So, Alex made mention on our super-secret staff forum (TM Eric S.) that my Persona 4 review was of decent interest to a few of you out there, to which I say, thank you for the interest. That said, it occurred to me that there will most likely be people out there who are either not very far into the game or haven’t had the chance to do much of anything with it yet, and I know there are a couple staffers who haven’t played the game yet even though they DO, in fact, own it, so I figured, being as how I liked the game enough to play through it a second time, why not write up a little something with some general advice in it?
In other words, YAY I’M HELPING!
Now, obviously, this isn’t meant to be a strategy guide; you can buy one of those, and frankly, it’s worth every penny considering how huge of an experience this game can be, but that’s not what I’m doing here. Instead, I’m just offering general advice for those of you who want to max out all of the Social Links, or who want to know what would be best to use in battle or for second playthrough sessions or what have you. This is by no means complete, and some of you might not even find it useful, but for those of you who are interested, I hope it helps.
1.) Generally speaking, it is almost definitely in your best interests to actually play through the game twice. Aside from the fact that this allows you to see several conversation branches that require higher stats than you most likely will have when you first encounter them, as well as conversation choices that weren’t originally available (most of which involve being a giant jerk), and aside from the fact that you’ll get new items and the ability to summon ANY Persona from your compendium, regardless of their level, as well as the ability to fight The Reaper and Margaret… well, it also makes maxing Social Links easier. The first time you play through the game, you’ll be spending tons of time focusing on maxing your personal stats, which, aside from being incredibly time consuming, limits your time that you can spend focusing on S-Links. Thus, it might be best to play through a second run with maxed stats, which thus allows you to get all of the S-Links and max out the Persona compendium easier and with less micromanagement of your day-to-day activities.
2.) The above having been said, if you’re seriously considering maxing all of your social links in one play session, it’s in your best interests to level up the Hermit S-Link as soon as possible and use the fox’s ability to heal your party liberally as a way of getting through dungeons, if possible, in one or two sessions. For one thing, many S-Links aren’t available at certain times because of the kidnapping of characters, meaning that you’ll be somewhat limited as to the S-Links you’ll be able to level up at any given time. For another, you can spend rainy days leveling personal stats instead of hacking away at the dungeon, meaning that you can level up your stats instead of wasting time in the dungeon, which benefits nothing save for possibly Courage if you’re fighting optional bosses. If you find this to be a financial burden, you can always clear out dungeons you’ve already been through each time you come back to the TV world, which should be particularly easy once you hit a certain point in the game, which will earn you solid disposable income for healing and such.
It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t bother fighting in dungeons unless it’s raining; aside from the fact that there will be little to do on these days normally, it’s also worth pointing out that rare monsters pop up on rainy days in dungeons, which drop consumables that allow you to unlock useful items at the Diadara Metalworks. Thus, it’s a win-win situation either way.
3.) Generally, you will require your stats to be as follows to max your Social Links: 5 Knowledge (3 for Margaret, the Empress; 5 for Naoto, the Fortune), 5 Courage (3 to progress with the fox, the Hermit, and Ai, the Moon; 5 for Naoto, again), 5 Understanding (3 for Naoki, the Hanged Man; 5 for Shu, the Tower), 5 Expression (between 3 and 5 for both Nanako, the Justice, and Ryotaro, the Hierophant; 5 to complete the Hermit S-Link), and 3 Diligence (for Sayoko, the Devil). That said, you’re pretty much going to want to max out Knowledge and Understanding as soon as possible, the former because the bonuses you get for being at the top of the class with your test scores, both in items and S-Link increases, are pretty sweet, and the latter because Tower is a pain to get if you don’t make a run at it as soon as possible. Courage should also be leveled fairly quickly, both because it has to be at 5 to even START working on Naoto, but also because you need to be at rank 3 or better to progress with the Hermit S-Link (which nets you greater discounts for healing services in the TV world). Expression doesn’t need to be leveled TOO heavily until around September or so, as you’re going to want to max it out and complete the Heirophant and Justice S-Links before November, as they won’t be available after that. Diligence can be ignored entirely after you reach rank 3, unless you want to answer a few specific questions a certain way or you enjoy fishing a whole lot, as it’s otherwise useless.
For those looking to try and maximize their gains, statistically, several S-Links actually improve your personal stats and should be abused as early as possible to make life easier. The Strength S-Link offers nice gains to Dilligence, the Temperance S-Link offers similar gains to Understanding, the Sun S-Link does this for Expression, the Tower S-Link for Knowledge, and the Devil S-Link for Courage. Studying with one of your party members also increases that S-Link in addition to your Knowledge, which is also quite helpful when you’re trying to build your stats as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’re trying to max all of the S-Links in the game in your first go, this is more or less going to be a significant part of how you do that, as you’ll have, maybe, a month of free time to do play around with that will allow you to max out your stats otherwise, meaning that maxing your stats AND all of the S-Links in the game is going to be no mean feat, to put it politely.
