Wired’s Persona 4 Review

Regarding “Review: Stylish Persona 4 Is RPG Perfection,” Earnest Cavalli, Wired, December 05, 2008.
Wired put up an odd review of Persona 4. I want to talk about it not only because Persona 4 looks interesting to me but also because the review was so bad. The article’s a short read so I recommend you read it. The game looks intriguing to me, but I don’t want to write about the game itself here while not having played it. There’s also no point in reading my critique of the article if you haven’t read it yourself.
First, the Persona series is very popular and beloved series to a niche group. However, I really believe it’s a game mostly for JRPG fans and for thoe who are interested in games from artistically or academically enough to read about and analyze games. People who consider Halo the epitome of gaming aren’t going to like it. People who only buy EA Sports title’s aren’t going to consider it. People who think Mortal Kombat is most balanced fighter aren’t interested. Neither my brother not my cousin will play this (unless I buy it for James).
This leads me to believe that the article is either intending to provide information to the people to whom the game is most likely to appeal or people who would enjoy the game but might not normally learn about it. Earnest Cavalli, the write, seems to be writing towards the latter group. That’s fine even if I’m not in that group. However, I feel like he’s slightly insulting the game while praising it.
He writes that Personas, the spirits you apparently collect, “are like Pokémon for grownups.” Is there something wrong with Pokémon? I understand that the majority of money from that series comes from children (or rather, adults buying for children), but the complex EV/IV system, breeding, move sets, and types is definitely not something intended for children to master. I know adults play the Pokémon series.
He then goes on to insult both the music and the musical tastes of those who like “game music.” After explaining that he “find(s) Japanese pop music grating and annoying,” he goes on to state that the songs in Persona 4 are “almost uniformly listenable.” That’s such a big compliment for a game, don’t you think? Almost all the music (but not quite all of the music of course) in Persona 4 is listenable! It’s not all listenable. To some of it he’s unable to listen. He’s forced to mute the television or play some other audio even louder apparently. That’s only a tiny bit though. Almost all of the music is listenable. He doesn’t particularly like it at all; it’s listenable. He even mentions that people “who consider gaming music to be a mere background annoyance will find themselves humming along.” Great! Now what about the people who like “gaming music.” I’m not even sure what that phrase anymore now that modern popular music has found it’s way into games. Overlooking that phrase’s usage because, honestly, I know what he means, he doesn’t mention what someone might think if he or she does in fact like “game music” or Japanese pop.
Next Cavalli discusses the graphics. He says that it doesn’t have the graphics that you could find on Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 but that “the clever art style makes up for that.” While I do love certain art styles that definitely do not need modern consoles to be displayed well, I understand and appreciate this statement. However, stating that people who don’t like reading a lot of text in games will be “pleasantly surprised by the solid voice-over work” seems crazy because the voice acting was not all that fantastic if you ask me. It was mediocre. It wasn’t horrible, but I wasn’t pleasantly surprised when I heard it. I was surprised, but it was just the regular kind. When I heard my roommate play Persona 4, I thought he was watching an Adult Swim cartoon making fun of anime. The review went on to say that people who have “an aversion to anime-style characters” would still enjoy the graphics. What about those of us who do not have an aversion to anime-style graphics? I believe that would include most of the target audience.
My final criticism is that Cavalli says this is the best Playstation 2 game of 2008. That might be true, but it also isn’t saying much. How many games even game out for PS2 this year that are worth mentioning? The only other PS2 game I can think of is Thunderforce VI. I’m sure other games were released, but not counting games that were developed for current consoles and ported down to the PS2, Persona 4 didn’t really have a lot of competition.
All in all, I do want to at least try Persona 4. I’m just not sure this writer gave his honest opinion. It seems like either he didn’t really like it but wanted his article to appeal to those that might like it or he just isn’t very good at reviewing games. I’d rather hear about his honest experience playing the game rather than his predictions for how other people would feel. Mainstream games journalism is so horrible right now.