06 February 2014

'Persona 4' Part IV

I'm done. I am practically screaming at a brick wall within my own psyche by this point. I just cannot bring myself to enjoy Persona 4. The more I think about it, the more problems I find and want to bitch about.

But I'm done. Once I finish this review, I will just live my life as if this installment meant nothing to me. I will ignore the abhorrent concept of Dancing All Night existing, and I will keep my Vita's skin, even if I hate the majority of Golden's content. I can tolerate Arena because I get to see some of the old members of SEES again. I'll still play Persona Q just for everyone in SEES coming back.

Maybe one day, I'll pick up the original Persona 4, just to get a better sense of the gameplay. Otherwise, if I have killer hangover and have the need to be blinded by yellow, I'll just watch the anime.

Now, let's finish this review. Onto things I am more positive about before I give out my already controversial final verdict.

I was tempted to throw in a gag about how much I hate the concert scene again since I may not have the chance... BUT I'll stop being petty. At least thirty blood vessels exploded in my skull thanks to that god-awful piece of -



...Yeah. Okay, I'm done. For now.

Technical Presentation

In spite of my failing to agree emotionally with the majority of the Persona 4 fans, I can understand why they praise the game on a technical level. I did complain about the reduced difficulty, but I also highlighted the fact that Persona 4 still plays well. The AI is competent, the insta-f-you powers of hama and mudo still serves as a tradition - underutilized, but still present, a boss will screw you over if you are underleveled, and everything Persona 3 had was tweaked and modified to make a more fluid experience. Most credit to Persona 3 Portable's improved gameplay, though still upholding the installment's rules and elements - originates from the improvements from Persona 4.

When it comes to the presentation, however, Persona 4 blows its elder brother out of the water on nearly every front.

Graphics

There's nothing grand or spectacular about them, but Atlus knows how to make an aesthetically attractive game on a very small budget next to AAA giants. Since my mother mocks me for having expensive tastes, I grew up understanding and appreciating frugality. I am all for game developers being smart and careful with their wallets and bank accounts. So as usual, Atlus made a colorful, creative, expressive title with a lively atmosphere and personality.

Yes, I like how upbeat and colorful this game is. Persona 4 tonally is alien next to the vast majority of Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games, but at least it's really cool to look at. For many years of my life, I hated the color yellow. This game proved to me that yellow can be used in a very pleasing way. It matches the mood of the game perfectly, and the supporting color hues and schemes were worked like peanut butter and chocolate. Yes, I'm being subjective on my taste on the coating of Skittles, but let me be happy about a color I really, really hate even more than hot pink.

That aside, the 3D models were very similar to the ones used in Persona 3; however, they were upgraded with better textures and slightly better animations. It is more noticeable in the small moments, like Yosuke knocking Teddie over when he's not in his human form. Sadly the characters spent a ton of time either standing around attempting to move the comatose plot or sitting around continuing to attempt to move the comatose plot. That being said, I enjoyed the facial expressions the models had. This was present also in Persona 3, but the character models here seem more expressive. Yukiko looks so adorable when she's laughing during the King's Game, especially when her torso seems to move in a circular motion while she's grinning childishly. I love how Teddie's massive eyes are so dynamic in his bear form. And seeing Kanji, Yosuke, and Chie freak out on loop in the midst of an argument is hilarious.

This seemingly more vigorous take on the models makes up for the slightly downgraded profiles. They aren't awful, no, they are quite nice. The designs are a bit less striking than Persona 3's, but you could either chalk it up to Shigenori Soejima making more realistic-looking characters or him evolving as an artist. What slightly disappointed me is the lack of dynamic poses. Everyone seems to have a uniform position with only their facial expressions changing. It's always just a smile, just a glare, just a sideways glance. Persona 3 had changing expressions as well as postures, mainly when something more dramatic or sudden happens. But it's an observation that's so small, it doesn't hurt the game in anyway. So I'll abort this nitpick so it won't affect the final verdict.


Animated cutscenes, however, I cannot ignore. Finally they look good. No more close-ups to make shortcuts or hide a badly proportioned body part. No more inconsistent coloring, proportions, and hiccups! No more fugly spinach film blanketing the entire screen! We get to see entire groups of characters talking or interacting rather than zooming on a face or backing up too far away to avoid drawing a face. Heck, the cutscene where Dojima is chasing a truck in his car was a pretty damn good scene that Persona 3 wouldn't have the balls to tackle in "The Journey". The budget looks well spent and I'm no longer distracted by any detail that would apparently ruin immersion. Thank the superior being(s) for this competent production! Is it the best animation in gaming history? No way, but it's presentable and pleasing.

