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WW #10 Persona 5

Due to the subject matter of this entire week, some items may be NSFW. Barring some terrible graphics, we’re sorta aiming for PG-13 screenshots here, but, given everyone has a different threshold, anything potentially offensive will be behind the “Read More” links du jour. Just so you are aware…

Also, this article will absolutely contain spoilers for Persona 5, assuming that is something you are concerned about.

GrabbySo, as I mentioned on this site a couple of times last year, Persona 5 could have been my “Game of 2017” in a much less interesting year for gaming. This is entirely because of the general “style” of the game, and how, if I had unlimited technology and budget back when I was approximately 12 (or whatever year I first played Final Fantasy 6), I probably would have made something very much resembling Persona 5 (though probably shorter). Cool thieves, cool tunes, emphasis on “role playing” as well as dungeon sneaking: it all kinda clicks together to be the perfect JRPG in my mind.

Or at least my 12 year old mind.

This is because I know when I’m being pandered to, and it probably has something to do with an entire high school full of women that only want to jump “my” bones. So, with that thinking in mind, I’m going to approach Persona 5 from the perspective that it couldn’t be more built for horny boys if it tried. And, as a corollary to that, the game is rather off-putting toward that entire “other” gender.

With that in mind, I enlisted a guest. Rosella, please say hi, or something like that.

Rosella: Hello! I am excited to be here to say inflammatory things about a generally beloved game.

Goggle Bob: Excellent! So what’s your relationship and/or past with Persona 5?

Grabby!Rosella: So I was a big fan of Personas 3 and 4, and played both of them multiple times. I preordered the ultimate “Take Your Heart” Edition of Persona 5 and was very excited to finally get my hands on it, but, uh, it didn’t quite work out that way. I streamed P5 for a little over 113 hours, when you count all the times I had to pause to rant about how the game seemed to have a giant “Women Aren’t Real People” sign on it. It was an experience.

Goggle Bob: And so we’re here to talk about said “experience”. Again, I’m theoretically the target audience for this, and, while the whole thing should supposedly wash over me and be generally subconscious, even I was a little put off when the final(ish) dungeon takes a time out so the female cast can hop back into bikinis.

Rosella: Of course, you can have them in bikinis the whole time with the free swimsuit DLC!

Goggle Bob: DLC I will not publicly admit to using…

Rosella: I will, and I am extremely upset that Yusuke’s beach outfit did not come with lobsters.

Goggle Bob: Just to put you at ease:

Crusty

Rosella: The one and only time I thought “Man, I’m glad Yusuke was in this scene”

Goggle Bob: Yes, well, speaking of which, given P5 is a gigantic, 100 hour experience, we could recount every last bit of the game until the end of time and still not cover everything. So, with that in mind, let’s take a more focused look at the female cast. Would you like to start with anyone in particular?

Rosella: Makoto Niijima was my (one) romance during my playthrough, so she holds a special place in my heart.

Goggle Bob: Haha, we seem to have that in common. I mentioned it in my original P5 article, but I seem to gravitate toward the student council across Persona games

Rosella: To me, she just seemed like the person with the most healthy relationship with our protagonist. She’s trying to re-examine her life and figure out which of her goals are actually hers and which ones she picks up just because she “should,” and our protagonist helps with that. It’s very charming!

Goggle Bob: And she just incidentally can punch demons through walls.

Rosella: And rides a motorcycle.

Goggle Bob: A motorcycle that is parenthetically attached to a ridiculous dirty joke.

Rosella: Oh no, did I miss something incredibly obvious?

Goggle Bob: Haha not obvious: There’s a keyhole on Johanna’s seat. It’s a reference to the myth of how certain chairs were used to confirm future post-Johanna popes were male.

Rosella: Yikes.

Goggle Bob: Hey, Persona is all about the history…

FGC #288 Persona 5

Today’s article contains game-long spoilers for Persona 5. It’s pretty much just focused on the villains, but, ya know, you’ve been warned.

So stylishPersona 5 has inadvertently caused me to ask a superficially simple question: What is the threshold for villainy?

Persona 5 is the story of the Phantom Thieves, a group of swanky teenagers that stylishly steal “hearts” from people with wicked desires. They start pretty small with a local gym teacher, but, by the end of the story, they’re using their powers to literally shift the balance of political power in their country. One way or another, despite a capricious general public, the Phantom Thieves and their leader, Stylin’ McSavvipants (aka Joker), are always on the side of good, and never use this power to, I don’t know, screw with some random shop keep’s inventory so they can actually afford new shirts every month. In short, while the SMT/Persona series generally enjoys a bit of moral ambiguity, there is never any question that the good guys are the good guys, even if they seem to doubt themselves in a few too many overly long dialogue scenes (and I guess this just reinforces that they’re good, right?). The Phantom Thieves are thieves, but you’re constantly reminded that they’re less protagonist criminals like Walter White, and much more like Robin Hood (who, incidentally, also makes an appearance).

So, naturally, this means the antagonists for our heroes are bad guys. The Phantom Thieves only steal the hearts of the corrupt, and, lucky for those of us that want an 80 hour game, here’s a whole host of justified targets. Let’s see here, aside from the previously mentioned gym teacher and politician, we’ve also got a plagiarist, a con artist, a corrupt businessman, and a (kinda sorta) crooked cop. She’s… uh… on the edge of both definitions there. Look, “single minded prosecutor” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. Regardless, the point here is that, even though a couple of these targets could conceivably be seen as sympathetic at various points, they’re indisputably villains for the purpose of their vignettes. Sae might come around eventually, but she’s undeniably as much of a threat to the Phantom Thieves as Piggy Kaneshiro when you’re exploring her cognitive palace.

Except… this is kind of where we run into problems.

