Persona 4 and how a game becomes an all-time favorite

Persona 4 Golden wallpaper

A community blog by Exber

[Destructoid user Exber tells the story of when, where, and how Persona 4 ended up becoming one of their most cherished games. It’s a personal story, one that really resonates. -Jordan]

There hasn’t been a game I have mentioned more than Persona 4, if I am honest. I talked about it twice as a student for some presentations, first in 2012 and then in 2015, and by that time, I had thought I wouldn’t be using the game to convey any kind of message anymore. I was wrong. Game Informer had these blog writing challenges where the subjects at hand were the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite game of all time for the third, fourth time without getting me or my readers bored due to the lack of innovation. I was wrong yet again. Persona 4 has this precise amount of information that when playing one can know its writing, pacing, and narrative are top-notch, hence giving myriad debates after playing it. Character study, social critique, you name it.

Fun fact: when I first played it in 2008 I didn’t know any of this, I just enjoyed the game to my heart’s content. So, why did it became my favorite and remained so after all of the games I have played since? Let’s go back to the Midnight Channel one more time.

2007: My First RPG

Persona 3 FES box art

If by 2006 I got to play Ocarina of Time and saw the potential of gaming and how much fun I had with the medium, it was only a matter of time before I started to venture into new genres as I only used to play horror, racing, and action-adventure games. Come 2007 and I got a PS2 ready to fulfill that, with my brothers helping me along the way. While most of the recommendations didn’t click with me, there was one that also didn’t but at the same time had me curious. Why is this RPG not based on some medieval times? What’s with this orchestrated music? This looks like anime but it just doesn’t feel like it. And with that, Persona 3 had me hooked by watching my brother play the game and later quitting.

My curiosity led me to try it for myself having no idea whatsoever as to how RPGs work or if I would be able to fully understand the language as I was a 13-year-old native Spanish speaker with no English course behind me, only what I have learned with Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, and my dictionary. Guess what? I loved the game.

It took me a long while to get used to this genre and how the Persona series since Persona 3 handles and mixes social simulation within it. Once I finished it, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to play the sequel as I thought the PS3 would be the ideal console to release it, until I watched the trailer for Persona 4 with a release date of December 8 for the PS2. Getting a new exclusive game for a last-gen console? So soon? With lots of quality of life improvements upon its predecessor? I was hyped.

2008: Izanagi!

Izanagi

It was December 8 and there I was at the local video game store, sad due to the game not getting shipped until December 12. However, as it was a Saturday, it was the perfect excuse to play late. My family was actually curious as to why I was so hyped and though they didn’t actually understand the game, my happiness was all they needed to see to confirm and be relieved of the purchase. The time was winter vacation so it was game time for me, and yet, I couldn’t finish the game by the end of the year, but during the first days of 2009.

Compared to my experience with Persona 3, Persona 4 was a breeze in many regards and a better experience, to be exact. The feeling of humbleness the game shows within its Inaba setting caught my interest since the trailer, as I have always been a country boy at heart. The character struggles and their boss fights felt personal, particularly those of Yosuke, Kanji, and Teddy. And finally, the antagonist’s motives had a lot to do with the game’s narrative and how the mystery evolves the more you play it. I got to notice that during my first playthrough and so I decided to play another time on hard and to experience the game yet again trying to do more things within my time limit. Needless to say, I enjoyed it just as much and before I knew it, Izanagi was my phone’s wallpaper, Reach out to the Truth was my ringtone, and so on and so forth.

By that time replaying a game was something I used to do with many games but it was only to beat those in hard and get unlockables. With Persona 4, however, playing it again cemented it as something more of a gaming experience. It was a decisive factor in my future life: to study English education. To understand a story-driven game of 70 to 80 hours duration with no previous studied knowledge of the English language? If this game taught me something, it’s to pursue one’s true self, and that was precisely what I wanted to do: learn more English and make a living out of it.

2011: Persona 4 The Animation

Anime has never been my thing really, but I made an exception with this for two reasons. First, my girlfriend by that time loved anime and didn’t have a PS2 to play Persona 4 as she was interested after listening to me talk about it all the time, so I decided to watch it with her. And second, to see if my memory still remembered that narrative and also, to see how it translates to anime. All of the above was a complete success. She loved it as well and we both confirmed that my relationship with this game was out of this world.

