Written by Twisted Ideas
The next spin-off to the Person series isn’t another fighting game or a remake to the older games but it’s a new RPG. Reintroducing the full teams from Persona 3 and 4, we get a brand new dungeon crawling RPG adventure.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Platform: Nintendo 3DS/2DS
What is it?
Persona Q takes the SEES team from Persona 3 and the Investigation Team from Persona 4 from the middle of their respective adventure and brings them to an alternate reality. The two teams hear a bell which transports them into the Velvet room then an alternate Yasogami High. They meet two mysterious students, Rei and Zen with the ability to fight Shadows without Persona. When exploring the Labyrinth they find keys to returning to their worlds and parts of Zen’s memories.
How does it play?
Before you start the game you have to choose one of the two teams. This will change the perspective the story is told and the team that will progress through the first Labyrinth.
Persona Q takes the first person dungeon crawling elements from the original Persona (and Etrian Odyssey) and most elements from the Persona 3 & 4 battle system.
The Labyrinths aren’t randomly generated like Tartarus or the TV World. They are fixed mazes where you fight Shadows, finding treasures, materials and shortcuts. Occasionally you will find events which may lead to benefits, treasures or difficult battles. Some events will just be interactions with the party about the labyrinth or just small talk. The touch screen draws the general layout of a Labyrinth but it’s up to you to place markers for doors, stairways, etc.
Most floors has FOEs (field on enemies) that are the shadows that are visible on-screen. They impede your progress so you have to figure out how to maneuver around them. FOEs are one of the most powerful Shadows in the Labyrinth. FOE’s will behave differently on each floor allowing for variety and puzzles on top of the exploration.
You better paint those flowers or it’s off with your head.
The battle system is consistent with the Persona and SMT games. Characters have physical attacks and their Persona giving them access to skills for offense, defense and/or support. Physical skills cost HP and magic skills costs SP. You now have a team of 5 character and there is a front row and back row that hold three characters for both sides. Characters in the back row will take less physical damage and can’t hit enemies in their back row unless they have ranged weapons or use magic skills.
Shadows typically will have a weakness to a physical type or elemental type attack. If you hit a weakness, enemies might get knocked down and All-Out-Attacks and Follow-Up attacks are uncommon. You do get a boost when you hit a weakness; If you aren’t hit before you next turn your boost will let you attack first and reduce the cost of skills to zero.
The biggest change to the battle system is Sub-Personas. The main characters lose the ability to change Persona during battle but all the characters can equip a second Persona. Sub-Persona give access to a wider range of skills and they give additional HP & SP which recovers after each battle.
Yasogami High servers as the central hub. Here, Elizabeth, Theodore and Margaret from the Velvet Room provide you services.
Elizabeth heals you for a cost that increases by 100 Yen for each use. Elizabeth also provides quests. Quests are either combat related or simply events where answering questions correctly gives you additional rewards. Some quests are timed and will be lost if not completed in time.
Theodore runs the item and equipment stores. He will buy material found and dropped by Shadows in the Labyrinth. This is the primary way to earn money and lets you buy new items if the correct materials are collected. You inventory space is also limited so you can store items with Theodore.
Margaret is the velvet Room attendant similar to P3 & P4. You can fuse Persona together to create new Persona. You can register Persona to buy back if needed in the future with their current stats. There are no social links but a sacrificial fusion will give a Persona bonus EXP. Streetpass can be used to register a Persona that other Street Pass enabled games can collect for their teams. QR codes can also be used to get Persona.
How does it look?
Persona Q uses a chibi art style reflective of the lighter tone of the game. The artwork is 2D but the the characters are usually represented as simple 3D models.
Everyone just took a look in the mirror and they’re a little dumbfounded.
The core of the gameplay (the labyrinths and battles) takes place in first person. You do see glimpses of the characters in the labyrinths and battles so the game doesn’t feel as empty as SMT IV did. You see the characters mostly during conversations and they are both animated and expressive.
How does it sound?
The game takes a lot of music from Persona 3 and 4. These two soundtracks were very different from each other and it’s a nice mix of techno, hip-hop and J-pop.
The current series voice actors reprise their roles and there is a lot of spoken dialogue. This really adds to the game especially for fans. The dialogue is funny and it would have been sad not to have voices add to the experience at least. Not everything is voiced but it’s a lot more than I would have expected from a 3DS game of this length.
What do I think?
Persona Q is a fun little side adventure, bringing together the Persona 3 and 4 teams in their entirety. The two groups are exaggerated versions of themselves and their interactions are very light-hearted and humorous. This is a new dynamic than when seeing these group in the Arena games and fans of P3 & P4 will really enjoy how they mingle together.
This game is very long. The first labyrinth took me 6 hours to complete and a friend of mine 12 hours. The start of the game is quite difficult. The Sub-Persona makes maintaining you HP & SP easier but that’s if battles go cleanly which is uncommon. There have been adjustments to enemy health, the amount of experience needed to level up and how you earn money. These little things really do make the game much longer than you would expect.
Yes, it’s a dog who can use a Persona.
You needed to get used to the idea of focusing on 5 characters instead of evenly training. Reserve party members only earn experience from quests and they will be much lower levels as a result. With the strength of Shadows increasing on each floor means that having a 5 strong character is more ideal than managing 16. This is also make managing money. The rate that you can buy new equipment makes updating 5 character tough enough with the way you earn money, especially when managing the increasing healing costs.
Once you get into a rhythm, you can explore large portion of the labyrinth at a time. This will become important because each labyrinth gets larger and more complex, leading to some unwanted situation.
I really enjoy the gameplay of Persona Q more than Persona 3 and Persona 4. Those games can be unforgiving mainly because if the main character die you will get a game over even if the party could continue or revive them. There was always a chance things would go out of hand that would make you lose a lot of progress very quickly. Persona Q starts you off against stronger enemies but is more forgiving. The Sub-Persona is a great mechanic because it allows for fights to be fought for free if managed correctly. Things can go wrong in fights but the main character can die and you’re allowed to continue. The Labyrinths are a lot more interesting than Tartarus and the TV World. Most floors have something unique to offer and standout from each other.
Should you get it?
Any RPG or exploration lover will enjoy Persona Q. The game is quite challenging and is a big time commitment but that is apart of the appeal. Fans of the series. will enjoy the return of certain characters nad non-fans may have to play catch up with over a dozen characters but they are all well represented so even newcomers won’t feel felt out. Again this isn’t Persona 5 and still isn’t the last spin-off but it is a welcome edition to the franchise.