So I finally decided to play my first Persona game and since it was basically $15 on sale on STEAM I figured why not? Minor spoilers ahead and as usual my husband’s commentary is in blue.
The story takes place in the inaka town of Inaba where our protagonist (who I named Narukami Yuu after the anime) comes to live with his uncle and cousin for a year while his parents are overseas. He attends the local school where he makes friends with his classmates Chie and Yosuke. Chie tells him about a rumor going around about the Midnight Television that shows some interesting things whenever there’s fog outside at night. Yuu decides to watch the マヨナカテレビ and realizes his hand can slip inside the TV like into another dimension. After telling his friends they try to jump into the large screen TV at the local department store Junes and end up falling into what looks like a foggy tv studio. When inside they meet up with a kigurumi bear named Kuma (Teddie in English). And from then on they get entwined in a series of murders and try to figure out whodunnit while at the same time trying to solve the mystery fog that keeps coming to Inaba every month.
(CW: OLD FOGEY RANTING ABOUT BACK IN THE DAY) One thing that’s funny to me playing this game now in 2021 rather than in 2008 when it came out is the entire aspect about how in order to entire the shadow realm they need to go to the electronics section of Junes. The reasoning, of course for all you whippersnappers out there, is that there used to be a time when people only had like 20 inch tube TVs at home, and meanwhile a big screen flat plasma TV (remember plasma TVs????????????? Of course you don’t you snot-nosed twerps!!!!!!!!!) was an unimaginable luxury, so obviously this was the only way that the characters could get access to a TV large enough to climb into.
So while all of this is going on, you the protagonist have to go on a Tokimeki Memorial style stat raiser where you study and hang out with people to raise your relationship levels with them and raise your stats to be able to do things like be #1 in the exam rankings and get the ladies to like you.
There is soooooooooooo much you can do on a given day. Most of the days are school days (naturally), meaning that there’s always some combination of dungeon crawling, school clubs, hanging out with friends, part-time jobs, minigames, or solo activities that you can do. It took us until probably halfway through the game until we started to get the hang of the typical daily/weekly schedule for all the different characters and activities. But it’s also forgiving enough that you can kind of roleplay a specific version of Protagonist-kun too if you want.
So I was surprised and I did hear this game has a dating sim element, but it DOES give you the option to pick a girl (or have a 修羅場 if you pick all of them) and have a bunch of cute scenarios with her. I ended up settling down on Chie because she was the first girl who called out to Yuu when he transferred into the class and honestly I just liked her down to earth friendly personality and the desire to want to protect all those close to her. I know she’s not a popular pairing within the fandom (at least from what I read) but hey the game gives me the option and I took it. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)✨ The above video I clipped Chie x Yu moments from my stream because I got her to max level really fast by June and had a lot of opportunities for scenes with her.
I’m sure the other mainline waifus were probably fine (but not Naoto, don’t NTR your bro by claiming her), but honestly lol at the inclusion of the random clubmates that you can romance. In the one corner, you have your ride or die ladybros, who not only have been with you through thick and thin, but also whose most intimate secrets, nagging insecurities, darkest fears, and uncomfortable truths of their psyches manifested themselves in physical form and were laid bare to you (and that both of you confronted and defeated so that they could grow as a person)…or there’s like, that girl who plays trombone in the orchestra that you talked to one time while you were both setting up the chairs for that day’s rehearsal.
So basically this stat raising thing goes on for a year and every month you have to rescue a friend or catch a criminal. By the end of the game you have 8 people you can have in your party but because you have to grind their levels or they fall behind, I only ended up using Yosuke, Chie and Teddie. Yu also has access to an entire pokemon compendium for his personas and I threw most of mine into the blender until something somewhat decent came out. Most of the promotion art of this game always features Izanagi but hilariously he was one of the first ones I threw into the blender and never saw again. 😂😂
I won’t go into the spoiler territory but eventually you do defeat the final boss, including the final boss that was added specifically for Personal 4 Golden since apparently that was not in the original P4. Golden basically adds 2 extra dungeons and bosses to defeat and when I look at it now it seems so odd that the original P4 didn’t have them because it leaves a lot of open ends of why some things happened the way they did (like why Yu got his TV surfing powers in the first place.)
