I am a huge fan of the Persona series, so you could imagine my excitement when I heard that there was an incoming Persona game with Etrian Odyssey-style gameplay headed for the 3DS. Persona Q can be simply summed up as such; it is an Etrian Odyssey game with “chibified” versions of the entire Persona 3 and 4 cast. If you have ever played an Etrian Odyssey game before, you will know what to expect. Similarly, if you’ve played any of the modern Persona games before, you will be familiar with a majority of the characters, gameplay features and music styles found in Persona Q.
Persona Q contains most of what you would expect to find in a Persona game (minus the Social Links); quirky characters, high-school anime-style humour, an excellent soundtrack and addicting gameplay. You form a party of five characters to go dungeon-crawling and fight shadows, facing bosses at the end of dungeons. It’s all the usual stuff you’ve come to know and love in an RPG. Everything from Etrian Odyssey is in Persona Q; from the map-drawing, the F.O.Es, bringing loot back to sell to the shop to unlock additional equipment, down to taking on quests and whatnot. Please refer to my Etrian Odyssey reviews (here and here) if you want a deeper understanding of the gameplay structure of those games.
What makes Persona Q unique is the Persona system; every character has a Persona equipped on them, each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and skillsets. These personas cannot be changed and will stick with that character throughout the entire game. However, a new “Sub Persona” system is introduced in this game to help mix things up. Upon completion of battles, you may acquire a Sub Persona which you can equip on any character. These Sub Personas provide extra HP and SP, as well as allowing that character to use any skills in that Sub Persona’s arsenal. Bringing Sub Personas to the Velvet Room allows you to fuse up to three of them together to create a more powerful Persona, much like in the Persona games. By mixing and matching Personas, inheriting the right skills and equipping them on the right party members you give them access to skills they would not otherwise have had, and this can prove key when it comes to winning battles.
If you have played any of the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei games before, you will know that it is important to exploit enemies’ weaknesses in order to get the upper hand in battle. Using the right skills on the right enemies can immediately turn a challenging battle into a stress-free one. This is because attacking an enemy’s weakness will cause your character to enter “Boost” state, where they will remain for as long as you keep exploiting weaknesses (unless you receive damage). While in “Boost” state all skills will have 0 HP or SP costs, so by taking advantage of this system, you can use a low cost skill to achieve a Boost, and then use a skill with a high HP or SP cost with no penalty. When enough characters are in Boost, you may have a chance to do an “All-Out Attack” which basically deals a large amount of unblockable damage to all enemies.
While the F.O.Es (basically mini-boss style enemies you see while exploring dungeons) in Etrian Odyssey are more one side “threats that you should avoid until later”, the F.O.Es in Persona Q serve more as “Puzzles”. Each and every F.O.E has a different behaviour, and it’s up to you to recognise what this is, take advantage of your environment and manipulate their movement patterns in order to get past them. It puts a very interesting spin on the puzzle-solving and requires careful thinking and planning (and I do mean very careful, as one false step can result you in being trapped or cornered by the scoundrels).
While there is much more I wish to discuss regarding Persona Q in terms of design and setting, I must hold back for now as to avoid any potential plot spoilers. All I’ll say is that I’m incredibly satisfied with this “crossover” game, and it is easily becoming my favourite 3DS title so far.