I love games based around story – some of my earliest memories of gaming are of sitting down to play Karateka on an old system (Apple II I want to say?) with my uncle, and only wanting to know about the motivation behind what was going. Forget the controls, why is that guy hitting that other guy? What’s the deal with that bird?
It’s something that has persisted with me all these years. Gaming has informed my interest in being a writer, and I have developed an appreciation for the unique opportunities and limitations games bring when it comes to storytelling.
RPGs have always been a key part of this interest in story; specifically Western RPGs. For whatever reason – and I’m honestly not sure what it is – I’ve bounced very hard off of Japanese RPGs, or games in general. Hell – and I feel like I should probably hand in my nerd credentials just saying this – the only anime I’ve ever really enjoyed was Macross/Robotech and Dragonball Z, and I’m pretty sure that last one was more ironic enjoyment than anything.
I appreciate from afar, but generally Japanese media hasn’t done it for me.
And yet, Persona 4.
This strange mix of dungeon crawler with Pokemon-esque turn-based combat, high school relationship simulator, and examination of the human psyche, is simply amazing. I spent 80ish hours over a few weeks absolutely absorbed in the Golden edition of this game on my Vita, marvelling at every twist and turn of the story. I grew to love the characters and the relationships you build with them, and incredible soundtrack, solid voice acting, and unique visual style – particularly the creature designs – kept me going back. I even learnt a bit about Japan along the way that led to me doing some additional reading and research.
Not since Mass Effect has a game sunk its claws into me and refused to let go like Persona 4: Golden did. Not only has it made Persona 5 a guaranteed sale for me, but it also has me trying to source a copy of the previous game in the series, and even watching the (gasp) anime based upon the game!
If you have a system capable of playing Persona 4, you owe it to yourself to try it. It starts out a little slow, but it quickly strikes that perfect balance between tension and bouts of goofy shit that makes it the most charming game I’ve played in years.