46. Persona 4 (PS2)
EVERYONE IN THIS THREAD IS A SCIENCE PROJECT
NOW TAKE A FSTEAK AND GET BENT GET BENT GET BENT
Persona 4 is a game I have thoroughly plumbed the depths of without ever touching it as an actual game. I read R^2's LP of Suikoden 2 and read a little bit about it on the wiki, but for P4 I have:
1. Watched a complete LP playthrough, including most of the combat parts and all the bosses (I skipped some longer repetitive sections of the dungeons)
2. Watched every single social link event for all the characters, and all the alternate versions of said events (usually whether the girl is being romanced or not)
3. Watched the original anime
4. Watched the Golden anime
5. Watched the Hiimdaisy comic video so many times I can basically recite it by heart now
Suffice it to say, I probably have a greater working understanding of Persona 4 and what it is as a game than most of the other games on this list that I actually have
So, then, aside from the plentiful S tier memes, what is Persona 4? What's it about? What kind of game is it?
Well, on it's face, Persona 4 is a dating simulator and a visual novel and a murder mystery and a JRPG sort of all shoved into one full to bursting shell. It's all held together by, you guessed it, the all-star cast of characters, fully THREE of which appeared on my top ten anime husbando/waifu list. So uh. Yeah. I like the characters. The characters are good.
Persona 4 isn't afraid to go dark. In a lot of ways, P4 is considered the "lightest" of the Persona series but it also deals with darker themes that the other games don't touch. Stuff like nihilism, existentialism, and most importantly the Shadow. (In The Jungian sense).
The Shadow is you, and you are your Shadow. The Shadow is anything about yourself you don't want to admit to, or show other people. It's almost always a negative thing, usually really deep seated nasty shit about your feelings. Often viewed as a adversary or a negative by popular media, your Shadow is actually your greatest ally, should you muster the courage to face and embrace it.
Chie and Yukiko are best friends. Yukiko is beautiful and proper and a lady, and Chie is a plain tomboy who excels at physical stuff. To the casual observer, they might look like a mismatched pair, but they love each other.
When you face Chie's Shadow, it turns out that a part of Chie felt both superior and jealous to Yukiko, because of how Yukiko is perceived as a more correct "girl" by society. So Chie relished the chance to be the dominant one in their friendship, to be the one in control. Her resentment of Yukiko's better looks and better traditional feminine qualities caused her to develop a negative (and potentially damaging) emotional relationship with her friend.
This kind of nuance and writing isn't common. Deep dives into what makes us as humans tick are not usually (in fact, hardly ever) so well written, developed, and executed. Chie doesn't overcome her Shadow by destroying it, because you can't destroy part of yourself. You must instead embrace and accept the Shadow as part of who you are, and by doing so gain the power and confidence that comes with knowing your own faults and working to become a better person.
Everyone has darkness in them. To be jealous, to be resentful, to be angry, and to be hateful is to be human. None of us are saints. Life isn't about ignoring those feelings and letting them influence you from behind the scenes of your mind, but instead understanding them and allowing them their proper place in your psyche, not festering in the back but held up to the light.
In real life, embracing your Shadow gives you confidence, power, and strength. Personally, my Shadow has always been anger and rage, and when I learned to accept that about myself, I found my actions became less controlled by my emotions. And my Shadow is always there when I need it, when I need anger at injustice. It's my greatest ally.
Oh, sorry. Is this game review getting a bit personal? Sorry, it's just that, you know, games that make the people who play them look inward at their own workings are, you know, pretty much this game, and that's it, ever. So.
In Persona 4 the characters that embrace their Shadows also get a super cool Persona to beat up monsters with, so that's nice.
Persona 4 also touches on some really cool subjects that games basically do not fucking talk about ever (I'm not counting Indie stuff, which is flooded with this kind of thing) like being gay, gender as society understands it and how the individual presents, the veil of ignorance being both bliss but a false bliss, the chameleon nature of a person's personality and what your "true" self is, and how much Yosuke hates living in the country.
Speaking of Yosuke, he's by far the worst character. He's the plucky comic relief and his Shadow is the least interesting. Furthermore, he constantly does the whole "comic homophobia" thing, which is a REALLY odd choice in a game as nuanced and sensitive as this one. It's possible they were just going for "well, people do this in real life all the fucking time, so" when they wrote him like they wrote all 10 seasons of Friends (seriously, go back and watch the show, you can't go three episodes without Joey, Ross and Chandler being homophobic) but it's played pretty straight up for laughs at the expense of real people with real issues. I'm not sure about Yosuke's constant shitting on Kanji. While it may be "realistic" as far as society goes, it seems somewhat disingenuous to write a game about being true to yourself but then write in a character that constantly says "except if you're gay, cause that's like, super gross, haha."
But aside from Yosuke's SO FUNNY HOMOPHOBIA, I would not change a single thing about any of the characters. They're all great otherwise.
I'm talking so much about the characters and the themes over the plot and the gameplay for a reason. They're both far more interesting and important to this game than anything else. The gameplay is similar to a visual novel where you have only so many actions per day, so you have to manage your time if you want to see all the content. The dungeon crawling is the worst part of the game and is typical Persona boring random encounters in proc gen featureless dungeons. Ho hum. I guess the "collect pets" part of the game's combat is interesting to some people.
I could go on about the characters and the romance and the themes. But this is supposed to be a review of the game, not an in-depth dissertation on each character and why they're so well written and realized and the themes and lessons we can learn from each. And, I don't want to spoil anything for those who have never experienced it, so I'll end this here.Do I recommend this game:
Absolutely yes. You can do what I did and just watch the complete LP and skip all the combat because it's bog standard and tedious, but the rest of the game is actually an Important examination of the human condition. In Japanese High Schoolers, but also in us all.