“What a TEDious fight!” ~ Jamie’s Persona 4 Review

March 22, 2009

This post is epically long, but I guess it makes up for my lack of posting, right? xDD I’ve been meaning to write a Persona 4 review for a while. Sorry if it’s a bit redundant, and if you don’t want spoilers, you may not wanna read it. xDD

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The sixth in the Persona series by Atlus; Persona 4 can be described in one word: “epic.” If you know me personally, you know that from late January (January 27th) to early March (March 1st), I was inhaling this game as if it were a source of life. (Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration…)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (ペルソナ4) was released in America in December, 2008. It had incredibly high expectations; since Persona 3 was a massive success. It’s a role-playing game; meaning that you have full control over who your character associates with, who they befriend, and who they generally ARE; i.e: the noble hero? The shy kid? The cynical ass who probably should actually be the antagonist but somehow isn’t? You also have control over who he dates, if anyone at all — where he works, what his name is, everything. You have semi-control over who your group is — 7 other people make up your “team,” (one being support-based, so you don’t battle with her) but you can only choose 3 whenever you take part in the actual gameplay.

But now I’m rambling~ So, I’ll give you a rough outline of Persona 4 — or really, what it’s about. xD

Persona 4 takes place in the fictional, rural Japanese town of Inaba. It has one high school, a lonely shopping district, one MASSIVE department store which you never really enter (save for the store’s foodcourt — it ends up becoming the group’s secret base of sorts xDD), and, of course, various housing areas and an inn. It lies among the floodplains, too. You’re character is a transfer student from the big city — upon arrival, you learn about “The Midnight Channel;” an urban legend which states that when you look at television on a rainy day at midnight, your soulmate will appear.
Naturally, this is all a bunch of crap — the Midnight Channel is actually an insight into “The Television World,” who’s origin I won’t tell because it’s a HUGE spoiler. If any common person looks at it, they can see the events going on inside of the Other World — however, they won’t be able to enter it, and (prior to the events in the game) are usually greeted with a technicolour screen.
Certain individuals, however, have the ability to reach into any television set and enter the Midnight Channel directly. These individuals have Personas — a powerful form of themselves, sort of like a weapon, which is “the facade used to overcome life’s troubles.” However, in order to enter, they must be able to fit through the set’s screen, or else they’ll just reach in and nothing’ll happen.

Each television set leads to a different area of the Midnight Channel. The weather conditions inside the Midnight Channel are the opposite of what exists in Inaba — a thick, nasty fog naturally exists in the Midnight Channel. Anyone who enters it without proper gear suffers from severe nausea and head pain, which results in a comatose state.
However, after a long period of rain, a thick fog sets in to Inaba — due to the ying-yang aspect which Inaba and The Midnight Channel have, this causes the fog in the Midnight Channel to disappear. Sounds like good news? Well, it isn’t — it’s HORRIBLE NEWS and just THINKING ABOUT IT is annoying me. Once the fog disappears in The Midnight Channel, the “Shadows” (sort of like the “monsters”) that reside in it get all hyper — they get stronger and are deadly. Anyone inside fog-less Midnight Channel has no hope in hell — they get killed by the Shadows. Instead of their corpse deteriorating, it is transported back to Inaba — dangling among telephone wires. CREEPY MUCH? One of the reasons why the game’s rated ~M~, I suppose.

Now, The Midnight Channel is pretty harmless — once no one messes with it. Normal people don’t have the ability to enter televisions — however, one guy gains this ability, and through tons of complex manipulation, he manages get normal people tossed into the Midnight Channel. Thus begins the GRAND MURDER MYSTERY, the base of the game — the ~investigation~.

Once you learn the basics about the Channel, you learn that people thrown into the Channel are killed by their “Shadows” — unlike the normal monsters dwelling the Channel, these “shadows” are the darkness which conceal people’s inner Persona. In other words — it’s like the darkness of your heart; the hidden part of yourself which you don’t want to reveal to anyone, the part which you put a facade over and reject. When saving victims who’re thrown into the Channel, you have to confront their Shadow-self. Afterwards, if the victim clears their head and accepts the Shadow as part of themself, the Shadow will purify and manifest itself as a Persona, thus granting the “vicitim” the ability to enter the T.V. world and kick ass. Oh, and you have to save them before the fog rolls in to Inaba — which is roughly once a month. If it rolls in BEFORE you save them, you’re given the option to either return to the title screen and continue from where you last saved, OR you can go back one week in time. Missing the deadline is BRUTAL, because most of the heavy training is done in the last week. Therefore, if the victim is killed, you’re taken back one week before the fog and must train all over again; this time managing your time more pro-actively.
Furthermore, the game has a total of 3 endings: One “Bad” Ending (the result of accusing the wrong culprit), One “Normal” Ending (people usually get this; it’s if you stick to the default storyline), and the ultimate “True” Ending, which is a bit more complex and features one extra dungeon which is BEAUTIFUL.