Soundtrack

As much as I detest that all the attention goes to the shallowest aspects of the game, I'd be lying if I said I hated the music. Like how it was done in the visual department, the music does fit the tone of the game well. In other words, Persona 4 succeeded in the most superficial aspect of art and video games. But at least they put their all into it, which a realistic pessimist like me cannot deny. And its Shoji Meguro, so I can't complain.


I mostly liked the original tracks far more than the ones added to Golden. Only one vocal track from the port stuck with me, "Shadow World". Others like the eternally stigmatized and damned "True Story" and the bland "Snowflakes" just don't add anything I would sorely miss. Actually, I hardly enjoyed any of the vocal tracks in both versions. This may be due to the overemphasis on the theme of gods being massive trolls. ... Or searching for the truth. Or being true to yourself. Or reaching out for the truth when it's right in front of you. Or denying the truth that Japanese mythology means nothing within the context of this story because it's tacked on so lazily with no thought put into it whatsoever.

*smacks self*

I really need to stop watching successful opinionated guys and reviewers on the internet. Maybe I should stop watching The Spoony One's videos for a few months.

Anywho. The lyrics sledgehammer the theme of the story rather than drop a hint here or there. It's amazing I don't hate the word "truth" after this ordeal. On the other hand, tracks like "Your Affection", which only plays when it's sunny (aka 10% of the time) and "Pursuing my True Self", the original PS2 opening theme, were probably the songs that stayed in my head in a positive way for the longest time. They don't play much, unfortunately. Especially "Backside of the TV". That is the best song in the goddamn universe. Fact.


Lyrical tracks aside, the rest of the soundtrack is pretty decent. This time the music contains lots of pop and some rock that is very upbeat and easy on the ears. Many tracks have some traces of electronic here or there, such as the vastly underplayed "Backside of the TV" or "Sauna". Other times the tracks will have nice piano pieces, such as in "Alone", "Memory", or "Smile". Persona 4's soundtrack feels more calming and relaxing as a whole, which fits the down-to-earth nature of the setting and story.

Regardless of the praise... I find many tracks a bit hit or miss. I tended to enjoy some of the dungeon themes, mainly "Castle" and "The Long Way", while I found others boring, such as "Theater" and "Game" for Rise and Mitsuo's dungeons respectively. I even disliked most of the event tracks, excepting "Alone" and "Reasoning".

At the end of the day, however, I can't say this soundtrack beats Persona 3's. In fact, I think both soundtracks are excellent. The last several boss themes in Persona 4 feel more epic than they have any right to be - considering that this story is a local small town murder mystery, not preventing armageddon in life-threatening fights against uber-massive gods. Still, they are well performed enough that I can leave my negativity by the wayside.

Great soundtrack overall with a few boring tracks and a stinker here or there. B+.

Voice Acting

I touched on most of the major actors already, but I'll mention some of them again. Everyone did very well with the material they were given. The overall production of Persona 4 is much better than Persona 3's, even Portable's. Aside from some lines that sound like they came from the early days of work on this game, the acting is very fluid and natural-sounding. Though I have a love-hate relationship with him due to him being trapped in predictable roles, Troy Baker is excellent as Kanji. He had a tough role to work with considering the controversial nature of the topics surrounding characters like Kanji, but he did well. So well that I can't bring myself to like most other characters he portrays since they all feel cliche and flat... most of the time.


For some reason, Johnny Yong Bosch is a hard guy for me to recognize, and I never could find out why, but I think I finally put two and two together. He was how Jennifer Hale was for me in Mass Effect: once I got the name, heard them voice a character I really enjoyed, I can remember them much easier from now on. So it took many years of watching anime, but Johnny Yong Bosch is finally registered on my radar after his performance as Adachi (and Yu in the anime).

Others like Erin Fitzgerald and Sam Reigal as Chie and Teddie took a while to grow on me. They had their grating points that thankfully don't last long. Heck, as a plus, Karen Strassman was decent as Nanako, so hopefully this more than makes up for what I said about Aigis. Seriously, though, I can't list a single bad voice actor in this game. Even the background voices were far less annoying. Not everyone was worthy of being the best voice actor ever, but the whole package was just wrapped wonderfully. And hey, I have nothing against Yuri Lowenthal and Laura Bailey, I enjoy them both, but it's bad luck they voiced my least favorite characters. For Mr. Lowenthal, that's two Persona games in a row. Owch.


Preferred Version?



In an ideal world, I'd say the original. Due to my never playing it however, my opinion would be invalid in many regards. Be it from the specific videos I've seen or it being a part of the game itself, I noticed a slight lag at points. Though it might also be due to the fact Persona 4 vanilla is a console RPG, which tends to feel slower in pace compared to handhelds in my experience. ... That's my only complaint that tailors exclusively to the original Playstation 2 title. As for the Vita version... it feels more streamlined and fluid, even though it is a theoretically polished version of the original.

