Worse story (one step back), but better gameplay, and graphics (two steps forward) Thanks for bringing it state-side!
This game will mostly appeal to those who enjoy the MegaTen series. As a sequel, it's game-play is almost just like it's predecessors, which is a good thing for those who don't like major changes when it comes to sequels.
You start off as a high school student ( in the manga his name is Souji Seta ) who just transferred from the big city to a small town called Inaba, due to his parents partaking in oversea jobs, thus forcing him to move in with his uncle and younger cousin, Kojima and Nanako.
Later on, a heavy fog sets in the area of Inaba and during one of your classes, your school is dismissed due to an emergency, which ends up being mysterious murder of an announcer woman. Her body was discovered nearby, mutilated and hanging on a TV antenna on the roof of someone's house (Must suck to be the owner of the house). The police investigators are at a lost as they can't seem to figure out how she died or if someone had murdered her, this is because her death was most likely done by a supernatural cause, but the police won't believe that.. They never do. But they gradually run into more murder/homicide cases and all of them show up when it's "foggy" out. Are these cases somehow related with the mysterious fog? ...Maybe. The cases are also somehow related to Television, as a rumor about watching the TV with the screen blank at mid-night on a rainy day, a person will show up on screen ( This is called " the Midnight Channel" ), but you'll get more info on that when you actually play the game. This also has some sort of connection to the murders.
You'll eventually get to the good stuff when you suddenly start to awake to your Persona ( A living entity inside you, or your other self which is a being that basically gives you all your powers in the game. Sadly you don't get to have an Evoker this time, this means no more shooting yourself in the head with a toy gun. Instead, you''ll be breaking Tarot cards that appear out of no where.. ) and at one point you'll have the ability to strangely go into your TV ( Or any TV, but you'll only be using one through out the entire game ). On the other side of the TV is an entirely different world infested with monster-like creatures called Shadows ( Brings back memories of Tartarus from PE3 ) and it's basically up to you and your friends to explore the TV world and find any ways to solve the murder cases and prevent anymore people from dying mysteriously.
Anyways, for game-play:
Battles: You encounter battles the same way as always, as you wander around the TV world there are various forms of shadows lurking about. Either you get to the shadow blob things first by giving them a good whack to the head with whatever weapon you have, or they get you ( this effects being ambushed or having the upper hand with a preemptive attack.) Battles are fought basically the same as in PE3. For those who aren't familiar with previous Persona titles, it's basically turn-based, you have your attack, guard, and special skills. You still have your Rush and all that good stuff, nothing different, also ( I don't remember if you can do this or not in PE3 since I never tried until now) you can chose your party to act on their own (via computer) or you can chose to manually control them, but you'll have to switch battle tactics in order to do that, the default party tactics are always on computer and it's a big help to switch them to manual since they aren't exactly your smartest fighters. It's highly suggested that you take your time and try to NOT avoid battles, since if you're not at a good enough level by the time your get ahead in the game and face a boss, you'll be sorry. )': If you balance out your leveling the game should flow smoothly, but being lazy will end up leaving you frustrated. The battles may get a little repetitive, but all RPGs are like that. Once you get the hang of things (Like getting the enemy's weaknesses down and etc, which will make battles come out easy as pie ) it'll eventually grow on you.
One little nice adjustment in battles is that when you hit an enemy with it's weakness and knock it down ( like a fire element attack if it's weak against fire), and you hit it AGAIN with it's weakness, it'll stun the enemy or make them dizzy, so basically the first weakness strike will knock them down and the second will make them dizzy. Unlike in the previous game, if you hit them with their weakness it'll knock them down, but if you hit them again it'll wake them up out of their stunned/knock-down state...which made no sense whatsoever.
Character Interactivity: Okay here, you actually have to interact with your friends and family ( being a angsty loner won't get you anywhere!).
Most interactivity will launch character sequences and you get to see your character's relationship with other people develop over time ( the more, the better, especially since it effects how strong your Persona is). You have these things called social links, which is basically a link or special bond to certain people you interact with. When you converse or hang out with your friends, saying the right things or making the right choices will make them like your more, thus getting enough points for that, you can level-up these social links which will make your Personas stronger.
The social links are exactly the same as the ones in PE3, the only real difference is that every time you level-up a social link, it doesn't give you this big dramatic sequence where your Persona talks to you in your head and tells you that your bond with x Arcana has strengthened and blah blah blah.. Instead this level-up image with the corresponding Tarot card pops up and says LEVEL UP along with a bar that shows you how much you've leveled that social link until it's maxed out. Also, leveling your social links with party-members will get them to learn new passive abilities like helping you out during battle by snapping you out of rage, or taking a fatal blown for you if your character's about to take a lethal hit. Another new addition is that when you max out social links with your party members, their Persona gets reborn into another Persona. Kind of like a big upgrade.
Music and Sound: .. It's actually pretty good! I already have a lot of the tracks stuck in my head as most of them are pretty catchy. Most voices are bearable, if not good. I'm personally fond of the main character's voice and his friend, Yosuke, great voice actors. ( Voiced by Yuri L. AND Johnny B., those guys voiced a TON of games together... Tales of The Abyss (Luke and Guy) and .Hack//G.U ( Haseo and Kuhn) anyone? Johnny's also voiced Nero from DMC4 and Ichigo from Bleach lol.)
Graphics: The graphics have improved compared to the previous game, plus there seems to be a lot more character animation while you're in 3D and it's fun to watch. You still have your awesome 2D anime cut scenes, and those always look good.
Set-Backs?: The only thing major here is that when you go into the TV to "Save" people, you have to save them before a fog comes ( The weather channel on TV will be a big help, so be sure to check every now and then ) else you'll get a Game Over and will have to start over from the week prior. Of course, they give you PLENTY of time, and it's easy to tell when the fog comes because they only come after 2-3 or days of rain.
Other Parts Of Gameplay: You also have other stats in the game you can raise, which are very essential in gaining new acquaintances and earning your social links. This time your set of stats are Knowledge, Diligence, Understanding, Courage, and Expression. You can raise any of these through all sorts methods, such as getting the right answers in class, studying, or participating in part-time jobs (which can also earn you money ). Of course, a lot of cases in the game, you'll need to use your brain. There are times where you'll have to think like a detective and break everything down into the facts ( I personally thought it was fun, especially when you get it right! ). Also, the questions you get asked in class are mostly trivial, some or most, you may have absolutely no idea what the answers are as the questions are very difficult but some are easy ( I'm in highschool so..lol) , but all of the questions are REAL, not a bunch of bologna they threw together just to make you mad. You might have to result to using the internet to find your answers, of course, you'll learn something new afterwards ( I learned..A lot of things. Like, in Japan, a robber would most likely break into your house at 8 in the morning or that the Egyptians used eyeliner as a type of replant.. )
Other than that, the game is overall, entertaining ( a lot of the scenes in the game are amusing ) of course everyone has their different tastes in games. I'd suggest this game to any MegaTen fan or RPG gamer. Those who are more for action RPGs might not like this game since this game takes a lot of patience and strategy. Plus they talk A LOT ( lots of reading, but it's not wise to skim through them. )