Why We Love Persona 4

Persona 4

Ask ten people why they play video games and you’ll get twenty different answers. Some will say they like taking out their anger on a military battlefield, shooting up friends and enemies for better ranks on a virtual scorecard. Others might want to go on surreal, dreamy adventures through deserts and mountains and rivers of fire. At least one or two people will say they just like to have fun.

But one of the more interesting answers is one that fewer people would like to admit: Video games are an escape. They let us forget about our troubles and inhabit other peoples’ brains and bodies. The problems in video games always have quantifiable, achievable solutions. Where life is messy, video games are neat.

Maybe that’s why everybody loves Persona 4.

Persona 4, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a Japanese role-playing game designed by a quirky company called Atlus. It’s a high school simulator, a murder mystery, and a hardcore dungeon crawler. You, a high school student, might spend a morning taking a history exam, lunchtime eating ramen on the roof with the girl you want to date, and the afternoon fighting shadow monsters in the fantasy world you access by walking into your television.

Yeah. It’s a weird game.

It’s also a beloved game, and over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time playing the Vita remake, Persona 4 Golden (out Tuesday—our review should be up around then) and trying to figure out what makes it so special. This is my first time with the game; I’ve played Persona 3, but this is my maiden voyage through its sequel, which is considered by many to be the superior experience.

There are a lot of reasons to love Persona 4. For Americans, interacting with virtual characters in the sleepy city of Inaba, Japan is like peeking into the window of another world, a world where people sit on cushions to eat dinner, where they address each other with honorifics and go to school on Saturdays. It’s culture shock in a way that few other games have captured: Japan’s take on Japan is absolutely fascinating from an outsider’s perspective.

The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy ofPersona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection.

The writing is also stellar: the translators over at Atlus have done a tremendous job bringing Persona 4 to English. Everything follows a certain rhythm: whether you’re taking a pop quiz in class or sitting out to lunch with some friends, the structure is so tight and punchy that it feels like a sitcom whose writing has been workshopped over and over to the point of perfection. Video games are usually much looser. Even when the game is barking orders at you—annoying lines like “You should go to sleep” or “You shouldn’t talk to him right now” must make some game designers want to take an Evoker to the head—it’s hard not to be charmed by the experience.

And the people, the characters inhabiting this world ofPersona 4, are appealing even when they’re one-note. These high school kids are also just like us—or at least like we were when we were in high school. The characters are confused, emotionally charged, jacked up on adolescent hormones. When they talk, they leave important things unsaid: one character, Kanji, spends a great deal of time dealing with sexual confusion, but never makes his sexuality quite clear, probably because he’s 15. He has no idea what he wants, how he feels, how he thinks.

But these people are also very much not like us, and we find solace escaping into their world because of that. Real humans are hypocritical, inconsistent, constantly questioning themselves and hurting each other. Each member of Persona 4‘s gang of Scooby-Doo-like misfits is driven and confident. They build up their stats and level up and grow more powerful in mechanical fashion. No matter how frustrating it might seem when they have no leads on their ongoing murder investigation, we all know they will find something. It’s a video game. There’s always an answer.

The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy of Persona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection. This is a world where building friendship is a quantifiable activity, where you can start a relationship just by selecting the right bit of dialogue from a list of three options. Relationships are straightforward and concrete, even when the characters are ambiguous and confused.

To build relationships in Persona—an activity that is essential for improving your characters’ performances in combat—you simply have to talk to people. If you want to go on a date with a girl, you walk up to her and say “hey, let’s go on a date.” If you want to hang out with your goofy best friend, you call him up at the movie theater and say “get on over here, buddy, we’re watching Star Wars.” These people never say no to you. There is no rejection. They are always upset if you turn down their requests.

In the real world, people will betray you. Your friendships can be frustratingly ephemeral, and your relationships can be as torturous as they are blissful. You will never get everything you want. You will be rejected.

In Persona 4, your character is silent and suave, beloved by every girl he sees. He has a rolodex full of people to see and hang out with, and building up a connection with someone is as simple as going to band practice, or heading downstairs and talking to one of his many friends and girlfriends. They always want to talk to him. They don’t betray his trust or break his heart.

Developing relationships in Persona 4 is a mechanical activity, like piecing together a watch or solving a puzzle that always has a guaranteed, if not always obvious solution. You won’t regret leaving someone or missing an opportunity to find love, or friendship, or comfort. You rarely have to worry about losing someone forever; if you make the wrong choice today, all you have to do is come back tomorrow and start up another conversation. Keep on leveling up that relationship.

The world of Persona 4 is surreal and unusual and fascinating and, in many ways, despite its hardships, it is also ideal. Intangible qualities are measured by statistics. Want to be more manly? Go read a book called Forever Macho. Want to learn how to be more diligent? Sit at your desk and start folding envelopes. Need a quick burst of knowledge? Head to your room, pick up a book, and watch your stats go up.

You never fail at studying. You are never sent to remedial courses because you just can’t seem to keep pace with your classmates. You never have to deal with financial hardship or losing the spark in a relationship that seemed like it was going to last forever.