That being said, the additions put into Persona 4 Golden are a great hazard. It's bad enough that the PS2 version feels like a shallow enough upgrade with "slightly easier" difficulty, but Golden takes it too far. The challenge is greatly missing, and there are gaping loopholes to jump through to take advantage of rewards like an alcoholic in a swimming pool of liquor. Worst of all are the additional scenes that add nothing to the plot on top of already meandering scenes with no constructive purpose. The beach, the Hatsune Miku Project Diva advertisement, and the Halloween at Junes filler were just astroids that only make a catastrophic New York traffic jam of a plot go nowhere for even longer, only with even more considerable damage. Marie, her Social Link, and her unique bonus dungeon may be an optional feature that serves as an exception, but it does nothing to fix the last-second plot reveal of Izanami that continues to ring hallow. Hell, many fans hated her anyway, which is a shame. At least Atlus tried to add more to the big bad's stupid plan.

On the bright side, Golden does add Okina as an explorable location with stores for buying costumes and a movie theater to help boost your friends' Persona stats. You can reach there once you gained enough experience with riding your motorbike around Inaba. Even Cafe Chagall makes a brief appearance, since I visited it on special occasions/dates in Persona 3. Furthermore, you can cultivate a garden in your yard to grow items to use in dungeons rather than spend a fortune all the time in stores. Not all easy things added were bad, I guess.

The Chihiro cameo was nice, but Edogawa's the best. FACT.
The main menu has some additional features that unlock as you complete the game. Some things include anime cutscenes from the story, performances from the Persona live concerts in Japan, fascinating short lessons on Jungian psychology taught by the best sensei in the universe, and a quiz game in which you have to be a die-hard Persona 4 fan to know the smallest background details.

There are probably other new things I may have missed. But does it all make Golden worth a purchase over the original?


If it's your first time playing Persona 4 or you really dislike anime tropes in your games, then no. If you really are interested in the game, get yourself the original for the Playstation 2. The fundamental plot problems I addressed multiple times from this installment were broken from day one, but at least you'll spend 20 fewer hours on the original than the over-bloated, absent-minded, overly digressive mess that is Persona 4 Golden. Besides, you're more likely to have a Playstation 2 in your possession than a Vita.

Look, I know the PS2 version is not always that easy to find, but you're better off with a version that has less unskippable filler and more gameplay challenge. Recently I found a used copy for about $30, which may be in part due to the Vita port. And since more people are likely to have a Playstation 2 over a Vita, I say to look on Amazon.com if your stores don't have it. Unless you like downloading games off PSN and have a large list of new games to play for it, it's not worth taking out hundreds of dollars to get a new Playstation Vita and a memory card just for Persona 4 Golden. But if you have that struggling handheld like me and are depressed that the entire library is so badly advertised, I can't dissuade you. Maybe you won't be stuck in the same boat of disappointment like I am.


Overall


From a technical standpoint, I like this game. Content-wise, I hate it.

It's not the kind I have with that jerkass battle-axe wielding Ensemble Darkhorse, who got me thrown into a mental institution for displaying homicidal and suicidal tendencies. It's not the kind I have for Sonic 06, which failed many basic elements of storytelling, but it was also atrociously programmed from a technical standpoint. It's not the kind I have for Prometheus, which was so pretentious in its symbolism that the story forgot to be just as impressive, memorable, and unique. No, I hate Persona 4 for the same reason I hate Oblivion. While that frustration Tom Cruise flick had many good ideas either awkwardly illustrated or upheld by massive plotholes and depthless characters, Persona 4 doesn't even try to make its mythological references fit in the confines of the story, which was not that well pieced together in the first place.

What makes things worse is this article I found on the making of Persona 4. New members joined the development team and no one knew how to write a murder mystery or how to write a story to compliment the features fans of Persona 3 wanted the new title to have. Basically, the developers chose all the cool makeup and clothes but had no idea how they all would work on a viable model to make the whole package work. But I think the issue is just deeper than that. Rather than have disjointed and clashing articles of clothing, everything fits well, but the woman is suffering a grandmommy of all colds. Something is wrong internally, and the designers try to mask it by making her look even more beautiful up until the deadline to hide her true condition. Ironically, this completely contradicts the very message Persona 4 has been preaching from day one.

Persona 4 looks well, it sounds well, and it plays reasonably well, but the content is so mediocre at best, I can't forgive it for its pacing and disappointing payoffs. I just don't care about the world, the conflict, and the majority of the cast. Character development equated to doctor's appointments and nearly half of the teammates do not need to exist because they add very little to the story... I think you get the idea if you read parts 2 and 3.

