The summer of 2014 hit me like a wrecking ball. I fell out of a long relationship and I lost contact with a few friends of mine, on the gaming side: Watch_Dogs did not live up to all the hype it made and I made the “mistake” of buying a Wii U. Go me!
With no other games releasing I asked around for something to bide my time and Persona 3 and Persona 4 were mentioned a handful of times. I was told they had self-contained stories so I could start with either one.
I chose Persona 4 thinking I would either not like it or be compelled to finish it like most JRPG’s I start. I was wrong, so very wrong.
Persona 4 is a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) and a social simulator. As the silent protagonist you’re sent off to the rural town of Inaba as a transfer high school student. Interestingly enough the day you arrive a serial murder begins to happen. It’s up to you and your high school friends to solve the mystery before going back home next spring. And yet, one has to find time to do other activities such as studying, part time jobs, hanging with friends and after school activities just like anyone else.
Upon starting the game I spent about three hours tapping ‘X’ listening to all the dialogue as it introduced me to most of the supporting cast, I instantly fell in love with the protagonist’s cousin, Nanako, she’s just delightful and adorable. Yosuke was easily the comic relief of the group and there is a lot of humor in this game.
The story is a full-blown Scooby-Doo mystery. It has some twists and turns but still has some humor and goofiness to it and it all had me hooked. I always felt like I was one step closer to reaching out to the truth but nothing is as it seems. The story itself is good but the characters make it worth getting through.
I mentioned earlier that when you’re not busy dungeon crawling to advance the plot and get one step closer to solving the case you’re doing other activities. One of the biggest mechanics of the game are Social Links. Social Links are little side stories for each of the characters. It fleshes the characters out more as they deal with a problem of their own. By participating in these Social Links you increase your relationship with them, for characters in your party they can learn new moves, if you manage to max out a female Social Link you have the option of entering a relationship with them.
The Social Links do so much for the characters that not only did it make me like certain characters more but I also came to identify with a few of them. Without getting too deep into spoiler territory an event happens to Yosuke that is talked about during his social link, it’s a heartwarming moment to me and it just resonated with me because how he acts and who he is remind me of myself in a few ways. Even then, I know it is a video game but it truly felt like I was becoming friends with these characters. I knew their likes, dislikes, fears and more. Atlus put a lot of time and thought into fleshing out all of the characters and the finished product is simply amazing.
Let’s talk about the combat!
It’s pretty standard JRPG turn based fashion but there is a greater emphasis on exploiting the weaknesses of your enemies. Hitting an enemy with their weakness will knock them down and give you an extra turn called a “One-More.” Knock down all the enemies and you can perform an All-Out Attack where you and your party members gang-up on the enemy for an extremely powerful attack. Pure satisfaction every time. In battle you can attack with your weapons or use your persona to attack. A persona is the manifestation of one’s suppressed human thoughts given form. If you didn’t understand that then a persona is a really cool looking monster thing that you use to fight other monsters.
The personas themselves have weaknesses too and enemies can exploit them and receive an extra turn as well. There is some strategy involved when going into battle, what persona to choose and what ability to use as well.
I’ve got a nice little tune stuck in my head, guess it’s time to start the music!
I love the music in this game from the opening song to the boss themes, I can’t get enough of them. The opening theme in the Vita remake, Persona 4 Golden, instantly puts a smile on my face, it just evokes a sense of happiness and I can throw all my worries away. Another song that just stands out to me is one that plays only on sunny days. It goes by “Your Affection” and it might be the catchiest song I’ve heard so far, at first I couldn’t make out the lyrics but it didn’t stop me from humming them. “Backside of the TV” is a really clever song that has two parts being sung at the same time. Keeping track of what is being said can be difficult but when the end of one part of the song mixes with the other, it just sounds great. Persona 4 reignited my love for video game music, I regret nothing.
By now you’ve probably read all that and said to yourself, “but what does this all mean?” Well I’ll tell you what this all means. Persona 4 is a unique game that clicks with me personally because of everything I said up above. I love a good murder mystery and the game has a fair share of twists and turns that even I could not predict ahead of time. The game has a lighthearted and humorous side to the story even when things get dark and serious, I mean they are high school kids it’s only natural they attempt to pick up girls to disastrous results or go on a camping trip with their school. Persona 4 appeared to me at just the right time in my life and it made me learn a bit about myself and opened my eyes to a different side of life. Never have I cared so much about a group of video game characters and what the next day may hold for them.
For a game I honestly didn’t expect to beat and had no expectations whatsoever, Persona 4 and its remake has shot its way to the top and now hold the title of “My Favorite Game of All Time.”
I really have to thank my friends Dylan and Craig for giving me the initial push to play through the game. If it wasn’t for them I would not have spent all this money buying the game and all the spin-offs. Thank you for introducing me to this great game and fantastic series.
More importantly, I must give thanks to the team at Atlus for creating a wonderful and fun experience for me to enjoy over and over again. #BasedAtlus
*Originally written July 24, 2015 at AllPlatformGaming.com*