Even when it’s capturing real life, Persona 4 is absolutely nothing like real life. Maybe that’s why we like it so much.

The characters in Persona 4—fascinating, relatable characters whose internal dilemmas are as interesting as their awkward encounters—confront their demons as literal demons. To fight off her indecisiveness, Yukiko fights a shadow of herself. When dealing with his sexual ambiguity, Kanji has to confront a giant, sexually confused monster. Problems are solved with fights. Some of these boss battles are difficult, but they can always be overcome. They can always be confronted. There’s always an answer.

Don’t you wish real life was that easy?


Source: Kotaku

Persona 4 Golden: The Highest Rated PS Vita Game of All Time

Persona 4:Golden

Back before the PlayStation Vita launched in February, Persona 4 Golden was a distant dream in most gamers minds, with Uncharted: Golden Abyss,Assassin’s Creed III: LiberationResistance: Burning SkiesCall of Duty: Black Ops DeclassifiedGravity Rush, and more getting the most attention.

Fast-forward 9 months and Persona 4 Golden is now officially the highest rated PlayStation Vita title on both Metacritic (94/100) and Gamerankings (93.70%), most likely thanks to Ryan’s amazing review of the RPG.

In case you were curious, the next closest games to Persona 4 Golden on Metacritic are Rayman Origins and Little Big Planet PS Vita at 88/100, withTales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack at 86/100. Gamerankings then has Rayman Origins at 89.59% and Little Big Planet PS Vita at 88.70%.

With our Game of the Year Awards being handed out soon, don’t be surprised if Persona 4 Golden gets some high honors from us.

How are you enjoying P4G? Let us know in the comments below.


A Beginner’s Guide to Persona 4: Golden (Out Next Week!)

Persona 4 Golden on PS Vita

Greetings, PlayStation.Blog readers and ATLUS fans! I’m aware that some PlayStation RPG fans still haven’t heard of Persona 4 Golden, the latest in ATLUS’ best-selling Persona series, which hits North American store shelves andPlayStation Network on November 20th.

So what is Persona? Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is Metacritic’s PlayStation 2 Game of the Year for 2008. Persona 4 places you in the shoes of a high school student who needs to strike a balance between school, a social life, learning more about his family, and, as it happens, investigating a series of gruesome murders that may or may not involve a psychedelic world that lies behind the screen of every television in town. Whether beating up Shadows or tackling schoolwork, the choices you make will come to affect how others see you, and how you see yourself.

Persona 4 Golden on PS VitaPersona 4 Golden on PS Vita

In both Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden, you play as transfer student (insert name here) who moves to the sleepy country burg of Inaba. When you arrive, things quickly take a turn for the weird when you learn of a series of murders taking place in the town. You decide to do some investigating on your own, journeying into a mysterious world that you never knew existed, facing off against creatures from the very depths of humanity’s collective psyche.

Luckily, you’re not completely powerless. Each and every one of your party eventually gets access to a Persona, the inner self, and it is through these forces that you’ll learn to cast devastating spells and powerful physical attacks. The main character has a special ability, as well: the ability to change Personas among dozens of different spirits, with corresponding skills, strengths, and weaknesses. It is this ability to change Personas — improving and discovering new ones — that will make up the bulk of your efforts.

Persona 4 Golden on PS Vita

That’s not to say that the game finely cleaves the “RPG” part from the “social sim” part, oh, no. The bonds that form between you and other characters are known as Social Links, and each one takes on one of the Arcana that your Personas fall under. Basically, the better a friend you are to a person, the easier it will be to make and use the Personas that he or she represents within your mind.

These conversations aren’t just a chore to help you build better monsters — they’re full-on side stories. I’ve seen battle-hardened warriors cry manfully into their plaited beards when playing some of these scenes. What hope do youhave? None, probably, but that’s okay. When you relate your tear-soaked tales to other Persona 4 veterans, we’ll all know what you’re talking about.

Persona 4 Golden on PS VitaPersona 4 Golden on PS Vita

If you’ve played Persona 4, you might have noticed that there were a few points in the year where time skipped ahead, meaning you didn’t get to play out those days. This time, the story’s been reconfigured to give you back all that lost time, as well as giving you new fun things to do during these periods. Will you and Yosuke ever get your scooter licenses? What will happen in the main character’s love life now that Valentine’s Day is a playable event? Will Teddie learn the true meaning of Christmas? If you’ve never played Persona 4, then all this new stuff will be gravy on the mashed potatoes of fantasticness we’re already giving you.

There’s also an entirely new dungeon and a brand new Social Link for you to connect with. This character is seamlessly integrated into the narrative to provide context to the entire story. Additional details include all-new animated sequences for several major events and holidays, new costumes and weapons, and a metric ton of new voiced dialogue covering almost every event sequence. What more could you ask for?