What helps little is that as of 2014, there is still no new development on the origin of the TV or of Teddie. The games ignore the opportunity to expand more on these fascinatingly underdeveloped concepts in favor of milking of the shallowest aspects of Persona 4: the vocal music and the overtaxed everyday fun times fanservice. And above all, it pisses me off that this game is even off-handedly referred to as being a suspenseful murder mystery when it's only advertised as a dating simulation with high school hijinks.

Other than gods are trolls, there is another moral to learn from this game: everything in moderation. I don't like games where simulation is the main crutch and happens to have a mediocre plot tacked on. Something like The Sims works for me because from the get-go, the games are interactive life simulation games with tons of freedom and customization. Something like Persona 3 or Persona 4 is on a shaky platform. Because they marry roleplaying games with dating sims, the balance between the two genres can be risky. Too much focus on one can cripple the other. In my opinion, Persona 4 focused too much on the simulation that I felt that the story, themes, and characters were dismembered ideas that could have been amazing if the developers knew what they were doing. Then when the story did go anywhere, it was mostly anticlimactic, giving back unsatisfying payoff and a lack of confident direction.

Persona 4 felt too unbalanced, clinging on one extreme or the other. Many times it felt too easy, too annoying, too simple, too slow, or too nonsensical. Yet there were moments that were really funny, really lighthearted, really honest. If I take off my jaded, analytical glasses, I will laugh and cry at points in this game, from happily cheering over Chie beating up Yosuke and the King's Game erupting into madness to choking up over Nanako's death and Teddie's existential despair. At least the game did make me emotional. I did feel something. That's why Teddie's character arc and the familial love in the Dojima house are the best parts of this questionable plot.


By itself, despite my preferences in how a story is told, Persona 4 is a technically good game. Better than average. If anyone's eyes so much as fall upon a recent AAA game of this or last generation, I would drag you away and make you pick up this game in a heartbeat. Gamers, do yourself a favor and give Atlus money before you think of Activision, EA, or Capcom.

HOWEVER, once other Persona or SMT games crop up in the same room, do yourself a favor and save Persona 4 for a third purchase at LEAST. You cannot play this first, then jump to Persona 2 Innocent Sin, SMT III: Nocturne or Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers and expect to have a fun time. The mood and difficulty whiplash will mortally wound you.

But I should close on a happy picture before the final verdict. People will hate me for the score, I'm sure.

Time to play "Who's Who: Persona 4 Edition" with your host Trish!


Pros:
+ improved randomized dungeons
+ wonderful voice acting and English localization
+ generally nice soundtrack
+ striking atmosphere and creative tone
+ colorful and expressive graphics and animation

Meh:
~ alright Social Link content
~ Golden's gameplay too streamlined
~ overall difficulty greatly reduced
~ too many inconsequential [side and main] characters and slice of life scenes
~ Marie's character arc barely fixes plotholes

Cons:
- Nanako's revival was bullshit
- lack of agency, interest, and progression in fighting and solving mystery
- sluggish pacing throughout, highlighted by calendar system
- repetitive rescue quests and Shadow confrontations
- Japanese mythology feels irrelevant within story context


Rank:
2.3 out of 5

Mixing happiness for the technicals with only a handful of decent characters and an overwhelming amount of time-wasting, what could have been a 3 plummets to a rank closer to a 2 in my books. My opinion won't tarnish the outrageous number of high scores this game gets (1). Still, no game with a plot as painfully told with pretty pictures or music can justify anything above a 3.  I'd rather finish Death Note than play this game again. I'd rather rewatch Oblivion than pick up P4G again. There are just to many things that I hate about this game, even with the few really charming and competent things it has going for it.

I tried, internet, but the bandwagon is just too crazy and overrated for me to join in on. I can't relate to anyone who enjoyed one of the last imaginative games for the Playstation 2. However, Persona 4 is a fresh breath of air from all the realistic, gritty military crap the industry vomits ad nauseam since 2007 or so, but I have a different context. So it succeeds in another regard. In 2014, Persona 4 and Persona 4 Golden are solid games with style sacrificing substance in distressing frequency. With how it all came together, this overmilked gem is just not my cup of tea. But is sure as hell beats the generic crap we're still being fed since the military shooter dominated the market.

So all I ask of you is to be careful of this game, as well as other beloved gems like this. Don't let the endless praises distort your own feelings on what the game actually is: a flawed piece of art. Nothing is perfect and everything can be improved upon. If you fall in love with this game, that is wonderful. If you can't bring yourself to understand the hype, know this truth: it's alright, you aren't alone.


Well, let's end this on a bittersweet note.


And a bonus thanks to the anime.


