Persona 4 (SPOILERS)

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Persona 4 (SPOILERS)

Postby Eolh » Fri Jan 23, 2009 9:47 pm

So here is a place for people (probably me, Square, and Tob) to talk about Persona 4. Yay?

To get the conversation started, my feelings on P4 are pretty complicated. So much so that I try to avoid thinking about it too much, because the more I think about the game, the less I like it. The general consensus on the internet seems to be that P4 is easily the superior game to P3, and that sort of drives me nuts, because on almost ever non-technical level of comparison I end up finding P4 wanting.

Rather than do a list of the things I like and the things I dislike about the game I'll just assume those things are going to come up organically. I'll start with the characters. I find most of the characters in P4 to be bland. The core characters in particular: Yukiko, Chie, and Yosuke. In fact I actively dislike Yosuke for being homophobic and generally annoying. Chie was a pretty awesome character as written but found her voice actress to be uneven. Yukiko was pretty much just meh.

There is something to said about the characters being more "real", I suppose. But real does not always mean more interesting. I preferred the slightly comic-book feel that P3 had to the drab "reality" in P4.

There are exceptions, of course. The family dynamic of the Dojimas was pretty awesome, although, honestly I preferred the created family dynamic in Persona 3. Naoto was also excellent and probably my favorite character in the game. Teddie was pretty great until his big twist, after which he became steadily more annoying.

I think my biggest problem with the characters was just how goddamn verbose and redundant they were. I'm a person who normally adores dialogue, I happily watch movies with nothing but talking and never once skipped a cutscene in Persona 3 on any of my playthroughs, but even I have my limits. After the 5th time spending a 15+ minute cutscene where the characters bumblingly went over the exact same, obvious plot points I just couldn't handle it anymore.
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Postby OMGBEES » Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:22 am

I definitely think 4 is worse than 3, and I think the story has a lot to do with that, too. I thought the characters were interesting, but I think that's probably because I'm more aware of anime tropes. Each of the characters took a stereotypical anime role, and defied it. For instance, Yukiko was based on your domestic, conservative female character, kind of a weak meganeko. But she starts to develop characteristics that run strongly counter to that - she can be a total bitch if she's annoyed, and she laughs hysterically at small things. (I can identify with the last, I do that myself.)

Yosuke is really annoying to me, partly because he starts off with a strong dose of genital/bathroom humor. His character doesn't really do much in his social link aside from agonizing over Saki. Essentially, he started as the "sidekick" character you see in Shonen, whose job is to be cool and crack wise about whatever's going on so that people watching at home can better understand how powerful the main character is. The way that Yosuke breaks the mold is that he is technically more "deep", although I don't think that was very well brought out, and he can have a bad temper. Which is fine, but overall it didn't make a lot of impact on me, and his cracking wise could often border on stupid and obnoxious. The homophobia thing is one of these things that, culturally, you have to forgive the Japanese if you want to deal with Japanese things; theres is a homophobic society, significantly moreso than in the US. In general, Japanese views on gender and sexuality are significantly more conservative than in the US; they didn't get a word for sexual harassment until the late 90's.

I like Chie. She was the spunky female. I can't think of a good example of an anime character like that; the best I can think of is Tomo from Azumanga. She's technically a satirization of the trope, but I think you can get a good idea of what it's like from the show - basically, make her good at the things that she's not good at and you have it. I agree about the voice actress; I think she's okay but I don't think her voice sounds like the character. She kind of sounded like a motherly old woman.

A big part of the problem is that they don't do a lot with the characters, in my opinion. P3 had an amazing, powerful ending that still makes my eyes tingle with tears. P4 is kind of a fuck you. The mystery was unengaging and I thought pretty badly plotted. When you have, for instance, a magical way of killing people that leaves no evidence, and your motive is "because it's fun", there's not a lot of shit that you can figure out the killer with. Naoto mentions a suspicious answer that Adachi makes - Someone states that Namatame even knew about the victims that your group saved, and Adachi doesn't question that, even though he doesn't know about them. As far as I can tell, that's it, in the entire game. That's the only way to know that Adachi did it. And being sharp enough in an 80 hour game to catch that? That's not fair, at all. There really should have been more to the mystery. For the most part, the answer of Adachi comes of nowhere, like an M Night twist. He's not the guy who fits, he's just the guy who fits the least worst.

The Izanami ending was more interesting both for its mythological ties and it increased pathos, but on whole I found the whole story mostly unsatisfying. I was also really... annoyed? Distracted? By the ties to the previous. Shadows and personas still exist, and you meet people from the previous game and see what they're up to, but obviously Personas and shadows are not the same thing in this one. I mean, Nyx is nowhere to be seen. So... that bothered me. It fucked with my feeling for the world.

