Thoughts on Design: Persona 4: The Golden's Battle System

Since the release of Persona 4 the Golden, I have been playing it quite a bit. These games are rather difficult, but this is what makes the game fun. The difficulty comes from not knowing the weaknesses of enemies and the lack of knowledge for them makes the game that much more difficult. The battle system relies on 7 (physical, fire, ice, wind, electricity, light and dark) attributes that could either be a strength or weakness for the player and the enemy; if the weakness is exploiting it knocks the down making them vulnerable and giving the player/enemy an extra turn. If all the enemies are knocked down, the player can do an all-out attack, having the entire party attack the enemies at once. Sounds easy enough right? Well it can be, but it will mostly be the opposite.

Just a normal battle scene with a bad ass samurai

Not all the enemies have weaknesses, so adapting to the situation is imperative; only the main character can switch around his strengths, weaknesses, and stats (excluding HP/SP) due to persona switching. This requires the player to plan each turn in a difficult battle. Since every other party member has static stats, determining when to have them defend to prevent getting knocked down or attacking could be the difference between winning and losing. This even makes regular battles extremely dangerous; if your party even has a single weakness the enemy can exploit, you have a high risk of losing a party member or two costing precious resources and time. To add even more difficulty, if the main character dies, the game is over. So most of the time it is wise to heal the main character over everyone else.

This is how different the Persona/Shin Megami Tensei series is. Regular battles in many other JRPG games are usually just spam the attack button until the foes fall and the real intimidating battles are the bosses. This is why I find the Shin Megami Tensei series to be well designed; there is difficulty even within the normal enemies. This keeps the players on their toes at all times and require a plan through certain floors making sure they have the resources to prevent getting exploited.

Be ready to have your asses beat!

Spells that each persona has drains one of the two important stats: Hit Points (HP) and Special Points (SP). Physical attacks drain HP, spells and support spells drain SP. RPGs tend to have all spells and abilities drain the same parameter, but in the SMT series physical attacks (not basic attacks) require HP to use, so spamming the abilities tends to be extremely foolish since it will make your characters that much easier to kill.

The Final Fantasy series has a weakness system as well and I believe the player characters have none whatsoever. Knowing these deficiencies in this series is not as imperative since it does not influence the battle as much as one would think (sure, it would provide an edge, but most of the time it isn't the difference between life or death). The changes with the Final Fantasy XIII battle system follows the SMT series somewhat, being able to stun an enemy for an extended period of time, however, this doesn't follow the older iterations.

The before mentioned all out attacks may seem like the best way to dispatch enemies, but some of them are resistant to it so it can be a wasted extra turn. Even if the enemy does not have a resistance to it, it is not always wise to do it especially if your party is rather unhealthy. The only exception would be if it will surely kill all of the foes.

All Out attacks can be very an essential part of fighting normal enemies.

I think this is the direction JRPGs should be heading. Having a game system that provides difficulty at all times, so the game doesn't become a mindless button mashing to hit the attack button. I have played far too many games that end up this way, and it is quite disappointing.


Mr. Big Shot


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