4.) Of the twenty-one Arcana, six do not require you to have a matching Persona: Fool (which levels up on its own), Judgment (which also levels up on its own), Star (which, again, levels up on its own), Death (which levels up every time you speak to the Social Link, no matter what), Hermit (which levels up by doing quests), and Empress (which levels up by fusing specialized Persona). These, as a result, are the easiest S-Links to earn, and as such, should be easy for nearly everyone to get. Hell, three of them don’t even require you to do ANYTHING except play through the game, so at the bare minimum, you should be able to max those out easily enough, unless you go for a bad ending or something, but who would really want to do that anyway?
5.) Of the remaining fifteen Arcanum, five are of above average difficulty to max out, at the minimum. Devil is only available on odd nights, cannot be influenced by anything but normal visits, and requires Diligence of 3 in order to unlock, meaning you’ll be at that for a while. Tower is similar to Devil, but requires Understanding of 5 instead of 3 in Diligence, meaning that, yes, you are going to be earning that stat for a LONG while before you’re ready to earn that S-Link. Temperance is only available on odd DAYS, in addition to following the above rules, meaning you’ll have to devote time you’d normally spend unlocking other S-Links to unlocking this one, and further, YOU CAN’T WORK ON THIS S-LINK WHEN IT’S RAINING, unlike the other two S-Links, making this one, EASILY, the hardest and most annoying S-Link in the game to properly max out. Hierophant is only available on odd nights, cannot be influenced by anything but normal visits, will not be available while victims are in the TV, and requires Expression of 4 to complete. Justice is available most nights, can occasionally be influenced by outside events, and requires Expression of 5 to complete. Also, both Hierophant and Justice drop out of being available early in November (Hierophant on the 2nd, Justice on the 4th), making them more time sensitive than other S-Links.
6.) The remaining ten Arcana are based pretty much entirely around your high school, and as such, are a little easier to level up than most. Scoring high on the three tests the game makes you go through will massively jack up your rank with ALL of those S-Links, meaning that you can improve your standing with up to ten people by passing one stupid test, which is pretty fantastic. You can also make lunch and share it with any of the school S-Links, meaning that you can spend an otherwise useless period of time boosting your standing with a school friend, which is worthwhile to do since you won’t need ALL of your nights to level the four S-Links that are available then (unless you’re leveling your stats at that time), and anything that improves your standing with one of the ten people that are in your classes should be considered to be a good thing.
7.) Six of the ten school Arcana are, as you might have guessed, your party members, and as such, you’ll have FAR more opportunities to level up your S-Links with them than you will with anyone else. Aside from the above, you’ll also have all sorts of extra options for leveling these S-Links, including being able to pass the characters answers in class, being able to have study dates prior to tests, and being able to answer questions throughout the storyline that will also improve your S-Links with these characters.
Of the six party members you go to school with, Chie, Yosuke and Yukiko are the three easiest S-Links to level up, followed by Rise, Kanji and Naoto. The first three are in school for all of your exams and feature prominently in nearly all of the storyline advancing conversation sequences throughout the game, meaning you’ll EASILY have the most chances to level their S-Links. Further, all three are in your class, meaning that you’ll be given the opportunity to answer questions for them from time to time (with the winner of the “Junpei Iori Award For Never Paying Attention In Class”Â going to Yosuke, who seems to ask for your help on a weekly basis), which also helps a lot. Rise, being a potential love interest, will also frequently available for study dates and will respond well to flattery, which makes her pretty easy to level up as well, though since she’s not in your class, she’s somewhat more challenging to level up than the prior three characters. Kanji, though he appears earlier in the storyline than Rise does, doesn’t have as many storyline-based opportunities to level up his S-Link, and he’s also not in your class, meaning he suffers a bit in that regard. Naoto is pretty much the worst of the lot in this regard; aside from the fact that, as noted previously, you need to have maxed out your Knowledge AND Courage scores just to even START the S-Link, there’s also the fact that Naoto doesn’t appear as an S-Link until two of the four testing weeks are over, isn’t boosted by many storyline choices, isn’t in your class, and appears at a point where you’ll have, at most, two lunch periods to boost said S-Link before this option is unavailable. Of course, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the Fortune S-Link is exceptionally easy to boost, and can be done in as little as ten attempts if you have a Fortune Persona on hand at all times and answer all of the questions correctly, so there is that…
8.) It’s also worth noting that leveling up the S-Links of your teammates is beneficial in ways unrelated to Persona summoning. For one, each teammate will develop abilities as you level up their S-Links that make them more useful than they would be otherwise. Combat characters will learn how to do special strikes that can dizzy enemies or, in the case of Galactic Punt, knock them out of battle entirely. In addition, they’ll also learn how to withstand death blows, heal status ailments, and help up knocked-down allies, all of which will make them far more useful in battle. Rise, on the other hand, learns Treasure Radar and Enemy Radar, which will allow you to see enemies and treasure chests on the map long before you come into contact with them, thus allowing you to plan out your route appropriately. Maxing out the S-Links will allow your allies to earn new Personas, which will make them more effective in battle as well; with the exception of Yukiko and Teddie, your allies will lose all of their elemental weaknesses by leveling up their Personas, and their stats will improve as well, which is also of significant benefit to you in all possible respects. Rise will also receive an upgraded Persona when she’s maxed out, though this doesn’t convey any sort of benefit aside from an ability that isn’t terribly exciting, so if you’re pressed for time you can ignore her entirely as needed.
