Persona 4: Tales of Immersion

Ah Persona 4.  One of my all-time favorite games.  Its several games in one.  It’s a turn based dungeon crawler RPG with life simulation elements.  On the surface, this may seem unappealing to most.  But god damn is this an amazing experience.  Developed by Atlus, Persona is a spinoff of the Megami Tensei series.  These games were hugely popular in Japan and have since developed a strong cult following in the West.  Persona 4 centers around a teenage boy who has just moved to the rural Japanese town of Inaba.  Your parents are overseas due to unspecified jobs.  What is it with JRPGs and missing parents?  Your Uncle who lives with his 6-year-old daughter has taken you in.  For the next year, you will be going on many misadventures with your new friends.  You will meet many quirky/interesting characters.  Yosuke, Chie, Yukiko, Kanji, Rise, Naoto, and Teddie make up the main cast of the game.  Each has their own interesting backstory.  Along with the main cast, you will interact with many of the residents of Inaba.  Not everything is puppies and sunshine in Inaba.  A series of mysterious murders have occurred.  The bodies have been discovered in such bizarre fashion and the police are at a loss.  This is where our story truly begins.  Your group of friends start uncovering the mystery piece by piece.  It leads the crew to discover another dimension within the TV at the local department store.  The characters discover the power of Persona.  The representations of the character’s personalities.  The protagonist has access to a multitude of Personas.  Every Persona has its own unique powers and abilities.  You can create new, more powerful Personas through fusing them together.  These powers can only be activated in the TV world.  The gang enters the TV to save potential victims from the clutches of the killer.  Exploring bizarre dungeons and destroying monsters.  Seriously, these must be some of the strangest dungeons in any game.  You will be exploring Japanese bath houses, castles, or even a strip club.

Left to right: Teddy, Rise, Yosuke, Naoto, Kanji, Yu, Chie, Yukiko

There is much more to Persona 4 than just exploring said dungeons.  The developers of Persona 4 attempt to create an immersive experience.  Atlus succeeds at accomplishing this goal.  Once Persona 4 grabs your attention, you will not be able to put this game down.  I cannot tell you how many nights have been lost to this game.  Why is the sun suddenly up?  I thought I was only playing for an hour.  You must be asking yourself, “why is this game so immersive?”  What makes this game so special?  Well that’s what I’m here for.  Persona 4 stars a silent, blank slate main protagonist.  You must live your life day by day as Yu Narukami (or whatever you decide to name him).   During his stay in Inaba, he must establish bonds with many other characters.  He does this by participating in activities and just living life as a teenager in buttfuck nowhere.  In this way, Persona 4 immerses the player in the world by using life simulation elements.

As stated earlier, persona 4 follows the daily life of the main protagonist.  He never actually speaks, other than calling out Persona names.  When spoken to, you’re given different options to respond.  Some responses are only available based on personal attributes.  These personal attributes include knowledge, expression, courage, understanding, and diligence.  Attributes can be increased by participating in activities.  These activities include things such as studying, reading, sports, music/theater club, part-time jobs, going out to eat, watching movies, fishing, gardening, and many others.  Studying increased knowledge, sports increase diligence, music/theater clubs increase expression, and reading can increase any attribute depending on the book.  And yes, you must study for exams.  Don’t freak out, it’s not that difficult.  In my most recent playthrough (not finished by the way) I decided to join the basketball club.  It gives you a chance to interact with other characters not involved with the murder case.  The basketball story revolves around your teammate and friend, Kou.  He is struggling with his family and you must somehow bring him back into high spirits.  I also joined the theater club, which centers around Yumi.  A girl with daddy issues.  Those are always the worst kind to date.  Part-time jobs are also recommended.  These give you more money and can increase attributes.