MeowAll of the bosses come with a very prominent time limit and consequences for missing that all-important deadline. Kamoshida is going to have Joker and Ryuji (and, ugh, Mishima) expelled. Madarame and Sae are going to have the gang arrested. Kaneshiro is blackmailing everyone, and Shido and his hacktivist cronies are going to screw with Japan on a national level. In other words, if Joker decides to just blow all his time at the diner drinking fruity tea, he’s going to wind up in some kind of waking hell, one way or another. Even if you want to claim the Phantom Thieves are somehow morally gray (which, again, absolutely not the case), they always have a relentless reason to do the right thing. Cover thine butt, and save the world while you’re at it. To be absolutely clear, those limits are on the table, and reinforced by a big honking sign that is constantly on the screen (“9 days left until you make Mishima really sad”).

But, deadline aside, it seems like the characters genuinely want to help things. Ryuji and Joker agree before the expulsion is on the table that Kamoshida has to be stopped. Madarame is first named for abusing his pupils, and the Phantom Thieves immediately stick him on the burn board. Kaneshiro is a known criminal (even before everyone knows his name), and Shido is clearly a dishonest politician that would be bad for Japan. These are all real personality types of real people that can all be easily identified in reality. The Phantom Thieves want to stop criminals? Awesome! I want to stop criminals, too! We’re all on the same page.

But… Persona 5 can’t just leave well enough alone.

Hail to this guyLet’s take Kamoshida, the first “target”, as an easy example. Kamoshida is introduced as a teacher that doesn’t seem to have Joker’s best interest at heart, and then his second appearance alludes to probable lewd times with teenage student (and party member) Ann. Shortly thereafter, it is confirmed by Ann that adult teacher Kamoshida is creeping on the teenage girl, and then he winds up sleeping with Ann’s friend, Shiho, in what he (or his shadow) seems to note as a “consolation prize”. So, if you didn’t feel like reading the rest of this paragraph, Kamoshida is established as committing statutory rape in the opening hours of Persona 5. Once more for the oldies in the back of the audience: Kamoshida is a teacher that is a rapist. That… should be enough.

But Persona 5 can’t leave well enough alone. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his victim attempts suicide in response to the shame of the situation. Kamoshida is a rapist, and he also conspicuously physically abuses the male students on his volleyball team. Kamoshida is a rapist, and his “other self” literally tries to murder and imprison the main characters, including some kind of rape-ish altar thing with Ann (again). And, yes, Kamoshida is a rapist, and he introduces the active threat of “you’re going to be expelled”. Kamoshida is a rapist, but look at all these other reasons he’s a bad guy.

And that’s kind of a problem. What’s more, it’s a very contemporary problem.

Not a crookI finished Persona 5 shortly after the culmination of the first 100 days of President Trump. There have been many hot takes on this presidency in progress, but the most egregious comment seems to have come from Donald Trump himself, who commented that, “I do miss my old life. This — I like to work, but this is actually more work.” And of course Donald Trump enjoyed his “old” life! He said it himself, he was rich and famous enough to just grab any pussy he could find! Or he could insult the handicapped in front of hundreds of people, and they’d cheer for him! And let’s not forget that time he yelled at a baby. Or claimed, in front of millions of television viewers, that not paying your taxes “makes you smart”. Or… oh God, I have to stop now. It’s… it’s too much for my gentle heart to remember everything that happened back in 20XX. Where was I? Oh yes, Donald Trump is somehow the president of the United States of America, and, while he didn’t get the popular vote, there are enough people in the US that are perfectly okay with Donny that he is our one and only president. No matter what happens in the rest of human history, Donald Trump became President of the United States.

And I feel like maybe that wouldn’t have happened if we, as a people, could recognize a bad guy.

Donald Trump is not a crook. I want to believe that he has ties to Russia, but, until we get some cold, hard, usable evidence of that, I silently sit and acknowledge that we’re likely stuck with this orange mess for a full four years. Similarly, the obvious profiting from the presidency that the Trump business is enjoying is flagrant and awful, but not technically against any laws (or at least any laws that wouldn’t also oust the majority of our government). In short, in an “innocent until proven guilty” society, Donald Trump is a perfectly upstanding business person turned politician. He may have had a few legal dust ups over the years, but they’re all behind NDAs and gag orders, so, basically, Donald Trump is a good person. He has done nothing wrong.

I'm playing a gameExcept, morally, by any standard, Donald Trump has done many terrible things. To once again revisit the “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, that’s rape. That’s a grown man who has enjoyed every advantage possible in his life advocating that if a woman isn’t giving you what you want, you go ahead and take it. That is, in short, plainly stating that 50% of the population owes you what you want for no reason other than you want it. That’s abhorrent. That is not “locker room talk”, that is plainly a bad thing. A person said a bad thing, and, given evidence of saying similar things for thirty years, one can be pretty confident in saying that person is a bad person. Or, at the very least, he says and thinks a thing that absolutely should not be encouraged by him or anyone else. We can all agree that women have a right to have sex with whom they want, and not just who nebulously wealthy people say they should have sex with, right? Female autonomy good, rape bad. We can all agree on this, right? So why the hell is Trump president?

And, ultimately, I feel it keeps coming back to a fear of labeling a spade a spade. While it’s generally the prerogative of jackasses to declare “safe spaces” and “tolerance” as nothing more than political tools for liberals trying to “score points”, you’ll hear nothing but “innocent until proven guilty” when your average republican says something outlandish like “women can biologically control contraception” or “I have no idea how insurance works” (paraphrasing). I’m sorry, do you need a safe space to say your completely wrong and hurtful statements? And, with the current shape of the government, it seems like we’re in for at least another two years of cranky old white men claiming they know everything, and, when they say something completely wrong, just laughing it off as a “gaffe” or “maybe you’re actually the one that’s wrong”. And not enough people see something wrong with that! Evidently a healthy portion of the population believes that you have to be a cackling super villain to be a truly bad person, as opposed to, ya know, just a senator that literally wants to steal healthcare from babies.

