Last week I finally managed to complete Persona 4 Golden after almost 90 hours of playtime. Not consecutive playtime, I hasten to add; I think that would’ve resulted in me ending up with my face splattered to the Vita’s wondrous HD screen, slumped in a foul pile of my own faecal matter. It’s probably taken around two months of ‘real-time’ to make my way through the storyline. As such, this must rank up there with some of the very few games I’ve wasted this much of my life on (other notable examples include Final Fantasy VII, Skyrim and Frontier: Elite II). Whether or not this has been an effective use of my time on Earth is a debate for another day, but nevertheless it was a thoroughly enjoyable not-quite-four-days.
But, you know, it really shouldn’t have been. I’d never played a Persona game before, but have invested enough hours in JRPGs to know what I should be expecting, and that’s pretty much exactly what I got. Except… Except… Well, it’s a bit hard to describe, but the game has a certain something about it that draws you in. I’m just not sure what it is. If you judged the individual components of the game on their own merits, there’s nothing particularly staggering that stands out. The story is interesting enough, even if dogged by typical JRPG twists and turns that generally you can see coming about a hundred miles away. I mean, really, did anyone think that Nanako wouldn’t get kidnapped, and didn’t guess almost straightaway that Adachi was the murderer? Ah, maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Columbo.
Gameplay-wise, the world is pretty small with not really all that much to do. The dungeons aren’t procedurally generated, but may as well be for all the interesting features they have; bar a few exceptions, each floor in a dungeon has little in the way of objectives bar getting to the next one, and it’s hard to tell the difference between one and the next. The combat is pretty basic, too. The Persona system itself is interesting and quite deep, but the tactics you have to employ in the battles themselves are simplistic. Hey, it’s an ice-based monster! Best use fire, then.
And yet… there’s something about the way it all clicks together. Maybe it’s the characters, maybe it’s the fact that you get involved so much in their lives over the course of the game’s virtual year. Maybe it’s the charm of the presentation, the gusto with which everything hits you in the face. Whatever it is, the game is immensely fun to play. So, go on, play it. And, do yourself a favour, play the Vita version rather than the PS2 original, as it’s the perfect type of game to play on the move.