Persona 4 is one of the most important JRPGs to ever release, representing a major step in the series that spun off of its parent Shin Megami Tensei franchise. Featuring a new cast of characters in a more relaxed countryside experience, it was a far cry from the previous titles, as you will see in our Persona 4 overview.
With a grim storyline that was balanced out by a colorful and goofy cast of characters, Persona 4 is one of the most beloved video games of all time. This Persona 4 overview aims to give you a glimpse into why this is, offering crucial details for newcomers to the game, including characters, setting, gameplay, and more.
Persona 4 Overview and History
Persona 4 is numbered as the fourth mainline entry in the Persona series. However, it is actually the fifth mainline game overall. Released on July 10, 2008, on the PlayStation 2, it is the latest in the series that spun off of the original Shin Megami Tensei franchise from Atlus.
Atlus once again developed this game with many of the core developers from the previous game, Persona 3, returning for this experience. Persona 4 came out only on the PS2 initially, which is interesting since the PlayStation 3 had been out at this point in time for nearly two years.
Like the other games in the series, it is a single-player JRPG series that focuses on collecting Personas to then use for their skills in a flashy turn-based combat system. Though it debuted on the PS2, it would only take a few more years before it would get a re-release on a new platform.
Like Persona 3 before it, Persona 4 experienced multiple versions of its games (in this case, two), with the second version being known as Persona 4 Golden. Persona 4 Golden is the overwhelmingly superior version of the game and the recommended one to play as it contains the most content for this title.
Persona 4 Golden came out on the PlayStation Vita portable system on June 14, 2012, in Japan and featured a new character in Marie, an expansion of the main story, a new epilogue and dungeon area, new Personas to collect, and even more Social Links to build.
While Persona 4 Golden would remain on the ill-fated Vita regarded by many as the very best game available on the platform, it was not doomed forever. Atlus eventually released this version on Steam in 2020 as a trial for future Atlus titles, and it was an overwhelming success there, with more than a million copies sold and counting at this time.
Persona 4 Platforms
As mentioned, there are three main platforms at this time in which players are able to check out Persona 4. The original version of the game, Persona 4, is still currently available on the PlayStation 2, where players can experience the launch edition there.
However, the much better Persona 4 Golden version is only available on two systems: the PlayStation Vita and Steam. At this time, it does look like Atlus has no intentions of bringing this game to other platforms, but that could be changing in the near future.
Atlus is in the middle of celebrating the history of this franchise with some new games and announcements, and part of this, the spin-off game, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, is coming to modern platforms around the world in 2022.
It is rather interesting that a fighting game and direct sequel to Persona 4 is coming out as a remaster for most modern platforms, but Persona 4 Golden itself is not. It is only available on PC and none of the modern consoles, like PS4/PS5 and Nintendo Switch. There is reason to believe that this could change in the near future, so stay tuned for that.
Persona 4 takes place in a fictional small town in Japan known as Inaba. With a similar name to the Japanese word “inaka,” it represents the Japanese countryside, and this is seen in much of what is happening here.
The town of Inaba in Persona 4 is based around the small town of Fuefuki in real-life Japan. Located in the Yamanashi Prefecture in central Japan, many of the sights and sounds that you can experience in Inaba are taken directly from locations in Fuefuki, including the train station and more.
With a population of roughly 70,000 people, it is a smaller town out in the countryside that is the setting for Persona 4. Unlike the previous games that had more urban settings, this was a nice change of pace for the series.
Players are able to explore much of the city, including around the train station, their home, the high school, and the central shopping district where the convenience store and more are located.
Midnight Channel Explained
One major part of the setting of Persona 4 is the Midnight Channel or TV World that players are able to visit. Like in Persona 3 before it, there is a specific place where players visit to encounter shadows and explore dungeons.
In the case of Persona 4, much of the obsession around watching TV is shown here on the Midnight Channel. Legend has it that if someone watches a TV that is currently turned off at the same time as midnight on a rainy night, they will be able to see the face of the person who is their one true love.
This legend is one that has invaded the minds of the high school students in the Persona 4 town of Inaba and one that leads the main characters to try it out for themselves. In the end, the Midnight Channel takes the players to the TV World, where they encounter a shadow realm.
