Review: Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth (Nintendo 3DS)

Reviewed by ShinyLatios, posted Dec 15, 2014
I understand that while I should review this game as a standalone game, this game is being marketed as a Persona game. My apologies if I may seem a bit harsh due to this fact.
Dec 15, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): November 25, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): November 28, 2014
  • Release Date (JP): June 5, 2014
  • Publisher: Atlus, NIS America
  • Developer: Atlus
  • Genres: Role-playing, dungeon crawl
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Another spin-off, another Persona.
Persona, Persona, Persona. I love Persona.
It was somewhat hard finding a store that sells this game, as japanese games tend to be somewhat harder to come by and... the shipments got delayed here. That said, I was excited for this game! The mere thought of playing with both Persona 3 and 4 characters alone was exciting!
And sure enough, when Persona Q finally released, I had a blast with it.

or atleast, I thought I did.
But let's not put a conclusion here yet... and jump straight into the review.

The Story


Without giving out too many spoilers, the story is actually pretty good. The story mostly revolves around our main characters being trapped in some sort of alternate Yasogami High, the school the Persona 4 cast attends.
There they meet Zen and Rei, a mysterious duo with no memories who are stuck as well.
The characters can't interact with the other people there, except for buying things.

At some point, as this is a crossover game, they meet the other cast.

Unfortunately, I can't say much more, as the rest is not mentioned until somewhat later.

The characters, however, are superb. They stay true to their original appearances and personalities in their respective games of origin, and so they all have their own quality still.
I found the dialog to be very entertaining and well-written and it definitely works well in this game's favor.


Okay, so here we go. My main problem with this game lies in its gameplay.
Outside of Labyrinths, you can traverse certain locations in the school through menus. This is a good thing, as these menus are very accessible and you will always know where to go. There aren't many options, as you'll most likely be spending very little time here.

Inside of the Labyrinth though, is where the game starts to give me my main problems.
Firstly, the map mechanic. I'll be honest, this one was very hard to get used to, but also one of the more enjoyable features at first.
You essentially draw a map as you explore, making it easier to find your way back the next time you return. You do this yourself by using the touch screen. An interesting mechanic, but it doesn't quite pay off in the end. I got bored at around the third floor of the first labyrinth with this mechanic. I understand that this is a core mechanic of the Etrian Odyssey series, but this game is being marketed as a Persona game. I missed my randomized dungeons a lot.

The dungeon-crawling is done in first person, as seems to be the case with Etrian Odyssey games. I've never played one of them, terrible as I may be for this, and found it hard to adjust to this at first. Once I did get over this, however, I found the first person view to be rather enjoyable, if not lacking a bit graphically. Things are incredibly pixelated. Not that you'll notice much, as you'll be looking at your map over half the time. One of the characters even jokes about this.

As you wander around the Labyrinth, you get random encounters. While this is somewhat of a staple for RPGs, it didn't feel like it belonged there, possibly due to the 120 hours of Persona 3 I've played in preparation for this game.
The game does tell you when an encounter gets closer, but I have yet to find a way to successfully keep encounters away, which can be quite a chore if you're trying to complete your map to get that sweet bonus for completing a map 100%. I've also found the encounter rate rather high, averaging about 8 steps per encounter for me. Obviously this got really annoying, as I was trying to map as much as I could.

The battle system... I'm still not entirely convinced what it's supposed to be. It seems to try to be really strategic, but then throws as many RNG-based things like paralysis as possible at you.
This was confusing to me, but not as much as the next point.
I've never played Etrian Odyssey, so I don't know what the battle system for that is like, but what truly baffles me is that they did NOT implement the battle system both Persona 3 and 4 did. I found this to be severely confusing, as often I'd try out a strategy that would work very well in main Persona games, only to have it fail on me because the battle system is so different. Instead of knocking enemies over by weaknesses, working towards things like all-out attacks or generally trying to immobilize enemies, you have a system that grants you a "boost" bonus to a character that hits an enemy with its weakness. Boost is basically a "high morale" thing, and you are rewarded by a boosted character being placed first in the turn order, having no SP/HP costs for skills and randomly, if party morale is high, gaining a few bonus attacks in a turn that cost nothing whatsoever, including the all-out attack. You lose Boost very easily, though, and at some points I started to wonder if what I was doing was even productive. Get hit? lose boost. Defend on your next turn? Boost doesn't carry into the next then. The problem with this is that enemies generally attack AFTER your party does, hitting certain characters and removing their boost status.
The battle system felt like a genuine mess.


