Unique title back to the four; MAKE PALS FOR TOUGH BATTLES.
LAST year's Persona 3 successfully blended dungeon crawling and light-hearted social activities to create one of 2008's most unique titles.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 continues the imaginative twists of its predecessor, but manages to streamline the experience, making it more accessible than before.
Sent to live in Inaba in rural Japan with your uncle for a year, the peace and tranquillity of small town life is shattered by a series of brutal murders.
Along with your friends, the plot thickens as it becomes clear the murders are connected to a mysterious TV show called the Midnight Channel, which you get drawn into in an effort to solve the killings.
Like its predecessor, Persona 4 splits the day into segments.You'll attend school during the day and hang out with your friends in the evenings.
At night, you explore dungeons, taking part in turn-based brawls with the aid of your Personas - powerful mythical creatures which help you in battle.
What elevates Persona 4 over last year's title is the experience is now much more focused.
Gone are the endless treks through one massive dungeon, with the action now split into more manageable bite-sized chunks. This keeps the flow of the game intact and makes it more fun.
Of course what sets the series apart from other RPGs is the social aspect. Rather than being a mere aside to the main thrust of the game, spending time socialising with pals is integral to the whole experience.
By choosing to spend time with classmates, your Social Links grow. This increases the effectiveness of your Personas in battle, so it really is worthwhile getting to know your schoolmates.
While Persona 4 is an excellent title, it takes almost three hours to really kick in.
Up until that point, you are prompted to progress the story with occasional button presses.
You'll also be introduced to the game's combat mechanics at this point, but there's not much interaction. This stop/start aspect might put people off, but it's worth persevering.
The game might be running on the creaking PS2, but Persona 4's visuals still impress.
The town of Inuba is well realised and atmospheric, especially in the pouring rain, and while character animation looks a bit stiff, the enemies and Personas remain a visual treat.
The soundtrack is as good as Persona 3 with summery J-Pop, rock, and jazz fusion beats blended together to create something special.
Gamers who love the series will enjoy this latest chapter, while those who missed last year's epic will have a great time discovering Persona's unique take on adventuring.
WAITING GAME: Persona 4 takes a while to get going but is worth the effort