Persona 4 Golden (Spoilers!)

  • I just finished my first (and a half - I got one of the bad endings at first) playthrough of Persona 4 and I have some thoughts. I'll do my best to tag all the spoilers, but I do want to talk about specific character arcs, so you might see big chunks of yellow here.

    First, the game always had great moments that really stood out for me; really small, sometimes quiet moments that just do so much to endear you to these characters and this world. Nanako marveling at a simple magic trick. Daisuke messing with Kou. The whole camping trip. Even the parts of the game that I groaned at for being too anime (i.e. the concert, the ski trip) had really funny moments right at the point I thought it was getting to be too cliche. The game in general did a really great job at subverting my expectations and keeping things fresh. That said, I do have some complaints.

    I really didn't like the big reveal of the killer's identity.

    Adachi made sense in terms of the evidence, but I hated the way his personality just kind of flipped on a dime like that. To be fair, I didn't get very far in my social link with him, but I don't think they could have done much to completely justify that rapid villainous turn from him. I think the game should have done a better job of hinting at some darkness beneath him, fleshing him out beyond just being a lovable goon. Then he pulls the classic villain move of explaining his entire plan in a lengthy chunk of exposition. He even pulls the classic "maybe I'm the hero and you're the villain card." It doesn't fit. In a game where there's so much excellent character and world-building, it just felt completely out of place to me.

    I also didn't like the dungeon design. I don't know what I expected, but I spent so many hours in those corridors, each hall looking the same. I know it's a pitfall of keeping everything procedurally generated, but I really wish the dungeon design was more engaging.

    Now I have two semi-controversial complaints. The first is that I didn't love the music. I do give the game points for having a very distinct sound, but there were a bunch of tracks that just didn't do it for me. Granted, there were some stellar tracks - the final boss theme is dope in the way it brings in other themes from the game - but overall I thought things were pretty hit or miss. I wish they were kept in Japanese, since I don't usually pay attention to Japanese lyrics unless they're right in front of me. I thought the English lyrics were just distractingly bad sometimes, though, and it sometimes bordered on grating. The worst offender was the theme to Rise's dungeon. That made me want to shoot something.

    My other big complaint is a weird one. Before I jump into this, I want to make something clear. I'm coming from a different perspective than most people. I mentioned this somewhere before, but the opening of this game was uncomfortably relatable for me. I'm a city boy (with family that I frequently visited in Tokyo when I was growing up) who moved to a rural town in Japan with a local economy that is slowly being killed by larger chain department stores. It was uncanny, and I think that let me enjoy those opening hours more than some other people did. I've seen a lot of people online complain about it for being too slow, but I think it's just right. One of the best jokes for me came at the beginning of the game: the gym teacher is also the English teacher because nobody else wants to do it and nobody is really qualified. It's almost too real. So a lot of my issues with this part of the game are present solely because I'm coming at it from this perspective. That said, let's get into this.

    I was so excited when they were setting up Kanji as a gay character. Not necessarily because I think there needs to be more LGBT characters in video games, but because there needs to be a better representation of LGBT people in Japan, especially rural Japan. You'll find that a lot of people out here in the inaka are very homophobic, and don't really understand LGBT issues. LGBT people, especially gay people and trans people, are often seen as aberrations. I have kids in my school that I think are questioning, sometimes acting a bit more effeminate or just not displaying the proper interest in girls that they "should" be, and they get picked on by both their peers and sometimes even the other teachers. It's... honestly it's not too much different than some parts of America. But in America, there's less of a focus on uniformity, and individuality is much more accepted. It's hard to put into words how things are different here in Japan without seeing it for yourself, but things that are different stick out like a sore thumb, and that goes doubly for LGBT people.

