Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden!
I’ve been thinking a lot about Persona 4 lately. Scenes from the game just came rushing into my mind the other day and have refused to leave, infusing me with a feeling of nostalgia that made me want to share my strong feelings for the game with someone.
I wasn’t exactly a fan of JRPG’s when I first set upon playing Persona 4 for the first time last year. In fact, I don’t recall ever playing another game from the genre except for the Kingdom Hearts series (a franchise which I also have a lot to say about, but that’s another story for another time). I didn’t quite know what to expect with Persona 4, and the prospect of embarking upon a 90+ hour adventure was a bit daunting, to say the least. Who knew if I would get bored halfway through and regret having wasted my time with it? Or, even worse, if I would have to force myself to finish it and suffer through endless hours bored to death with it? These questions lingered in the back of my head for about 5 minutes, but they were gone the second I chose to start a new game in the main menu.
The first thing that really resonates with you about Persona 4 is the amazing, and I do mean amazing, cast of characters. Developer Atlus knew Persona 4 would take a long time to finish, so instead of adding pointless filler stuff to pass the time, they dedicated the extra time to fleshing out the protagonists of the adventure, to the point that they actually feel real. From the second I arrived at school on the first day, I instantly felt a connection with Yosuke, Yukiko, and Chie as if they were my actual real-life friends, except they were characters in a video game. This was, unfortunately, a fact which I had to keep reminding myself but eventually learned to forget.
Those three characters alone would be good enough to carry the whole game, but when the rest of the crew is introduced, I just lost it. Kanji was downright hilarious, Teddie was cute yet kind of quirky, Rise was simply dazzling, and although Naoto didn’t have as much development time as the others, I still considered her a vital part of the Investigation Team. I couldn’t wait to finish exploring the dungeons so I could get back to hanging out with them in Inaba. Every little conversation I engaged in with them simply felt real and that’s the best compliment I can give these characters or, dare I say, my friends. Oh, and Nanako? Cutest. Thing. Ever! Seriously, if you don’t like her, there’s definitely something wrong with you.
Apart from having some of the best characters ever put into a video game, Persona 4 also has a really engaging plot that kept me on my toes throughout the whole adventure. Its twists and turns are both effective and intriguing, making you think you’re pointing fingers at the right culprit when in fact you couldn’t be further from the truth. When Adachi was revealed as the real killer I couldn’t believe my eyes! I started thinking back and piecing every little detail about him together until it finally made all the sense in the world. That’s how a great mystery story is told, leaving clues along the way but never explicitly uncovering the villain until the very end, and Persona 4 does that with aces.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 also does an outstanding job at delivering gut-wrenching scenes that pack one hell of a punch. I’m not the most sensitive guy ever, but Persona 4 is the single most emotional piece of entertainment I’ve ever experienced, be it a video game, movie, TV show or book. Twice tears were brought to my eyes, and the second one hit me even harder than the first one did. I cried for the first time when Nanako supposedly died alone in a hospital bed. That specific scene was so devastating considering how she looked up to you and how she was basically there because you failed to protect her. Thank God she recovered because I don’t think I could have ever erased the image of her lifeless body from my mind if she hadn’t (who would be around to call me Big Bro if she’s gone?).
The second time I cried my heart out was at the end where they show your friends chasing the train as you leave Inaba to go back to the city. I basically just lost it as the train rolled away. I started looking back at the 103-hour journey that had led me there, including all those good memories I had forged with them. When the whole group started running alongside the wagon and shouting farewell to me, that was it. I was fully aware that I would no longer be seeing them every day, and thus, it felt like I was actually leaving alongside the main character. The image still remains etched on my memory, and I doubt it’ll leave anytime soon.
A special mention has to go out to the soundtrack in Persona 4, which is one of the best sets of melodies and songs I’ve ever heard in a game (I know I’m saying this a lot, but it really is true when it comes to Persona 4). The series of piano arrangements are perfect for a wide variety of occasions, be it a sad, funny or goofy moments. The catchy J-Pop tunes stayed with me long after I had put down the game. In fact, I still find myself whistling the tunes every now and then!
So, what makes Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 so special to me? Well, I guess it all comes down to a combination of the aforementioned elements and the impact the game had on me. The great plot and wonderful cast of characters provided me with a sense of belonging and joy no other title had instilled in me before. Exploring Inaba was the best part of my day for the month and a half it took me to beat Persona 4. It remains, to this day, the most emotional journey I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing and I believe it has made me grow both as a gamer and as a person.
If you have yet to play Persona 4 for yourself, I strongly urge you to do so. Persona 5 is around the corner so you could get the original PS2 version or the revamped Persona 4 Golden version for the PlayStation Vita (you really can’t go wrong with either of them, but if you have a choice, go for the latter). I still have to delve into Persona 3 and other Shin Megami Tensei games myself, but that’s a shortcoming I’m hoping to fix in the coming weeks. Whether it’ll be as good as the fourth entry in the series only time will tell but one thing is for sure: I won’t forget the adventures I forged with my friends in Inaba anytime soon.