I love them both equally since they fit perfectly with the atmosphere. Despite the rocky ride Atlus paved, I had some fun at least with their game. That's another minor positive point I guess. "みんなありがと" indeed. Thanks for the effort, Atlus.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


~~~~~~~NOTES:~~~~~~~

(1) - On the bright side, at least Persona 4 has more player involvement, character depth, and reasonable plot points than the entirety of Final Fantasy 13's "saga".

... Okay I'm done for real. Voltech might come after me with a denailing contraption if I reawaken too many of his demons. @_@

16 comments:

Raui said...

I really enjoyed reading this. Good job!

Chalgyr Vokel said...

And it concludes. On helluva long, well-written series. Like you said in response to my comment in part 3, I can see why you did it this way. You need a large RPG as source material, and P4G provides that, even if you weren't a fan of WHAT it provided by and large. I still thoroughly enjoyed it, but that's why different people - different likes - different games, right?

That said? I loved the Hercules/Hades GIF at the beginning (it's my favorite Disney movie, lol)

Melanie~Light said...

Yep. It's finally over. I'm completely wiped out. @_@

Whether some of my opinions hold weight or a pile of bullcrap, I finally let it out. And ruffled feathers along the way... inevitable, given my overall enjoy-tolerate-hate storm of an opinion. At the least, it does not make "good" or "proper" reviews.

Still, I'm glad some readers found a few things interesting. Thanks for the comments, guys. :)

Voltech said...

This is how the review ends. Not with a bang, but with a 2.3.

...Remarkably, I'm okay with this. After all, something similar happened with the old Clover Studios game (or Capcom game, back when they were even remotely reliable) God Hand; the infamous IGN review gave it a 3 out of 10, and from the sound of their review they sorely missed the point of the game. In contrast, you may have given P4 a less-than-flattering score, but you've CLEARLY explained why you feel the way you do in a way that's hard to argue. That in itself is worth a TENOUTTATEN.

This would be the part where I say "But back on topic", but really, what else is there to say? All I know for sure is that whether the game triumphed or stumbled, I'm convinced that Atlus and the Persona Team knew what they were doing froms tart to finish. Everything they added came from a design philosophy -- a vision that they wanted to deliver to gamers. (For the record, I feel the same about Naughty Dog and The Last of Us; I may not approve of a LOT of the stuff in that game, but I recognize and respect the effort and vision went into it -- even if I can't agree with that vision.)

I guess the question now is "What's next for P4"? Oddly enough, I never wondered about the origin of the TV or Teddie's nature until you brought it up, and those are legitimate concerns. There's potential there, no question...and then you realize that the next game coming down the pipeline is a dancing game. A swag-as-all-hell dancing game, but still. Is this piece of the franchise going to spinoff into its own beast like the so-called Lightning Saga? Are the methods, successes, and even failures of P4 going to inform how the next games are made? Are gamers far and wide ready to leave Inaba and the Investigation Team behind? Only time will tell.

...But seriously. Power metal soundtrack for Persona 5. I want it. Give me that, Atlus, and I'll build a ziggurat in your honor.

All that aside, this popped up not too long ago on Siliconera. It's an interesting read if you're looking for some new perspectives on Persona (and to a lesser extent, Bravery Default), so I'd recommend having a look.

http://www.siliconera.com/2014/02/08/discussing-persona-5-wish-fulfilment/

All right, I'm moseying on out of here. I brought up The Lightning Saga, and as such I need to vent my frustration by Dragon-Kicking a masked wrestler gorilla into the Milky Way.

...God Hand reference. Learn it.

Melanie~Light said...

V-Voltech... you're alive... my review didn't kill you...! O_O *gives massive bear hug* Thank goodness you're still around, dude. *checks hands* And I still have my fingernails. *wipes brow*

Anywho. My 2.3 isn't the same as an IGN 5 out of 10. Maybe the closet to them would be a 7 or 6.5. (Who the hell designed that bullshit system anyway?) Still, Persona 4 is "slightly above average" in Rants From a Fangirl speak.

I can't deny Atlus has ideas. Though their games teach me new ways to experience pain in so many surreal, often subconscious ways, I still give them props for knowing how to make a solid game. Good theme, atmosphere, plot, characters, gameplay, presentation, what have you, they usually get more than one of these bullet points down perfectly for each game they make. (Minus a stinker here or there... like the MMOs from what I hear.)

In terms of Persona 4, I can stand behind their technicals and enough of their gameplay, but rest always bothered me. That article seemed to support my concern that Atlus seemed confused over some plot ideas, and it depressed me when they mentioned having struggled nearly the whole time. It... really showed, is what I'm saying.

Maybe it's where I am, but I talked to a few guys on DDS-Net, where some pointed out some helpful and constructive flaws in my review here, and some have said that in some places, there's a P4 backlash starting up. Golden may have left a mark in some, but I won't be shocked if Nov 2013's reveals made others snap. Dancing especially made me call foul. That was really close to textbook selling out. But whatever you want to call it, the milking is a reality, and some people are taking off their rosy glasses and re-examining a PS2 classic.