    Back to Kanji, I understand that there's a lot of value in creating a character that's questioning. And, for the record, I think they did a good job of doing that. He's really well developed, and I like his arc. But there's something deep down inside of me that wished they would have ended his arc with him coming out and being accepted by his friends. I know they kind of do this if you finish his social link, but it would've been great if he came out when Yosuke was there, and Yosuke was just super chill about it all (after kind of being a dick about it earlier). I think it would help questioning kids realize that it's okay to have those feelings, and it might create a more welcoming environment in their peers. It's something that I think can be done really well with video games, since rather than just observing this growth, you're actively participating in it. You're the one that has to accept him in the end, and I think it could've been really beautiful. Again, there's nothing particularly wrong with his arc as it is, I just wish it would have gone a different direction.

    I'm really curious to talk about this stuff with you all. I think I might have rubbed some people the wrong way, or maybe you can help me see things from a different perspective.
    And for the record, despite my complaints, I can't stop thinking about this game. It's stuck with me fully, and I fully intend to return to it. It will be my first New Game+ since Chrono Trigger. There's just so much to love about it, and I understand why people in this community love it so much. I also feel like there's so much more I can learn about it. I never really got the hang of fusing, opting almost entirely for things that looked cool (+anything related to Jack Frost. Black Frost was my most used persona by far). I also want to see a bunch more social links. I never got to Naoto, since my courage wasn't high enough, and I was in a sports club on this playthrough so I have no clue what the art people are like. There's so much stuff that makes me want to come back, and I can't wait to keep playing. Just need to finish my first playthrough of FF7 first!

  • persona 4 has been out for just under 10 years now. and the vita remake "golden" has been out for 5 years.

    i hardly think spoilers are necessary at this point.

  • Spoiler alert. Adachi:

    is not the true villain

  • @Yoshi Several people may be playing through or will be playing through once Persona 5 drops and generates a lot of conversations. So, I am really really appreciative of the spoiler-tags. For example, my wife is currently playing through for her first time, and she would be very upset with having anything spoiled. There's several older games I still plan on trying some day, so whereas it may not be necessary, it's always greatly appreciated.

  • I actually love Adachi.

    Yeah, you could easily say his transformation is cliche, but cliche doesn't automatically stand for bad. I only got halfway through his social link, but there were hints about his true nature there, which I'll assume just continued. Let's not forget The Joker is regarded as one of Batman's greatest villains and why is that? He values chaos, he just wants to watch the world burn. Adachi has a similar attitude but isn't as up-front about it. His crazy doesn't show until he's pushed to the very brink. Plus, as mentioned before, he's not the main big bad.

    As for Kanji -

    His sexuality is meant to be ambiguous because he truly doesn't know exactly what he's attracted to. There's so many scenes where he gets flustered by Rise, so making him openly come "out" doesn't truly fit. What makes him an interesting character is that unknown and I personally think he'd lose a little something if he admitted to a certain sexuality. I never got the feeling that he was intended to give people the courage to come out to their peers/family, instead he is meant to represent that period of life where most people question their sexual interests and it's explored incredibly well without providing a definite answer. The mentality of, "how can we make this character have more of a social impact," treads on dangerous ground, because you wind up getting characters that follow stereotypes and they don't feel believable. Personally, I think they found the perfect balance for Kanji - any less and it wouldn't have been effective, any more and the message is lost entirely.

    Glad you enjoyed it though! It's one hell of a ride and much better the second time around.

  • Dungeon music easily get annoying, seeing as it restarts after each battle and there is only one song per dungeon. That being said, I would always go out at night just to hear that sweet nighttime music.
    It's rare to like every song on an album, and the music for a video game is no different and we all get that.

    The dungeons do leave a lot to be wanted. Even if every single dungeon is distinct from one another it doesn't justify the lackluster layout design. There's always the corridor with the doors scattered about leaving you running around searching for a set of stairs to advance.

    I love Persona 4 to death because of the setting, the slinks and characters, story, music and overall "feel". The 'good' in this game is so good that those parts are the ones you remember. It's not a perfect game, but it will forever remain as one of my favourite and most cherished games.

  • Agree, I could not stand the dungeon in P3 (never finished it), barely tolerated the dungeons in P4, and am hopeful and hearing positive things about the dungeons in P5.

  • @SabotageTheTruth very much agree with the Kanji analysis

    also as many have said the dungeons are not good, and as I like to put it they are not something you enjoy in P3 and P4 they are something you tolerate.

