Comparison: Persona 3 to Persona 4

At this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that my two favourite games ever are Persona 3 and Persona 4. Having just played P3P and now playing Persona 4 Golden after watching P4: The Animation, it seemed like a good idea to compare the two games to each other and give my own personal, subjective opinion on their relative strengths and weaknesses, and maybe even talk about which is the overall better game.

(Note, I’m comparing music but not sound and graphics, because to me the main difference in graphics and sound would be just technological, but the music is, to me, different enough to be worth comparing).

Story

A-Plot

Persona 3’s main plot seems to me to be the deeper plot. It involves the characters directly and ties into their specific backstories and goals, especially with Mitsuru, Yukari, and Aigis. Pretty much everything ties directly into it, and leads back to it in interesting ways. It also has a deeper explanation for what is happening, and relies less on divine intervention to make the plot interesting at the end. Persona 4, on the other hand, does poorly here as although the murder mystery is presented as the driving force, it’s the least interesting part of the game, has little direct relation to the protagonists except for the fact that they were dragged into it by being tossed into the TV, and isn’t actually presented well as a mystery at all (it’s quite easy to miss all of the clues and have no idea who the killer is when you’re asked about it). And at the end, you have to reveal the “truth”, which isn’t hinted at that well until maybe Golden, and ends up as a last minute shift in tone. Sure, it does link to the overall theme well-enough, but overall the A-Plot of Persona 4 is forgettable and likely not what you enjoy the game for, while the A-Plot of Persona 3 is what you remember it for. Advantage: Persona 3

B-Plot

In the B-Plot is where things get inverted. Don’t think that there was a B-Plot in Persona 3? You’d be forgiven for that, because the underlying plot of an MC who is going through a year of school and meeting people and building relationships and doing all sorts of things like that is pretty much put to the side. It’s there and it’s fun, but you don’t really get a sense of change from the MC because of it beyond power and the obligatory end game “We all believe in you!” dialogue. On the other hand, in Persona 4 the MC coming to live in Inaba and forging relationships is probably more important than the mystery itself, which the anime seems to point out quite well (better than the game itself does). Yu has a personality, and how he develops throughout the game, especially in his interactions with Nanako and Dojima, are interesting and important. In Persona 3, you have a character who goes through a year of school; in Persona 4, you have a character who grows over a year of school. Advantage: Persona 4

S-Links

Party S-Links

One of the reasons Persona 4’s B-Plot is so strong is because the interactions and relationships with and between your friends are fleshed out in the dungeons themselves. It’s there that you learn the most about them and where you forge the group relationship, which is far more important than it was in Persona 3. What this means, however, is that you learn the most about your party members in the main story … and not in the S-Links. Which tends to make the S-Links either more detail on what you already know, or a side issue that isn’t as important as the main issue is. In Persona 3, the main plot deals with some major issues, but the S-Link is a very important part of their lives, and one that you wouldn’t see during the main plot. The only advantage that Persona 4 has here is that you can have an S-Link with all of your party members … and P3P fixes that for a female protagonist. Advantage: Persona 3

Non-Party S-Links

Persona 4’s non-party S-Links leave me a little cold. There are some that are interesting that I might be missing out on (Ai’s and Saki’s little brother) but that’s because their presentation doesn’t make them interesting at all. The S-Links in Persona 3 — especially the obvious ones — are entertaining and full of really great characters. I’d take Yoko over Yumi or Ayane any day, and Kaz’s and Kenji’s are, overall, more entertaining than Daisuke’s and Kou’s. Which is not to say that they’re bad; I do enjoy them. It’s just that compared to the ones in Persona 3 they aren’t all that great. Advantage: Persona 3

Combat

Bosses

Persona 4’s bosses are more personal, but not necessarily more interesting. Persona 3 is full of bosses and mini-bosses, none of which are that interesting themselves. Advantage: Tie

Dungeons

Here is where Persona 4 really shines. Persona 3’s dungeons feel like a training ground. There’s no personal stake in them, and you’re only doing them because you’re required to reach the top of the stage before the next full moon and to make sure that you have a high enough level to beat the full moon boss. This means that they feel like a grind and as if they have no purpose beyond that. Persona 4’s main dungeons, on the other hand, are all tied directly into the plot and into the characters and so are very personal. You have a reason to do them beyond “Let’s get to the end and get some levels!”. You still have the bonus dungeons for simple grinding … but then, that’s the only reason you’re there and the only time limit is the time you want to take to gain more levels. Thus, Persona 4’s dungeons are fun, and Persona 3’s are the things you have to do to get to the fun parts of the game. Advantage: Persona 4

Mechanics

While the ability to give direct commands to your party members was backported to at least one version of Persona 3, Persona 4’s combat mechanics really do demonstrate an evolution, mostly for the better, for the combat mechanics. The biggest loss was how useless your support characters are until you level them up and work through their S-Links, but other than that the combat is easier to understand and play, and usually more fun. Advantage: Persona 4

Music

This category, to me, symbolizes the two games, and I’m mostly doing this comparison by recalling the soundtrack CDs I have and recently listened to. Persona 3’s music is, overall, better music. Persona 4’s music is far more relevant and directly tied to the game and what’s happening in it. When you listen to Persona 3’s soundtrack, you enjoy the music, but when you listen to Persona 4’s soundtrack, you think of Rise’s or Kanji’s dungeons. Advantage: Tie

Overall: Persona 3 should be the obvious choice for the better game. It does more of what I like better than Persona 4. The problem is that the dungeons kill the game, as you have to go through them and often have to go through them multiple times and they’re generally boring and feel like a grind. There’s a reason I had to pause my first playthrough of P3P even though I finished Persona 4 Golden, as the grinding in the dungeons was just irritating me way too much in P3P. Thus, on a purely subjective note, I prefer to play Persona 4 instead of Persona 3 … until I’m on New Game+ and can mostly ignore the dungeons most of the time.

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2 Responses to “Comparison: Persona 3 to Persona 4”

  1. Tom Says:

    I have to say I`m a little surprised you haven`t done a review of the movie ‘God`s Not Dead’ yet….

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I’d have to see it first, and I a) don’t go out to movies much and b) that movie isn’t really my type of movie (mostly). I’ve thought about making a post about Daniel Fincke’s posts about the movie, but just didn’t have or take the time to do it this past weekend.

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