Late last year, I had the pleasure to play the fantastic Persona 4. I still remember the days where I would stay up ‘til three in the morning playing this game nonstop, telling myself “just one more day.” I was so hooked into this game that I put games like Valkyria Chronicles, Fallout 3 and Gears of War 2 on hold.
There were a couple aspects that made Persona 4 memorable; it wasn’t the narrative or the battle system. While those things were great, a few of the aspects that made it memorable are often neglected nowadays because we tend to focus more on realistic graphics, multiplayer or achievements.
Whenever I listen to a tune from a video game, I can recall where it’s from. Persona 4 is no exception because its sound design is definitely out there with its catchy J-Pop songs. One of the most noteworthy things about the soundtrack is the great amount of J-Pop songs the game features. Instead of using licensed mainstream music, Shoji Meguro, P4′s music composer, took his time to produce original songs.
These songs are extremely catchy, and many of them are perfectly placed as it fits the situation the game currently is in. For example, “Your Affection,” a cheerful J-Pop, plays during a cheerful sunny day. I always looked forward to sunny days, so I can listen to this song. Every time I boot up the game, I have to let the opening melody play as it’s so endearing and catchy with its hip-hop/J-pop beat.
Aside from the J-Pop, some rock tunes are featured – something Meguro is known for. The battle theme “Reach Out to the Truth” is one of the most catchy battle themes as it added J-Pop flavor with awesome guitar riffs into it. It doesn’t even sound like a normal battle theme; it sounds more like something you’d hear from the 80s. From beginning to end, I had my TV volume turned up and found no bad tunes here. I’m very pleased Atlus included a soundtrack CD with the game, and I still listen to it every now and then.
The amazing thing about Persona 4′s characters is how realistic they were. They didn’t fall into the typical clichés like other JRPGs. I thought to myself, “Hey, I’ve seen someone like that,” when I met a few characters. Yukiko’s parents, for example, wanted her to run the family business (pretty much what every parent would like if they own a business), but she didn’t want to run the family business. Rise, a pop star, showed that pop stars are the same as us. She wanted to live a normal life and let the people to know the person behind the mask.
The one that struck me the most was Kanji, the supposed homosexual character. While there have been a few homosexual characters in an RPG before, Jann in Valkyria Chronicles is one, the thing that set Kanji apart from others was his confrontation to come out. At first, he is portrayed as a macho biker gang member, but his shadow reveals a different persona. Kanji’s shadow is displayed half-naked, behaving very flamboyant. While he’s talking in a homoerotic manner, the group started feeling uneasy. Yosuke is a great portrayal of how a person would react when he’s not exposed or used to homosexuality as he called the shadow’s behavior “wrong in so many ways.”
Kanji’s shadow stated he wanted people to accept him for who he is. Kanji accepted his shadow but doesn’t necessarily state he’s gay. At one point, I’m a little disappointed he didn’t blatantly admitted he was homosexual, but it’s completely understand given his reputation and the fact that he’s still in high school. I don’t know how the Japanese high school students react to homosexuality, considering that this is a Japanese game, but here in the US, a lot of homosexual students get ridiculed which is why many are afraid to come out of the closet.
Naoto faces a similar situation where the detective prince confronts sexism. Naoto’s motives are extremely understandable as many people look down on one gender as inferior when it comes to certain things. I have to commend Atlus for handling homosexuality and sexism in a mature manner and portraying them as very likable characters.
When the gang are together during a school event or celebration, expect to see yourself on the floor, laughing at the mess they get themselves into. Yosuke and Chie constantly argue with each other, and Yosuke always ended being beaten by Chie. Yukiko had me laughing with her laughs, while Teddie had me rolling with his bear puns and when he tried to score with the ladies. One hilarious moment was when the guys tried to sneak into the girls’ room to get even with them, but they mistakenly ended up in their teacher’s room. This game had me laughing hard throughout the whole game.
Persona 4 isn’t the most technically impressive game on the system, but it excels at style. Instead of taking place in space or some medieval world, the game is set on a fresh, rural Japanese city of Inaba. The ambiance of the city is wonderful as the game gives us a flavor of Japanese culture. Social links added more to the atmosphere by going to high school and hanging out with friends, visiting many places in Inaba. It set a great, friendly place to live in.
Inaba’s environments and dungeons are incredibly designed and reflect on the characters’ inner feelings. Rise’s dungeon is set on a strip club which reflects her inner hatred of being labeled as a sex symbol. The greatest thing about Persona’s style is the use of color. The game is very colorful (something that I appreciated to escape the dull next-gen bloom), but it mainly uses yellow – title screen, menus, battles, box art, etc. Every time I go out and see something yellow, I immediately think of Persona 4.
From all the games I’ve played in 2008, Persona 4 stood out the most. It’s catchy, addicting, colorful, exciting and funny. This isn’t my favorite game from the series, but it has an undeniable charm that keeps me remembering it. I will not only remember it as a great game, but I will also remember it as one of the last great JRPGs we’ve had in a while. It’s a shame my console kicked the bucket earlier this week because writing all of this is making me go back at it.