Persona 4 Golden PS Vita Skin

Don’t forget: we’re offering a free PS Vita skin and accompanying wallpapers with pre-orders of Persona 4 Golden. Quantities are limited, so be sure you pre-order soon (and make sure the retailer you pre-order from is participating in this offer) or risk missing out. Of course, if you manage to get your hands on the sold out Solid Gold Premium Edition, you’ll get that PS Vita skin, along with a hard pouch, face protector, and stickers! We know they’re hard to come by, but keep an eye out on PS.Blog and the @PlayStation Twitter page, as we’re cooking something up to take care of a lucky fan. Otherwise, all versions physical and digital will be available for sale on November 20th, which is… coming up quickly! In any case, I do hope that you’re looking forward to this title, and that if you weren’t before, you are now. Thanks for reading!

Source: Playstation.Blog

Mike Meeker // Lead Editor, Atlus USA

Assassin’s Creed? Halo? Screw’em, I’m Playing Persona

by Jason Schreier


Persona 4

Persona 4

“Oh no!” you are almost certainly thinking. “Gawker Media is underwater, desperately clinging to Tumblr like that guy in that movie where the cruise ship sank. But it is Friday! It’s 3pm Kotaku Time! What will I do without my favorite weekly JRPG/sex-advice column Random Encounters?”

You are too sweet. But don’t worry! I am still here, I’ve still got power, and I have a serious illness where I can’t go more than a week without talking about JRPGs, so Kotumblr will have to do.

Over the next few weeks, the bulk of the gaming industry will set its sights on games like Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. I will not. I’ll be playing Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Persona 4 Golden, two Japanese role-playing games that I find more interesting and engaging than any big-budget shooter or adventure.

I’ll have lots to say about Mario’s latest papery excursion next week in my review, which should be up Tuesday, drowned servers permitting. For now I want to talk about the latest Persona game.

Persona 4 Golden, which comes out for the Vita on November 20, is unusual in a lot of ways. For one, it’s a video game on the Vita. It’s also 3,137 megabytes, which is particularly insane when you realize that the lowest-end Vita memory card is 4 gigabytes, or roughly 4,000 megabytes. The highest-end Vita memory card, by the way, is 32 gigabytes, and it costs $100. This is a business strategy commonly called “we can do whatever we want because fuck you.”

The other interesting thing about Persona 4 Golden is that it’s a remake of a video game that came out in 2008. This is sort of like that joke about how the people behind Twilight started planning a remake of Twilight when Twilight came out, except instead of a joke, it’s real and actually just happened.

But it’s all good, because people love Persona, to the point where it’s become the shining example of A Japanese RPG It’s Okay To Like. It’s common to see gamers and critics write things like “JRPGs? Oh, I hate JRPGs. But boy do I love Persona!”

So one big question I’m pondering as I play Persona 4 Golden — my first experience with Persona 4 in any form — is why? Why do people love Persona so much?




I never finished Persona 3 Portable, a game that Kirk and I have discussed quite a bit on the site formerly known as Kotaku. I logged some 25, 30 hours in the game before I had to put it down for one new thing, then another, and then another, and no matter how many times I promised myself I would go back and finish it, I never quite could find the time. But I loved what I played. I loved the calendar-dictated rhythm of daily life as a student in Iwatodai. I loved the dichotomy between mundane classes at school and harrowing journeys through Tartarus. Something about the whole thing just worked.

It’s also very, very Japanese, and I say that not to disparage, but to point out that this is a game that wholeheartedly and unabashedly embraces both Japanese culture and Japanese game design. Aside from the obvious — it’s a game about people in Japan — Persona 3 also clings onto a lot of design quirks that Western games try to avoid. Repetitive rituals, for example, like that ticking clock animation that appears every time it turns midnight. While Western-developed games like last month’s fantastic Dishonored try to give you the player more control than ever, Persona 3 does quite the opposite. Persona wants you to know that it’s in charge. Not you.

Similar trends are rearing their heads in the first two hours of Persona 4 (although I’m sure it’ll open up more soon). It’s got all sorts of funny little ticks. Every time you head in and out of the game’s bizarre TV World, the screen will turn funky and that same old TV World animation will play. Just before you’re about to watch television at midnight, your character will close the curtains and walk away from his window. Rituals.

And then there are the moments during which the game tells you what to do. “You should go to bed,” the game will tell you. Or “You shouldn’t talk to him right now.” You won’t even have the option. Your character spends a great deal of time performing actions that are dictated by the game, not you.

To many people these things would be unacceptable, the definition of “bad game design.” But a large number of Westerners—even the ones who don’t typically like JRPGs—have fallen in love with the quirks and trends of Persona 3. What’s up with that?

Maybe the series’ unique structure—seriously, what other games follow this sort of rigid school-dungeon-school-dungeon routine?—makes it easier to forget about what we’d consider flaws in many other games. Maybe these sort of choices work only for games like Persona. Or maybe we’re just too in love with Mitsuru to care?

I’ll be thinking about this question more and more as I continue to play through Persona 4 Golden. I would invite you to offer your own theories in the comments, but we have no comments. Hurricane Sandy affects us all.