Person 4 Attributes
Attributes chart

Along with these activities are school trips.  The school trips are filled with anime hijinks.  Some of the funniest moments of Persona 4 happen on these trips.  In one trip, the class goes camping in the mountains (to pick up garbage for no pay).  The girls cook for the boys.  Unfortunately, Chie and Yukiko turn everything they cook into science experiments.  Yu and Yosuke have near death experiences eating Mystery Food X.  Another trip was to a school in the city (setting in Persona 3).  Because your teacher is a cheap slut, she books what is probably a love hotel.  Places in Japan where people go to have sex.  The squad goes to a club and get wasted (only “drunk off the atmosphere”, underage drinking can’t be portrayed in Japanese media).  They play the King’s Game, essentially the Japanese equivalent to truth or dare.  It involves guys kissing and Yu getting all the bitches.   These scenes add so much to the story.  It’s a nice change of pace from the serious aspects of the game.  Persona 4 is filled with charming moments, such as these, that connect the player with the characters.

Mystery Food X
Yosuke’s noble sacrifice

Another aspect of Persona 4 that adds to the immersion factor is the Social Links.  Social Links are bonds between the main character and the other characters.  For the investigation team, this influences abilities in battle, such as a character taking a mortal blow for you or healing status effects.  Outside of battle, it influences Persona fusions by granting EXP bonuses and gaining new abilities.  Social links are essential to progress through the game.  The Social Links reveal things about the characters.  Their hopes and dreams, backstories, personality traits all come out in these Social links.   Finding out about the characters gives the player reason to care about what happens to them.  You want to protect them from harm.

Social links are measured in levels (up to level 10).  The level is increased by many events throughout the game.  These events are usually impacted by choosing to hang out with a character.  Question responses and Personas possessed are factored in.  Another part of the Social links is dating several of the female characters.  Yeah, I know its weird Japanese shit, but so what.  I think it’s cute.  Allow the waifu wars to begin!  Fire Emblem’s got nothing on Persona 4.  You can choose from 7 girls to be your girlfriend.  Pick whatever your favorite anime character archetype and date her.  Do you like tomboys, then Chie is for you.  Or do you like the cute pop idol Rise Kujikawa?  She’s mine, you can’t have her!  Maybe you prefer girls who look somewhat boyish, choose Naoto (opps! Spoilers).  Some of you are masochists and like a girl who treats you like a slave.  Ai Ebihara is just the girl for you!  Who wouldn’t want an elegant beauty like Yukiko?  If you like emo girls with attitude, Marie is your dream girl.  Don’t worry if you cannot decide.  Date them all if you wish.  Build up that harem you’ve always dreamed of!  Yu Narukami gets all the bitches.  I must admit, he is one handsome bastard.  Prepare for a very shitty Valentine’s Day if you date multiple girls.  You can only spend the day with one of them. Apparently, girls do not like being stood up on the most romantic day of the year. A potential problem that may occur is when the girls want to do something on Sunday.  They may notice you out with another girl and may lose a Social Link level.  Just hang out with the bros on the weekend.

Yu and Rise
Yu with Rise

Activities, personal attributes, and social links are interconnected and necessary to beat the game.  The activities influence personal attributes, which is sometimes needed to progress certain social links.  An example of this is your dealings with your uncle, Ryotaro Dojima and his daughter, Nanako.  Expression and understanding is most needed to progress these social links.  By the way, Nanako is way too cute.  Her cuteness just melts my heart.  Margret, who is introduced to you when the game starts, needs you to have a high knowledge rating.  And no, you can’t date any of the cougars (unfortunately).  The interconnectedness of these game mechanics hooks you into the world and its lore.

Nanako Dojima
Nanako is disgustingly cute.

Once Persona 4 grabs hold of you, it will not let go.  When it gets you in its clutches, you are done.  Don’t fight it.  Persona 4 is an addiction and you will be strung out 24/7.  It takes you to another world and blends to boundary between game and reality.  This is what immersion in a video game can be.  It becomes part of your very life.  Why couldn’t my high school experience have been like this?  High school suck IRL.  Despite it being the ultimate escapist game, it can be inspiring.  A major component of Persona 4 is facing one’s self.  It inspired me to interact with more people and make lasting bonds.  We may not have special powers but life is our own adventure.  Persona 4 may be somewhat weird to those not familiar with Japanese culture or anime tropes, but this game is full of heart.  I think anyone who loves RPGs will love this game.  The combat is top notch, but where it truly shines is in character interactions and immersing the player in the world.  Persona 4 is truly a tale of immersion.

Previously published on my last site

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