10 months. 80 hours. That’s how long it took me to play through Persona 4, and with my severe video game ADHD, if I play anything for more than a night, then that’s an accomplishment. Well, it really took a bit more than that, because I earned all 3 endings and died a few times, but we’ll go with the official game time of 8o hours. The last time I put this much time into a game was Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2, and Final Fantasy VII on the PS1.
This has been the most engrossing interactive experience I’ve ever had the joy of playing.
Despite the game’s somewhat sophomoric idea of playing as a group of teenage high schoolers in a remote rural Japanese town, Persona 4 manages to touch on a number of mature themes throughout the adventure. Kanji struggles with his sexuality, while Rise is always hesitant to express her true feelings for the main character (MC from here on out), and you’re your uncle, Ryo, soon realizes the difficulties faced with raising a small child as a single parent after the sudden death of his wife.
Part game, part teenage life sim, Persona 4 takes an approach toward gaming that I hadn’t experience before. At certain points you’ll find yourself grinding through dungeons for hours on end, immediately followed by several hours of the attending high school, ski trips, and taking exams in the simulation part of the game.
There’s a number of things that really allow Persona 4 to stand out in my mind, and it’s a damn shame that it came out so late in the Playstation 2’s life, because so many people completely missed it when the current console generation launched. Fortunately, developer Atlus has re-released it and added some content, dubbing it “Persona 4 Golden.” It’s worth owning a PS Vita for this game alone.
Of all the games I’ve played, this one has the most professional appearance, polish, and presentation I’ve ever seen – and by a mile. That’s the crazy part; the game has been out for 5 years, and nothing has come even remotely close to matching the amount of polish on this game’s surface. The art is gorgeous, voice acting is believable, and Shoji Meguro’s soundtrack is phenomenal; it even sparked its own annual concert series in Japan.
That’s not to say that Persona 4 is for everyone, as the inconsistent pace and Japanese aspects of the game can’t be off-putting if you aren’t prepared. If you’re a fan of pop culture, anime, or other Japanese titles, then I could certainly see this appealing to you.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the game is how well fleshed out the characters are. By the end of my journey I knew the ins-and-outs, and most intimate moments of these individuals, all with distinct personalities and diverse character traits, reminiscent of my own high school years. In fact, the MC lives out nearly an entire school year within the game, including all of the clubs, activities, and sports that come along with becoming a student.
I found some of the boss fights to be less than desirable with their length, and even cheap at times with one hit kills, but with enough strategy and leveling I was able to take them all out.
Despite this, I feel that everyone involved in the gaming community: journalists, developers, and publishers alike, should be required to play this game. It’s not for everyone, but it can certainly help you to appreciate how beautiful and well put together interactive media really can become. Some may say that video games as a medium aren’t at a point yet where they can touch on adult themes responsibly and be taken seriously. I disagree, and offer Persona 4 as a proof that the medium can effectively convey these thoughts and feelings.
As it stands, Persona 4 has recently moved into my top 5 game of all time, alongside the likes of A Link to the Past, Mega Man X, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy VII. If you own a Vita, or are even on the fence about buying one, then this game should be the first thing you grab. In fact, it’s the only cartridge that has even been in my Vita, and I bought it in November of last year! It’s bittersweet to finally put the chapter to a close, and I’m eagerly awaiting more, but I guess I’ll just have to go back to playing Persona 3 to hold me over until the next title is released.