FISTS!And, yeah, if I’m being honest, if you’re still reading this article, I’m preaching to the choir. But that’s the important thing here, you might be on the side of the good guys, you might be a benevolent Phantom Thief, but not enough people are standing up and saying, “no, that’s bad and needs to stop”. And how many people is enough? Well, I’m going to call it a win when this thing actually stops. I’m not naïve enough to believe we’re headed for some marvelous utopia where all are equal and a single mother doesn’t have to work three jobs to support her “all my children should be alive” habit; no, I’m just asking for a world where maybe we don’t have a damn game show host representing our country. I’d be happy with a zero tolerance policy for presidential cabinet members with KKK affiliations. Hell, show me one damn senator that would be happy to have the healthcare coverage of the average citizen (which is, by the by, approximately zero healthcare coverage). We are living under the yolk of “bad guys” every day, and they might not be driving anyone to suicide or actually physically abusing teenagers, but they are doing repugnant things with absolutely no oversight, and I don’t see a Phantom Thief making any changes to their hearts.

Readers, I implore you: be better. Stand up to bad guys, even if their sins seem small, because, give them enough latitude, and we’ll all be doomed. And no magical persona is going to save this world.

FGC #288 Persona 5

  • System: Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. Glad to see someone decided that humoring the ol’ PS3 crowd was a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Number of players: There’s only one Joker in this deck.
  • I just like crabOther bad moves: Madarame isn’t just a plagiarist, he killed a dude’s mother. Okumura isn’t just a slave driver, he’s killing people and prostituting his daughter for political gain. Shido isn’t just a conniving politician, he’s also responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to the main character. By comparison, the final boss’s usual plan of conquering the world seems practically tame.
  • Odd one out: The only (main) boss in P5 that doesn’t fit the “bad guy” pattern is Futaba’s deceased mother, or, to be more accurate, Futaba’s perception of her deceased mother. I would love to see more of this in the Persona series, as the bosses of P4 were far too exaggerated for my taste, and the bosses of P3… didn’t have anything to do with anything. It seems like conquering past traumas through JRPG battles would be enough to fill a boss roster… but maybe while avoiding stuff like Kanji’s panic at the gay disco.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: I really liked the change to gameplay that wasn’t really a change. Wait, let me try that again. Basically, the whole “ambush, hit weakness” thing has always been a Persona trait, but it’s turned up to eleven for P5, so your sneaking and enemy knowledge is basically make or break now. This is great, because it keeps the same style you (I) loved from previous Persona games, but makes it feel more like “thievery” and disabling oblivious guards rather than the old style of conquering a dungeon. Other than that, it’s a Persona game, so you already know whether you’re going to like it if you’ve played P3/P4.
  • Crimes against Goggles: What is happening here?
    WHAT!?!

    This will not be forgiven!
  • Just play the gig man: It’s worth noting that I could have also written a much less political article extolling the virtues of this soundtrack. I could listen to this thing all day, though The Whims of Fate aka The Casino Theme is somehow my favorite track. I really have no idea how the vocals on that never get old despite playing for a healthy portion of a very long dungeon.
  • Favorite Persona: Mona’s Zorro is the kind of ridiculousness I’d like to see more of with the “mascot” characters. Zorro is imposing and goofy in all the right ways.
  • Favorite S-Link: I always fall for women on the student council. Always. I don’t know what this says about me.
  • Did you know? Hifumi Togo the shogi player was originally designed as a playable character, but got demoted to S-Link somewhere along the way. Maybe that’s why she seems so totally disconnected from everything…
  • Would I play again: It’s golden.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis! Wise from your Gwave! Please look forward to it!

My eyes hurt

FGC #101 Persona 4 Dancing All Night

Gaze into my eyesDid you enjoy Persona 4? Yes? Great! You’re not alone! Millions of gamers worldwide enjoyed Persona 4, and Atlus, ever one to hitch their wagon to a bucking bronco and hope for the best, decided to exploit that love with a series of Persona 4 spin-offs. Persona 4 wound up with its own portable redux (which was great!), two fighting games (which were alright!), and an Etrian dungeon crawler (if that’s your thing!). Then, when it seemed like we’d finally get Persona 4: Super Yosuke World, Atlus zagged and gave us a rhythm game, because… I guess Rise is an idol, so… why not?

Now, full disclosure, I love rhythm games. From Gitaroo-Man to Guitar Hero to Project Diva, I unashamedly enjoy rhythm games, primarily because I just like pressing buttons. Tell me you never tried to complete a Sonic the Hedgehog level by only jumping to the beat. No? Alright, fine. Maybe it’s just me. Whatever the reason, I’m not lining up on a cold January evening at midnight to get the latest Parappa game (should such a thing ever exist), but I do generally enjoy rhythm games, and, one way or another, the latest releases do have a way of showing up on my systems after a while (and that “while” usually means “flash sale”).

So, as someone who enjoys Persona and rhythm games, this game couldn’t be any more obviously my kind of game without including a little blue robot. But I must never assume I am the majority, even in the face of how many Transformers movies keep getting produced. Persona 4 was popular, but it was a JRPG, which is, give or take Mario & Luigi, about as far from a rhythm game as you can get. In the interest of helping a potentially confused populace, here’s a guide: ask yourself what you enjoyed about Persona 4, and then check below for how that translates to Persona 4: Dancing All night.

Did you play Persona 4 for the Social Links?

Bad news: everything about the Social Link system of Persona 4 was dropped for Dancing All Night. With the exception of family and party members, every single social link character has been completely lost, save a “secret” cameo by a certain Velvet room resident. ElectronicaOn one hand, this saves us from having to see expert trombonist Ayane Matsunaga ever again, on the other hand, we are deprived of a world where we can watch Mistress of Death Hisano Kuroda bust a move (and maybe a hip). Considering all the Persona 4 sequels (that phrase makes my brain itch) have played fast and loose with continuity, I’m not buying the “we didn’t bring back any of these characters because they were all optional” justification. I want to see Fox the fox dance for shrine offerings, dammit, I don’t want excuses!

Did you play Persona 4 for the calendar management sim?

Sorry, but no day planning for you. The entirety of this game takes place over three days or so, and you get absolutely no choices on how you want to spend your dancing time. Come to think of it, the plot of the game involves a universe with freaky, parallel time, which seems like a mere plot contrivance, but it could have allowed for perfect, 100% completion runs for choosing exactly when to eat a snack or study while in a nega-universe. Or maybe that sounds ridiculous by even Persona standards.

Did you play Persona 4 for the Dungeons/Battle System?

Woo, yeah, this is another one in the loss column. Yes, the party fights their way through shadows creeping over a series of dungeons, but it’s done entirely via text boxes. So, yes, there’s a dungeon involved, but, no, you don’t get to I'm sorryexplore an inch of it. Not that Persona 4’s dungeons were all that great to being with… but someone had to enjoy them? Right?

As far as the battle system of Persona 4, no, nothing returns. Obviously, this is a rhythm game, but there’s no attempt to implement the tiniest bit of Persona 4’s strategy into the gameplay. Particular hits to exploit elemental weaknesses or “all out” bonuses for making proper choices are not a possibility here, and the closest we get is calling in an additional party member when you’re already doing well. Considering the “strategy” involved with that is simply “don’t suck”, I have a hard time saying there’s any remains of the battle system here.

Did you play Persona 4 for all those whacky demons/gods?

If you enjoyed filling the pages of the compendium for Persona 4, great news! You don’t have to do that again… because Dancing All Night removes that idea entirely. Playing demon Pokémon with fusions and collections and leveling and skill mutating and whatever is all completely gone, and not coming back. It’s a shame, because I’m currently imagining a compendium with various international pop stars mix and matched with random mythological creatures and… no… No, it’s too beautiful for this world. David Bowie mixed with Helios? And he has skills that increase the odds of your combos continuing? It would be nice…

Did you play Persona 4 for the main cast?

Now we’re talking… Yes! Yes, Persona 4 Dancing All Night highlights all your favorite main characters, and even is the Persona 4 spin-off that takes place the I'm shipping thisfurthest in the future, so you get to see how everyone turns out. And it turns out… no one ever changes, and everyone will forever be exactly how you remember them, because character growth is for people in other franchises. Hell, a couple of characters have to backslide a bit just so they can have the exact same revelations all over again! Hooray for familiarity!

Did you play Persona 4 for the plot?

Well.. errmm… about that… uh…..

Did you play Persona 4 for a billion words with zero substance?

There we go!

Persona 4 was, at its core, a mystery, and a pretty interesting mystery at that. It established its stakes early, set forth a distinct pattern, and then challenged the player to find and assemble all clues into the correct answer. Fight your way to the truth, stay honest, do what’s right, and you’ll “achieve” the best ending in Persona 4 by being a good detective, and a good person.

Unfortunately, Persona 4 also assumed its audience was marginally brain-damaged, so it “reviewed” the plot on a monthly (in game) basis, which often led to the characters saying the same stupid things over and over to each other. Oh, you say there’s a fog involved? I completely forgot about that, given you only mentioned it seven times in the last two hours. It… got old fast.

SHUT UPThen again, I can’t really fault the writers of Persona 4, as the game can be an eighty hour experience, and not everyone has the kind of life that would allow for that time commitment all at once. It’s a pain when you’re marathoning the experience, but it’s a boon when you’re thirty hours into the game, but only have an hour or two a week to play. That would mean you’re, what, fifteen weeks away from when you started the story? Everyone plays video games differently, and there’s no reason to penalize a player that can’t hook the game to their veins.

So, in an eighty hour game, all that talky-talk makes sense. In a game that can be completely 100%’ed inside of ten hours? Not so much.

Persona 4 Dancing All Night really, really wants to be a visual novel. This may work in a JRPG, it even can pass in the Fighting Game genre with contemporaries like Blazblue and Guilty Gear, but a rhythm game? Oh my, no. When the average “battle” is something like three minutes long and very thumb-intensive, slapping ten minutes of dialogue on either side of the experience is exhausting. Yes, you can skip all the jibber-jabber, but, assuming you’re anything like me, there’s that fear that “there will be a test on this later”, and you’ll hit a brick wall because you don’t know what choice to make. If that sounds absurd, remember that that exact thing can bar you from the proper ending in Persona 4.

And all this wouldn’t even be that bad if the story wasn’t deliberately constructed in such a manner that the same stupid beats happen rapidly (and boringly) over and over again. When one of the characters is going the distance and lampshading the issue about 40% through the game…

THEN STOP IT

You know something’s up.

Yes, Persona 4 was a very talky game, but there was substance there, and the thousands of text boxes actually added up to something interesting. Here, the plot is obvious from the first fifteen minutes (particularly if you’ve, you know, played Persona 4), which is coincidentally how long it takes to get to the first dance in the game. Guys, I understand you likely slapped together this plot because you wanted to see the P4 cast experience some actually meaningful victories, and not just fluffy “yay you beat Bowser” quick wins… but this story still manages to be insubstantial. It’s going to a fancy steak house and being served an entrée of potato chips; all that effort, and you probably would have enjoyed it more in your pajamas.

But if you like Persona 4’s plot for just the words and words and words, congratulations, here’s your game.

Did you play Persona 4 for its music?

Oh, this is another good one! This game has a lot of really great music tracks from Persona 4 for some reason. It’s almost like that’s the entire point of So weird...the game, but that seems absurd, because there’s like an hour’s worth of music here, and approximately nine hours of dialogue. Your reward for completing the game isn’t more musical tracks, it’s more story, so, clearly, this must be a story-driven game. It’s nice that they included such a wide musical variety with the story, though.

So, Is Persona 4 Dancing All Night right for you?

