I did wonder, three years ago when I bought Persona 4 Golden, whether I’d ever end up completing it. It was on the Vita, which I didn’t play. Supposedly it was a hundred hours long. It felt, some 15 hours in, like I was still in the tutorial. There were so many other games.
It fell by the wayside, despite me enjoying it. Then, around four months ago, I went back. I could have started from the beginning again, and perhaps, with hindsight, maybe I should have done, but after one hundred hours I’d completed it. Persona 4 Golden was great.
When I’d paused on it way back when, I was struggling to comprehend the Persona system. I wasn’t really enjoying the pressure to save people from the fog before the days ran out. Building social links seemed unimportant and there were better things I should be spending my time doing. How wrong I was.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Wii U game Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE gave me a better understanding. It’s the same sort of game (in fact, it’s a spin off of the same core series Persona is), but with everything simplified. Not easier, just less complicated. This worked in my favour – easing me into the Persona way of doing things. Going back to Persona 4 Golden with this knowledge let me concentrate on the differences, and I took to the Social Links properly, soon reaping the benefits.
The core game is pretty standard JRPG faire. Wander dungeons, fight baddies in turn based and element-sensitive combat. Level up. Fight harder baddies. And so on. If this was all of the game, it’d be pretty uninteresting, but the the interactions between dungeons add several layers to it. Not just story, but interest, secrets and humour. The characters are wonderful and full of depth, especially those who open up as you advance your relationship with them.
Speaking of relationships, it seems that most of the girls in the game can become romantically linked to you. Quite early on your mate Yosuke quizzes you on whether you prefer quiet and clever Yokiko or tomboyish but shy Chie. I picked Chie, and although you don’t actively pursue anyone, some time later my dialogue choices netted me her as a girlfriend. Which was great, until I decided to hug Rise because she was crying (the alternative was literally to stand there and watch) and suddenly I was a two-timing tart. Oops.
Over the course of a year (in the game), your team expands as you rescue more people from the fog. Teddie, Kanji and Naoto are added to your dungeoning party, although I never really bothered to enlist them. As time progresses you close in on who is responsible for the kidnappings and deaths although naturally, the obvious culprit isn’t to blame. In fact, nor are several other people, including three who actually confess. There are a number of endings, presumably bad if you miss the real villain.
I avoided some because I’d already realised that the obvious ending wasn’t the true ending, and then stumbled past another false accusation: There are a number of dialogue options you need to choose and luckily I picked the right ones to progress. I’d also been tipped off that I’d need to max out Marie’s Social Link, so having managed all that the final dungeon was revealed and upon completion, the true ending.
Or so I thought. Until I was corrected on Twitter and it seems I’d missed a further revelation. A reload, a careful conversation with everyone and an exploration of everywhere, and finally, the final final dungeon. And the Real True Ending Honest This Time No Really.
Persona 4 Golden feels like a teen drama mixed with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Love Hina, and Eerie Indiana. It’s emotional, surprising, with tonnes of firepower. Funzo, in game form. At times, it’s confusing. Or it’s addictive, stressful, funny and disappointing. Not being able to complete your planned dates, book reads, shopping or cinema trips because you’re panicking you have to kill some demons in time can annoy you, because who wants time management and a diary in a game? Eventually I realised that there’s time for most things, and getting The Important Stuff Done isn’t too hard. It’s an incredible game.
Now I don’t know what to do. Four solid months of Persona is a lot to give up. There’s New Game+ of course, but that’s not really more Persona. There’s Persona 5, but that’s not on a portable console so wouldn’t get half the attention this did. I’m tempted to go back to Tokyo Mirage, but then I look at the backlog of titles 100 hours of Persona caused, so who knows.