Lastly, I totally agree with what you're saying about the length of the cutscenes and whatnot. When I was playing, the power cord came loose, and I was forced to play the section over. It was about 2.5 hours until I got the "you can now hit triangle to OPEN THE FUCKING MENU" the first time. The second, using triangle to speed through as much as I could and reading nothing, it took about an hour. And that's crazy horse shit. I was also annoyed at how long they spent questioning whether the murders were accidents. How the flying fuck do you ACCIDENTALLY end up dead and tied upside-down to the top of a telephone pole with no evidence of how you died? Seriously, what the gibbering monkeyfuck? That absolutely fucked with my ability to figure out what was "true". Is the game saying this because it's actually real, or does it want me to discover that it's obviously false and feel clever? Also, using the weather as a means to set your timeline seemed crazy to me. I didn't understand at first that the weather is NOT random and that the weather forcast is ALWAYS right. I thought at first that the weather was randomized and that there was a chance that the weatherman was wrong and I could just get unlucky and then I would LOSE. Because really, these are the sorts of games where that could be. I don't know why they didn't just tell me in one of those HELP popup things that they do. If you're willing to pop one of those up and tell me how to open the menu or that I can sleep in my bed sleep in my own bed then you're obviously willing to break immersion.

The underlying theme with a lot of this is that the tension between the ludic and the narrative elements is so high that it's tearing the game in half.


I did like a lot of the new production. The dungeon designs were mostly fucking awesome and if you don't like Void Quest then you're a communist. A lot of the bosses were at least aesthetically cool, even if they were often pretty easy. On the whole, I think they tried to take the difficulty down a couple of notches from P3 and fucked up and made it way too easy. Although for some arbitrary reason the bosses all had about a billion fucking hitpoints so that even if you figured out how to beat them and there was no rational way for them to beat you it was 20 minutes before you won.

The music was a lot better this time. It fit the setting much better, and there was a better spread of it. I ddon't think I liked any given song as much as I liked a few of the songs in P3, but overall the whole soundtrack was a lot stronger.

I like some of the new battle mechanics more. I think the system emphasises your persona setup more than 3 did, in that you need more than just a good persona, it's often critical to get the right spread of skills as well. I do miss that you can't grind nearly as effectively in 3, however.

I think "good but not as amazing as 3" is a good wrapup but I'll discover more as I play through newgame+ on hard.



ADDENDUM: I think Rise has the Chie problem times 10. I realized after awhile that she has some interesting depth to her, but her voice actress is stuck in ditzy cheerleader mode 100% of the time.

SECOND ADDENDUM: I also hate how much the game tells me what I'm thinking or what I want to do. Persona 3 did this a few times but not nearly to the same degree. Why would I want to leave a character alone after he just wrecked his nuts on a bike, but I want to help him the next day when he falls off his bike in a pile of trash? That makes no freaking sense to me.

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Postby OMGBEES » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:32 pm

So I'll note that the bosses become more interesting on Expert.

Also, if the Midnight Self is what everyone is thinking about a character, does that mean that everyone just thinks Kanji is gay?

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Postby Tobliz » Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:15 pm

Pretty much concurred, the game was made to be more accessible and mainstream, but the story just kinda falls apart halfway through. I think the relationship between the main character and the Dojimas trump pretty much everything on Persona 3, character interaction wise, but all the other interactions are pretty lame.

I was a high school student and a college student; just because I can believe Yosuke or Chie or anyone else are realistic characters doesn't mean I'd want to deal with them in a game.

Also, Square's correct in that there are pointless answers and questions being thrown around a lot and it's kinda bewildering. The town probably has the world's most incompetent police force, as much as I like Dojima, if it takes weeks for them to decide that elaborately placed corpses without evidence is a string of homicides!

The thing I hated most, though, was the clue-finding. Teddy couldn't figure out where Kanji was until I discovered that he had a complex? What the fuck! I'd say that someone who beats up bike gangs for some reason has a complex, yes. I didn't need his buttbuddy to figure that one out.

I was really disappointed because the premise had a lot of promise: a murder mystery with people being forced to face their true selves. With the delicacy that the Persona 3 team handled their characters, I was pretty excited about where they would go with this sort of thing. They... just didn't.

Oh, another issue I had was that in Persona 3, you were kinda the leader of a team of personalities. You ran the show, but the other characters acted independently, generally in the same direction as your goals, but not always. In Persona 4, Yosuke would ask you something, and if you got it right, then he would smile and nod. If you got it wrong, he'd disagree and do things HIS way. I never felt in control of the investigation at all; I was just being led around. So much for the wild card persona.

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Postby OMGBEES » Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:16 pm

Okay, so we can all agree it was disappointing, which isn't really that surprising after the amazingness that was 3.

What did you guys read as the major themes in this one?

