Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

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

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While the characters get together and work together to solve mysteries, some are churlish, rude folk who are violent and/or swear (The cussing is full of four letter words.,although the C word is never used, many others are.) Schools and teachers are made fun of. Also, some of the kids seem depressed and it appears to be more than teenage angst. Boys are too pushy when flirting with girls.

Violence

There is animated blood and there is death. But it's not the gushing kind as in Devil May Cry. What you do see is blood that's somewhat akin to exploding fireworks. You don't see wounds, but you see this exploding balloon of blood spraying like fireworks above the heads of those in the battle room. And there's a lot of battling.

Sex

There's partial nudity and a fair amount of innuendo. The innuendo is more like flirting that all kids do, but it can be fairly aggressive. The partial nudity is female, including showing of breasts, in the Japanese comic book style of manga. Primarily, it happens in the dream portion of the game. Also, you'll enter an area at one point that seems like a strip club. On the wall are shadows portraits of what appear to be naked women. There is no stripping, but there is a dancer in a bikini.

Language

You'll definitely encounter cuss words. You'll hear "s--t" and "asshole" a lot.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

There are references, but smoking or drinking isn't promoted as a good thing. It's just there. For instance, the uncle, who's the main cop in the mystery, sometimes wishes he had a beer or a cigarette when things are stressful. You will see people who are drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while this game feature high school students as protagonists, this is an M-rated game intended for those 17 and up. The game contains a dark storyline, and is full of cussing, references to alcohol and smoking, along with occasional partial nudity. Within the first hour, you'll witness flirting by boys that's too pushy. At a crime scene, you'll see blood on the walls. Some of the script that you'll read has references to female monsters who have sexual relations with men. People act drunk as well. But even more than this, there are characters who seem to be severely depressed and the nightmares that the main character enters feel real. The horror and sadness is palpable, and that may require more maturity from the player to reckon with than the violence, sex references, partial nudity, and references to tobacco or alcohol.

What's it about?

The Persona series of role playing games are notable and generally lauded because of their seamless mix of every day reality with dark fantasy.In SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: PERSONA 4, an M-rated, anime-like PlayStation 2 game, a teen boy moves from the bustling city to a small Japanese town. Just as he starts school, a woman involved in a love triangle is brutally murdered nearby. In this foggy, rainy town, he and his new friends set out to solve the twisting, turning mystery.

Persona 4 plays somewhat like an old school adventure game. In a limosine that looks like a funeral parlor, you'll meet the hook-nosed Igor, who'll help you proceed through the game. Using the 'X' button, you listen to and scroll through the words of townspeople and of those in a strange dream world. As you ask questions, you get some experience points. When you're taken to the dream world to play as persona Izanagi, you'll turn into long-coated warrior wielding a blade and magic spells. Here, your other characters have their own personas and will help you out with spells. When you win, you level up. You'll need to save frequently, unless you are in Beginner Mode (which lets you retry the game after dying).

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the dark mystery within the game. How does it compare to books and movies that are equally dark? Which of the characters appeal to you most, and why? Do they seem real to you? Which of the characters in the nightmare sequences do you enjoy and which disturb you? What exactly disturbs you? Do the nightmares feel real or too real? Do you ever want to stop playing because everything seems overwhelmingly sad? Or do you look of it as just a game in which you can easily separate the fiction from reality?

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 2
Price:$39.99
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Atlus
Release date:December 9, 2008
Genre:Role Playing
ESRB rating:M for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence (PlayStation 2)

This review of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byGamerStudent October 6, 2010
age 15+
 
I am a teenager an very into gaming, i love this game and i dont see why its rated so high, its fun and a memorail game. i do not recomend this to anyone under 12/13. If u know ur child well and hes not an influencail kid like one day he/she acts like this then wen he sees this guy or any form of media he/she acts differently. I am 14 years old and im not influencail honestly, i belive in myself and others and i do wat i think is best. MY advice to parents, if u have kid who is 15 years theres no doubt if u should get it for him if he'll will like it, 12/13 years may vary, if ur 12 year old is immature u could give it to him bt thats ur choice 13+ is generally good so i rate this game "T" for violence, animated blood, slight sexual content and alchohalic reference. I really hope u take this concideration and not shuve me aside likeany other unknown reviwer as a gamer, ur child may miss out on an experience that hell remember and love, it might even give good ideas for writing esays, it did for me so why not ur kid?
Adult Written byRachael Ward May 6, 2012
age 18+
 

A game that demonstrates the importance of truth

While I admit that I agree that a lot of what this review says is true, I feel that there are a lot of positive messages presented in P4 that have been overlooked. Each of the characters that are thrown into the dream world in the TV are forced to face their shadows or inner demons. While these scenes are very dark and borderline disturbing, it has a purpose. Each character comes to the realization that they need to accept all that they are, both the good and bad, in order to fully realize who they are as people. The main motif of the game as a whole is truth and its intangibility. Especially in an era where we are surrounded by media which can blind us to what is real or fake. Something that is very true to real life and important for people to understand. While this game isn't for everyone, I whole heartedly recommend P4 if you are looking for a game that has good RPG action, deep characters and heart pumping mystery.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byCommonSenseGames March 25, 2014
age 16+
 

Mature philosophy, not childish fantasy

Persona 4 has some of the most intellectually deep story and perfectly engaging gameplay I have ever seen. However, the game is clearly written for an audience of high school age and above. Sexuality, swearing, smoking, they are all in the game, but set realistically, not gratuitously. And, if the 50-hour completion time doesn't wear you out by the end, the game's mature message of psychology and identity will most likely touch you (unless you are not a human)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass