Hours 83 through 86 of Persona 4

Love that title screen.

If you’ve talked to me lately about video games, it’s likely that I’ve brought up Persona 4 as an example of how to do them right. It’s a modern classic. While talking to a friend via IM a few weeks ago, he — perhaps tired of hearing me say how good it was — wondered why I wasn’t doing a “liveblog” of that game, since I loved it so much.

But that wasn’t really an option, since I didn’t start doing these “liveblogs” until I was five hours from the end. However, since I haven’t found an RPG since then that I’ve liked as much, I figured I’d give it another playthrough. I don’t know how long it will last, but at least I can try to articulate why I love the game to the degree that I do.

Since I’m writing this liveblog on my second time through the game, I’ll be talking about things that happen all through the story. This will obviously result in some rather massive spoilers from time to time. I’ve blocked out these sections with colored bars: spoilers for the current point in the story will be hidden behind green bars, while spoilers that give away things that happen later in the game (including the ending!) are behind black bars. Just hover over them to see what I’m talking about.

Keep in mind, however, that if you’re reading this in an RSS reader, those spoiler tags WILL NOT WORK! So proceed at your own risk.

Sat 08/08 12:08:47 AM So here we go! This is probably the fastest I’ve ever replayed an RPG before — besting even Chrono Trigger. I do think Persona 4 is one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played, if not THE best console RPG. So I think it’s worth it.

I know, that’s a bold statement. But if we’re talking about story plus gameplay plus voice acting plus emotional impact plus a bunch of arbitrary factors I could come up with, it’s in the top tier. Maybe Final Fantasy VI is still #1, and I should give decisions like this some time to breathe. But in my opinion, it doesn’t get much better than Persona 4.

Sat 08/08 12:09:19 AM The opening cutscene does show all the party members, which I usually don’t like, but they do it so stylishly that it’s hard to dislike.

See my Star Ocean liveblog for my previous take on this.

Sat 08/08 12:10:13 AM On the other hand, the second video clip that plays is full of spoilers! It shows Naoto as a party member, Shadow Teddie, and… fishing.

This, I can’t really forgive. I mean, sure, it does show a bunch of the more impressive boss fights from the game, but those moments where you see the bosses for the first time are some of the best “whoa!” times in the game.

Sat 08/08 12:10:54 AM It also shows a bunch of stylish combat scenes, reminding me just how distinctive and stylish this game is. So I’m torn.

So yeah. In conclusion, “stylish”. This second opening cutscene also shows a lot of the interesting party dynamics that Persona 4 features, like characters taking a killing blow for the main character, performing an enemy-killing super move, or helping up a downed friend. Good stuff, especially after Persona 3, which features such interesting combat dynamics as “not being able to control your party”, “getting ‘tired’ after a half-hour of combat”, and “advancing slower than levels 70-80 in World of Warcraft“.

Sat 08/08 12:11:30 AM I definitely love the idea of the city boy moving to the country and getting caught up in everything. When I first played through the game, I thought that… never mind, we’ll get into that when we get there.

See below. The “city boy moving to the country” thing never really comes up outside of the first few scenes — in fact, Yosuke gets more attention for being a former city boy than the main character.

Now that I’m thinking about it, none of the major male high school student characters are really “from the country”, or at least, they don’t seem to be natural byproducts of their environment. The MC and Yosuke are transplants, and Kanji is an ambiguously gay not-biker. Of all of them, it seems like Mitsuo Kubo is the most “normal” non-urban kid, and he turns out to be a murdering psychopath. I wonder if that was intentional.

Sat 08/08 12:14:04 AM As a device, I have to say I love the glasses -- especially compared to the gun-shaped evokers that people point at their heads and shoot in Persona 3.  Frequent readers of this blog may know that I just gave up on Persona 3 last night, after fifty (!) hours of mostly nothing happening.  Ive been trying to think about why that is, but honestly, it comes down to its successor doing every single thing better.  Well talk about that as we proceed.

Sat 08/08 12:14:04 AM - As a device, I have to say I love the glasses -- especially compared to the gun-shaped "evokers" that people point at their heads and "shoot" in Persona 3. Frequent readers of this blog may know that I just gave up on Persona 3 last night, after fifty (!) hours of mostly nothing happening. I've been trying to think about why that is, but honestly, it comes down to its successor doing every single thing better. We'll talk about that as we proceed.

Sat 08/08 12:14:58 AM I should say, however, that it’s a quarter past midnight on Saturday morning, so this first sesson may not last long. But for now, let’s start a “New Game Plus”. I see that it took me 82 hours and 40 minutes to finish on my first attempt — and that’s without much grinding.

That may be an exaggeration. I probably spent some of that time grinding, but not more than five hours or so. The game features such good experience scaling that grinding for extended periods of time really isn’t necessary.

You can never tell with these games whether you actually need to level all your party members. For instance, my fiancée and I just finished Final Fantasy VII, which features a three-sided boss battle near the end. Having Cloud, Red XIII, and Tifa as the only decently leveled characters made this boss fight a pain in the butt. Thankfully, there is no such problem in Persona 4, other than certain characters not being ideal for certain boss fights due to elemental weaknesses. By the end of the game, I was sticking with the MC, Yosuke, Chie, and Teddie — because his buff spells made him a better healer than Yukiko would have been.

Sat 08/08 12:16:25 AM Ah yes, I’d forgotten that the game lets you choose a difficulty level for battles. I chose “NORMAL” the first time through, and was quite happy with the balancing, so I think I’ll do that again here — although I’ll be carrying over a few things from my previous game.

The “NORMAL” difficulty gave me trouble occasionally, but that was mostly due to making dumb mistakes — like casting an instant kill light spell on something that reflected it back at the MC. That lost me an hour of progress. I never really came close to giving up, though — the story kept me going even when the gameplay wasn’t mind-blowing.

Sat 08/08 12:18:18 AM So, the game starts with a cutscene showing the exterior of the limousine that houses the Velvet Room. Having played a few games in the Persona and “MegaTen” series, finding the Velvet Room inside a freaking limo was a pleasant surprise in my first playthrough.

One of the few things I ended up liking about Persona 3 was the Velvet Room effects — instead of a limousine, it took the form of an old-school elevator. Good stuff.

It’s always interesting to me to see what staples a franchise carries over from game to game. Final Fantasy tends to only recycle a few creatures, one piece of music, and airships, while the Dragon Quest series features similar enemies in nearly all their titles.

Sat 08/08 12:19:20 AM The actor who plays Igor in P4 played “Chairman Ikutsuki” of P3. His delivery is much better suited to this character than the previous one — which could be said of most of the performances in P3.

Not to keep beating up on Persona 3, but it did feature some truly dreadful voice acting — and not just of the “I’ve done way too much anime, and am going to overdo everything” variety. Some characters were just completely off from the beginning.

The funny part is, I thought the two best performances came from the only two people in the cast that I also directed on Space Siege: Michelle Ruff and Liam O’Brien. Everyone else in the game was pretty bad, especially Mela Lee as Fuuka.

Sat 08/08 12:20:12 AM So the first time through the game, I played as “Grant Roberts”, which was okay — I wasn’t sure how “Japanese” the game was going to be. It turns out… EXTREMELY Japanese. Which was another pleasant surprise. So this time, I’ll be playing my standard “Japanese” name – Kazuya Hasukawa.

I’ve been using “Hasukawa” as a nickname online for almost fifteen years now. It originally comes from an anime called ここはグリーン・ウッド (“Here is Greenwood”). The main characters feature Kazuya Hasukawa, and his two “senpai”, Mitsuru Ikeda and Shinobu Tezuka. The short version is that these three characters were rather striking analogs to me (Hasukawa), my friend Joe (Mitsuru), and our friend Brandon (Shinobu). In the many years since, the parallels between Hasukawa and I have become much less significant, but there’s no going back now. I use “Hasukawa” in many different places.

When “Hasukawa” is not available, I use “Zaelunas”, which is a character I made up for a MUD that Joe and I worked on back in the mid-nineties. What’s weird is that at some point, someone discovered the name “Zaelunas Nightsky” and has been using it in other places. I still don’t know how it ever became public.

Sat 08/08 12:21:42 AM I’ll probably be talking about the UI quite a bit, but it bears mentioning early on. It’s very stylish without being over-the-top, like Star Ocean‘s was.

Again, stylish. But yes, the UI is quite unique in this game. Persona 3‘s was similarly minimalist, but the omnipresent blue was less appealing than the bright canary yellow of P4. It (P4) also features a lot of skewed backgrounds and non-functional “noise”, but it’s never distracting.

Sat 08/08 12:22:55 AM Igor talks a lot about the “mystery” early on, and they’re not kidding. This game has so many twists and turns that by the end, I was left reeling and speechless.

I obviously don’t want to discuss them too much here, but the game does a very good job keeping you guessing. Or, at least, a very good job of pulling the rug out from under you.

Sat 08/08 12:23:58 AM The P4 comic (warning: spoilers) that was linked the other day was pretty hilarious, and did a great job of conveying just how weird Rise’s commercial was.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for it, other than foreshadowing Rise’s eventual involvement in the story. And incidentally, that comic made me laugh out loud a few times. If you’ve played the game, you should definitely check it out.

Sat 08/08 12:25:06 AM Wow, Namatame looks so clean-cut and uncrazy in his first appearance.

The game doesn’t do a very good job of keeping him relevant throughout the game. Yes, he shows up from time to time wandering the streets, but it’s hard to reconcile him with the guy who’s talked about in the opening sequences.

Sat 08/08 12:25:56 AM Oh, okay, wow, the opening cutscene features the “Adachi throws his first victim in the TV” footage. I obviously wasn’t able to make sense of it the first time through.

I wonder if it’s supposed to be as confusing to the player as it is to the main character. I also wonder what it means from a fiction perspective — the MC doesn’t have visions of any other of the murders happening.

Sat 08/08 12:29:11 AM Ah, Dojima. I think his performance is actually the second-worst of the major characters — only Yukiko’s was worse. But don’t get me wrong — even the worst performance in this game is better than a lot that I’ve experienced lately.

At the time of this writing, I thought his was the second-worst. But then Chie started talking. I think the two of them are probably about even. However, like I said, even the worst performance in this game is roughly on par with the best performance in Persona 3. I guess that’s what an average localization will get you.

Sat 08/08 12:31:25 AM I’m going to try maxing out all the Social Links this time through, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Which means looking up the “correct” response to say to Dojima at the very beginning of the game.

This should be much easier, as I discovered a little later that all my stats (Courage, Understanding, Knowledge, Diligence, and Expression) carried over from the previous playthrough. That means no more folding paper cranes at night, no more studying in the library, and so on. That time will be split between more dungeon runs and more Social Links.

Sat 08/08 12:34:55 AM Awww, Nanako’s so adorable and bashful at the beginning!

I don’t know if this is because she’s a shy kid, or if it’s because she’s got a little girl crush on a high schooler — cousin or not. The translation seems to imply that she’s embarrassed by her father pointing out her shyness for different reasons, and she does say “I’m going to marry big bro!” at some point later on in the game.

Sat 08/08 12:36:08 AM In retrospect, I probably should have picked up on something being fishy at the gas station at the beginning of the game — but they hadn’t really established just how much random crap they were going to show in cutscenes. So they did a good job of keeping the surprise.

By the time this revelation rolled around at the end of the game, I was already kind of spoiled for it — simply because I had to go online and figure out how to not get the crappiest ending. Probably the worst decision this game makes.

There’s a larger blog post in me about multiple endings that will probably come out at some point. This game, and the most recent Castlevania for the DS are the most egregious offenders lately.

Sat 08/08 12:37:03 AM Interesting that the handshake with the attendant actually causes a little controller vibration.

Sat 08/08 12:38:31 AM Oh, and there was a delivery truck just leaving the gas station right as Dojima’s car pulls in. Nice touch.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this kind of foreshadowing at the beginning the game. The most obvious and awkward foreshadowing is clearly Mitsuo Kubo hitting on Yukiko outside the school entrance, but that’s a byproduct of the game being handcuffed by showing character portraits.

Speaking of character portraits, I got really excited when I got about two-thirds of the way through the game to the school trip. Since I had never made it further than three hours into Persona 3, I didn’t recognize the two characters from that game. So I figured they were going to feature in a P4 expansion pack or something, since the portraits had already been drawn. Oh well.

Sat 08/08 12:40:36 AM As another unfair comparison between P3 and P4, this game’s “shit goes down on rainy days” feels much more natural than the rigid “shit goes down on full moon days” in P3.

Again, I didn’t make it far enough in P3 to see if they ever explained the “full moon” thing, but I’ll wager that if they did, it wasn’t as well-handled as P4‘s explanation of the fog-and-rain phenomenon.

Sat 08/08 12:45:07 AM Ah, Junes. And more importantly, Nanako singing the Junes song! My first time through the game, I thought that Junes was going to figure extremely prominently — that the game was going to focus heavily on Junes kind of taking over the small town of Inaba. Not so much.

The first “real” murder does reference the pseudo-big-box store moving into Inaba, and making life difficult for the local liquor store. But that’s really the only time it’s ever mentioned in the game. Some characters reference wanting to leave Inaba someday, or feeling stifled by the smallness of the town, but those sentiments never coalesce into a theme.

Sat 08/08 12:46:55 AM Interesting contrast between the big(ger) city environment of P3, where you could go out in the evening and still study at night, with the countryside town of P4, where you only get one opportunity to do stuff after school.

Although there was never much to do at night in P3 besides “look at a text box that told you how your stats increased”. Well, okay, there were a few Social Links you could check out, but for the most part, everything shut down.

Sat 08/08 12:49:11 AM The edge of screen effect is near-constant inside the TV during P4, and it never really gets old.  Nice and subtle.

Sat 08/08 12:49:11 AM - The edge of screen effect is near-constant inside the TV during P4, and it never really gets old. Nice and subtle.

Sat 08/08 12:50:35 AM So I don’t remember who this is supposed to be in the first fight. Izanami, I guess?

Since the initial micro-dungeon looks similar to the final-for-reals dungeon, I assume that’s who it’s supposed to be. But my memory of that part of the ending is a little fuzzy.

Sat 08/08 12:53:16 AM As far as housemates go, Dojima and Nanako are so much more interesting than the frankly quite irritating classmates in P3.

This is one of the things that bothered me the most about P3. None of the main character’s classmates — they’re certainly not “friends” — are really likeable at all. Yukari is a priss who is always offended by something. Junpei is an idiot who gets irrationally jealous of the MC and then snaps out of it almost immediately. Akihiko is a fancy boy who’s always being all emo about the past. Fuuka is constantly amazed at how great everyone on the team is, and is all shy and unassuming and boring. Aigis is the boilerplate “android who tries to become more human” character we’ve all seen before. And Koromaru is… well, okay, it’s hard to argue with a freaking dog being a party member. Kudos there.

Again, I “only” made it fifty hours into Persona 3, so maybe these characters eventually transformed into great, humanized companions. But the party members (and NPC’s) in Persona 4 don’t need dozens of hours to be interesting.

Sat 08/08 12:54:58 AM Not the most glamorous introduction for a character, but Yosuke is probably my favorite in the game. And not to get too nerdy with the references, but Yuri Lowenthal‘s performance is goddamned PERFECT. Even better than his role in Prince of Persia.

I may be a little biased — his performance in Space Siege was one of the best in the game. I’m not sure if any of his stuff made it into the final product, but he was as great as usual for the roles I gave him. Also, not to toot my own horn, but when a guy as talented as Yuri complimented the hell out of my script… well, that was a good day — which was capped by going out for dinner and drinks with him and Troy Baker. Good times!

(We’ll talk more about Troy later.)

Sat 08/08 12:55:40 AM I never really understood why Chie and Yukiko get to wear something other than their uniforms.

I did a tiny bit of research and was unable to find anything useful. I guess there’s a little suspension of disbelief that’s required in situations like this. Although now that I think about it, the characters in the first Persona all wore the same uniforms. So I guess it’s a recent development. Not necessarily an unwelcome one, either.

Sat 08/08 12:56:52 AM Morooka is pretty entertaining, and it was pretty damn shocking when he turns up dead later.

All of the teachers seem like fairly rote characters — I feel like I’ve seen them in many different anime series before. The abrasive jackass, the slutty cougar, the distracted nerd, etc. But even while they’re forced to inhabit these well-worn stereotypes, the characters all manage to make their mark.

Sat 08/08 12:57:12 AM Although his invocation of “life-journals” and “my-places” is a little ridiculous.

I confess that since I’ve never worked on a game that takes place in the “real world”, I don’t know how I’d handle situations like this. I mean, you can’t have Morooka say “you kids today, with your social networking sites, and your personal weblogs“. So I guess a half-hearted attempt at realism is the only way to go.

Sat 08/08 12:57:55 AM Chie’s commiseration is pretty endearing.

I had to re-watch this section to see what I meant by this phrase. It turns out I was simply referring to her saying “Morooka’s the worst! Sorry that you’re stuck here for a year!” Chie’s constant optimism is a very good thing to have in the initial group, since Yosuke’s kind of emo at times and Yukiko’s… well, Yukiko.

Sat 08/08 12:59:51 AM Good stuff early on with the school closing and the sirens announcing something significant. It does a good job of selling the “nothing ever happens in this podunk town” vibe early on.

Sat 08/08 1:03:13 AM Heh. Remember what I said earlier about “how much random crap they were going to throw in cutscenes”? Yeah, Chie’s DVD scene was a little strange.

As seen at about 9:00 of this video. It’s a funny scene, but on the second playthrough, it seems very out of place.

Sat 08/08 1:03:59 AM Although maybe they just do it so they can make it not seem weird when Mitsuo Kubo is all like “hey, what’s up, just because I have a portrait doesn’t mean I’ll be important later”.

In retrospect, I’m not really sure why they needed to have Mitsuo Kubo show up at this point. Sure, it ties in later when everyone says “Hey, remember that guy? Wasn’t he creepy?”, but why bother? All it does is tip the player off that this guy is going to feature later.

Sat 08/08 1:06:49 AM Ah, the introduction of the ominous piano noodling theme. It never gets old.

Good thing, too, since it plays very, very often throughout the game. In general, the music in this game is top-notch. Very different from normal RPG fare, but unlike Persona 3, it’s not ostentatiously weird. The main battle music somehow never got old, even though it had vocals. A rare feat.

I’ll try to stop picking on P3. For all its faults, it did some things right. Just nothing right compared to its successor.

Sat 08/08 1:08:03 AM Kind of cool how P4 is like “OH MY GOD SOMEONE GOT KILLED”, and that’s a big deal. After all, it’s a small town. Kind of refreshing considering the fact that people getting killed is kind of de rigeur for most popular fiction these days.

Sat 08/08 1:13:04 AM Yuri’s experience with Japanese is obvious when he does things like, you know, reading his character’s name. Rolls off the tongue a lot better than a lot of other characters/actors.

Sat 08/08 1:18:18 AM I like how they set up Saki as someone who’s going to be a main character, and then BAM!

It kind of reminds me of the original plan for the main character of Lost, which can be found here. Obviously, the series would have been significantly different if they would have stuck to the original script — and probably not for the better. But it certainly would have been ballsy.

Also, I know that Yosuke is supposed to have been close to Saki — or, at least, he was infatuated with her. I feel like they could have set that up a little better, which would have not only made this event more powerful, but lent a little more insight into Yosuke‘s early behavior.

Sat 08/08 1:20:28 AM I also like how they set up the Midnight Channel as a local legend kind of thing (with “soulmates” and everything), when it turns out to be rather radically different.

Lost in my reduction of the concept to “a local legend kind of thing” is just how cool the base concept of the “Midnight Channel” is. Watch a TV at midnight when it’s off and something will appear? That’s really cool! A great fable in the modern age.

And speaking of the modern age, this game does a very good job of really making you feel like it’s set in a real world, if not the real world. Most of the time, when you think to yourself “oh, come on, [character x], just do this, it’s so obvious!”, they’ll do it. Whether it’s “try using your cell phone!” or something more exotic, it’s rare that the world feels “off” – which makes the supernatural elements of the game have a much better foundation.

Sat 08/08 1:23:49 AM Man, I really want to look at my menu screen to see what I carried over, but they don’t even let you access it for at least an hour. For now, it’s time for bed.

This is probably a smart decision on their part, since they’d have to completely disable things like “Persona”, “S. Link”, and so on.

Sun 08/09 1:42:05 PM The main character putting his hand (and head) through the TV is a pretty great “whoa!” moment early on. It’s interesting how it becomes so blase later on. “Oh, yeah, let’s go inside the TV on Thursday. Cool, see you there!”

Sun 08/09 1:43:48 PM It’s kind of a weird contrast between the realistic pseudo-suspense horror of the initial Midnight Channel discovery… and my teacher the next day wearing an Egyptian headdress with one of those cane thingies. I’m sure those things have names.

I guess it’s just called a “crook”. Or a staff.

Sun 08/09 1:45:23 PM Ah the quiz questions. Some of them are so easy (like this first one), but some of them are pretty much impossible without looking them up. I wish they’d done something to combat looking up the answers — like only allow ten seconds to respond, or something. It would have made the answering process less game-able without being too game-y.

Sun 08/09 1:49:26 PM I definitely like the progression of “Midnight Channel shows you your soulmate” to “Midnight Channel shows someone’s inner self”, and so on. Good stuff.

Sun 08/09 1:53:35 PM I’m pretty glad that the saga of Yosuke’s bladder begins and ends in this scene.

The less said about it, the better. I mean, sure, the need to urinate does add a certain amount of tension to a scene, but it mostly just makes Yosuke seem like an idiot.

Sun 08/09 1:54:11 PM So the first time everyone goes inside the TV, they fall a great distance and land on their asses. Does that happen every time?

I guess the answer to this is tied to “how can party members enter the TV by themselves without the main character?”, which is never really answered either. Teddie specifically calls out the MC as “the one who can bring people to this world”. I guess that actually means “the one who can bring people to this world, and then not be required to be around when they return”.

Sun 08/09 1:54:31 PM I forgot about the chalk outlines of bodies on the floor of the TV set.  Very cool environmental design in here.

Sun 08/09 1:54:31 PM - I forgot about the chalk outlines of bodies on the floor of the TV set. Very cool environmental design in here.

Sun 08/09 1:58:01 PM I wonder how much the different dialogue choices trigger actual different dialogue. It’s hard to tell sometimes if all responses lead to the same “node”, or if some just have additional filler, or if some are different entirely.

Sun 08/09 2:00:21 PM So did they intentionally have Yosuke’s bladder be a big deal to try to distract from who the posters are showing?

The answer to this is “no”, since it’s answered as soon as the trio leaves the TV. So I remain mystified as to its purpose.

Sun 08/09 2:01:55 PM Having seen the other concepts for Teddie in the included art book, I wonder how different the tone of the game would have been if they’d used a more serious appearance. He kind breaks up the mood of this initial scene by looking so ridiculous.

I was going to link to images of his other concepts, but apparently they’re not available online — and I’m not going to violate copyright by scanning them in. But they were a lot more melancholy and strange than the one Atlus ended up using.

Sun 08/09 2:04:05 PM Chie’s performance isn’t very good. Kind of a shame that three of the five main female characters (Chie, Yukiko, and Naoto) turn in lesser performances than the men. Maybe that’s their anime roots showing.

Sun 08/09 2:07:40 PM Heh. The Amagi inn sounds similar to a place we stayed at when we were in Edinburgh. We could have used a hot spring after the day we went to the castle.

I’m referring to the “hot young daughter who’s essentially running the inn” aspect, and that we got rained on pretty hard during our visit to Scotland. Which I highly recommend, by the way.

Sun 08/09 2:08:15 PM Thank god there’s no “Tired” or “Sick” status in this game. What a pain in the ass that was in P3.

I mean, I get why they did it — to create a disincentive for players to just endlessly grind in Tartarus. But couldn’t that have been accomplished by not having the party get fully restored when they go back to the lobby, and getting rid of the “Tired” concept altogether?

Sun 08/09 2:09:35 PM The silhouette of Sakis body hanging from the telephone pole is pretty damned creepy.

Sun 08/09 2:09:35 PM - The silhouette of Saki's body hanging from the telephone pole is pretty damned creepy.

Sun 08/09 2:10:36 PM I had remembered the translation of this game being a lot better than P3, but playing it now, I’m not sure that that’s actually true.

I think what I was actually remembering was the voice acting being a lot better. Listening to some of Yosuke’s lines, they’re just as weirdly written as some P3 stuff, but his performance makes it all okay.

Sun 08/09 2:13:12 PM “The cause of death was some unknown poison”. Interesting how these rumors all turn out to be rumors.

Sun 08/09 2:14:56 PM Honestly, I just wish they’d named the main character and had the other characters say his name. This “Well…? What do you think…?” stuff is unfortunate.

Sun 08/09 2:19:18 PM I really dig the real-world considerations. Yosuke tries to tie a rope around his waist to protect himself, checks his cell phone for reception inside the TV world, etc.

Sun 08/09 2:19:52 PM Oh god, we’ve reached the five minute scene of “You’re behind this!” “No we’re not!” “Yes you are!” “No, you are!” “How dare you!” “You’re doing this!” “No I’m not!” “You are!”

I’m still not sure why this scene needed to be as long as it ended up. Basically, all they’re accomplishing is “Teddie thinks Yosuke and the MC are suspicious, and vice versa. Teddie is hollow inside.” But it goes on for quite a while.

Sun 08/09 2:25:42 PM “I’m Yosuke Hanamura, and this is my buddy.”

This is probably the worst line in the game for the “you can name the protagonist anything”. In pretty much every other circumstance that I can remember, they dance around omitting the name or solve the problem some other way. But here, the line I quote is the actual VO for the scene, while in the text box they replace “my buddy” with [firstname] [lastname]. I know it’s a tradition in the series to be able to name the main character and everything, but this just makes me lament the missed opportunity.

This tradition is particularly egregious in the latest Shin Megami Tensei game for the DS: Devil Survivor. It requires the player to enter a first name, a last name, and a nickname… but all three of these fields have a six-character maximum. While that’s plenty in Japan, it’s not at all plenty in English. I ended up having to name my character “Grant Robrts”, with the nickname “G-Unit”…which, of course, is how everyone refers to me in the game. Oh well.

Sun 08/09 2:26:09 PM Ah, the glasses. Sweet!

As someone who was eager to get his first pair of glasses (at age 23), I was pretty thrilled to see them used as a plot device in P4. It helps that all of the characters look like badasses with them on. Especially the main character, who looks pretty nondescript and weird without them.

Sun 08/09 2:27:22 PM “Who’s this Saki-senpai girl? Someone you know?” “That’s not important right now.” Kind of like the entirety of FF8.

This is Teddie talking to Yosuke, and while it’s not particularly problematic, I’m overly sensitive to it after just finishing Final Fantasy VIII with the lovely Virginia. Throughout that game, whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, the cast (and the main character in particular) will quickly dismiss it, with the excuse of “we can’t possibly understand what’s going on, so let’s not even discuss it and just continue as if nothing happened”.

Sun 08/09 2:28:55 PM The cutscene where the main character uses a Persona for the first time is pretty damned awesome. I actually went “YEAH!” when he whispers “Persona” and starts the ass-kicking. I may or may not have woken up my fiancée.

Although a lot of this is due to the fact that they wait a long time to have a Persona finally show up, and pack the first few hours with a lot of interesting story without much action.

Sun 08/09 2:30:38 PM Awww, man, my analysis data doesn’t carry over with New Game Plus? :(

This seems like kind of a crappy oversight. Yes, part of the initial playthrough was figuring out which spells were good against which enemies. But why do I have to do that again on my second playthrough? Maybe it was just too much data to carry over for some reason.

Sun 08/09 2:42:57 PM The victory screen is very stylish, with the bright yellows, icons for EXP/money/item, etc.  Theyve got a good UI team.

Sun 08/09 2:42:57 PM - The victory screen is very stylish, with the bright yellows, icons for EXP/money/item, etc. They've got a good UI team.

Sun 08/09 2:44:35 PM They shouldn’t have let Teddie say “Amazing, Sensei!” before he uses “sensei” for the first time.

This is one of the things that Teddie says when the main character levels up. Unfortunately, the explanation of why he calls the MC “sensei” (which is, of course, an easy way to never have to say his name) comes immediately after this fight. Which makes this VO a little strange.

Sun 08/09 2:44:50 PM “You are now able to create Personas up to level 2!” Wow, thanks.

Fortunately, I can buy Personas of any level, which I would do later. Unfortunately, I only finished my first playthrough with about 18,000 yen, so I didn’t have nearly enough to buy my über-Personas from the Compendium. I could go back to my last save and sell off all my items, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the best use of my time.

Sun 08/09 2:51:23 PM I really like the brief monologues that start with “I am a Shadow… the true self”. Of course, it helps that the “Shadow Self” battle music is probably the best in the game.

Sun 08/09 2:57:08 PM The first boss fight (“Boss Battle!”) is pretty well balanced. They give you just enough SP and HP to barely win.

Which is easy to do, since your options are very limited at this stage, without access to the Compendium, and so on. Later boss fights may have been just as expertly balanced, but with the wide variety of available strategies due to different Persona collections, it was hard to tell. Plus, it didn’t help that I didn’t really feel like I got the hang of fusing, etc. until nearly the end of the game.

And yes, that was a Bookworm Adventures reference.

Sun 08/09 3:00:08 PM It’s such a much more interesting plot in this game, and gimmick (people face their inner selves that they don’t share with anyone), and method of acquiring Personas, etc. Compared to P3, where it’s like “Yeah, we all have the ‘potential’, and we point these fake guns at our heads.”

Sun 08/09 3:04:49 PM The display on the TV’s around the big one is kind of creepy.

It’s not worth finding a movie of it, really. Basically, it’s just a slowly zooming shot of a field of flowers. It only serves to show that the other TV’s in the area are actually on, but on my second playthrough, I’m finding my eyes wandering a lot more during some of the more mundane cutscenes.

Sun 08/09 3:10:21 PM Okay, two hours in and I can finally access the main menu. Looks like my stats have all carried over. All 5′s.

Which enables some scenes that aren’t possible to see on the first playthrough, like the main character being more forward with girls, being courageous enough to stand up to people, and so on. I’m looking forward to more of those.

Sun 08/09 3:11:30 PM I never really bothered with buffs and debuffs until I got about halfway through the game — and didn’t really bother with trying to carry over good Persona skills until after that. So this will be interesting this time. Rakunda is definitely something to hold on to.

I kind of went overboard in the opposite direction when I was playing P3, to the point where I had Rakunda (lower target defense), Auto-Tarukaja (raise self attack), Auto-Rakukaja (raise self defense), and Auto-Sukukaja (raise self hit/evasion) on a bunch of Personas.

Sun 08/09 3:12:48 PM All the Max Social Link items carry over, too. I’m not sure what they do, since I can’t seem to wear them.

Sun 08/09 3:13:17 PM Ah, and I can carry 12 Personas at the beginning. That’ll be very handy.

Although it’s very strange that they enable things like this, but don’t carry over things like analysis data. Oh well, I guess I’ll just play with a FAQ open.

Sun 08/09 3:16:23 PM Interesting things here. First of all, being able to tell that the person is wearing a kimono on the Midnight Channel is a bit TOO obvious. Maybe it would have been better if they just said they had long black hair. Of course, that’s pretty much all women in Japan. So never mind.

Sun 08/09 3:16:54 PM Also, I like that the game’s like “here’s what happens if you try to interact with people on the Midnight Channel”. It’s good to establish the ground rules in a situation this weird.

Sun 08/09 3:18:03 PM Actually, I’ve found something that was better in P3 vs. P4: the Velvet Room attendant. Elizabeth is much cuter than Margaret.

I didn’t realize until after I was doing research later on that the two are actually sisters. Elizabeth also has a much more interesting personality than Margaret, although the “daffy person who’s not familiar with customs in the ‘real world’” archetype is pretty well-worn at this point.

Sun 08/09 3:21:48 PM At level 1, party members can take a mortal blow for me in battle… but the game doesn’t explain that if the main character dies, then the game’s over. Seems like a rather glaring oversight.

This is a pretty huge deal, and one that Atlus really should have conveyed to the player (via either a text pop-up or VO). Luckily, I found out about “main character death = reload” before it actually happened to me, but I imagine there are quite a few people who didn’t have that luxury.

Sun 08/09 3:29:37 PM As pun-loving characters go, I think Teddie is a wee bit more interesting than that dumbass from P3.

And his puns are better, too.

Sun 08/09 3:30:04 PM I like how Adachi is deliberately trying to throw as many theories at Dojima as possible to muddy the waters.

I confess that I found Adachi to be a little suspicious from the beginning, but never to the point where I thought he was the main culprit. Although the game masks his involvement pretty well, in my opinion.

Sun 08/09 3:30:54 PM That comic really was right on the money about that scene. Dojima: “Our perp… has to be someone in Inaba.” Oh, you think so, doctor?

Sun 08/09 3:34:16 PM I’m kind of shocked that a Google Image Search for “yukiko ‘lacy unmentionables’” turns up zero results.  Not even any fan art!  I guess Chie and Rise are the big attractions.

I’m not that creepy — Yukiko actually mentions her “lacy unmentionables” (with a gratuitous crotch grab for emphasis) in this scene.

I actually chose Yukiko as my only “girlfriend” my first time through the game, rejecting quite a few others along the way. That ended up being pretty damned disappointing, as the only time your “girlfriend” actually matters is during an event towards the end of the game.

Sun 08/09 3:35:08 PM I like that we get to see Yosukes casual clothes, but I wish theyd given him a jammies portrait to go with the main character (who Im just going to refer to as MC from now on).

Sun 08/09 3:35:08 PM - I like that we get to see Yosuke's casual clothes, but I wish they'd given him a "jammies" portrait to go with the main character (who I'm just going to refer to as "MC" from now on).

Sun 08/09 3:38:33 PM Oh, Yosuke. Your wallet chain is the only part about you I don’t like.

Well, okay, I also don’t like his battle with his bladder. But other than that, he’s great.

Sun 08/09 3:40:28 PM I still don’t know if I like the “you and Yosuke got arrestedscene (9:15). I like the idea of “shit, we’ve got important business to conduct, we don’t have time for this!”, but the execution was a little sloppy. It’s still better than most scenes in other RPG’s I’ve played lately, though.

One thing this scene shows off really well is how much a large animation team can add to the experience. Custom animations for Yosuke acting like an idiot really help sell the scene.

Sun 08/09 3:44:19 PM I confess to being a little disappointed that the antagonist was only responsible for two deaths in the entire game, but that’s probably because I’ve been conditioned by these games to expect antagonists that are trying to DESTROY THE WORLD OMG.

Sun 08/09 3:52:26 PM They go out of their way to explain some things that wouldn’t ordinarily need explaining – like “we’ll be too suspicious if we show up with a bunch of weapons, so we’ll hide them under our school uniforms!”

This does seem to contradict what I said earlier about them throwing in little details to make the story more realistic. But at this point, I’m kind of along for the ride, so I’m willing to allow for some conceits.

Sun 08/09 4:04:22 PM The game does a very good job of slowly explaining and introducing things, like not giving you the whole world map, slowly rolling out the part-time jobs, etc.

I tend to go back and forth on this issue. I still think the best way to handle it, even if it’s becoming a little clichéd at this point, is the “Abilitease” — give the player a wide range of skills at the beginning of the game to give them a taste of what’s to come, and then strip it down to the basics soon after. But in some genres and some cases, this is not necessarily the best way to handle things. P4 is one of those cases.

Sun 08/09 4:14:51 PM Two huge improvements over P3 immediately show themselves – being able to control allies during battle, and dungeons beside “Tartarus”.

The ability to control allies is a big deal. Not only does it prevent the player from playing exactly the way they want to, but it makes it so that you can’t tell when a party member gets a new ability.

Plus, I’ve played way too many games that feature one giant dungeon that’s divided into sections… and I almost never like it. The dungeons in P4 have great personality, music, and visuals.

Sun 08/09 4:23:05 PM I know that the Giant Bomb guys complained that no one ever thought to go “DON’T DENY YOUR SHADOW AND WE WON’T HAVE TO FIGHT IT”, but I like what Kanji says later about how you have to fight it yourself.

Sun 08/09 4:23:41 PM Man, the design for Shadow Chie is REALLY cool.

Sun 08/09 4:29:10 PM Chie’s voice acting is pretty good when she’s sad, but not so much when she’s not.

I guess the lesser performances aren’t that bad, but when you hold them up against Yosuke’s and Kanji’s, there’s really no comparison.

Sun 08/09 4:38:43 PM And that’s all for today. I’m really eager to start with the fusion and stuff, but the game doesn’t let you do that for a while, I guess. I think this will mark the end of the first post. Next time, I’ll be grinding for a while until I rescue Yukiko. See you then!

Mon 08/10 10:39:59 PM Man, the difference between Yosuke and Junpei is night and day, as far as main character friends go. Or was I not supposed to look at him as a friend? I could never tell. He was always just kind of a stupid jackass.

Mon 08/10 10:40:57 PM Huh, I’m glad I had the courage to actually say “Falling for me, huh?” and have everyone laugh about it. That was a pretty nice moment that I don’t think was possible the first time through the game.

It was initially a weird moment, where I chose an option that looked like me being a flirtatious jackass, only to see it turn into a “I was obviously joking” line. But this mini-scene between Yosuke, Chie, and the main character shows them as fast friends in a way that isn’t ever shown in a “regular” playthrough. I wish there were more scenes like this.

Mon 08/10 10:41:23 PM I guess I was lying about The Saga of Yosuke’s Bladder being over.

Thankfully it doesn’t ever come up again. Although honestly, I would be more tolerant of the “OMG HAVE TO PEE” element of the game if it actually came up later, or was a consistent aspect to his character.

Mon 08/10 10:43:02 PM I had forgotten that if you don’t rescue someone by the time the fog appears, THE GAME ENDS. Maybe I’ll look up what actually happens on YouTube.

This is explained better than the “main character death equals end of game”, but not by much. I wonder if they were intentionally a little vague about this issue so players would experience it and realize just how dire the situation is. Of course, I never had to worry about it because I tried to save the people as soon as I possibly could, but…

In fact, I wish I’d received a better reward for rescuing them quickly.

Mon 08/10 10:43:31 PM I like that they came up with new quiz questions for the “English” class. Some of them were pretty hard.

I’m not able to find examples with a quick Google search. But basically, in the Japanese version, the English class featured basic questions that would be fairly easy for a native speaker. In the English version, there are lots of questions about indefinite articles and the like. I mean, there are more difficult topics than indefinite articles, but that’s the only one I remember right now.

Mon 08/10 10:46:19 PM Oh, square button. You really are as wonderful as that woman in the Shopping District says.

