Just as each character's personality is double-edged in Persona 4, exclusive to PlayStation 2, so is the gameplay; you'll spend half of your time exploring dungeons and battling weird and wonderful creatures, and the other half doing homework, making friends and looking for part-time jobs. It is this contrast and the way the two extremes blend together that makes it such an original title.
You play the new kid in town, forced to leave the city to live with your uncle and young cousin in a small Japanese town called Inaba. Your uncle is a detective investigating the mysterious death of a TV newsreader and as you settle into school life, one of your new friends disappears under similarly perplexing circumstances, so you and two fellow students decide to get to the bottom of the riddle.
Roughly half of the game is spent in Inaba, be it at school, at home or in the shopping district. You spend your time relaxing with friends, studying for your exams, working part-time and attending extra-curricular clubs; this might sound whimsical, but it's essential for strengthening your character and his relationships. The game's intriguing story and excellent dialogue keep these sections moving along nicely.
At any time you can visit Junes department store, where climbing into a certain television set transports you to a sinister world where the kidnapped are imprisoned by their alter-egos. Each monster is the embodiment of negative emotions and a hollow toy bear called Teddie is your hapless guide.
Battles are turn based, with particular emphasis on each enemy's weakness, be it fire, ice, wind, poison or a physical attack. Sometimes after a battle, you'll get a Persona card, giving you access to new attacks and spells. These can be fused together to create new Personas, and this is where building friendships is crucial - when you fuse a Persona, it will receive an experience bonus if you have nurtured a relevant friendship. Physically strong Personas, for example, will grow stronger still if you have joined a sports team and made friends with one of your teammates.
Persona 4 for PS2 is a stylish role-playing game, with great graphics and music, an accessible and flexible battle system and a memorable storyline. Unmistakably Japanese, it's a treat for RPG fans and a potential cult classic.