Platform Nintendo 3DS
Publisher Bandai Namco Australia Developer Atlus
Genre Role-playing Game/Dungeon Crawler Platform Played Nintendo 3DS
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a love letter to Persona fans, bringing together the loveable cast of both Persona 3 and Persona 4 to face a new challenge. Both teams are sent to an alternate world where they meet two new characters named Zen and Rei. Alongside their new friends both Persona teams aim to defeat the Guardian of each sprawling labyrinth in order to remove locks from 2 sealed doors, allowing them to return to their real world.
Persona Q’s story is very slow, with the vague plot above being the only solid information given for upwards of 30 hours. There are definitely hints to a bigger plot at play, but it’s easy to forget there is a story at all for great lengths of time. New characters Zen and Rei are integral to this plot, but struggle to come into their own when surrounded by such a strong cast of beloved characters. With such well-established characters surrounding both Zen and Rei, alongside Zen’s lack of personality until 60 hours in, it becomes hard to care about their personal plight.
Shadow of the Labyrinth also aims to please Persona fans more than anyone else, skipping drawn out back-story formalities to instead simply reference events of P3/P4, expecting you to know what has happened. This may be confusing for new Persona players at first, as characters reference events constantly; but isn’t a deal breaker as Persona Q’s best features don’t revolve around these aspects.
You don’t need to know both casts of characters to start loving them right away, being fully voiced by their original actors make their genuine, fun and caring personalities resonate well. Though the story itself may be slow, the interactions between both teams are excellent. These interactions can be heartfelt, like Kanji and Ken forming a strong bond, or simply hilarious, as Koromaru and Teddy battle over which mascot is superior. These scenes give Persona Q a unique charm, with well written and delivered dialogue. More interactions can also be found in the Stroll option, which allows you to witness small scenarios of back-story and conversation between each character.
Shadow of the Labyrinth contains a handful of intricate, challenging and expansive labyrinths. As the title suggests, these labyrinths are where you will spend most of your 70 plus hours in Persona Q. As you explore these labyrinths you are tasked to map its layout, using your stylus on the touch screen of the 3DS. Mapping out each labyrinth is an important task, allowing you to remember key locations, shortcuts, and even collect a rare item when mapping out 100% of each labyrinth. Though this task may sound like a chore, it is strangely addicting and I found myself aiming to 100% each labyrinth along the way.
Labyrinths are huge locations with multiple floors, though they do possess maze-like qualities their main hurdle is the multiple puzzles that are required to be solved to progress certain floors. These puzzles are actually quite difficult and require some real thought to decipher, but there were times where these puzzles became quite repetitive due to the large amounts of backtracking. When a puzzle is blocking your way and you decide to focus on solving it, there are times where you will be consistently battling monsters or avoiding extremely tough opponents known as FOEs, instead of solving the puzzle in question. This does provide some frustration when you have spent hours on a floor and want to start progressing, yet continue to be hindered by combat situations and the fear of FOEs.
Combat is the most challenging and satisfying gameplay feature of Persona Q. Though it is easy to take down a group of enemies with the right tactics, it is even easier to be completely annihilated by a team of low level enemies that have a strong combination to their attacks. Combat is a strategic battle of wits, utilising elemental attacks that your enemies are weak against is the best way to victory. When hitting an enemy with their weakness you team member will receive a boost, increasing their speed to dish out damage first and allowing them to use a strong manoeuvre without using any SP (a stat determining how many special moves can be used). Your team will consist of two rows, with each individual having their own preference to which row they occupy to work most efficiently. Piecing your team together to provide the best mix of elements, while also efficiently relying on their row preference is great fun. Testing out new combinations to try and improve your team was a constant obsession.
Each team member (aside from Zen and Rei) is able to now juggle their main Persona and a sub-Persona, allowing extra skills, bonus health and more SP. This new addition allowed me to finely craft how each team member would deal damage, which is made all the more fascinating due to Persona fusions. As previously players can fuse Persona to create stronger variations, as well as sacrificing two to make another stronger, or even sacrifice a Persona to receive one of their skills that can now be transferred to a team member. The choices that can be made here are almost endless and I found myself spending hours testing new fusions, powering up new Personas and gaining new skill cards; only to find myself doing the same process a few hours later. Creating the right Personas for each situation provided a great sense of pride, knowing my decisions and sacrifices were well made.
Each Labyrinth also contains a unique visual theme, which range from a haunted school, Alice in Wonderland and more. These themes allow for a unique visual style for each labyrinth, which look fantastic. The haunted school actually produced some extremely creepy moments, with the use of great atmosphere, sound design, and genuinely disturbing FOE character designs. On the other side of the coin all the Persona characters have been re-designed with a new cartoon-like visual style and they look fantastic. Their new style is reminiscent of a children’s cartoon and they look wonderful, especially in the anime-like cut scenes that are spread throughout the adventure.
Persona Q also contains some of the excellent well known tracks from previous Persona titles, such as the Velvet Room theme. Even the new additions sound excellent, continuing the wonderful history of memorable Persona tracks.
Exploring labyrinths isn’t the only way to gain experience, as players can also take up Requests that are issued by characters throughout the game. These Requests range from tactical missions such as defeating an enemy while it’s cursed, or defeating bonus bosses. While my personal favourite Requests were more dialogue based, which utilised the Stroll option to provide small scenarios that offered some genuinely funny moments between characters. These moments ranged from trying to save Yoskue from eating some horrible food, or helping Kanji lie his way through a test of his intelligence. Moments like these emphasise the beautiful characters Persona has created and offer a diverse change from the standard dungeon crawling elements.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is an excellent piece of Persona love, not only does it bring together two excellent casts of characters, but it does it in a unique and charming way that offers dozens of hours of excellence. Persona Q’s narrative is definitely the weakest aspect, with such a vague story provided for almost 30 hours I found myself struggling to care about the task at hand. However the experience is made brighter with charming character interactions and a unique visual style.
Shadow of the Labyrinth has reignited my love of the Persona series, making me want to relive the adventures of both casts of character once mores. But Persona Q is able to provide a strong instalment on its own, one that provides more charm than Koromaru himself.
A charming love letter to Persona fans.
Mapping labyrinths is addicting.
In-depth Persona fusion abilities.
P3/P4 character interaction.
Narrative is slow and vague for countless hours.
Some puzzles contain a lot of drawn out backtracking.