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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quick Final Impressions - Persona 4 Golden

I had previously caught glimpses of Persona 4 when my sister was playing it on her PS2 and kind of brushed it aside.  It looked so unlike a Megami Tensei game that I had serious doubts as to whether or not I would enjoy the game's atmosphere.  From what I had seen, the game looked more like a Japanese High School relationship sim, something I don't generally enjoy.  I was leaping to conclusions at that time, and am thrilled that I sat down and gave the game a serious chance on the Vita. 

It is the single most enjoyable RPG in terms of story that I have ever played.  This is because the writing is fantastic.  I've played Megami Tensei games before, including the first two Persona games, so I was familiar with collecting and fusing demons to have them aid you in some fashion (becoming Persona's in the Persona series).  However, this was my first introduction to the Social Link system, a major aspect of Persona 3 and 4.  Essentially, you power up certain Personas by forming social bonds with characters throughout the game.  This is not just limited to party members, although they all have social links which rank up. 

The social links were a big draw to the game because they each were their own little story which could evolve over time as you progressed through the game.  A large part of Persona 4 is choosing how to spend each day and each evening.  You can choose to use your day to enter dungeons which are linked to the main story, a well done murder-mystery.  If you don't feel like fighting, you can choose to spend time with characters in the hopes of increasing social links, earn money via part-time jobs, go fishing, or do things like study or build models to increase attributes which unlock conversation choices.  This day-to-day gameplay feels addictive in a similar way to games I've played like Harvest Moon, but is so much more rewarding in terms of storytelling.

Persona 4 has become one of my favorite games of all time, but it's not without its flaws.  The dungeons are very simple, mostly being hallways with some square rooms and a staircase to the next floor, and thus can be boring to navigate, and a couple of the social links come of as unoriginal.  However, the overall experience was of being interjected into an immersive storyline where the player is surrounded with characters who grow to overcome very realistic obstacles while facing their darker emotions all while striving towards a common goal and uncovering a multitude of truths.  This is the only RPG I've ever immediately started playing again after beating.  I'm playing through a second time and uncovering substories I didn't find time for on the first playthrough.

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