9.) Speaking of battle, around October (when Naoto becomes a member of the group) you’ll be able to build two separate parties to crawl through the dungeons with, which, aside from allowing you to blow through dungeons faster, will also allow you to spend less on replenishing SP for your party members. As such, I’d recommend building your parties like such:
First group: Chie, Yukiko, Yosuke: plow through the first half of the dungeon, then replenish SP.
Second group: Kanji, Naoto, Teddie: plow through the second half of the dungeon, then sub out.
Third Group: Chie, Yosuke, and Yukiko or Teddie: whip the boss and leave.
The first group is mostly as it is because of what the second group lacks more so than because of any great abilities they might possess, but the group does have some distinct advantages in boss battles. Chie eventually becomes a physical powerhouse, and between the fact that she earns tons of great Physical attacks and the fact that she earns Power Charge, she’s a valuable asset in battle so long as you can keep her health up. Yosuke comes with plenty of solid damage dealing spells and some boosts to his Wind magic, and can be outfitted with stat buffing and debuffing spells that make him invaluable against many of the later bosses, as does his ability to use Dia skills. Yukiko is a piss-poor physical fighter, but she’s the strongest magic user in the game aside from your character, potentially, so she’s an awesome magic caster and party healer, and can learn Salvation, which heals damage AND cures status ailments, making her nearly invaluable.
In comparison, Naoto, Kanji and Teddie are better equipped for dungeon exploration, largely because they are either better equipped for fighting groups or are poorly equipped for fighting bosses. Kanji deals large amounts of melee damage, but can’t compare to Chie’s damage output once she picks up Power Charge, and he has a pitiful magic rating and SP bar, meaning he’s essentially the worst magic user in the game. Naoto comes equipped with instant-death spells and Almighty damage, but instant-death spells are useless against bosses and most Almighty spells are group damage spells, meaning that Naoto has nothing that can target one enemy that’s worth having in a boss fight anyway. Teddie is less of a case of being a bad character for boss fights and more of a case of being too AVERAGE for boss fights, as he can deal decent melee and magic damage, and can act as party healer when needed, but he doesn’t excel in any one area. That said, it takes FOREVER to max out his S-Link, because it’s storyline-based, meaning that you won’t see Teddie evolve his Persona to its second form until December, when everyone else could EASILY be there sometime around September (well, except for Naoto, but that’s for entirely different reasons). Teddie can also learn Traesto, which allows you to escape dungeons instantly, thus saving you the effort of having to carry a Persona that knows this skill or having to use up a Goho-M if you don’t want to. In short, these characters are best suited for dungeon clearing; they can hit large groups of foes and deal decent melee damage, but lack the tools necessary to make them must-haves in boss fights.
10.) Finally, here a few basic tips for players who are looking to max out their Persona Compendium or are looking to play through the game a second time… or who just want to make their lives easier in the long run.
– Lucifer, despite essentially being the personification of ultimate evil or whatever you happen to believe, is essentially the best Persona for you to have going into boss fights, and is immensely effective for bowling through a second playthrough, provided he’s built appropriately. Bufudyne, Mind Charge and Ice Amp will ensure you’re doing around six hundred or so damage per hit with each spell you cast, allowing you to flatten bosses in minutes, if not seconds. Spell Master will halve the costs for these spells, allowing them to be cast without depleting your SP, meaning you can unleash them incredibly early in the game for second playthroughs. Repel Light will remove Lucifer’s only weakness, and any other Absorb/Repel/Null effects you can get will be worth it too. Finally, Victory Cry will allow you to walk away from battle in excellent shape to fight again, meaning you can essentially take on EVERYTHING without a problem. Combine that with his immensely over-powered stats, and, well, it’s almost not even fair… well, until you remember how many enemies come equipped with Null/Absorb/Repel Physical. That’s about the time where you pretty much get over it.