In P4, pressing the square button while not in a dungeon brings up a teleportation mini-menu that lets you easily travel from screen to screen. And not to harp on P3 more than I already have, but that game really could have used that functionality. The woman in the Shopping District goes on for a few boxes of text about how awesome it is. And while I don’t necessarily like that kind of breaking the fourth wall in a game like this, it’s hard to dislike it when she’s so, so right.

Mon 08/10 10:46:54 PM Is it weird that after playing Persona 4, I kind of want to visit a small Japanese town when I travel there this November? And, like, explore a high school? That’s not creepy at all, right? Wait, where are you going?

Mon 08/10 10:48:39 PM I agree with the Giant Bomb guys when they said that the finer points of Persona fusion (or, really, any points) could have been better explained. Considering how useful it is to fuse powerful Personas with lots of skills, I feel like I missed out on a lot of ass-kicking.

Unfortunately, unlike the “main character death = end of game” concept, this one would take longer than a single text box to explain, so I don’t know how you’d do it. Unless there was an option on the main menu that was, like, “Fusion Tutorial” or something. I’ve seen stranger things.

Mon 08/10 10:50:15 PM Oh, interesting, so it looks like I can summon all the Personas in my Compendium?! That’s going to seriously unbalance things. Although I don’t have enough money to summon the real heavy hitters. Not yet, anyway.

It doesn’t necessarily unbalance things as much as I thought it would, though, since the main character is only one person. Yosuke and Chie still take thirty hits to kill sewer rats while the MC is spending 128SP on Megamabufudynamo. I still need to get the money to summon Trumpeter, though. He’s got some serious game.

Mon 08/10 10:50:35 PM Whoa! I just accidentally hit L1 and discovered that… every Persona has its own little multi-sentence blurb describing it. Wow.

They’re pretty well-written, too. It makes me wonder how many of them are real legends and which ones Atlus just made up. Writing back story like this was one of the more fun elements of Space Siege, although I imagine none of it actually made it into the final product.

Mon 08/10 10:53:00 PM I think I’ll hold off on paying to summon these guys for now, and just stick to the low-level Personas for a bit.

Mon 08/10 10:55:52 PM “Materials are useless sitting in your inventory, so there’s no reason to not sell them to Diadara.” Yeah, except for that one quest that requires 10 Thick Hides, or something. Jerks.

Yeah, so everyone who’s reading this and hasn’t yet played the game (which I imagine is not a significant percentage), for god’s sake, hang on to all those Thick Hides that you collect. This quest went the entire game unfinished because I accidentally sold off all of mine. Which is really kind of annoying, since I’m pretty sure it’s the only quest in the game that you can mess up like that.

Mon 08/10 11:01:16 PM Okay, I lied. I’m summoning Ose, so I can hopefully wreck some Shadows up in this… castle.

Although my reign of terror only lasted until a few levels into the castle. Part of the terms of me deciding to play through the game for a second time was the assurance that I’d be able to annihilate everything in my path. If that’s not the case, I don’t think I can do it again. At least not so soon.

Mon 08/10 11:03:18 PM I’m not sure if I like the names of items in this game, like “Goho-M”, “Second Maid”, etc.

Mon 08/10 11:22:16 PM Aww, man, I don’t have any chest keys? That would have been a reasonable thing to carry over.

I’m not sure how far back the tradition goes, but it’s still a little irksome to me. And since the names don’t even signify what the items are, it’s even weirder. Although I suppose even the mighty Square Enix has the same “problem” — the petrification status is cured by the “Gold Needle”, and so on. Maybe I just need to relax.

Mon 08/10 11:13:06 PM I forgot about the mesages that you hear every time you reach a new floor. It’s weird — the, I think.

Especially since one of the few things that can only happen in the second playthrough is THE REAPER appearing if you open chests. Come on, Atlus, don’t you want me to see your optional boss? And get slaughtered by him because I don’t have any good Personas yet?

Mon 08/10 11:28:15 PM Party members calling for heals

These last four notes were taken after my laptop blue-screened, so they’re a bit terser than usual. This one is in reference to Yosuke getting triggered to ask for healing after we finished a fight with him at less than 30% health or so. It’s a nice touch, especially considering that it’s easy to forget about party members’ condition after fights sometimes.

Mon 08/10 11:31:44 PM Very different SP-wise

I was referring to the difference between Persona 3, where your SP is automatically restored when you return to the entrance, and P4, where early on in the game, SP is the only reason to go back home. It helps to sell the idea of taking your time to finish a dungeon, not rushing into things blindly, etc. It’s also a little frustrating towards the beginning when you just want to hurry up and save people.

Mon 08/10 11:34:38 PM Soccer this time

The ability to join a sports team is one of the first things to unlock. Last time, I chose basketball, which just ended up being the saga of Kou and his adopted family. Boring. This time, I’m going to choose the soccer team, as I’ve heard that Daisuke needs help with the ladies. I’ve got the courage to hook you up, man!

Mon 08/10 11:36:54 PM Walking to school vs. O hai

In Persona 3, every day at school would begin the same way — the main character would be walking towards the entrance, when suddenly a “friend” of his would notice and call him over. I was never really understood why this happened, since all the characters live in the same building. “Oh, hi there, guy who sleeps in the room next to me! Fancy meeting you here, when we’re never more than twenty feet apart, like, ever!” Needless to say, I prefer the small town vibe of P4, with everyone running into each other on the way to school because there are no other roads.

And that’s going to be it for now, since my friend Josie has borrowed my Persona 4 disc. I’m looking forward to getting it back and continuing this endeavor, but it’ll be nice to take a break.

Thanks for reading. Now if you haven’t bought the game yet, go do it.

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