    I can also see the OPs point to some of the scenes and how they can be a bit tropey, I don't find them unfitting but I can see how it may be a bit much for some people, what I can say in regards to them is that they as someone that first played the PS2 version and then Golden they are a very welcomed addition as something that just gives more of the characters.

    The game is not perfected (only Papers Please and Portal are :P) there are clear improvement areas, which is why I'm so hopeful for P5, but even despite those flaws I consider the highs to be so good that they compensate for any shortcoming, and that in the end the game comes together masterfully.

    BTW @naltmank you can do both sports and culture S Links in the same playthrough.

  • @Billy just saying. the game has been out for so bloody long now that spoilers just aren't really necessary at this point.

    it's like were to still put spoiler tags on Zelda OoT. at this point it's pretty much your own fault if you haven't already played it and don't already know that Shiek and Zelda are the same damn person.

  • @Yoshi The game you mentioned as an example hardly has much of a story at all and that's also revealed in games like Super Smash Bros, so sure, I could see where that wouldn't need a spoiler tag. In something like Persona where story is the main reason most people play, it makes sense not to reveal the identity of the killer in the OP - that's something that literally takes at least 60 hours to discover and a driving force behind the entire game is the murder mystery aspect. Spoiler tags hurt no one and are respectful of others in the community, what a strange thing to find fault in.

  • @Yoshi I figured since I didn't play this game until just now, others might be in the same boat. Better safe than sorry!

    @SabotageTheTruth I like your analysis of Kanji, and I totally get it. Again, I did like his arc. I just think that I was reaching for something I wanted to see happen, and then was a little bummed when it didn't. I think his arc could have gone in that direction while still feeling completely natural, but I do get why it didn't.

    And @bard91 I had a feeling you could do both sports and art, but I was RPing hard and wouldn't stretch myself thin like that in the real world!

  • @naltmank i haven't played persona 4 either. but i wouldn't be upset if someone spoiled it for me. i've had more than enough of a chance to play it already if i wanted to.

  • @SabotageTheTruth you can be respectful and not post spoiler tags.

    i'm just personally not going to feel bad if i happen to accidentally spoil something for someone when said game/movie/tv show/etc has literally been out for basically a decade.

  • @Yoshi it's not like there's any difficulty in hiding the comments, it is just a common courtesy for people that would prefer not to see any spoilers

  • @naltmank So you gonna try to replay and get the real ending or what? It's not that hard, but getting there is rather obtuse. You may want to peek at a guide to figure out how to unlock it tho. IMO hiding the ending is one of the dumber decisions I think the designers made. But I guess there may just be a bunch of people out there in the world that never saw the ending and are ok with that...

    Think about it this way. The murders are only one of the mysteries that you're trying to solve. What is the fog? What is the Midnight Channel? Why are all these people able to summon Persona all of a sudden?

    The true ending gives answers to all these things. The Adachi ending doesn't have answers to most of these questions...

  • @TokyoSlim I got the true ending already! Sorry, I thought I alluded to that when I complimented the final boss theme. I was going to go for the golden ending on my next playthrough.

    That said, I still don't like the Adachi thing.

  • For point #1, what @TokyoSlim said. There's more than meets the eye.

    Point #2, I feel like the creators had to toe a line when the game first came out (2008). I think it would be handled differently now.

    And, @naltmank your unique perspective is pretty rad. I had the opposite experience in the US (raised in a rural area, moved to the city), and having the opposite one had to be a trip.

  • I did like how they hinted at the true final boss during the field trip to the high school. The rest of the game I was waiting for that other shoe to drop. That's actually how I knew I fucked up the first time I got a bad ending - why would they mention something like that if it wasn't going to come back? I did have to use a guide to find the true ending, though. That made me feel a bit like a scrub.

  • @naltmank No, you're NOT a scrub. I did it over and over until I got it. Somehow, I did get the special boss without help, which made me feel better.

  • Another neat touch is that the final dialogue at the train station between the bad and true ending is very similar, but the line readings are completely different. It shows how important good voice directing is, which is something I think gets overlooked.