Bow before your teddy-bear garbed master, you’re buying another Persona 4 spin-off whether you like it or not. Don’t you want to know what happens to Risette’s singing career? No? You’re not even a little bit curious? Come on, there’s shadows, and costumes, and the Velvet room. It’s all beary interesting! Come on, give it a whirl…

FGC #101 Persona 4 Dancing All Night

  • System: PS Vita. Oddly, so far, the only exclusive Vita games I’ve reviewed are Persona 4 based.
  • Number of players: One. Actually, this game might be two players, but that would require finding another Vita owner, and that doesn’t sound possible.
  • Special Ed: Yes, I ordered the special edition of this game about six months in advance from Amazon, and, yes, I still have Golden Disco Teddy on my keychain. I am a shameless mark for any and all Persona related merchandise. I think I own like six Persona art books…
  • Favorite Track: There’s a lot of great music in this game, but none of it is as ridiculous as the expanded Junes Theme. In a way, that song had to be in there, but in another? It’s like they expanded a McDonald’s jingle to three minutes, and then based a music video on it. That takes a special kind of dedication.
  • FrogmanFavorite Coda: So every character’s persona gets a rad solo for completing a song as flawlessly as possible. Each persona has a different featured instrument, and Chie’s Tomoe is equipped with a trumpet. I cannot describe how absolutely perfectly this makes sense and aligns with every lady trumpet player I have ever known. Congratulations, Persona 4, I now concede that you understand brass sections.
  • Did you know? I actually mentioned the “Rise was supposed to be a punk” trivia in the previous Persona 4 entry, but I want to revisit it because without “Risette the idol”, it’s likely that this game would have had to find a whole new excuse for its existence. Maybe Yosuke gets bored and hooks up with a dance troupe, and the rest of the cast has to join in to save him? It would have at least been more interesting than what we got…
  • Would I play again: Yes. I might be hard on the story mode of this game, but I love rhythm games, and, when you get down to it, the rhythm game part of this rhythm game is actually pretty good. And I like the music! Just have to ignore the part of the game that obviously involved the most production time…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Legend of Zelda! Actually, ROB chose that Zelda compilation for the Gamecube, but I’m not reviewing four Zelda games at once, so we’re sticking to the original. 102 entry has the bomb. Please look forward to it!

FGC #014 Persona 4 Golden

Hard boiled, yoPersona 3 was a revelation. I played Persona 3 initially just to see what all the fuss was about, and to get my quarterly JRPG injection. Given I had played roughly seventeen billion JRPGs at this point, I didn’t speak to any of the NPCs the game didn’t squarely point me at, as I didn’t want to deal with all the “Please save the crystals,” and “I hear fire enemies are weak to ice magic,” banter that clogs up the usual JRPG NPC dialogue. I dove into the dungeons and battle system with aplomb, and participated in the S-Link game, a system whereby you grow stronger by forging meaningful bonds with imaginary digital people, as a perfunctory way to kill time between dungeon dives. And then an odd thing happened: somewhere about midway through the S-Link with Chihiro Fushimi, I realized I was rushing through the dungeons to get back to Chihiro’s story. It wasn’t the most interesting story, mind you, just… very human, and the last game I could remember playing with such a human edge to it was Final Fantasy 8. Don’t get me wrong, say, Final Fantasy 10 is an excellent piece of storytelling, but it’s kind of hard for me to relate to a woman who is literally sacrificing herself for her world when I can barely sacrifice putting on flip flops to drag out the trash. The curb is all the way over there! But the “Social Links” of Persona 3 were, by and large, very human, and, thus, engaging. I’m not making Chihiro-kun my waifu anytime soon (am… am I saying that right? I’m not, am I? I’m okay with that), but it was certainly pleasant to play a game where I actually cared about the world I was saving, as opposed to leveling up to 100 just to insure that that “I are sick” guy has a pleasant evening.

However, despite Persona 3’s reputation as a “Japanese High School Simulator”, I never really believed the Persona 3 universe to actually involve high school students. Much like Cecil Harvey’s command of his nation’s entire air force at the tender age of 20, half the cast of Persona 3 comes off as much older than their given age. Yes, this is likely a side effect of the “you must have this much PTSD to join” sign that hangs above their dorms, but, see, right there? These kids live in their own dorms, with near zero parental/adult supervision, and hang out in weird places around midnight and then struggle to stay awake in class the following morning. This all sounds a lot like to college to me. And while a number of characters in the game do come off as actual high school students (Chihiro included), It’s hard to get immersed in that high school way of thinking when there’s such an overt emphasis on saving the world, dwelling on “your” mortality, and, oh yeah, the robot and the dog wearing a little vest. Persona 3 really did create something human there, but it stumbled just short of the immersive realism goal that could really make it shine.
Which is why it’s no surprise that Persona 4 and its cast have made such an impact on the video game landscape, from its all fighting, all dancing, all corn dog spinoffs to a variety of JRPGs that now lean heavily on Persona’s visual novel similarities. Persona 4 took the high school setting and ran with it, creating a cast of characters that are surprisingly realistic, even across cultures.

And now you’re going to suffer for it.

As you may have guessed, I went to high school. It was about as much fun as licking a fire poker overall, but I did moderately enjoy the social interactions. With that in mind, I am going to inventory the S-Links of Persona 4, and compare the personalities involved to my real life experiences. I hope, with myself and my readers focusing strongly on my high school past, that I can tear a hole in the space-time continuum, fly back to the past, and punch my smug, self-absorbed teenage self right in his handsome face. Join me, won’t you?

This nerdYosuke Hanamura
Arcana: Magician

Description: Yosuke is the protagonist’s best friend, and the son of the owner of June’s, the local mega store that is destroying small town America… err… Japan. Yosuke is also a complete %^#. Seriously. He’s a such a %^#, that he is in a constant state of trying to be funny, but he’s generally just insulting or otherwise annoying his friends. He claims to have a strong sense of justice, but, have to reiterate this, he’s basically just a running insult machine, and not even a particularly good one! It doesn’t take a lot to insult someone’s sexual preference, it takes a little more effort to note that someone’s mother is so fat, that when she goes to the zeppelin expo, she is immediately purchased by Baron Overcompensatious. What I’m saying is that Yosuke is a %^#.

Did we meet in high school? Oh yeah. Yosuke was pretty much my entire peer group in high school. Hell, on a bad day, I probably was Yosuke, just minus any useful kunai skills. I realize this does not speak well of my high school self, but I’ve changed! I swear! I’ve discovered a whole new array of insults to yell at you jackanapes!