2012: Introducing Shoji Meguro To My Class

As expected, English I started with a bang: to give a presentation about a famous person to evaluate one’s speaking in front of a group of strangers to convey meaning. I talked about him knowing none in the classroom even knew what a video game composer was, but those claps at the end were worth it. Had I, perhaps, used my favorite game of all time to get a grade in college? Yes, I had.

2015: Selling The Game At An English Course

I had been giving another presentation, this time a longer one to talk about anything but with the purpose of getting the audience interested in what I was talking about. Video games were the subject to talk about right away as my classmates wouldn’t accept otherwise. They wanted to see my speaking freely into what has gotten me into English in the first place, and I delivered. Though Persona 4 was not brought to the conversation until the last minutes, the previous explanations I had given about gaming and its side effect, both positive and negative over us, got them interested and when I showed them my favorite game, many questions were asked such as: Why is the trailer so action-filled when your preview was that of a murder story and waifu dating sim?

And to that I answered: Because the game is full of surprises and twists, and you have a life within it, which for someone with depression like me, is a breath not only of fresh air, but of everything. Then again, claps were heard and their support for me toward gaming hasn’t diminished since.

2020: My 3rd Playthrough Of The Original PS2 Game

Inaba

I wanted to get a PS Vita so bad last year to play Persona 4 Golden due to all the hype for the game getting released on Steam, but truth was, I couldn’t afford the handheld at the time. However, I still had my PS2 and my copy of the game so I decided to play once again during winter vacations, just like when it first released. 12 years later, I was more versed in gaming so I was ready to pinpoint every detail to see if had aged well, to look for its flaws and whatnot.

That playthough reconfirmed why Persona 4 stands out above all the games I have played, albeit what faults might hinder the experience especially for those coming from Persona 5. For one, comparing a 2017 game with a 2008 one is out of the question, at least for me. To play games in the order they are released is one thing not many people can do due to not owning certain consoles, but there is one thing every gamer can do: to enjoy a game for what it is as long as the fun factor prevails throughout. Even though this is a game that can’t be recommended to everyone due to how long it is, its pacing and narrative are sublime. The combat system is a step in the right direction, as are some unique additions and the social aspect of the game. The thing here wasn’t only to correct where Persona 3 might have gone wrong, but to make this one distinctive despite having the number four on it, and distinctive it was.

Being completely honest, it’s the humbleness the game offers the player that hooks me in every time. High school days are something forever engraved into our memories no matter how good or bad they were, so the setting is easily recognizable, and the character study based on their lives in a rural town resonates with that human factor we often tend to forget. Sure, gay themes aren’t taboo anymore in many countries, as well as social pressure and many of the subjects present within this game, but what about the rest of the world? For a video game, a medium often ignored by many, Persona 4 knows how to speak to the players without wanting to have a big impression but rather, a lasting one. Such has been my case.

As a gay man with depression and anxiety, to play a video game which tackles these situations with an open heart was what I needed back in 2008 to better trust myself and later, to better understand my feelings in many regards. And not only that, as the gameplay quickly reminds you, you are playing a video game to have fun, and fun is guaranteed. This balance of making the players reflect upon themselves while having a blast and laughing is what makes this my favorite game of all time. Granted, some other aspects sure helped but that is for another blog, a review of Persona 4 Golden where I’ll be comparing both versions as they both offer a unique experience.

2021: Persona 4 Golden Has Been Played

Persona 4 Golden artwork

When this game came out back in 2012 I was happy yet a little worried this version would damage what the original one had already established with flying colors. Wrong again. While Chie’s original voice actress is certainly missed, the improvements upon an already well-thought formula not only make this one the definitive version, but one that is better enjoyed if the other was played first. By this time I was already fresh on the story I hadn’t forgotten even after all these years, and some dialogues I still remember clearly, so I was intrigued as to how the new scenes, interactions, and expanded story would work. I am satisfied. The voice actors remembered their characters very well thus continuing to deliver that Persona 4 experience I love so much. It is amazing how a game delivered so much in its first release and then threw it out of the window on its rerelease.

I would like to conclude by saying that no matter what game may be your all-time favorite, the reasons behind that are yours and yours alone. If you like that game so darn much, then those developers did a good job doing what they love: to bring fun and a lot more to the players.

Thanks for Reading.

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