As for your character: You’ve just transferred to Inaba during this time of madness. While in Inaba, you stay with your uncle, Ryotaro Dojima, a police detective who’s usually out doing work due to the murder cases (little does he know that his work is for naught, seeing as the crimes are taking place in another world) and Dojima’s six-year old daughter, Nanako, who’s SO adorable and SO sweet, and has managed to take care of the household chores for her father.

Aside from the main storyline, you’re a normal high-school student. You DO have to pay attention to the random facts given out in class (talking to plants really does make them grow faster — also, moustaches excrete toxins), lest you totally bomb the midterm exams. You snag a part-time job and you can join a few clubs, too. You socialize with characters who aren’t directly related to the storyline, and you can “intensify” your relationship with them by talking to them regularly.

The key theme of Persona 4 is “facing yourself”; accepting you for who YOU really are; letting down your facades and revealing your true power. It’s also about “seeking the truth” — where the murder mystery comes in — but it also sort of overlaps with the first theme: seeking your true self. Thus, every character which you interact with in the game has a unique backstory, and if you choose to be close friends with them, you help them… come to terms with it. xD

Anyway, I guess I’ll talk about the characters now. Here’s where you’ll find the actual spoilers.

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Soji Seta ~ You. Your character. The MC (main character). You have total control over him, pretty much. I think I’ve said enough about him already. xDD He’s pretty cool. OH, DID I MENTION THAT HE’S A SILENT GUY? You choose anything and everything which he says. I ♥ Silent Protagonists. The MC doesn’t formally face himself as a Shadow — how he gets a Persona is a key point of the game.

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Yosuke Hanamura ~ Born and raised in the city, he recently moved to Inaba, where his parents manage the MASSIVE department store which puts in peril the local economy. As a result, he’s sort of unpopular and looked down upon by townsfolk. Clumsy, outgoing, and sort of stupid — but passionate and serious about the investigation. He’s a total sweetheart. You cannot hate Yosuke.
Yosuke’s Shadow isn’t that dramatized — it’s basically just said that it doesn’t give a crap about anyone or anything; that it was glad that people were dying because the investigation gives him something to do. Yosuke’s “dungeon” isn’t really a dungeon, either — it’s a thrashed shop in the Shopping District. This is prolly because he’s the first boss you encounter; it eases you into things.

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Chie Satonaka ~ Chie has the most vague background (or, at least, the most normal life) of the group, although we know she is passionate about Kung-Fu and martial arts. She’s Yukiko’s best friend; they’re always there for each other. She’s also a total tomboy. My personal opinion of Chie is sort of non-existent… she’s really just there for me; she doesn’t stand out that much… her voice, however, was REALLY good.
Chie’s shadow takes the form of some form of dominatrix; it’s a woman with a long, pointy hat, covering her face. It sits on a cloaked surface, like a chair, but under the cloak is a bunch of faceless schoolgirls, holding Shadow Chie up. It represents her jealousy of Yukiko’s feminine side and her talents, as well as her wish and need to maintain control over Yukiko. It also says that Chie truly doesn’t give a damn about Yukiko and that the only reason why she associates with her is so that she can stand out more. Chie’s dungeon is a sublevel of Yukiko’s, which further enhances what the Shadow’s saying.

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Yukiko Amagi ~ Yukiko is the daughter of an innkeeper — the Amagi Inn is the most popular area of Inaba. She’s quiet, calm, and apparently beautiful (I don’t see what’s so gorgeous about her, but I guess she has that ~special charm~), but she has insane laughing fits which tend to go on for hours. She’s a pretty alright character, though~
Yukiko’s Shadow takes the form of a massive, gaudy, pink bird, held in a cage. Before going into that mode, her shadow is dressed as if it were a Princess — with a pink and white dress and crown. Her dungeon is a pink castle. Yukiko’s Shadow is obsessed with “finding her prince” who’ll take her away from Inaba and her “destiny” — i.e: inheriting the Inn. Her shadow’s one of my favourites — its dialogue is AWESOME.

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Kanji Tatsumi ~ Son of the owners of Tatsumi Textiles, he harbors the street-punk style… although in truth, he only hurts those who deserve it (i.e: Biker Gangs who wake his mom up at night with their noisy engines and crude behaviour).
Kanji’s character is the most complex of all the group. Kanji’s actually gay; one of the very first uber-popular game characters to be out so openly. Despite his rough outer appearance, Kanji actually loves sewing, animal crackers, and cooking.
He grows “interested” in another one of the characters — Naoto Shirogane. However, this was before it was revealed that Naoto’s actually a girl cross-dressing as a boy — which results in Kanji questioning himself even more than before. Later on, though, Kanji comes to terms with the side of himself that was attracted to Naoto, snapping out of it and being able to act normally around her. If you choose to develop your character’s bond with him, Kanji later on admits that “his shadow really does resides in him,” which implies that he accepted his sexuality.
So, it’s kinda obvious that Kanji’s Shadow is a stereotypically gay man. His shadow’s true form is a huge, muscular creature, which looks like a massive body-builder. Out of it is Shadow Kanji’s normal self, which is surrounded by a heavy layer of pink flowers — thus representing Kanji’s struggle to “be a man” yet still true to himself. It also represents his resentment of having his softer side and his artistic abilities ridiculed, as well as his fears of being rejected by society. Kanji’s Midnight Channel dungeon is a men’s bathhouse (teeheehee).
FFFF KANJI’S MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER. I love him. As soon as I got him, he was in my party permanently. He’s kickass in battle, too. 8D

