The collaboration of two very different franchises brings about some fairly remarkable results of what a crossover can be. Although, there are a few shortcomings associated with both parties that doesn’t represent either effectively.
Title: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
Genre: RPG, Dungeon Crawler
Length: 60-75 hrs
Whether it is for fan-service or desired goodwill, collaborations and crossovers in any fandom isn’t anything new and if the two meld together well – the results can be surprising. With many joint efforts becoming more frequent, there should be no shock that Atlus decided to bring characters from the Persona 3 and 4 franchise into close quarters to only be mixed with the dungeon crawling mechanics of Etrian Odyssey. Not an odd choice or questionable choice considering the fanfare that exist around the two (Persona more than the latter) – although when you get down to it and remove the rose-colored glasses, the amalgamation compliments one another as it does magnify some of the imperfections you get from this homogeneous mixture.
On the surface, it is hard to call Shadow of the Labyrinth anything sort of fan-service in truest sense of the word as it becomes a persona user meet-and-greet rife with: in-jokes, weird hijinks, and the occasional interactions dreams are made of. Jovial banter aside, the general plot threads the two teams trapped in another dimension and along the way, find Rei and Zen – a duo of new characters that have no recollection of their past, but wish to escape the same proverbial Groundhog Day the other characters are in – thus along for the ride. However, before any of this happens you get chance to choose either the Persona 3 or 4 character’s journey and whomever you don’t will join up after awhile. Despite the perfunctory story being the same with the only other differences being purely cosmetic like perspective, you most likely won’t be in a rush to play as the other choice since the main game can easily take up 70+ hours to complete, including making a detailed map as well as request completion. Although, merger map making works just as well and shaves a bit of that to 55+ hours, if you are feeling lucky.
Like Etrian Odyssey, you roam dungeons in 1st person looking feverishly for a way to delve deeper whilst mapping points of interest on the way. This probably one of the areas where the two series hit a happy medium of being represent or at least representative of Etrian Odyssey with the only new addition to both being various puzzles. Frankly, the puzzles are not all that challenging or difficulty enough to make you dig up some FAQ (if you incorrectly solve them multiple times the characters will tell what you need to do), so besides adding to the laborious playtime, “annoyance” would be better term, especially going into later dungeons that span beyond 4 levels. Trust me, getting lost even with a decent map is easy enough with all the shortcuts and elongated corridors. That being said, everything else should be quite familiar to long-term enthusiast (and newcomers albeit a learning curve) of the Etrian Odyssey with areas populated with hidden events (usually triggering request or other diversions), gathering spots containing material for gaining new equipment, and the iconic FOE – tough enemies that roam the field and meant to be avoided until you can beat them. If your able (and willing) to trudge through each level and fill up your map 100%, you are able to open a special lock chest on each floor that contains rewards you could not normally get like skills cards that will teach your Persona new abilities in skill slots specially made for them. You can also use 3DS play coins to circumvent this, but prepared to walk around since it usually amounts to a sizable sum depending on how much of the area you have explored. And of course, there are plenty of random battles that will come your way.
Combat also functions closely to Etrian Odyssey, however with a few tweaks taken from the Persona brand. Like before, battles are turn-based as you issue commands to your six member party crew at once and watch the action unfold. With enemies having different weakness toward physical and elemental attacks, if you take advantage of that, you will be put into a “Boosted” state, meaning that the next time you issue skill commands the SP or HP cost assoicated will be set to “0” allowing to use the attack for one turn without paying the piper. You can actually do this endless if you manage to find the enemy’s weakness, yet if you are attacked before your turn comes up you automatically lose the boosted state until you score a critical hit or hit the enemy weakness again. Ideally, the system works as it should – although, it functions too well – squelching the fun from the dungeon crawler experience of working with what you been given. Instead, it is just a tedious and boring exercise of “exploit and repeat” and does not help the fact that you can often run into the same enemy formation about a dozen times before some new enemies you have not faced appear. Regardless, after battle you gain experience, the aforementioned material, and if your lucky, the chance to receive a persona that you can use in battle or fuse in the Velvet Room.
