There are check boxes to every subculture, and anime fandom is no exception. I normally don’t write about video games in this space, but there’s just something about the modern Persona series that seems to resonate with weebs the world over.
Persona 3 does such an excellent job conveying its dread, apocalyptic tone throughout the game, from the absolutely phenomenal music to the dungeon design to the tenor of the dialogue. The truth-or-happiness choice your character must make near the end of the game is so bold and so expertly crafted. Your party’s month-long reaction and digestion of what is truly at stake in the decision lends the impending moment even more weight. And, you quite literally get to make this choice and live with the consequences. Persona 3 will end if you choose to ignore the truth in favor of a blissfully ignorant existence, but, should your character decide to face the truth and fight, you do so with a heavy burden.
There are fun moments I remember fondly as well. Memories of Operation Babe Hunt, the scene at the seedy love hotel, and Junpei telling ghost stories…all these bring a smile to my face. But, maybe the highest praise I can give Persona 3 is that it is the only video game to make me cry (the ending!). I played through it twice this year.
Having said all of that, the sequel might be my favorite video game. Persona 4 just nails everything it attempts. The cast is even better this time around with every single character squirming their way into your heart. While the music isn’t quite as good as the previous game, P4‘s music is still pretty excellent. Shoji Meguro…dude got talent! This game manages to be a smoother moment-to-moment experience than P3, as it irons out some unnecessary gameplay bumps and creates more efficient ramps to rewards.
And the social links. Atlus really outdid themselves in their tune-up of an already fantastic gameplay system. Persona 3 laid the groundwork here; your relationships fed into your persona-creation ability which increased your stats. Four keeps all of this stuff, but it makes the actual relationships miles more compelling than the previous iteration. Characters (including everyone in your party this time!) , especially NPCs, are more likable; there’s more dialogue, so you feel like you’re getting to know them better; and you aren’t forced to become romantically involved with every girl! I mentioned an important Persona choice already in this post, but perhaps the choice of “Which girl?” is the most important of all (the answer is Yukiko). Judging by AniTwitter, you’d certainly think so!
Then, there’s the fighting games…
I got back into fighting games in a huge way this year, and Arc System Works’ Persona 4 Arena series is a huge reason why. My reasoning for purchasing these games is probably ass-backwards. When I read that they were canonical sequels to the RPG’s story, I thought “Done! And maybe the fighting will be OK, too.” Actually, the fighting is really really fun. Arc managed to retain the core aesthetics of the modern Persona games while creating a unique fighting experience. The games aren’t just BlazBlue. or Guilty Gear knock-offs. As for the story, I generally enjoy it. It’s kinda comic book-y, but I’m OK with it. I like the new characters, which…well, not many RPG fans do. I still go back to the story mode every now and again when I want a hit of Persona, though some of the character writing lacks the subtlety of the original games.
Bottom line: Box checked! Return my weeb card to me at once!