It bears noting that, obviously, there are far better Personas out there for those of you who want to spend your time and money building them (check here for some incredibly disgusting Personas that you can fool with if you’ve the time and patience), but for most players, Lucifer will be all you’ll ever need. If you want to build a Persona that’s immune to EVERYTHING EVER and can one hit kill nearly everything, by all means, go right ahead, but if you’re lazy like me, having a Persona that can kill a boss in a couple rounds and can withstand nearly everything is, frankly, good enough.
– BUILDING Lucifer is going to be a pain in the ass, of course; he requires you to be well into the nineties, level-wise, meaning you’ll have hours and hours of grinding ahead of you… unless you abuse the game a little. This trick may work earlier, but the first time it’s guaranteed to work is about the time you find Magatsu Mandala/Magatsu Inaba. There are enemies in the first zone of Magatsu Mandala called “Great Kings”Â that will be all too happy to endlessly spawn Free Bambinos forever and ever, and since Summon doesn’t cost anything, well, they’re entirely within their rights to do so. Since the Free Bambinos only attack with Physical skills, and the Great Kings don’t attack at all, you can essentially use this to your advantage by carrying around a Persona that Repels/Nulls/Absorbs Physical Attacks (I used Rangda, a Magician Persona), entering into battle with these enemies, setting the game on auto, and doing something else for an hour or so. Not only does this earn you tons of cash for building Personas, but it also levels you up after a few runs (while there’s no cap on the money you can earn doing this, you will be capped on experience earned for some odd reason), thus allowing you to max yourself out in a few trips. For added amusement, you can equip your party members with crappy weapons, bring them with you, let them die, then use Samrecarm on them a few hours later and watch them all level up like crazy alongside you. This is also especially useful if you’re on your second playthrough and, like me, you were sick of the combat at that point and just wanted to move on with your life.
– Earning money by using the above trick is, as noted, incredibly useful for filling out your Persona compendium, but it’s doubly useful if you’re going to go through a second playthrough, as it allows you to carry over tons of cash into a second go at the game, meaning you literally CAN blow through a dungeon in one go, since you’ll be rich enough to manage this thing. You could probably make it through with around five hundred thousand to one million yen, for those who are curious about this thing, but the more the merrier, as they say, so hey, go nuts.
– If you’re looking at the above advice and thinking you’re going to find and kill The Reaper the second you get the chance to do so for the purposes of getting awesome gear, DON’T. The Reaper is around level eighty five, casts spells that remove all of your element boosts, and spams high-damage elemental skills that will wipe out your party pretty damn quick, even if you ARE carrying around one of the best Personas in the game. In theory, you can Debilitate him and have someone cast a healing spell every turn, but in practice The Reaper likes to cast Megidolan CONSTANTLY just to screw with you, so even if you’re REALLY interested in the top-tier equipment, you, uh, still might want to wait a bit before trying him out.
For the record, I took him down the first time around level 50, using the Chie/Yukiko/Yosuke team and Trumpeter and Lucifer as my go to Personas. This took about twenty minutes and the whole team pretty much depleted their SP by the end of it, but it’s entirely possible, for those wondering, so if you choose to ignore The Reaper until around the time you go to Magatsu Inaba, you’ll pretty much be able to stomp a mudhole in him.
– And speaking of uber-powerful bosses, then there’s Margaret. On the plus side, for those who have played Persona 3, she’s nowhere near as bad as Elizabeth; you can bring your whole party to fight her, and she doesn’t hit AS hard as her sister did, all in all, meaning you can prepare for her simply enough by massively over-leveling your party (as noted above) and claiming every piece of gear you can get from The Reaper, which will be at least marginally useful, if nothing else. She also won’t destroy you for having Personas that Null/Drain/Repel attacks, meaning you can build a Persona that does exactly that if you’re feeling the urge without it being a big problem. That said, she’s still exceptionally powerful, deals lots of damage, and takes forever to kill, meaning you’ll be spending a large amount of time working her over, and you’ll really need to keep your health and SP in top shape to win this battle. Again, this battle is nowhere near as bad as the battle against Elizabeth from Persona 3, but that doesn’t mean it’s at all easy, either, so expect some serious pain if you intend to do this. Just a friendly warning.
– Finally, for those who are following along with the actual strategy guide and trying to follow the correct path for the Naoto S-Link, there’s a pretty awful typo there; you need to answer the FIRST choice of Decision Three in the Rank Six event to follow that path, not the THIRD choice. Screw that up and you’ll be playing the game another hundred plus hours to see THAT event again. Thanks, Doublejump books!
Anyway, that’s about the extent of what I have to share with you. Hopefully this will make your experience a little easier, or at the very least, more productive. In any case, thanks for your time, and happy… whatever. Hunting, talking, whatever you’re going to be doing in the game. Enjoy it.