Here, they are met with various dungeons that they can explore, bosses to fight, and Personas to collect. It is the main place that the player visits in Persona 4 in order to engage in the combat-focused parts of the gameplay.
In Persona 4, the main characters of the story are some of the students who attend the high school in Inaba. These classmates come together to form the Investigation Team or a group of students who are looking into the Midnight Channel and the secrets surrounding the TV World.
First among these is the protagonist that the player plays as known officially as Yu Narukami. Though you can name him anything you want in the main games, Yu is his canon name, and he is the leader of the Investigation Team.
What is notable about Yu is that he is not originally from the town of Inaba but rather the big city. At the start of the game, he comes to the small town to live with his uncle and cousin for about a year.
The first friend that Yu makes is with Yosuke Hanamura, a classmate and member of the family who runs the major electronics store in town. Yosuke is the best friend sort of archetype in Persona 4, being the guy who always has your back no matter what and the first party member that the player gets.
The duo is soon joined by Chie, a female classmate who is training in martial arts. With a huge emphasis on sports and training, Chie is the meathead of the group, getting into fights and always working out. She is also best friends with later party member Yukiko Amagi.
Yukiko is another female party member who joins later on and is part of the family that runs the local inn. She is a quiet and sometimes reserved girl who has grown up in a traditional family where she is expected to follow in the footsteps of what her family has already planned for her.
Another key party member early on is Teddie, whom the team discovers upon their initial trip into the TV World. Teddie is a colorful bear-like creature who is the first talking animal-like mascot of the series. Much of the story behind Teddie is a secret, as his origins are unknown even to him.
Kanji Tatsumi is another group of the party who is a local delinquent in town with a reputation for causing trouble, picking fights, and being rather disliked. That said, he has some surprising hobbies that show that there is more to him and his character than meets the eye.
Rise is a school idol who transfers to the school much like the main character Yu does. On a break from being a celebrity, Rise has a strong personality and is one of the emotional cores of the group. She is also the assistant for the team, acting as the supporter for them while they are in battles.
And last but not least, there is Naoto Shirogane. The final member to join the group is shrouded in mystery as a genius kid detective who is investigating what is happening in the town of Inaba.
The story in Persona 4 begins with the player’s character moving to the town of Inaba to live with his uncle and cousin for a year. From there, the player is introduced to some of the classmates and begins to investigate the Midnight Channel and TV World.
Mysterious happenings are going on in the small town of Inaba, leading to a serial case of murders. On foggy mornings, people are being found dead hanging from TV antennas in the streets of the town, leading to confusion, concern, and panic with no end to the murders in sight.
It is believed that the Midnight Channel has some connection to the murders that are happening in Inaba, which led to the creation of the Investigation Team.
It is up to the high school students to discover the secrets of the mysterious world and find out who or what is really behind the murders in the town. At the same time, it is important to find out why certain people appear on the Midnight Channel and what their connections have to the TV World.
Persona 4 follows in the footsteps of Persona 3 by carrying over much of the same gameplay systems as that title, but with some minor improvements and changes throughout. Persona 4 is a turn-based JRPG with a heavy focus on collecting monsters, or in this case, Personas.
That said, the general gameplay of the title is divided into multiple different areas that actually make up what the player will be doing most of the time. Many days of the week, the player will go to school and engage in the normal, everyday lifestyle of a high school student.
You will go to class, hang out with friends, answer questions that the teachers give you, and build relationships with the main characters through the Social Links system. The main story is presented in a text-based format with some voice acting, employing an almost visual novel-like quality to it.
Outside of school, players will have the opportunity to decide how they want to spend their free time, be it training in combat, working part-time jobs to earn money, buying items, raising their stats, or spending more time with friends.
Press Turn System
It is when the player actually goes into the TV World that the gameplay changes from the slice-of-life features to the more combat-focused dungeon-crawling experience. In the TV World, players will explore dungeons, encounter shadows, and look for items.
Whenever the player comes into contact with a shadow, the turn-based battles will begin. Here, the player has the chance to select what abilities they have to use in battle. It can range from the elemental attacks that a Persona wields to simple melee attacks or using items for recovery and the like.
