Persona Q is a first-person dungeon-crawler RPG, developed and published by Atlus. Featuring characters from Persona 3 and 4, and gameplay elements from the Etrian Odyssey series, it’s a crossover in every sense of the word. Being a huge fan of the Persona series and old-school dungeon-crawlers alike, I had a whole lot of hope that this one was going to be good. Thankfully, I can say with confidence that Persona Q surpassed my expectations.
Only a few moments into the experience, the game presents you with a difficult decision. Do you play as the SEES gang from Persona 3, or the investigation team from Persona 4? I lingered at this screen for some time, weighing the pros and cons of each. It felt a bit like choosing who my favorite child was, but I eventually decided on the former of the two. Mercifully, the decision doesn’t matter as much as I imagined it would, so try not to sweat it too much.
Next, the game brings up the screen in which you name your main characters, from 3 and 4 respectively. Curiously, there weren’t enough letter spaces to spell, “Yu Narukami”, which is pretty strange, since that name is canonically associated with him. A minor gripe, admittedly, but still an odd decision from a design standpoint.
The game begins slightly differently depending on which team you chose, but ultimately ends up in the same place, Yasogami High, where a cultural festival is being held. During the festivities, a strange bell rings, trapping the two teams inside the school. Shortly after, they meet up with newcomers to the Persona series, Zen and Rei, who show them that there is a hidden labyrinth beneath the school. Conveniently enough, for plot purposes the two have amnesia. The characters decide to fight their way through the labyrinth, believing that restoring their new allies’ memories will lead to a way out of the school. That’s the gist of the narrative, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. I personally had trouble putting the game down, since I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. It’s not a short game by any stretch of the imagination, either.
Persona Q‘s gameplay is incredibly similar to that of Etrian Odyssey, another game series from Atlus. The game requires you to painstakingly maintain your map, using the 3DS’s touchscreen to draw in where walls are, place icons depicting various landmarks, and many other things. In my opinion, this is an enjoyable feature, as the game tends to reward you early and often for taking good care of your map. However, I can see some people being turned off by the somewhat hardcore nature of a feature like this, preferring to simply have the game handle it for them.
In the high school, the characters can access the Velvet Room to swap out personas, heal themselves, and shop at the bazaar, in which you sell materials you find during your travels to unlock new weapons and armor. You are also able to swap out your party members, although I opted to use the same party for a majority of the game. It would have been nice if the unused members of your group levelled with the party you actually used, so it would be more feasible to swap characters out. Still, if you’re playing Persona Q, you probably already know what characters you’re going to be using in your group.
In the labyrinth, you explore in a first-person perspective, a color-coded danger bar indicating how likely you are to encounter an enemy as you walk along. Littered throughout the multi-tiered maze are secrets, shortcuts, and treasures, all things that a player not managing their map effectively could miss. The battles play out in typical Persona fashion—the style of which happens to lend itself extremely well to a dungeon-crawling experience, much to my delight.
Occasionally, the player will cross paths with a Field On Enemy-Type, or F.O.E for short. These are basically mini-bosses that the player can physically see while roaming around the labyrinth. If you’re careful, you can avoid them, circumventing a fight entirely. This is often a wise course of action, as the F.O.Es can be quite difficult. In fact, the game as a whole is pretty hard, requiring a decent amount of strategic thinking to conquer. I appreciate the challenge, but if you’re interested in the game solely for the story, there is no shame in playing on Easy. (Really. I won’t judge!)
The sound design in Persona Q is great, much like the other games in the series. The music is catchy, the sound cues and effects are satisfying, and the English voice acting is great. Talents such as Tara Platt, and Yuri Lowenthal reprise their roles, bringing a great sense of continuity to the game. As far as I’m aware, the only characters to switch voice actors from Persona 3 onward were Chie, Margaret, Naoto, and Teddie.
Graphically, Persona Q is quite easy on the eyes. The models for the characters are highly stylized and cute, and the environments are richly detailed and fun to look at. Monster designs are as bizarre as ever, ranging from giant striped orbs with lips and tongues to a dining room table with a head and some very dangerous cutlery. Additionally, the interface is stylish and fun, vibrant colors and shapes livening up the various menus.
So, what’s there to say to Persona Q‘s demerit? Well, not much. The game manages to marry Persona 3, 4, and Etrian Odyssey together so well, you’d think that their polyamorous love triangle was written in the stars. I enjoyed this game more than I thought I would, and I had fairly high expectations going in. If you have a 3DS, and you like RPGs, you should buy Persona Q. If you’ve played any previous Persona games and liked them, buying Persona Q should be a no-brainer. If you hate RPGs, and by extension fun itself, I’m not sure why you’re even reading this.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth was reviewed using a code provided by Atlus USA. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.