The Persona system is also very different in this game. All characters have a main persona, defining their strengths, stats and weaknesses but also a sub-persona, further adding moves to their sets.
While this seems like a good idea, it becomes a chore managing so many different characters.
You can create stronger sub-Personas by fusing 2 or more sub-Personas together.
Even if you've decided on a main party, which this game strongly seems to want you to do, you're still managing fusions for 5 characters as opposed to the usual 1, and the fusion system is not prepared for this at all.
Persona's visual novel / dating sim-like qualities are also strangely absent. No social linking here, folks, which in turn makes Persona fusion significantly weaker.


As I mentioned, the in-dungeon visuals look somewhat... bad. The designs for enemy shadows look somewhat good, though, and the style of the art really fits on the 3DS. I am, however, bothered that when your characters speak to each other, the game seems to be using sprites rather than their in-battle models. It made looking at it in 3D feel weird, and I had to turn down the 3D because of it. in battle, for the brief moments you see your characters, they are rendered as models. This was slightly confusing to me as there was more going on on the screen in battles, so I was left questioning design choices. The battles look pretty good though. They are very simplistic, which is not a bad thing.

The animated cutscenes looked really good to me, and I especially liked the animation for the opening!



Alright, so while the rest of the game doesn't scream Persona, the music definitely stays true to being Persona music. And it shows. The music is absolutely amazing, and I find myself listening to it a lot. The labyrinth music is kind of repetitive, but since you'll be encountering enemies every few steps anyway, it's not too much of an issue. That said, the music is great, and the audio quality for the voices is super too. I was very afraid after watching some trailers that the in-battle voices would sound very muffled, as is the case in the trailers, but thankfully this was not the case.

The opening, to give you a taste of this game's music.​

While I haven't checked all the DLCs, none of them are necessary to get the full experience. It seems like all they will release are a few Personas as optional Personas that seem to break the game, and some different navigators.
I can't say much more about this, can I...?
+ Characters are faithful to their original appearance
+ The music is amazing, as to be expected with a Persona game
+ The story is entertaining
- Is this Persona?
- Labyrinths are very bland, making it somewhat boring to explore.
- Battle system felt confusing and didn't seem like it had any real strategy to it
8 Presentation
Apart from the lackluster Labyrinth graphics, the presentation is definitely great. The characters act their natural selves, which is especially good for the nature of this game. I'm still slightly confused about the sprite-ish appearance of the characters in dialog though.
6 Gameplay
While I'm not exactly a fan, there is no denying that this will be appealing to some people. However, many "Persona" elements suffer under the changed mechanics, and as this game is being marketed as a crossover for Persona 3 and 4... I find this somewhat unacceptable.
6 Lasting Appeal
While the game is definitely meant to last you quite a few hours, I feel like that's it's main issue. It tries to hold your attention for too long, making you go through long, boring labyrinths that don't really do much, fighting off enemies that you'd rather not be fighting.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
This game just screams fanservice, which is somewhat weird to me since the game employs very little of Persona's core elements. It uses the characters and Personas, but that's literally it. Still, I found the game to be atleast somewhat enjoyable for what it's worth. Many questionable design choices leave me with awarding the game with a relatively low score, though. If you like Persona but don't like Etrian Odyssey, don't get this. If you like Etrian Odyssey but not Persona, you might still get a kick out it. If you like both, congratulations! This game was probably made with you in mind!

T-hug likes this.