Thanks for that link. It made me better understand why I'm not diving too much in Persona 5 speculation. It's too aggravating to get overhyped only to be uncontrollably livid. So I'm waiting patiently (though, I too would practically worship a heavy metal soundtrack). Plus, that article made me appreciate SMT IV more as well. As much as it's kicking my lady parts, it has a really fascinating world.

Anywho, thanks for hanging on this whole time. Let's hope the SMT or Persona game will be fun. ... ... ... ...

Q gives mai hasubando the power to turn his hammer into a boomerang. I fell in love all over again. @_@

noisekeeper said...

"Persona 4 looks well, it sounds well, and it plays reasonably well, but the content is so mediocre at best, I can't forgive it for its pacing and disappointing payoffs."

Funny enough, I wonder if that is what got it popular in the first place, especially with gaming media journalists, that seem to crave and put the shiny presentation and shallowness of style on a pedestal over content. It reminds me of an image that was floating around during SMT4's western release that had various quotes from games journalists negatively comparing the game to P4.

The game looks fantastic, but when you dig deeper nothing is really there, just a bunch of tired anime cliches and a 'detective' plot that Holmes would be too embarrassed to solve. With the upcoming P5, I hope that the Persona team makes a return to the content style of P3 (or hope beyond hope, P2) and less of a P4. Vague quotes about 'wanting to save people' and such via P5 have me feeling unsure, as it could either be a deep introspective look on the psyche of those unsatisfied in life, or just another 'YOU'RE NOT ME! WAAAH!' borefest. Time will only tell I guess.

P.S. I too felt that Nanako's resurrection was a huge stupid asspull.

Melanie~Light said...

@noisekeeper

I dunno. But it a shame that P4 is so praised that anything SMT or Persona related gets slammed. And let's not add the complaint, "it has no Social Links and waifus!!!!! TT^TT" Sure, Shinji-kun will always be my P3P hasubando, but I can drop that line of thinking and enjoy SMTIV. This mess may be because Persona is the only SMT thing that gained any weight in the West, but directly comparing them is really tricky when the only similarities are the concept of human thoughts giving shape to monsters, mythological references, and possible (if not actual) threat of apocalypse. Oh and Japan... minus Strange Journey... and a few others...

My hopes for Persona 5 are bare. A blank slate. I don't want to think too much about it b/c I know I may really end up angry, very much like P4 did. I'm only expecting a focused narrative with meaningful introspection and mythological references that are actually realized. I can't stress enough how flimsily tacked-on the Japanese mythology was in this story... *sighs*

P.S. It makes sense I'd feel like that after... Shinjiro. And at least there were consequences for him even with the pocket watch. Persona 4 gave me nothing. No brain damage, no emotional distress, nothing. I hate it when death and near-death is handled so poorly.

EschaTheMadReaper said...

despite our similarities in opinion (save for yosuke), i'll probably still play golden a few more times... until persona 5 comes rolling alone. or a game that has dating sim with plot and some fighting elements. that said, i'm stuck with golden for now. yeah, the best bits of golden are the bits that weren't dwelt on (poor teddie). still, your assessment was as fair as it can get, in my humble opinion, and it was a fun read. i'll read your review for persona 3 soon and comment too. thanks for giving me hope that this world isn't as sad as i thought...

BTW, i wanna hear your opinion about namatame and adachi. other than the fact it took the game too long to get to their arcs, do you think they were good in their roles? i do, but it would interesting to hear your take on this.

many thanks!

@EschaTheMadReaper@gmail.com

PGY-1230 said...

I was going to simply dismiss your fangirl rants as just that: ranting from an nonobjective fangirl. But given your painstaking effort you put into your reviews I can't help but admire your effort to attempt to be objective.
I personally loved Persona 4 and generally disagree with your assessment. Your review is rather long winded but I'll try to address you main points.
1) Inconsequential characters: None of the characters mechanically necessary other than Yu and Rise is your basic point. Yet the same point can be said about P3's SEES. Once I had Sanada and Misuru my party was them, the MC, and Yukari. So no, I don't think this argument of yours holds weight. Emotionally did you feel they were essential teamates and friends? You could say Atlus didn't do a good job making you care for the party members but you can't say they didn't try. This is especially true when you compare it to P3. In P4, you get in depth looks into their greatest insecurities, and by facing them and accepting them they gain their personas. This usually happens right after you are introduced to them. Compare this to P3 where the SEES members just have "potential". In fact we don't even hear about backstory for Junpei (alcoholic father) until near the end of the game. That would have put a lot of his actions to context but Atlus puts it off. In P3 you can't even do S.links with the majority of your teammates and even then it is only to get in their pants (can't even friend zone them) which makes the MC look like kind of a creep. In fact you are rewarded for acting this way was one major complaint I have with P3. If Teddie's lecherous ways and bear puns didn't make you chuckle because it was "inconsequential" then maybe you missed the point of forming bonds to begin with (and/or have no sense of humor). The slice of life scenes are mostly optional but you are rewards for doing them. They are more evidence that Atlus wants you to connect with fictional characters. For me they worked but maybe it didn't resonate with you as well.