Players will have up to three other party members accompanying Yu in battle, and, together, they will attempt to defeat the enemy. Everyone takes turns using their abilities until one side is defeated in combat. It is a strategic and thoughtful system where players can take their time to plan out attacks.
The goal in the battle is to try to gain more turns through a similar system to the Press Turn combat system in the SMT games. How it works is that if you use an ability that an enemy is weak to (and vice versa), you will be able to gain an extra turn, which can turn the tides of the battle.
How to Collect More Persona
Persona 4 continues the trend of removing the negotiation aspect of the Shin Megami Tensei series (that would return later on down the line), making it a bit harder for players to gain more Persona. In many ways, gaining a new Persona is something that has a lot to do with RNG (random number generator) or, well, luck.
How it works is that after defeating a shadow in battle, you will have Shuffle Time, which will ultimately determine whether or not one of the shadows that you defeated will join your team. This is, of course, assuming that you have an open spot left in your limited team slots for a new member.
This is the most basic way of earning a new Persona in Persona 4. However, it can go beyond just this as well. The most controllable method of getting a new Persona is by using the fusion system. By sacrificing two or more Persona that you already own, you will be able to create a new one.
This is how you are able to earn new Persona to use in battle with higher possible levels and more skills at their disposal. It is also how you can get some of the fusion-exclusive and rare Personas around.
This is a more surefire way of getting a new Persona since you have the Compendium involved. What the Compendium is, is a collection of all Persona in the game. If you have ever collected one of them, you can resummon it in exchange for money in order to use it for fusion again and the like.
What some will find is that the Persona series does not end with just the video game versions alone. Atlus has shown in the past that they really like anime adaptations of their series, starting with Persona 3, and this continued with Persona 4 in not just one but two different adaptations.
The first of these was the release of the original anime that followed the events of the first version of Persona 4 that came out on PS2. This would run for more than 20 episodes, telling the story of the main events in the game while paying homage to some of the side content as well.
It was produced by A-1 Pictures, and it contained both a Japanese voiceover version as well as an English one with many of the returning actors from the video game itself, including some of the most renowned voice actors in the industry.
However, it did not end with just this version alone. With the release of Persona 4 Golden, an adaptation of the new content in that version came out, giving us the anime’s look at the new character Marie and some of the events that happened in that game.
Unfortunately, this version was never dubbed with English voiceovers, so players who are interested in checking out this version of Persona 4 will have to deal with the English subtitles instead. And it does not seem like there will be an English dub of this second anime series in the future, either.
Sequels and Spin-offs
Furthermore, anime was not the only genre that Persona 4 dove into after its initial game. There are some sequels and spin-offs that have come out since the original game that have expanded the storyline and gameplay into new and different territories.
The first spin-off game was Persona 4 Arena, which was considered a direct follow-up to the plot of the original game. It traded the turn-based JRPG battles for 2D fighting arenas in which the characters had a more action-based experience with Persona 3 heroes thrown in the mix.
That said, it did not shy away from telling its own lengthy story, with visual novel segments breaking up the individual fights themselves. It was not long before it received its own sequel in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax that continued the story from that game and concluded it.
What is interesting is that, while Persona 4 Golden is only available for PC in modern-day systems, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is coming to current consoles and PC in the near future. It will bring the entire fighting game spin-off sub-series to the modern age for new players to experience for the very first time.
The spin-off Persona 4 games did not stop there, either, as we then received Persona 4 Dancing All Night, which was a rhythm-based story-driven experience. Also considered a sequel of sorts to the original Persona 4, this only centered around the characters of 4, and that was it.
And if that was not enough, either, players were then given the Persona Q games on the Nintendo 3DS. This took the series back to its roots with a first-person dungeon-crawling adventure that featured the casts of Persona 4 and 3 joining together once more for an interesting mission.
It would then be followed up by a sequel of its own on the 3DS that would see Persona 4 characters join together with 3 and 5’s main cast.
Question: What is So Great about Persona 4?
Answer: This is going to be a question that is highly subjective and will, in the end, come down to your personal take. For me, I can give you a quick review of Persona 4 to let you know my thoughts on this great game.
