I realize the title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer. There’s only one thing that you can really look back in nostalgia about and that’s the original Persona 4 game. Persona 4 Arena (or Persona 4 the Ultimate Mayonaka Arena), Persona 4 the Animation and Persona 4 the Golden were released within the last 3 years. However, the original came out in 2008 (in the US and Japan), so I’m putting it under nostalgia.
As I stated before, Persona 4 came out in December of 2008. I remember eagerly awaiting for it to come. I was so curious what they would do with the Persona series after Persona 3. I had enjoyed playing Persona 3 so much that I couldn’t wait any longer for the next game to come out.
When I finally popped that game disc in to the PS2, I noticed a huge difference. The theme color for Persona 4 was yellow. The theme color for Persona 3 was blue. While Persona 3’s blue was supposed to be a symbol for adolescence, Persona 4’s yellow was symbolic of happiness.
It is also a good way to give the audience an idea that this game will have a different feel than Persona 3 did. It was a good way to help set the tone for the new game and new story.
The game takes place in a small country town called Inaba. The main character transfers to Yasogami High School after his parents are called out-of-town for work. He moves in with his uncle, Ryotaro Dojima and his younger cousin Nanako.
Shortly after the main character (from now on known as TMC) moves to Inaba, the town is besieged by a series of mysterious murders. The victims show up hanging upside down from one leg (much like the Hanged Man arcana in tarot) from various items within the town.
Attached to the murders is the urban legend called the Midnight Channel (Mayonaka TV in Japanese). The rumor states that you see your soul mate on a TV that happens to be off on midnight of a rainy day.
TMC hears of this rumor as he goes to Yasogami High. He also meets 3 people who wind up being a part of his group in his class (Yousuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka and Yukiko Amagi). It’s a matter of convenience that they all sit near him in class. It is after TMC starts developing a friendship with Yousuke and start talking to Chie that they begin to learn a little more about the Midnight Channel.
The first night TMC see the Midnight Channel, he touches the screen of his television. When he does this he realizes that he can actually enter the TV. He starts to go into the television but is prevented from doing so because his TV is too small. When he mentions it to Chie and Yousuke, they both laugh it off.
It isn’t until TMC takes them to the electronics department at Junes (a large department store that’s ran by Yousuke’s father in Inaba) that he shows them that he can actually enter the television. In actuality, all three of them can enter the TV. They all fall in. This is where the discover that Inaba now has two worlds: the normal world outside and the world inside the TV. They’re first venture into the TV is a frightening one where they get some insight into the world of the murderer. It’s also at this time that they meet up with Teddie, the only creature that lives inside the TV.
After their first venture into the TV, Yousuke and TMC decide to enter the TV again to look for an older classmate and friend of Yousuke. They discover that the world changes to accommodate the psyche of whomever is thrown in the TV. In the case of Yousuke’s friend, it’s been changed to resemble the local shopping district and, more importantly, the liquor store that her family runs.
This is where TMC comes into his Persona. It’s also where Yousuke comes into his. This is where we have the first major departure from the gameplay in Persona 3. You actually get to see the psyche behind each characters Persona. They happen to be the boss fights for each major area. Each large Shadow (similar to, but born from the character thrown in the TV and not just from the major arcana like in Persona 3) is an aspect of each individual’s personality that they don’t want to admit to. This is the self that each character denies. The part of themselves that they refuse to believe exists. When they deny this aspect of themselves the Shadow is allowed to form into a unique character that they then fight and come to accept as a part of themselves.
As Yousuke and TMC talk to Teddie, they realize that the murder victims are being thrown in and killed within the TV world. They also figure out that whoever shows up on the Midnight Channel when it’s still blurry is to be the next victim. Once they show up crisp, clear, a parody of themselves and a part of a cheap game show, they know that the victim is in the TV.
It is through rescuing people within the TV world that the main party for the game takes place. The party (in order of shadow fight) is: Yousuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka, Yukiko Amagi, Kanji Tatsumi, Rise Kujikawa and Naoto Shirogane. Each of them have aspects of themselves that they want to hide and deny the existence of. For Chie it’s her dependence on Yukiko. For Yukiko it’s that she doesn’t want to take up the reigns of the historic inn her family runs and her desire to rescued by a “prince”. For Kanji it’s his fear that he’s viewed as gay. For Rise it’s her fear that she’s being assimilated by her idol persona. For Naoto it’s their relative youth in her career as the Detective Prince and being trivialized for that as well as their fear of something more personal. I won’t go in to too much detail about Naoto as I don’t want to spoil that part of the story.
The whole time that TMC and company are going inside the TV to help people and to fight shadows, the police are investigating the murders. The police are comprised of Ryotaro Dojima and a somewhat inept fellow by the name of Tohro Adachi. At first the police suspect TMC and his friends of the murders, but as the story continues they find that those suspicions are unfounded.
Actually, at this point, I won’t continue on with the plot of the game. If I continue on with the plot at this point, it would give away the ending. I would rather not do it because I find the storyline of this game as interesting as I did that of Persona 3. There’s some interesting twists that happen that culminate in a rather frustrating and interesting end boss fight.
