Parents' Guide to

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

By Harold Goldberg, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

A fascinating, but dark mature RPG full of horror & sadness.

Game PlayStation 2 2008
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 16+

age 13+

Prepare for a LOOONG Review That Explains This Masterpiece in Detail

The site's review makes the game sound far worse than it actually is in terms of mature content. Granted, there IS in fact mature content in this game, but that's kind of a given once you notice the Mature rating on the box. First of all, this site COMPLETELY skipped the positives of this game. There was a 0 rating in terms of good morals? REALLY?! I went into this game as an antisocial person in search of a pastime. After 70+ hours of playing through its story, I came to realize several things about myself and about others: While at times in our real world other people may seem like they're out for all the wrong reasons, especially in the mindset of someone like me who distrusts people in general, there are more people who understand and are like you than you realize, they CAN and most likely WILL help you through your ordeals, there IS good inside even the meanest of people, and everyone needs help sometimes getting over their own faults. Everyone has things inside that they don't want to admit to themselves, but as the game shows, holding these dark feelings inside is harmful if you don't seek some form of acceptance, from yourself or from others. Persona 4 teaches you to be true to yourself and others and to never be ashamed of who you are, and it also teaches a great deal about the value of friendship, through its constant motto: "Bonds are the power of people", which is even emphasized by its integration into the gameplay itself. While some characters may seem like negative role models, most of them are redeemed in the end through realizing and accepting their faults, thus causing them to change for the better. That being said, the iffy parts come next I suppose, since I assume that's what this review is for. Swearing is definitely a part of this game, but it's not really that bad, depending on your personal attitude towards curse words. No "f bombs" are ever dropped, and the language stops at the "s-word". The violence is minimal and the site's review really over-imagines it in my opinion. It is an anime-styled game, and while some anime can be violent Persona 4's fighting is more cartoon-like than anything. The most "realistic" violence you'll really see are people swinging swords or using guns, but the result is never gory and these actions are mostly aimed towards the monsters that inhabit the game's TV world, with the exception of the climactic battle against the killer, who is injured in the fight but DOES NOT bleed or die afterwards, instead going to prison. Really, that battle plays out like a Spider-man comic: Heroes find bad guy, have a spar with him, he is defeated and sent to jail. End of story. The only instance of blood in this game I can think of is when one character gets a nosebleed, but that is a comic relief scene and is not violent in any way. Drinking as portrayed in this game is viewed in a neutral light. Your in-game uncle is a drinker and a smoker but he is not abusive and in fact loves his daughter; however, he is too caught up in work to spend enough time with her, which sometimes causes arguments, though it is resolved happily in the end. And the infamous "King's Game" scene does NOT in fact feature underage drinking. The game explains this very clearly when one character notes that the establishment does not even serve alcohol. As for sexual references, they are definitely there, but in a game set in a high school what did you expect? There is no explicit nudity, though admittedly some female Personas are partially nude, but again nothing graphic is ever seen. The female cast is for the most part heroic and likable and is totally equal to the male cast, and there is little in terms of what you'd call "fanservice" except for certain events played for comic relief. The game deals with issues like homosexuality but it's largely subjective. The character dealing with that issue is not actually homosexual but was in reality struggling with what it means to himself to "be a man". The game's third dungeon is modeled after a strip club but there is no nudity, and the reason for the design is because of the insecurity in the heart of the character the place was born from. She is unsure of who she is as a person, which is made worse by the fact that she is a celebrity with multiple proverbial masks she dons for the public, and as such she feels she is letting the world treat her like an object instead of a person. There are other instances but they are mild, played for comic relief, and certainly not explicit. Finally, the only other thing I think parents should be aware of that absolutely none of the other reviews cover is some of the religious references. The Personas themselves are based on figures from popular mythologies the world over, and these include but are not limited to Ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, Japanese, Muslim and Christian. These range from angels and archangels from the Bible to demons from the same book, as well as good and evil divine figures from the other religions mentioned, each with their own blurb in the "Persona Compendium". None of these are portrayed as superior or inferior to others except in terms of level but again, it's an RPG. They are meant to balance each other out, and while the Personas you use don't have an effect on the outcome of the story the mythology is worth mentioning. To conclude this galumphing novel of a review, I say that what you think is appropriate for your kids is up to you, but I think most kids 14 and older should be okay with it. Most movies we have today are WAAAY worse than this game in terms of violence, swearing and sex. If your kids play Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, then you should have no problem with this one, and to those who are still on the fence about it there is plenty of gameplay footage of this game on YouTube. Check it out if it strikes your fancy.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9 ):
Kids say (19 ):

From the get-go, you'll be privy to mature sexual themes like love triangles, a foul-mouthed school teacher, and references to drinking and smoking. Yet this is no over-the-top Grand Theft Auto IV. All the references just make the game more intriguingly real, not satirically hyperreal. If you're used to an action game, the nature of this RPG is slower. But the curious will be rewarded with some scares along with a deep storyline and well-rounded characters who run the gamut of personalities.

The odd, nightmarish dream world may be too much for some with its long-tongued creatures and bears who have nothing inside their bodies. Though the weakest part of Persona 4 is the artwork, the anime style keeps it from being too frightening. The turn-based fighting can get a somewhat dull at times if you're not into the strategy that goes into defeating each strange foe. Ultimately, though, Persona 4 is a carefully honed game with a story that may not be unique, but is nonetheless as compelling as a page-turner. The game also includes a bonus soundtrack disk.

Game Details

  • Platform: PlayStation 2
  • Available online?: Not available online
  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Release date: December 9, 2008
  • Genre: Role-Playing
  • ESRB rating: M for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
  • Last updated: November 4, 2015

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