When you are done or need to take a break from dungeon expeditions there are a few things to do in the hub world such as: visit the Workshop to sell material to create new items and purchase them, the Nurse’s office to replenish HP/SP for a fee and request, or the Velvet Room to fuse and create new Persona, and change your party formation. Unlike the previous entries where only the protagonist could have multiple Persona, this time, everybody can have two: The Main that never changes and a Sub that can literal be anything and switched as you see fit. So while you can give Yukiko ice and electric skills on a sub in addition to the fire on her main or Akihiko a wealth of physical based attacks and debuffs – the sub persona also augments the overall HP/SP pool the characters have at their disposal. The only shortcoming to this is that the sub persona can’t directly cover your characters weakness, meaning that unless you have a resist/wall skill equipped the Persona does not have that naturally integrated into their predetermined nature like the main. The main Persona aren’t perfect either, their skills greatly reduced compared to their parent titles: Chie cannot learn ice spells naturally nor can Yukiko learn Media, a valuable healing spell key for early on the game – instead most of these can be remedied by skill cards received from the 100% map exploration chest or the aforementioned request from the Nurse’s office. The request are not that hard and usually come in two flavors: timed (usually meaning do not complete that dungeon till you do it) and standard ones with no time limit. Objectives are also simple ranging from defeat “XXX” or speak to “insert name”. The only problem here is that most request come from hidden events in dungeons and usually require you to drop what you are doing and finish them. You can keep pushing on until you are ready, yet since you can only reenter dungeons from the 1st or furthermost floor you visited and your quest might be the 3rd floor you passed on that winding corridor – it is in your best interest just do the quest then – leaving the labyrinth, going to Nurse, and finding out what needs to be done. Often or not, most are just simple where you do not have to do much other than see a tiny event, which will get every character a set amount of experience and whatever reward the quest had outlined.
The only thing to break up the monotony of dungeon crawling is the stroll feature that allows you see short vignettes between various characters of the series being their usual selves or often talking about things you may or may not know about them. It is sort of enjoyable to see two characters from different series interact with each other, but I think that the interactions that happen in the dungeons handle that fine enough and this is just extra. If you never played a Persona title and want to, character interacts and general story do drop small hints of stuff that happen, but overall will not spoil it for you. The chibi artwork might be off-putting to some people – although, compared to much of the other designs in the labyrinth and shadow encounters, actually works in the vein of the Etrian Odyssey style. The music is also just as good: Shoji Meguro still bringing his j-pop/rap/rock infused battle tracks and upbeat jazz-equse mood tunes during the hub world. The exploration themes are also very good done by Yuzo Koshiro and change in variation each time a floor is cleared – albeit, they largely sound the same.
So, what is the verdict? Is Persona Q an “okay” game? Yes, it actually brings the two titles together lovingly along with some of the best iconic features taken from each. However, where does a lot right – it is a very dense experience: one that most likely will only appeal to fans in the first place rather than a broad demographic. No matter how you slice it: Persona with an slightly modified Etrian Odyssey skin is what it is. After spending the better part of a week chipping away just to finish, that is exactly what I received – still far too difficult to recommend to anyone other than fans of the duo. Everyone is welcome to it – whether you will devote the time to finishing it is a question all its own.
Pros: robust mapping system, accommodating difficulty levels, large cast of playable characters, sub-persona system is interesting.
Cons: copious amounts of grinding required, dungeon layouts can make exploration tedious, most characters hardly differ in combat, weak storyline
- DLC Content is available for this game in which you get sub-persona for a nominal price. There are some free – yet, do not need to worry about them either way. You can also purchase different voice packs, so instead of Fuka or Rise chiming in to advise you Nanako, Marie, and others can be used, if you care about that sort of thing.