Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is basically the result of Atlus execs getting together and saying "How can make a game that embodies fan service for our IPs?" The answer, of course, is to put Persona 3 characters and Persona 4 characters into one game that uses the Etrian Odyssey style of dungeon crawling with a few cameos and references to other Atlus IPs like Catherine thrown in for good measure. Somehow, through what I can describe only as Atlus wizardry, they manage all of that without having the game feel like a haphazard cash grab (looking at you, Project X Zone).
The base story of Persona Q is that the characters of Persona 3 and Persona 4 both find themselves inexplicably pulled into this mysterious world to which a small bubble of the Velvet Room connects. You pick either the P3 protag or the P4 protag to be your "main" character when you start the game, but the choice is almost completely meaningless; the only thing it affects is what party you get for the very first little tutorial dungeon. After that, aside from a couple unimportant lines of dialogue here and there, it really doesn't make any difference. The story is the same, the dungeons are the same, the enemies are the same. Once you get past that tutorial, you can mix and match P3 and P4 characters in your party however you want.
Let's start with what I loved about the game. It has the Persona 3 characters AND the Persona 4 characters. That alone was enough to sell me on the game. As for what I didn't like so much, the dungeon crawling is a big one. It's less that I hated the dungeon crawling and more that the dungeons were too long and, as a result, started feeling monotonous and boring about halfway through each one. I've never played an Etrian Odyssey game, but if they're all like this, I think it's a series I'll continue to avoid. The other issue is a common problem with Persona and, more generally, Shin Megami Tensei games - game fatigue. It's just too long for what it offers. The dungeons get so long and complex that, while fun if viewed in isolation, they just start feeling like padding to lengthen the game. It took me just under 70 hours to finish Persona Q, and while that did include some side stuff, I feel like 40 hours would have been a good length for this game. It just wore out its welcome, so to speak, and I found myself finishing the game not because I was still enjoying it but because I had already invested 50+ hours and wanted to call it done.
Problems with pacing aside, anyone who's had any experience with the Shin Megami Tensei series - ESPECIALLY the Persona sub-series - should know that a killer soundtrack is basically a pre-requisite, and Persona Q is no exception. I personally don't think it quite matches the greatness that was Persona 4's OST, but Persona Q is an absolute auditory delight. The visuals are also quite nice and are stylized to make best use of the 3DS hardware. If Atlus went for the normal relatively proportioned art style in most Persona games, it would have highlighted the relative deficit in hardware power that the 3DS has, but by going for a more chibi style, the characters all had a cute, artistic look while avoiding the perception that they were trying to hide the system's graphical limitations not unlike the use of cel shaded visuals on the Wii. It works brilliantly and really showcases the artistic talent at work in Atlus.
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is not only the first Persona game to be developed specifically for Nintendo hardware but its also a P3/P4 crossover alongside the two Persona 4 Arena games. As is often the case for Shin Megami Tensei games, it's a big longer than I think it needed to be clocking in between 60 and 70 hours, but it's not quite as extreme in that regard as Persona 3 FES. The first person dungeon crawling breaks from the norm for Persona, but then again, so did a 1v1 fighter and a rhythm game, so I guess it really shouldn't surprise me much. While I got tired of it about 3/4 of the way through, I did get a LOT of enjoyment out of the first half of my time with this game, and I have no problem recommending it for fans of Persona 3 and Persona 4 or fans of first person dungeon crawlers in general. It's not a game for players of low stamina, and the gameplay style wasn't quit suited to my particular tastes, but it's an excellent game in design and execution. It's a very good game, but as is par for Atlus games, I suspect it will hold its value relatively well.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.