Cute, but quirkyYukiko Amagi
Arcana: Priestess

Description: Yukiko is the gorgeous (this is, arguably, a big factor in her personality, as like three characters hit on her during her introduction) heiress of the Amagi Inn, a successful local business. She’s often seen as very reserved and quiet, but, once you get to know her, she’s kind of a complete goof. Also, a complete pyromaniac.

Did we meet in high school? My first thought is yes, very much yes, and we used to date. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Yukiko is just a walking stereotype for how most teenage boys see most teenage girls: cold, beautiful, privileged, and unapproachable, but then once you actually get to talking, wow, she’s actually pretty fun and not at all the stuck up jerk I thought she was when she told me to get lost 3,000 times. Hey, baby, I’m not still bitter about the fact that you wouldn’t give me your screenname for like six months, it’s coo’, please don’t light me on fire.

This nerdMargaret of the Velvet Room
Arcana: Empress

Description: Margaret is the enigmatic Velvet Room attendant for Persona 4. She’s basically a cross between a caring adult and a robot that won’t stop bothering you about, “What is this thing you humans call love?” Much like Yukiko, she also has this weirdly goofy side, which I’m starting to think is some kind of eerie kink with the Persona 4 writers…

Did we meet in high school? It’s easy to give this one a flat “no,” as Margaret is fairly alien. On the other hand, 90% of teachers I had during high school seemed to have been beamed here from some other planet. I may be giving the writers too much credit, but part of being a teenager and growing up is acknowledging that these adult authority figures actually are humans, no better or worse than yourself, and Margaret’s gradual slide from otherworldly to mundane might be a very deliberate move. On the other hand, might just be an easy excuse for yet another woman to hit on the protagonist, so who knows.

This nerdKanji Tatsumi
Arcana: Emperor

Description: Overcompensation, thy name is Kanji. Kanji’s defining trait seems to be that, in order to hide the fact that he has fairly feminine interests (sewing, naked men), he portrays himself as an over the top street thug that can bash the world into submission. He eventually mellows and proves to be one of the more reliable members of Team Snoops, and even makes little adorable dolls for his friends.

Did we meet in high school? So very much yes. I’m pretty sure we met last week, too. I’m pretty sure I’m talking to him online right now. Man, is the whole “overcompensating masculinity” thing an ingrained part of Western Society. I kind of feel bad for all the men that suffer from this, though I don’t have to worry about it, as I have an enormous penis.

This... oh... sorryRyotaro Dojima
Arcana: Hierophant

Description: Hard-boiled detective Dojima plays double duty throughout the plot as the chief investigator on this whole murder spree going on and surrogate dad for the protagonist. When he isn’t complaining about his dull-witted coworkers or coffee choices, he seems to spend time trying to better connect with his daughter and his nephew, the protagonist.

Did we meet in high school? Dojima is supposed to be a model father, right? Or some model of a father? This is the first character that seems to be significantly written from an adult’s perspective, as his difficulty connecting with his young daughter and teenage nephew seems like something out of some 40-50 something’s rambling about kids these days. I don’t really know how to rank this one, as I met my own father before high school for some reason. Dude has just always been around.

This nerdRise Kujikawa
Arcana: Lovers

Description: “Risette” is a national star, but taking a break to slum it with all the hoodlums around Inaba. She claims she’s not the hyper, bubbly star the media portrays her as, but pretty much her every interaction past her introduction… portrays her as a hyper, bubbly young lady. Her optimism in the face of the literal end of the world is… unsettling. Also, I’m not one to judge fashion, but pigtails? Really?

Did we meet in high school? This is kind of weird, but I don’t think I can recall a single person, male or female, who was ever this “on” in my teenage years. If Rise is your favorite character, more power to you, but I know a few literal cheerleaders who would ask Risette to dial it down a notch. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever hung out with a national celebrity, so maybe she’s completely normal. I’ll update this article after I become famous.

Right into the stratosphereChie Satonaka
Arcana: Chariot

Description: Chie is kickass. There, got that out of the way. Beyond the obvious, Chie has a tendency to come off as “one of the guys” in social interactions, and is the animus to Yukiko’s anima. Chie wants to grow up to be a police officer, but will likely be disappointed when the job does not involve as much galactic punting as Dojima alludes to.

Did we meet in high school? Yes, a thousand times yes, and I’m sorry. Look, in retrospect the fact that we were frequently playing basketball, despite the fact that you were like five foot nothing, just seemed like an entertaining thing to do, okay? And all those times we were playing Marvel vs. Capcom, and I was complaining about “why don’t girls like to play video games,” while you were RIGHT THERE? Look, I’m just… I’m starting to think I might have had brain problems. Alright? I’m… I’m just so sorry.

This lil preciousNanako Dojima
Arcana: Justice

Description: Effectively the protagonist’s little sister, Nanako is there to be adorable and get kidnapped. Oh, spoilers, the most football sized cast member becomes a football. Additional spoiler: Nanako is eventually revealed to be three kittens and a puppy piloting a robot powered by rainbows. I have also decreed that this character is allowed to have pigtails.

Did we meet in high school? Nope. I’m an only child, and any of my friends that had little sisters weren’t THAT little. A complete swing and a miss for this game, but Nanako is more of a plot device than an actual character.

This foxFox
Arcana: Hermit

Description: A fox.

Did we meet in high school? See references to “the blonde” in the previous article.

This nerdNaoto Shirogane
Arcana: Wheel of Fortune

Description: The final member of the player’s party and also its smartest member, Naoto is the genius of the group, always wishing to be defined by cerebral achievements, which is important, as, prior to this detective joining, the cast was just sitting around on the roof repeating the same stupid facts over and over again, like, replace Yosuke with a mildly homophobic parrot and you’d have the exact same dialogue. Also, I cannot imagine the size of the balls on Naoto, who had to inform other party members that a firearm might be an effective weapon here, but maybe you guys should just go ahead and ditch your shoes, chair, and… Christ, is that a fan? Are you trying to combat the monsters of evil with a damn fan? How are you people not all dead!?