PGY-1230 said...

Continuing my reveiw of your review:

2) Plot and theme cohesion: you complained many times that the themes are plot were disjointed and that it "wasn't worth the payout". While I agree that the plot was convoluted, I don't think it is a flaw. This is a murder mysteries afterall, complicated and twisting plots is expected. The main conflict is the story is not Izanami vs. the investigation team, but of blissful ignorance vs. cold hard truth. Everything in the game is geared toward that theme: we fool ourselves by denying our shadows, the fog that obscures vision, the theme song (reach out to truth, pursuing my true self) etc. All of it highlights this central conflict. It would have been easy to just kill Namatade out of anger. It would have been easy to blame Adachi for the whole mess. In fact the game actively encourages you to do that. In the hospital room your whole team is urging you to kill Namatade. On the last day the game even tries to urge you to leave town by putting "go home" as the first choice. The game actively tries to dissuade you from discovering the truth which makes finding out the truth more rewarding. I didn't use a guild for my first play through and felt awesome when I realized Namatade didn't kill anyone just because of one line he said to Yukiko during the fight in Heaven. I felt like I was rewarded for paying attention to that small detail. I'm guessing you looked up or heard how to get the True/Good ending beforehand and had little investment from the get go. Atlus did a great job by placing false leads and rewarding you for pursuing the truth rather than taking the first option that pops up. IMO, lying to yourself, tuning out facts that don't agree with you is much more common than "wishing for death". Everyone does it, it's so common that most of us don't even realize we are doing it. Compare that to the the central conflict in P3, it is much more relatable. I sure as hell am not suicidal and no hippie revolver Jesus is going to convince me.
3) Marie: I know you said you were okay with Marie to some extent but I thought you, a P3 fangirl would like her more. She is basically Ryoji but with a much better ending. Her Tsudere attitude fits her personality and theme very well. Her arc words in the hollow forest is bascialy the same as the games' "ignorance is bliss". So her tsudere personality, where she outwardly shows the opposite of what she is really feeling makes sense. In essence, lying to herself. Her poems, which at first were comically emo became quite tragic when read in the Hollow forest given new context. In P3P I romanced Ryoji and was pissed that I could not get the type of outcome I got with Marie. If I could save Shinji, why couldn't I save Ryoji? Oh because the plot is on rails. But then again maybe that's why Marie never warmed to you? Because it undermines Ryoji's sacrifice?

PGY-1230 said...

Last part of my review of your review:
4) Nanako's revival: I agree with you here; it was bullshit. But not for the same reasons. Her revival was poorly done because it shows that Atlus did no research at all about hospitals or healthcare in general. They have her in bed saying she is physically fine but "very weak". Ummm that makes no sense, what is the objective measure for being weak? Weak vitals? Then she can't be physically okay then since they are called "vital" signs for a reason. Let's say she has a weak pulse and low blood pressure, yet she doesn't have any IV fluids connected to her. Worse? She has a dialysis machine next to her bed? Does the TV world causes kidney failure? Since when? Not that it matters since that's not connected to her either. Only thing that is hooked up is an EKG machine. Then Nanako flatlines and the nurses and doctor just shurg instead of getting a crash cart, shooing away visitors, calling a code and starting advanced life support/CPR. No one was drawing blood, readying atropine, charging defibrillators or doing compressions. WTF? I know it's a small town hospital but they just let a little girl go into asystole and did not do anything? Very much BS. Atlus has a habit of making scientist and doctors to be incompetent or plain evil and this was one glaring example. If they revived Nanako in a realistic fashion I doubt people would have complained about this event being an asspull.

5) Sluggish/poor pacing: Yeah I can agree with this point somewhat, but I can also see how it serves the "small town" vibe. Things are just slower in Inba when compared to big city. Even though I was constantly pressed for time (trying to get max on all S.links) it still felt very relaxing. But you are hardly unique in complaining about the pacing, many other reviewers felt it dragged.

6) Izanami: this relates to your complaint about Japanese mythology. This game rewards those who pay attention. As Margret said: "One must observe, consider and make a choice". Izanami's involvement is hinted at during the school trip during the lecture. It even explained her relationship with Izanagi. There was less hinted about her because the game wants you to question the one last mystery that was never answered: why did Yu have a persona despite never facing his shadow and who created the TV world? Here you are given the option of closing the case or digging further. Again in line with the theme of the game. If you knew anything about Japanese mythology (or bothered to research them) you would have had more hints about Izanami's involvement. Like Ameno and Kunino being the grandchildren of Izanami. This complaint of yours "Japanese mythology has little to do with the plot" reeks of ethnocentricity. You know the Greek myths and can see the relationships of the personas and can fit them into the plot of P3. You are unfamiliar with the Shinto myths but rather than try to do some research and piece things together you simply discount it outright as irrelevant. This is one of my main gripes about your review. You do so little to try and enhance your enjoyment and worldview that you would devote four long blog post defending your lack of perspective.

