Don’t miss our review of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth for 3DS!
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a perfect example of a video-game smoothie. It takes elements of 3 different video games and blends them together to make a surprisingly enjoyable treat for fans of the Persona series.
Published and developed by Atlus, Persona Q for the 3DS throws the characters from Persona 3 and 4 into a dungeon-crawling, map-drawing JRPG similar to yet another Atlus title, Etrian Odyssey. This blend of quirky characters, story, and hardcore RPG gameplay makes for an interesting experience. Sadly, if you’ve never played Persona 3 or Persona 4 this game is probably not for you.
At the beginning of the game, players are given the choice of experiencing the story as either the Persona 3 team or the Persona 4 team. This choice affects who your leader is throughout the game and changes some story elements, but the overall story remains the same. Your chosen group is transported to a magical, alternate-reality world in which they must navigate mysterious labyrinths to find the source of the trouble. This already places new players at a disadvantage because the story assumes you already know the characters.
If, however, you are familiar with the previous games, the character interactions in Persona Q provide a lot of funny moments. In-jokes from both series are brought up and bring out laughs. The game even takes shots at the fact that some of the characters from either series have the same voice actors. If you’re a fan of the games, the interactions are totally enjoyable.
As for gameplay, the game is a departure from traditional Persona-style elements. Instead of exploring an open dungeon in third-person, the game adopts a first person view for players to navigate a maze-like labyrinth. The labyrinth, sadly, is not randomly-generated and the layout will be the same each time, but the initial exploration of each floor can take quite a long time.
Borrowing from the Etrian Odyssey series, players must use the bottom screen to draw out the map of the dungeon as they go. While this may seem tedious, the game does do some things automatically. Walls within your field of view are highlighted so you can trace them, floors are automatically added, and stationary enemies are added. This leaves the player with the duty of customizing the map with the notes and markings of their choosing.
But, outside of drawing, the game also possesses a deep combat system.
Battles are the typical JRPG-style random encounters on the map. Fights are turn based, but they take a lot of elements from the Persona series and successfully introduce them into the simple combat. Knowing a foe’s elemental weakness is a huge part of the game as critical hits award players with stunned enemies and the chance to act first in the next round. Having a well-rounded party with plenty of coverage is the key and the game makes it fun and easy to do so.
Each character comes equipped with their own personal persona that levels up and grants them skills based on certain attributes. However, players can be further customized by equipping sub-personas, which are all of the mythological creature companions from previous persona games. This is no longer limited to the main character of each game and now all characters within a party can equip a secondary persona.
Sub-personas can be found after battles and can be leveled-up to learn new abilities. In addition, they can be fused together to make new, more powerful personas for your characters to use. During the fusion process you can select abilities from the material personas to give to the new one, allowing you to further customize the skills of your characters.
Finally, the last addition to the JRPG formula is a navigator character. This character provides commentary and assistance to your team while they are in the dungeon and they, too, can equip a sub-persona. This sub-persona grants them new “leader skills” that can be used inside a battle or work passively outside of battle to enhance your party. Leader skills work on a special meter that builds up through attacking and are always activated as the first action in a turn, making them great trump cards.
All in all, the game is a very fun dungeon-crawling RPG. The combat is solid, fun, and creative. Fusing personas to make your perfect dungeon-diving team is intriguing and deep. Drawing out the map and making it your own is also fun, too.
However, if you’re not a fan of the persona series, the story and characters will be too unfamiliar to you to be enjoyable. Play this game only if you’ve played at least Persona 3 or 4. Non-fans of the source material are left out in the cold.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth dungeon-crawls to a 7/10.
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