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Rise Kujikawa ~ Rise (aka “Risette”) is a former idol, who recently retired from the show business world due to stress and personal conflict. She moves to Inaba, where her grandmother owns a Tofu Shop; Marukyu Tofu. Rise’s cheerful and giggly — IMPOSSIBLE TO HATE. D8
Rise’s Shadow is a colorful pole dancer which looks like Rise; i.e. it has her brown pigtails. Her Midnight Channel dungeon resembles a strip club, including stages with poles, curtains, and sexual-looking Shadows. Rise’s shadow represents her anger with being stereotyped as an indecent, airheaded popstar, represented as a sex symbol . However, her true motive was a desire to find her real self-identity — which is pretty much the reason why she left show biz and moved into Inaba.

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Naoto Shirogane ~ Nao-chan is young, serious, and has an androgynous appearance; almost always wearing an officer’s cap, conveying an appearance not unlike the classical gakuran school uniforms of the late 19th century. A well-known detective and somewhat of a child prodigy, Naoto was dubbed the “Detective Prince” by the media, though still attending Yasogami High.
Naoto’s Shadow is a robotic doppelganger, equipped with large, toy-like laser guns, rocket feet and a jet pack. This form represents Naoto’s resentment towards being treated as a child by the police (since she’s a renowned detective). It reveals that Naoto is, in fact, a girl who’s pretending to be a boy in order to gain whatever scraps of respect she can from the police force.
Naoto’s Midnight Channel dungeon is a scientific military complex based on Japanese superhero shows for children, filled with mechanical shadows and falcon symbols.

and finally…
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Teddie ~ Teddie is a weird, yet ADORABLE, stuffed-bear-like creature with blue fur and a red/white jumpsuit. He lives in the Midnight Channel. He makes tons of horrible puns on the words “bear” and “teddy;” mostly on bear, though. (BEAR-SONA!, what a TEDious fight!, I’m the M.V.B!, I can’t BEAR this anymore! etc). He is often used as comic relief, and he really lightens up the entire party’s mood. Teddie’s human form later in the game is a young blond guy. He’s very innocent, and he usually makes a lot of “suggestive” comments without realizing that he really shouldn’t. xDD
Teddie’s Shadow is a larger form of his bear costume coming out of a hole in the ground, with portions of its face missing, revealing a void underneath, + it also has REALLY FREAKY EYES. It represents Teddie’s fear that his existence is superficial and “hollow”. The Shadow also hints at his forgotten true identity – that is, the fact that he is a shadow. He learned to speak human language and became friendly with humans, taking his bear-like form so that people would like him upon meeting him. Teddie eventually takes a human form upon acquiring a persona so that he can be with others in the real world~

AND THAT’S IT FOR THE (playable)CHARACTERS.

What I absolutely adore about P4 is the realism of things, the rawness of it. Chats teenagers would really have, playful bantering, situations that could really happen (even though there probably isn’t a Midnight Channel…this game will so make you believe that there is.), and realistic reactions to pretty much everything. It’s amazing. The voice-acting enhances this, of course. Perfect voice casting, I swear, PERFECT — save for MAYBE Yukiko, but eh, it works. xD Rise’s voice is my favourite, along with Kanji’s.
With great v.a comes awesome music, and Persona 4 also has this… thanks to Atlus’ Shoji Meguro~! The game comes with a free soundtrack, so you have access to all the songs without having to hunt the Internet. They follow a constant theme; electronica with classical undertones. Makes a horribly addictive combo. xDD (I’m actually listening to it now on my iPod, haha)

The gameplay in battles (LOL WOW I didn’t even mention this before xDD) is really awesome. It’s simple; turn-based tactics. Om nom nom. If you’re close enough to your party members, they’ll even take a mortal blow for you by jumping in the way of an enemy’s fatal attack. IT’S PRETTY AMAZING. + If you’re even closer, you get “bonus turns” where your bud will perform a special “critical hit” attack with a fancy name, like “Atomic Smash” or something. Really useful~

And that’s it for my “review”! I could really talk about it for ages, eh heh heh. P4 is a seriously dazzling game. It’ll catch you; hook, line and sinker. It restored my faith in good gaming, seriously. One of the best storylines which I’ve ever played. EVERRR. I highly recommend it! xD

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