There’s probably guides out there how to play in the most optimal way but at first coming into the game it was so overwhelming that I decided to just yolo it. Thanks to Extra Easy mode, the battles were mostly a joke and I got so much money from some of the dungeon enemies that I think I was at 2 million yen by the end of the game and bought almost every costume the shop had offered me. (The costumes sadly were only for during dungeon battles and not anything outside those or cut scenes.) Because of this I was only able to max out about 10 characters friendship meters and the rest I got to maybe level 5 before the game ended. I had maxed out my stats though but if I was trying to be super efficient I might have followed a guide. That said, I think trying to be super efficient would end up being stressful because you’d have to follow the guide exactly – the kind of thing I’d rip my hair out over when playing games like Wand of Fortune. Fortunately unlike my shitty stat raising otome games, this wasn’t super strict and you could trigger a lot of events at pretty much anytime save for a few story specific events where you had a time limit to complete it (and it usually involved a dungeon.)
We initially got completely overwhelmed by all the systems and complexity in the game and got really anxious that we were doing something wrong. We decided to just wing it and hope for the best. Technically, our assumption ended up being correct because we were doing everything completely inefficiently, but fortunately it all worked out fine in the end because the game both gives you a ton of time to do stuff, along with there being almost no important missable events or endings. The only reason we even got one of the bad endings was because we misinterpreted the tone of one of the choices and ended up doing something different from what we were trying to make them do. It was also really good that you can just wing it because any attempt to follow a guide would probably spoil TONS of stuff and make the mystery and all the twists and turns a lot less fun.
The game does signpost some stuff occasionally which does help with remembering what you can do on a given day, but the execution can be hit or miss. For example, there’s frequently times when you’re trying to investigate the leads on the case and you need to question people around town. Someone might say something like “oh yeah my friend saw the suspect near the liquor store”, which was a clear enough signal to try to look for said friend. But then the trick part was figuring out to get that trigger to occur. Maybe you needed to go to a different part of town first and come back, maybe you needed to wait a whole complete day, or maybe you needed to talk to some more people in order to get her to show up. I often looked for guide solutions for these when we’d get into those situations where we know what we want to do, but how not to do it (see also our first bad end.)
The game also had a ton of anime cut scenes just like in Tales of Arise that I played before this which was really nice to see. I ended up picking up the P4 anime I dropped years ago because now that I’ve played the game it would actually make sense to me. The animation in the game though is of much higher quality than the anime lol.
Two other great things I want to mention were the comedy and the music. The music was really catchy, even just music of “you’re going to school” was catchy lol. The first 3 dungeons had really catchy music that went well with the dungeon theme. And the 2nd thing that was great was all the comedy in the game. I made a video above from my streams where I was laughing so hard my sides hurt and tears were rolling down my face. 🤣🤣🤣 So even though the dungeons were tedious and I didn’t really care about the idea persona stats or the battle system, all the different scenarios and the romance portion really made the game for me. There’s a new game plus option for those who care about getting max with all the side characters but I had my fill with the main cast so I’ll be moving on to other games. The game is pretty cheap on steam so definitely give it a chance if you never played before, and if you had quit because the system was tedious definitely play the Steam version for the EZ mode.
In conclusion, if this game came out when you were 13, it would BLOW YOUR MIND. We joke sometimes about how “the game that you played every day after school when you were 10 is the best game ever”, but that’s more a joke about endless grindfests (…or games that aren’t REALLY endless grindfests, except that you were a small child and were bad at video games and also just liked seeing numbers go up.) But in this case, it’s like “oh man I dreamed that anime and friends and Slenderman and superpowers and talking to girls and Pokemon and Japan were real, and then my dream came true!!!!!!!!!!!” All in all, tons of fun but I reallllllly wish that they trimmed off a lot of the fat so that the game would be nonstop fun times and exciting adventures with your pals and a lot less of filling out worksheets in Excel to figure out when you can finally go to basketball practice.
Oh yea by the way the side quests sucked to the level of almost as bad as Scarlet Nexus and the only thing I remember is giving fish to a baby nuko.😹
As usual you can check out my Twitch highlights collection for this game!