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Postby Tobliz » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:18 pm

my major theme would be "please don't assrape me, gaybie!"

I think that very nicely summarizes the subject matter and the maturity they handled it with

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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 4:26 pm

Man, you should really not watch anime, this was pretty sensitive compared to what I've seen. I can count the number of sympathetic non-heterosexual roles I've seen on one hand. (Except for high school girls, for some reason lesbianism is kind of accepted as a phase girls go through at that age.)

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Postby Eolh » Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:40 pm

As I told Tob, I'm probably more aware than most of the Japanese attitude toward homosexuality, as I regularly talk with an openly gay expat who has lived in Japan for 5+ years now. And while in a personal conversation I am certainly willing of putting those kinds of homophobic ideas into a cultural context, I am either unable or unwilling to do so when it comes to the kinds of fiction I enjoy.
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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:12 pm

That's fine, but it seems to be railroading the conversation.

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Postby Tobliz » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:18 pm

The problem is that the entire game deals with the themes of sexuality and the lengths people go to hide that sort of feeling from others and themselves

But the juvenile way the game handled these issues just made it kinda pointless and undesirable for me to go into the analysis of the story.

It's just not the homophobia, it's that the entire concept of repressed sexuality isn't really treated with a delicate touch. Eolh and I had a pretty good conversation yesterday talking about why Persona 4 doesn't hold up as well as Persona 3 and a lot of it has to do with character interaction.

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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:26 pm

I disagree, I think the homosexuality was meant as a joke. Most of it is concentrated into Kanji's Hollow World section, with a few follow-up gags thrown in afterwards. I don't think it was meant to be anything other than a joke; I really don't think it was a major theme. On top of that, I don't think it's explicit that he actually IS gay and isn't just afraid he's gay.

Either way, I don't think it's productive to keep talking about the same thing. None of us liked it; in general, we were disappointed in the game. That's been established. Why not move on to talk about what the game means?

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Postby Tobliz » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:29 pm

Because, again, the entire game revolved around that concept. What else do you want to talk about? What other themes do you think exist in the game?

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Postby Eolh » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:39 pm

Oh I wasn't promoting it as a major theme, it certainly wasn't. I fully disagree that it's not worth talking about, though. Nevertheless, if you're not interested in it, so be it.

Themes of the game? I dunno. It was harder for me to find a coherent theme in P4 than it in P3, maybe in part by how poorly scripted/paced the central story was. Maybe it was because I ultimately just didn't like most of the characters much. I felt much less invested, and therefore much less interested in attempting to analyze it.

I suppose if I had to think about it, the general core concept of the game is that you will only be happy with yourself once you accept, or at least confront, those feelings and aspects of your personality that may seem unacceptable or even embarrassing.

It seems like P4's themes are more internally directed than P3's, which were about created external connections.
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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:40 pm

Well, for instance, what does the hollow world mean? Why use televisions? Why did people react the way they did to the end of the world? Why Izanami? What does Izanami's role in it say? What about the repeated themes of sensationalism in the media? (The people hounding Yukiko, Rise's papparazzi.) Stuff like that.

Again, the homosexuality thing happened to one secondary character, in one "chapter" of the game, and was largely unheard of afterwards. How could the entire game revolve around that? That seems like a really strange assertion.

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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 8:45 pm

Eolh wrote:Oh I wasn't promoting it as a major theme, it certainly wasn't. I fully disagree that it's not worth talking about, though. Nevertheless, if you're not interested in it, so be it.


I'm not saying it's not worth talking about, I'm saying the three of us just agreeing that their handling of repressed homosexuality was tactless and poor doesn't make for a very interesting discussion.

I suppose if I had to think about it, the general core concept of the game is that you will only be happy with yourself once you accept, or at least confront, those feelings and aspects of your personality that may seem unacceptable or even embarrassing.


That's interesting to me. The developers have said that the Hollow versions of the characters are so over the top because they're aware of their television audience, and are playing to the people on the midnight channel. You have all these characters which seem to be showing repressed portions of the characters personalities, and then you have Namatame's character popping up on the TV, saying he's going to keep throwing people in, and then the game later explaining that he did that because the party all assumed that's what he was like. Is that an inconsistency, or a statement on the balancing act between authenticity and pleasing ones audience in the media?

By the way, has everyone gotten the good ending? Beating Izanami and Izanami-no-Okami? I'm kind of assuming everyone has.

It seems like P4's themes are more internally directed than P3's, which were about created external connections.


Really? I read the whole game as a commentary on the media and its role in our lives.

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Postby Eolh » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:02 pm

OMGBEES wrote:[By the way, has everyone gotten the good ending? Beating Izanami and Izanami-no-Okami? I'm kind of assuming everyone has.

