Review – Persona Q : Shadow of the Labyrinth

By: Reader Submissions

6th December 2014

By Caitlin Garden

To anyone who is unfamiliar with the series, Persona focuses heavily on matters to do with the psyche. It features a large cast of characters, fighting against creatures known as ‘Shadows’ with their ‘Persona’. A Persona is a manifestation of a character’s personality that can be summoned in combat, boasting elements and attacks connected to the controller. It features a rather unique combat system, juggling both ‘magic’ and ‘weaponry’ combat with dungeon crawling mechanics. There was also the added appeal of the Social Link System, which allowed you to have more character interaction with your allies and is a way to boost their stats in battle. After completing Persona 4 Golden several times on my PS Vita I was hungering for the next instalment to the series. It seemed that I would have to wait until next year as Persona 5 was not due for release until 2015. However, the release of the side game Persona Q : Shadow of the Labyrinth gives me something to snack on until then.

781427306992156306Persona Q is unique in that the story’s characters involve both the cast of Persona 3 and 4. The player can decide which team they want to start their story with, though each side begins almost the same. Upon hearing the ringing of a strange bell, our characters find themselves in The Velvet Room, where previous protagonists find themselves when needing to create Personas to use. They have been dragged into a strange dream like world that mimics the festival of Yasogami High School, but scattered around are strange labyrinths filled with Shadows (but no David Bowie sadly). There are no leads as to what has caused this phenomenon other than a mysterious clock tower and the arrival of the new characters Rei and Zen. The duo has lost their memories of their life before the labyrinth and joins our colourful cast in trying to unravel the reason for these odd events.

It’s great to see familiar faces in a fresh new game, especially as most of this game is voice acted as well. It shows that a lot of time and effort has gone into a game as several times I have witnessed 3DS titles just slapping in some text and not even bothering with any voiced scenes in their games. The new characters Rei and Zen have their own little quirks that are rather cute in a way; Zen is the usually silent broody guardian while Rei is the bright but sometimes scared girl clutching his hand.

Upon discovering that the game was a 3DS exclusive I was very confused. No other Persona games were released on Nintendo consoles and I was curious to discover why ATLUS had made this decision. By the time I had reached the first dungeon though I realised that this game was breaking the classic Persona formula in a few ways. First of all, you are required to draw your own map of the dungeons, which is probably why this game was intended for 3DS.

Persona-Q_12-02Another change we see comes with the combat.  Instead of having a party of four surrounding your enemy, you have a front and back row that can consist of five characters. Certain members of your party are better suited to either the front or back row. For instance, Naoto Shirogane is works well in the back row because her main weapon is a pistol but Chie Satonaka attacks with kicks so suits the front row of the team formation. Most of the enemies are former foes from both games, so players of the previous titles can be comfortable in knowing most of these monster’s weaknesses. However despite the ability of being able to set the difficulty before starting the game, those initial few battles will seem quite hard. Your party starts at a low level and in many of your first encounters you will be bombarded by several enemies at once. While this is the norm for most RPGs, one mechanic which I found to be a hindrance was how you heal your party after an excursion into the titular labyrinths. You are required to pay for being healed, which will cost a pretty penny in the beginning of your game when you don’t have a lot of money and very little to sell. Having to pay for restoring the health of your party does seem like a cheap shot to make, especially as the cost heightens if members of your team are ‘fainted’. You will want to scavenge every item you can find while you can in order to make some kind of profit over your looming health bill.

While it is exciting to experience a new Persona game, it isn’t exactly the one I was expecting. The story and characters are certainly enjoyable, and while it doesn’t take very long to get used to the new combat system, I do prefer the style of previous titles in the series. It does show that ATLUS are willing to experiment on their renowned RPG formula, though I feel that this time they may have changed too much. This is fine for one spinoff of course and if you enter this game as a Persona fan then treat it with a pinch of salt.

One can only hope that this new style doesn’t find its way into Persona 5.