In my opinion, Persona 4 is the weakest of the latter trilogy of Persona titles (3, 4, and 5), but that does not at all mean that it is a bad game. In fact, it is a great game that just so happens to be slightly below two amazing and masterful JRPG experiences.
What makes Persona 4, in particular, so great is that it contains the classic turn-based battle system from previous games, but it did include some fluid changes to make it more appealing and faster than Persona 3.
At the same time, it has an aesthetic and style that almost gives off a 1980s vibe to it, even though the game is set more than 20 years after that period of time. Persona 4 is also one of the most story-driven games in the series, with the serial murders case taking up the breadth of the adventure in a gripping way.
We also get to see this through the eyes of the main cast of characters that is, albeit, a bit smaller than previous games, but it allows them to all shine in their own ways.
This is helped through some improvements to the social links system and other everyday mechanics, like working a job, that help to elevate this game into the upper echelons of JRPG titles to ever release.
Question: Is Persona 4 a Good Anime?
Answer: This is a tough one. I have watched the anime and did so after playing the game, but there are some issues with the anime that make it difficult to suggest unless you already beat the game. I thought it would be a good watch for a family member who might not play the game but want to enjoy the story, but that was not the case.
The animation is a bit lackluster most of the time, even with the newer Golden version, and the English dubbing is still unavailable for the superior Persona 4 Golden anime version. Both are a shame because, while I and many others prefer the English subtitles for most anime, the returning voice actors from the game were great in the anime.
It does not help, either, that you miss out on the fantastic turn-based battle system and other elements that are in the games. While I’m normally more partial to anime, this is one place where I would not consider the Persona 4 anime good. However, it is a decent watch for players who have beaten the game.
Question: Is Persona 4 Still Good?
Answer: I would say that absolutely, yes, Persona 4 is still good to this day. I, personally, played it a little over six years since its initial release using the much better Persona 4 Golden version on the PlayStation Vita.
That is where I recommend playing it if you can, as I believe that it still holds up today. The gameplay and turn-based battles can feel a little slow in this modern time, and the characters look like toys, but the aesthetic and hook of the game are just as impressive as when it was first released.
What is worth noting, though, is that while Persona 5 is probably the best game in the series to start out with as a beginner, it is going to be somewhat difficult to go back to Persona 4 after playing that game. It will feel much slower and less intuitive, so it might be best to play these games in order if you can.
Question: Is Persona 4 a Horror Game?
Answer: Not at all, but there are some horror-ish elements to Persona 4. Coming from the Shin Megami Tensei series that is quite dark and all about demons ending the world, there are some minor creepy elements in the form of the Personas themselves.
That said, outside of the shadows and Personas, there is little in the way of this game that is horror. Even the serial murders storyline is not too dark that it makes this game lose its more comedic feel.
In fact, I would say out of Persona 3-5; this is the least dark and horror-like of the bunch. In this way, there should be no problem for players who do not like scary games.
Question: Are Persona 4 and 5 in the Same Universe?
Answer: The answer is yes, Persona 4 and 5 are in the same universe. They are in chronological order, with several years of time separating the various games from one another. That said, there are elements of each that are shown in their respective games, including the main characters.
For instance, Rise is one of the main party members in the group in Persona 4 as an idol taking a break from performing. In Persona 5, which takes place several years later, it is shown that Rise is back to performing with a poster of her shown throughout the train stations in Tokyo.
It does not stop there, either, as Persona 3 is also in the same universe as those two games. In fact, Yukiko, another main character from Persona 4, makes an appearance in Persona 3 Portable on PSP, where her younger self is shown briefly years before she would become a hero in her own game.
Then there are the aforementioned spin-off titles that include the casts from all three games or a mix of them joining together onscreen, including Persona 4 Arena and its sequel Ultimax, the two Persona Q games on Nintendo 3DS, and more.
The Persona 4 overview guide was only able to cover the surface-level details of the various parts and mechanics of the fourth main entry in the series. As such, it is only meant to be a gateway into this particular game. If you want to know more about the Persona series beyond this title, though, we’ve got you covered.
We highly recommend checking out one of our other guides, too, such as the one that we created going over the Persona 3 Evoker item. If you have never played Persona 3, it is a great game to start with or even pick up after playing Persona 4, as both games were originally released on the PS2 and later on handheld systems.
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