I actually have not. I stopped after the "good" ending, and just haven't really felt the need to go back and get the "true" ending for whatever reason. Part of it is because I find the actual mechanics of reaching it to be so obtuse as to be off putting.

Really? I read the whole game as a commentary on the media and its role in our lives.

Yeah I don't really get that. I think the whole media thing provides and interesting backdrop (going inside the TV, the shadow versions "playing to the cheap seats", etc), but I didn't really get anything particularly insightful from the usage of that motif.

I honestly haven't read a lot of the interviews with the developers or the translators, however I guess I've never placed much stock in authorial intent. My feelings on the Shadow versions of the characters was that they were over the top mostly because they wanted to be confronted by their "true selves" and were simply attempting to goad the real versions into it. This is why why the true selves attempted to reject that aspect of themselves they stepped up their game even further and went beyond emotional attention seeking and into physical attacks.

This is all somewhat undone, I suppose, by the revelation that Namatame's shadow version was simply playing to his audience, so I suppose I will have to re-evaluate my thinking of it. Admittedly, I haven't really analyzed P4 with anything even approaching intellectual rigor because it never really demanded it from me. That's something about P3, it challenged me on essentially every level a game can, and I always sort of had a vague going-through-the-motions feeling with P4.
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Postby OMGBEES » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:23 pm

Eolh wrote:I actually have not. I stopped after the "good" ending, and just haven't really felt the need to go back and get the "true" ending for whatever reason. Part of it is because I find the actual mechanics of reaching it to be so obtuse as to be off putting.


I totally, totally agree with that. Both the good ending and the true ending are such a pain in the ass to get through. I think that was a really significant botch on their part, particularly given how much story is given by the true ending. It totally changes the game, in my opinion.

Yeah I don't really get that. I think the whole media thing provides and interesting backdrop (going inside the TV, the shadow versions "playing to the cheap seats", etc), but I didn't really get anything particularly insightful from the usage of that motif.

I honestly haven't read a lot of the interviews with the developers or the translators, however I guess I've never placed much stock in authorial intent. My feelings on the Shadow versions of the characters was that they were over the top mostly because they wanted to be confronted by their "true selves" and were simply attempting to goad the real versions into it. This is why why the true selves attempted to reject that aspect of themselves they stepped up their game even further and went beyond emotional attention seeking and into physical attacks.


Well, it seems to me that the shadow versions existing at all as part of the commentary. That's kind of the role of the media in a commercial society - it's there to show you that you've failed. So much of television is aimed at selling us things that it all ends up laser-targeting our insecurities. Everyone on TV is so much happier and more glamorous than we could ever be. Even the honest stuff, like news, is bogged down in the same sort of mess. News needs to sell, so it needs to be sensational. Our news becomes a tale of human failings and misery, plastered over with sensationalism. Look at the kind of stuff that's appearing on television during the game - The big scandal with Namatame and the Enka singer, Kanji being in a bike gang (which is absolutely not true), the assholes hounding Yukiko for a sensationalist story. I have to kind of wonder if that wasn't part of the message - everyone who ends up thrown into the TV ends up doing so not just after being on TV, but after being on sensationalist news coverage. The shadows are all supposed to be free-floating human anxieties and whatnot; it seems like the combined negativity induced in both the subject and the audience by these news coverages might be what takes it a notch or two farther and creates a super-shadow capable of being tamed into a persona. It seems like this could be an extension of the original "rumors become truth" mechanics in 1 and 2.

By the way, I wonder if there's a commentary in that, too. Sort of, the media is somewhere between a collective unconscious and a dark mirror for our society. All of our anxieties get transferred into the television, to become monsters. That seems like an accurate summation of the way media works.

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Postby OMGBEES » Thu Jan 29, 2009 10:01 pm

I hit Wikipedia to find out more about Izanami, Izanagi, and Yomi to see if I can figure out the Izanami portion of this. Didn't really help much, but I did figure out that Yomotsu-Shikome are foul women of the underworld who hounded Izanagi in his flight. Yomotsu-Shikome is of course a Persona that you can get in both 3 and 4.

As far as I can figure, the only real connection is the vow of Izanami to kill 1,000 people a day, and Izanagi's counter-vow to give life to 1,500. Your main character is Izanagi, and is opposing Izanami's thanatos.

Interesting note: The Izanami/Izanagi story is apparently also central to the original Megami Tensei, published for the NES by Namco.

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Postby Tobliz » Fri Jan 30, 2009 6:05 am

Oh, yeah, those two are pretty big in SMT lore. Not in every game, but they're big players in general. Forneus, too.

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Postby OMGBEES » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:05 am

Yeah, I've seen Forneus a lot, which is so odd. I thought he was one of the demons in the Lesser Keys? I guess it goes along with some of the general themes of SMT.


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