Did we meet in high school? Yes, and, I’m going to have to apologize to anyone that was in our Junior English Class. Look, we both self-identified ourselves as the smartest people in the room, and we might have been, but that was no reason to completely destroy any sort of classroom decorum to settle our year long grudge match. In my head, yes, I believed that I was producing all new ways to interpret Hamlet, and I’m sure he was thinking much the same, but, hindsight, I’m pretty sure the rest of the class just saw a forty minute session of two cats hissing over the same meager scraps. I promise to never waste everyone’s time in an attempt to validate my own pretentious ideas again.

Article somehow continues through impregnable layer of irony.

These nerdsKou Ichijo & Daisuke Nagase
Arcana: Strength

Description: I’m grouping these two knuckleheads together, and you’ll understand why in the next section. These two are the sports stars of P4, and, while they have distinct personalities and issues (something about dealing with tradition and family, which is like every other S-Link here, and the other one… something about a fear of failure and problems with the opposite sex…man, that’s just lame) they definitely come off as more of a twosome in each of their s-link scenarios. And, whoo, sports!

Did we meet in high school? Maybe it’s just me, and I’m going to go ahead and claim it’s universal, but there’s that feeling where you see two other people hang out, like, all the time, and you just know they’re going to get married at the same time and have kids that play together and oh man they just have this perfect little best friend relationship and why don’t I have anyone like that in my life? While your own best friend is standing right there and is like, oh man, why don’t I have a best friend like that? I feel like there’s this “pairing” push in most media that creates these perfect duos, from Lenny and Squiggy to Nana and Popo, and we’re all left holding the bag because no one is really that in synch with another human being. So, yes, they seem very real, and now I’m skimming this post to see exactly when I started turning it into therapy. Think it was shortly after I used the word “revelation”.

This nerdNaoki Konishi
Arcana: Hanged Man

Description: Naoki’s big deal problem is that he’s dealing with the sudden death of his sister, and I feel a little bit bad mocking the poor kid in his time of grief, but then I recover because he’s giving me those eyes. Man, I was trying to be nice, why you gotta look at me like that?

Did we meet in high school? I actually think high school was about the first time in my life that someone would suffer a tragedy, and I’d actually pay attention like, “Wow, that has to be terrible, you need anything?” Kind of funny to remember the first funeral you ever went to because you actually knew the bereaved, and it wasn’t just your Great Aunt Bernie or some such nonsense. Man, need to get back to being moderately entertaining here. What’s the next arcana? Aw, $%@.

This old nerdHisano Kuroda
Arcana: Death

Description: A widow who hangs out by the river on Sundays, starring longingly into the abyss and commenting on how she am become Death. Her dead husband had some The Notebook based malady that caused him to forget his true love and wither into some sad shell of a… Good God, why did I ever play this game?

Did we meet in high school? I might be an only child, but I did have the reverse pyramid of a family in my teenage years with an overabundance of grandparents. Too many grandmas! As a result, many a Sunday post-church lunch was spent with them and their general peer group. So, oddly, I spent a lot of time with old widows. This might sound terrifying to some, but old ladies are just ridiculous with their occasion attempts to offer life advice. My favorite? My grandmother’s best friend once leaned over to me, and whispered (old ladies cannot, at all, whisper) “You know, Bobby, don’t be afraid of some of the heavier girls. Heavy girls really know how to…” she then winked a startling wink, and said with as much emphasis and innuendo as possible for a woman of her age, “… dance.” Screw this death widow crap, old ladies are our greatest natural resource.

This nerdEri Minami
Arcana: Temperance

Description: A fresh, youthful step mother who, playing against type, is quite the opposite of wicked. Her kindness and gullibility is basically her downfall, though, as she apparently gets help with relating to her new step son not from a friend or family member, but a random high school student who happens to be hanging around. This, miraculously, works out.

Did we meet in high school? Oh my no. I can tell you right now, if I saw a random post from some new wife about how she was getting such great advice on child rearing from some teenager she met at the park, I’d be calling child services faster than you can say “unfit mother”. I don’t have kids, so I really shouldn’t judge, but I’m pretty good at identifying kooky when I see it.

This nerdSayoko Uehara
Arcana: Devil

Description: A naughty nurse that works at the local hospital. She seems to delight in mocking the teenage protagonist with her wealth of “experience” and “maturity”. I will remind you all that I’m talking about an adult taunting a kid who can’t seem to wear glasses correctly. Like pretty much all S-Links, she eventually softens up and runs off to join the Peace Corps or something. You know what? I’m sticking to that sentence as-is. I choose to believe most of the cast of P4 joins the Peace Corps after the game ends.

Did we meet in high school? I dealt with a number of adults in my teenage years, as my “night job” was pretty much what it is now: being the only guy on the payroll who knows how the computers work. I am either known as Goggle Bob or Where Did My Email Go Why Don’t We Ask Bob Bob. That said, I can’t think of a single adult I ever met who vamped on me to the degree we see with Sayoko. This is likely because I dealt with adults who were actually adults, and not teenage fantasies. Despite many years having passed, though, if anyone knows any teenage fantasies I can hang out with, I’m game.

This nerdShu Nakajima
Arcana: Tower

Description: A young boy who is tutored by the protagonist, Shu initially comes off as a complete jackass, but eventually turns out to be the weepy byproduct of an overbearing mother. So Shu is basically every third male you meet on the internet.

Did we meet in high school? Basically. This one seems to be another teenage perception archetype, when everyone younger than age x seems to be a complete self absorbed pain in the ass that isn’t worth dealing with until they ripen to the amazing level of maturity that you yourself have attained in your autumn teenage years. Haha, teenagers have no hindsight. They’re stupid.

Play it!Teddie
Arcana: Star

Description: Teddy is a magical bear from the world of dreams. He is beary powerful, and has a smeller that is second to none. His combat prowess is potent, and his support abilities are indispensable. He gradually grows his own ego over the course of the game, and hatches an entire additional body as a result. Occasionally, he is worried that he has nothing inside, but, in the end, he becomes an vital member of the team whose ice magic is second to none. After the events of P4, he splits his life between being a department store mascot and living in a miraculous Jungian fantasy.

