bad in the vanilla game, and Golden goes ahead and adds terrible terrible filler sequences, like your group for some reason forming a band to play a concert at the mall, which is immediately forgotten about after it happens and does nothing but waste an hour of your time. The plot constantly requires characters to act like complete idiots who can't put 2 and 2 together, don't follow up on plot threads until they suddenly become sentient several hours afterward, and never explain anything to anyone until there's basically a gun to their head. Almost every character is intolerable, from Chie screaming constantly and never once coming across as if she even likes her friends, to the only words coming out of Yosuke's mouth ever being "me horny" or "haha ur gay," to Teddie making me want to rip my head off every time he speaks. And of the more likable characters, like Kanji or Nanako, the game basically treats them like garbage.
Social links are STILL bad. They had issues in 3, but they were a brand new major series mechanic, and you would assume those issues would be addressed. Instead, they're worse. They're STILL walkthrough bait, since even a single wrong dialogue choice can sabotage a 100+ hour playthrough and keep you from completing all social links. They're STILL completely scripted and linear, meaning you can form a rank 10 bond with someone even while treating them terribly. They're STILL mostly padding where the first five out of ten ranks are completely worthless nothing scenes. Except now, you can't even reverse the links anymore. Nobody ever gets upset at you. Nothing bad you do to them will ever have consequences. You can get to rank 6 of a link, see someone cry their eyes out about their emotional problems, then abandon them for the next 80 hours of playtime, and they'll never once say anything about how you left them to rot, let alone reverse the bond. And now the stories themselves are decent at best. P3 had some bad social links, but at least it had high points to balance them out.
Thematically, the game hates you. If you have any real criticisms of the society in which you live, then at best, it thinks you're a confused and immature person who needs to figure yourself out. At worst, it thinks you're a misanthropic jackass who should be forcibly removed. Every character starts out wondering if maybe the society and conditions into which they were born are unfair, and they end by making the beautiful realization that, no, actually, they should just suck it up and deal with it. And then it has the gall to have scene after scene where the main characters call the majority of humanity sheeple who refuse to acknowledge the truth. It would rather say that everyone is just dumb because they love TV and that's what's wrong with society, than that maybe people's problems come from the Walmart that just moved into town and is crushing the life out of the local economy. That's what you get.
I give it an extra half star for the visuals being nice and some of the music being pretty good. Other than that, this game blows so fucking bad. Play a real Shin Megami Tensei game like Nocturne or Strange Journey.
Reviewed on Nov 22, 2022