The gameplay of Persona 4 is similar to that of Persona 3. It’s a turn-based JRPG crossed with a dating sim. However, there are some notable differences in gameplay that makes it different from Persona 3. One of the differences I mentioned when I was talking about Persona 3 Portable (as it was released after Persona 4). That is the lack of “I am thou and thou art I…” monologue after the initial start of a social link.. Instead, you get a quick notice that the social link went up a level. In many ways, this makes playing the game more fluid and you’re not taken out of the story for as long as you were in Persona 3.
Another huge difference is that you can now control the other characters in the game. You can say what it is they’re doing. This is a huge improvement over Persona 3. Having greater control of the characters means that you can finally fight in a style that is more intuitive to you and less what’s been dictated by the developers. That being said, the pre-set combat models also still exist and can also be used interchangeably throughout the game.
There’s also the fact that you actually get to fight shadow versions of the parties personas that I happened to mention above.
Another difference between Persona 3 and Persona 4. In Persona 3, every time you went back to the lobby of Tartarus you were automatically healed and all you SP came back. That does not happen in Persona 4. You do eventually have a way to pay to be healed. However, it’s not cheap and in the first play through is often more than the amount of money you have. That is something they also ported over to Persona 3 Portable.
There is also a difference with the card shuffle that happens post-fight. It’s no longer set up like a game of 3-card Monty. There are various ways the cards are shuffled. Also, there will be another card that appears after the shuffle called Arcana match that will have an effect for a period of time on combat, how you see the world inside the TV or on your reward. Also, the death card is replaced with a penalty card.
Otherwise, the gameplay is similar between Persona 3 and 4.
After Persona 4 cam rumor of a fighting game that was coming out. From that we get Persona 4 Arena (or Persona 4 the Ultimate or Persona 4 the Ultimate Mayonaka Arena). I remember hearing about it a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t sure how the game would play or where it would fall into the Persona 4 storyline.
Thankfully, instead of shoehorning a fighting game into the storyline into Persona 4, they made it into an after-story. They made it fall around TMC visiting Inaba after returning home during Golden Week (approx. the first week of May). It’s the story of someone else who finds themselves thrown into the TV.
The plot of this game is much shorter. Instead of it being a series of people who are thrown into the TV and fighting their personas, it’s one person. That makes for a much shorter story. The story is that all the members of the murder investigation team from Persona 4 return to the world inside the TV in order to save someone new who’s been pushed into the TV world. Instead of fighting shadows this time, they’re fighting each other.
This is where the fighting part of the game comes to play. The fighting game mechanics are like that of BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. So, it’s a very button-mashy type of game. It’s not focused on button combos à la Street Fighter or DOA.
TMC does finally get a proper name in this game (you don’t have the ability to rename him). Instead of simply being called TMC, he is called Yu Nurakami. This game also has ties to Persona 3 as Akihiko Sanada, Mitsuru Kirijo and Aigis also show up in this game as a part of the plot (involving shadows, robots and personas). I don’t want to go into too much more detail about why they’re there as they are unlocked as you finish characters from Persona 4’s storylines.
Once again, this game is accompanied by a brilliant story that I have briefly described above. The game is fun to play. However, the main character does lose the ability to summon multiple personas. He’s stuck with his main Persona Izanagi.
Slightly before Persona 4 Arena was released, there was an anime called “Persona 4 the Animation” (which reminds me of all the Spaceballs merchandise throughout the movie Spaceballs). The storyline is the same as the original Persona 4 game… so I won’t describe the plot and story arc as I have described it up above.
I enjoyed the anime as it was a way to rehash what happened in the game. However, the boss fights were easier than I remembered as are the different areas of the TV, often being taken care of within one episode (which makes a certain amount of sense as the series is only 25 episodes long). They also managed to inject a good amount of humor to the series beyond the obvious humor mill of Teddie. It is certainly more light-hearted than Persona Trinity Soul (just as Persona 4 is more light-hearted than Persona 3).
I think the humor adds to the anime and makes it a more fun, less serious ride. I enjoyed it as it was something that was simultaneously fun and serious. If you don’t have time to play Persona 4 but want to see the story of the game, I highly recommend watching the series. It follows fairly true to the story.
In November last year there was a game released on the Playstation Vita called Persona 4 the Golden. I can’t do a review of the game as I don’t have the means to buy a Vita at this point in time. I can cover what I understand the game to be about.
From my understanding, Persona 4 the Golden is the same game/story as Persona 4. There is no female protagonist (boo). There is no additional after-story stuff other than what is presented in Persona 4 Arena. However, it is an expanded version of Persona 4. There’s some more bells and whistles as well as an added character by the name of Marie. You also get two new social links in Marie and Adachi. I wish I could go into more detail about the game, but unfortunately, it is beyond my means right now to get. I hope to be able to bring you a better review some time in the near future.
The Persona series is such a cult hit for everything about it that makes it a JRPG. It’s beloved for its cultural differences. It also beloved because the storylines are interesting and varied. The world creation is also interesting, even if they are derived from places within Japan.
Persona 4 ably carries on that torch. It’s a game that’s fun to play and has many hours of re-play. The soundtrack is great and the storyline makes it totally worth the playing.
It’s also a good tie over until Atlus finally officially announces Persona 5 (like at E3). Now it’s a race between Kingdom Hearts 3 and Persona 5 to see which highly anticipated game will be released first.