Did we meet in high school? Yes.

This nerdAi Ebihara
Arcana: Moon

Description: A “bad girl” who cuts class and is generally really, really confusing. If I’m being generous, she’s a girl with significant body and rejection issues, and acts out for attention, any kind of attention, that will satiate her desire for validation. If I’m someone who played the game and is still bitter, she’s a freaking labyrinth of incorrect S-Link choices that is just there to toy with player expectations. Either way, she kinda turns out horrible.

Did we meet in high school? Sympathetic interpretation, she could sort of be any girl, almost a female compliment to Kanji, as western women have body/attention issues like western men have issues with their smaller-than-mine penis compensation problems. It’s practically ingrained in our culture, but I do have a solution available for the low, low cost of $19.99. While you’re grabbing your credit card, I’ll note the general way Ai “works” in the game, that the usual “right” answer is almost never right, even when she’s nearly jumping off of the roof (!) may be there just to mimic the way most high school students feel in a relationship: “I never have the right answer, why is my lover always so upset with me?” Either way, she kinda turns out genius.

This nerdYumi Ozawa
Arcana: Sun

Description: Queen Drama of Drama Land. Yumi is the lead actress of the drama club, and lives and breathes the stage. Then, she has some family issue, and realizes that she’s only into drama because it helps her cope with the crap she has to put up with compliments of her family. She quits the drama club after this realization, because she will never have any more problems in her life, and thus no longer needs a creative outlet.

Did we meet in high school? Yeah. Minus the whole “quitting drama due to revelations” thing, I’m pretty sure we dated for nearly a year. It was exhausting. And I’d date her again five minutes after we broke up. I was… not a well boy.

STOP LOOKING AT MEAyane Matsunaga
Arcana: Sun (Again)

Description: A tiny, female trombone player. An entirely fictional construct. Her storyline involves a song that somehow includes a trombone solo. Another utterly imaginary possibility. She is shy, but, somehow, she’s in the brass section. I’m pretty sure the P4 writers have never seen an actual high school band before.

Did we meet in high school? Give her a flute or a clarinet, and she’s in your high school right now. I don’t care when you’re reading this, she’s there, practicing, and her overture to sadness haunts the halls.

Adachi-babyTohru Adachi
Arcana: Jester or something

Description: Your dad’s whacky friend who always seems to be hanging around and is just an absolute waste. A complete weirdo from stem to stern. Then you find out what this guy is into, and you’re never the same again, mainly because you didn’t know you could possibly vomit that much.

Did we meet in high school? Yeah, though I’ve likely repressed whatever it was that made me puke so very long. I don’t think anyone went to jail, at least. Regardless, Adachi is another fine example of finding out that adults are just as fallible as your peer group, though in this game, there may be a healthy dosage of Wild Arms-esque “the children are our future and all the adults are corrupt meanies”. Or maybe I’m reading too much into yet another story where a bunch of teenagers save the world while the adults order out for sushi.

This nerdMarie of the Velvet Room
Arcana: Aeon…. Is that a thing?

Description: A fresh addition for Persona 4 Golden, Marie is an amnesiac who is trying to find her real self. She also writes terrible poetry, dresses astonishingly, and has a fondness for memes. Her big deep secret is important and all, but she’s principally the tsundere archetype that is so popular in Japanese media.

Did we meet in high school? I asked her out like twice, and got a “no” both times. We still hung out quite a bit, though, probably because I am a persistent creep. About a decade after we graduated and thus no longer had anything to do with each other, Facebook distinctly took time out of its busy day to email me and be like, “Hey, bet you know this person,” and there was her picture staring back at me again. This is why I no longer check my email while at work.

Judgment!

I love sausage!Alright, that was sure concise, let’s check the final tally. I count seventeen or so yes’s here, so I’m going to go ahead and claim that Persona 4 resonated highly with my own actual high school experience. Way to go, Persona 4. Unfortunately, now I’m mentally reviewing every terrible thing I ever did in high school, so I have no idea how to end this article or what I was even thinking when I started. Look, I’m going to sit here and wonder why I’m not in jail for crimes against humanity, and you write your own ending. Try to tie it back to something I said at the start, yeah? Try and make it a revelation. Have it on my desk before homeroom.

FGC #14 Persona 4 Golden

  • System: Sony Vita
  • Number of Playas: One (wink wink)
  • Reason you bought the Vita? Pretty much
  • Regret the Vita? Not really. You never could have sold me the system on this idea, but now I have a portable system that plays Final Fantasy 1-10 and Chrono Trigger and a wealth of Mega Mans without having to flip a single cartridge. If I was stuck on a desert island with only a Vita and one outlet and maybe an umbrella, I think I’d be okay.
  • Favorite S-Link: Honestly? Probably Ai, as the whole thing felt like some kind of weird fight, really distinguishing it from the other S-Links that, while generally engaging, were fairly samey. She’s like hard mode in a system that I didn’t know could have a hard mode.
  • There any particular reason you’re so hard on your younger self? Look at this smug bastard.
    I don't even know what I was talking about

    Don’t you just want to give him what for?
  • Yet your high school year book is that close at hand? Quiet you.
  • Did you know? Some early drafts of the characters basically cast Rise as a Kanji-like punk that looked a lot like Ai. I would much prefer that version of the game, if only because I would be completely down with the eventual fighting game spin-off featuring a lady throwing a folding chair around.
  • Would I play again? On one hand, I very nearly Platinum’ed the Vita version (damn you, book collection), and sunk, let’s see here, 120 hours or so into multiple trips to Inaba, so I want to say I am good and done with the game. On the other hand? This thing sees a new release where Yukiko gets a new hat? I’m there.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Shadow Hearts from the New World. Ah, relationship week ends with the unbreakable bond between a ninja and a cat. Or… something. At least it’ll likely lead to an article that isn’t blowing past 4,500 words… Please look forward to it!