Melanie~Light said...

@PGY-1230

Despite you overwhelmingly disagreeing with my review, I respect your honesty. Even though there is the sense that reviews must be objective, subjectivity - and the writer's personal experiences - will ultimately taint and ruin the content for a reader. Fair enough. I'm learning to be get better at this, hence this not being a professional blog in the first place.

In my Persona 3 review, I pointed out that several characters have no purpose in the plot but to bounce off each other during subplots of character development. Each character had simply the "potential", but their insecurities about how to use their powers varied enough for each story arc to feel different. So though characters like Ken, Akihiko, Junpei, and even Fuuka had little going for them in the main story, they still had small moments of dialogue with each other to help them feel less out of place. Playing as Minako strengths this considerably with her having Social Links with everyone on her team and does not have to bang every male character in the game (an element of Persona 4 that transferred that was a good thing).

Being in-tune to your inner self in Persona 4 is brilliant in theory, but the repetitive nature of everyone facing their Shadow and cuing a boss fight weakened the potential. The game also reveals and discusses every character's problems, but you must actively pursue them to make the most of it. If you don't, which does happen to some players, the entire cast suffers stunted growth from once they awaken their Persona to the end of the mystery. Though you may not have an issue with this type of storytelling, I don't find it engaging.

I have watched the anime before playing the game. I did not go through a guide and read spoilers. I understand that the journey to the truth may be fun for new-time players. The reveal for Namatame and Adachi were great for what they were. I would have enjoyed it more if Persona 4 stopped wasting time on hijinks and occasionally sprinkle more misleading truths. Or simply, improve the timing of events so it doesn't feel like I spent 50 on a game and nothing happened. Not a new opinion - as you kindly mentioned - but it's still valid, especially if the complaint was common among reviews far better than a subjective fangirl.

PGY-1230 said...

Oh and one more thing:
3) Repetitive missions: you enjoyed fighting in bland Tartartus but have a problem with the psychic ever changing dungeons of P4G? Sorry but Tartarus got really old really quickly. Compare that to the striptease or bathhouse, or Mitsou's 8-bit (kind of minecrafty) Void quest. No, claiming that P4 lacks diversity in missions is poppycock when compared to P3. Is fighting one Arcana boss every month any less repetitive than saving your future friends in the TV world? The stakes are higher too as you gain an ally and learn quite a bit about them just from the setting alone. The same cannot be said about Tartarus. Why are you killing Arcana in P3 again? To prevent property damage? Yeah that is so much better than saving an innocent teenager/solving a serial murder.


Sorry you didn't enjoy P4 but if you want other to think your opinions on it are objective you will need to have a consistent criteria rather than the double standard I am seeing. When compared to your glowing review of P3, one can't help but think you are biased.

Melanie~Light said...

I do like Marie... and? I said she was the best addition to Persona 4 Golden, despite the sea of Persona fans hissing and scratching at me. She makes Izanami's presence more understandable, and she makes the roles of the Sagiri more sensible.

Again, we agree on Nanako. The lack of medical realism was dumb.

Complaining about the Japanese mythology is probably the weakest element of my review. The issue is not not about ethnocentrism (not once have I claimed that Greek mythology kicks the Japanese's ass off the planet, and I have not hinted as much). I have admitted my ignorance, which does not make it less horrible, but my main point was that the Japanese mythology felt "tacked-on". Persona 4 had a strong theme with searching for the truth, while the mythology seemed added on for the sake of having a mythology in the game. (How the Personas link to their users - save for Izunagi - seems superficial.)

Again, despite our differences, thank you for the criticism. Looking back, I should have more carefully handled my opinions. Even if I play the game again and spend an entire course on Japanese mythology to better inform myself, I still do not find Persona 4 to be anywhere as enjoyable as others do.

Anonymous said...

So much hypocrisy and double standards.P3 has all of the issues P4 has in spades and even more plot holes. Like Strega being the good guys and then suddenly becoming evil to retain their status as villains.

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone acknowledge's the faults of persona 4. I tried to like it's story and characters, but I couldn't... I couldn't see the appeal to this game at all.. Thank you so much for the review! I agree with everything you said. Best JRPG my a** I don't buy that for a second.. It's really overrated as f**k..

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