My experience with Persona 4 (2008)

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At least once a year during the summer, my employer/client’s family goes on vacation. They usually don’t give much of a notice, and so once again I found myself with a free week. I thought that I would use this time to finally finish my post about my trip to Korea, but I ended up getting distracted by this game called Persona 4 instead…

The thing is, I had gotten recommendations to play P4 many times in the past, but I always declined. Even Chris told me that I would love it, as the game revolves around forming relationships, but I seem to have a tendency to be disinterested when others tell me to try something. I don’t really know why. Maybe things just aren’t as appealing or special unless I come into them on my own (exceptions always exist though).

Anyways, the more ‘reasonable’ reasons why I didn’t try P4 was because of its character design and inaccessibility. I mean, I actually couldn’t play it since it wasn’t available on the PC, and this was my go to reason/excuse. But out of all the things, my boredom while visiting my parents’ house in Nanaimo motivated me consider it again, and upon probing further, I found out that near perfect PS2 emulation had been a thing for a while… *eyebrow dance*

But soon, I ran into another problem–Persona 4 was dubbed. For me, it’s the audio that really brings a character to life, and as I’ve explained before, dubs just don’t convey the same idea of emotions because of the English language itself. But it seemed that I had no choice as I couldn’t read Japanese.

Well, thanks to Google once again, I found out about the existence of an “undub” version of P4. But then again, the English voice acting wasn’t bad, and many other pro-sub people were in agreement, some of whom were even favoring the dub. I wasn’t sure which version to play until I saw a comment saying that they hated the original Japanese voice acting because of a character named Rise, only for me to find out that–to my surprise–her seiyuu was Kugimia Rie! I fondly remembered Louise from Zero no Tsukaima and was super stoked to be able to hear her voice in the game. And then what really solidified my choice for the undub version was that one of the main characters was voiced by Horie Yui. It was a no brainer (I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on my blog but she is my favourite seiyuu).

So… I spent the last two days playing it, and wow, I really went in on this game. For both days, I was up around noon, and I would play the game until about 4am! Except for an hour or two spent on getting food and going to the bathroom, I seriously played nonstop. And I only ‘went to bed’ (as I had been playing the game on my bed) because I was at the point of absolute exhaustion. This binging pattern was kind of reminiscent of me doing drugs…

But I have to say, I’ve never binged this hard on before–or rather, I physically could never. Where did my stamina come from? Are my stretching habits finally paying off? I was both concerned and impressed about what I had just pulled off. I mean, the last time I did something like this was when I played the Fate/stay night VNs last September, but I remember not being able to push past 12 hours a day–not that that’s anything to be proud of. What I have to say though is that, sinking my mind into something to this degree, the experience can go far beyond feeling immersed in the game to feeling some kind of psychosis.

For example, the first time I played Minecraft back in my first year, I think I played for about 8 hours straight. And afterwards, I felt this haunting loneliness for some reason. It was incredibly disorienting to realize the difference between reality and that world where all I did–and could do–was craft stuff. This prolonged involvement inside a limited world caused my mind to become depressed (like, literally physically) and out of touch with reality, resulting in anxiety.

That used to be the case, anyways. It’s actually a weird balance because, after a day of binging, my head actually becomes ridiculously clear–if I can finish the game before the onset of psychosis. There’s a real sense of achievement and letting go of things in the real world that results in some real mental health boosts. As for a game this size… well, I found myself knowing better to stop, and being able to stop, which is why I took the day off to write about it as well as to do some exercise. My body would most definitely have gotten sick if I kept this up.

So I guess it’s indicative of my better overall mental health, which is great. I mean it’s weird; for better or for worse, I’m unable to immerse myself into the game like before. I’m aware that I’m playing a game, but this doesn’t take away from the enjoyment. I often think about its connection to reality like how many man hours it must have went into creating this, or the community that forms around the game. And, as a spiritual health indicator, I found myself naturally checking in with God every once in a while during the game, instead of, say, coming out of a game how ever many hours later and realizing, ‘oh right, God exists in my world’. I mean I was always relieved when I realized it though.

Review?

I have lots of (positive) things to say about P4. I don’t know if I’m in any position/authority to talk about games, but I do try to play at least one or two titles a year. And I do know that I prefer indie games that have the adjectives RPG, visual novel, side-scrolling, rogue-like, pixel-graphics, adventure, survival, open world, and things like that.

Anyways, right off the bat, Persona 4 is pretty much the perfect game for me. First of all, it’s just a really well made RPG. It’s an engaging adventure/mystery story, and I really like that it’s presented in a visual novel format that occasionally switches into anime. I also like that its 3D overworld sprites look pretty much like anime. The 2D character design wasn’t the most appealing for me, but… that’s okay.

One of my favourite games is the Dragon Quest Monsters series. Not many people know about it in the West, but it’s similar to Pokemon in that you acquire monsters to battle other monsters to repeat the process. In my opinion, DQM’s monster breeding system makes it so much more interesting than Pokemon, and well, P4’s monster fusion system is even better than that.

Although I initially felt overwhelmed by the game’s strategy and mechanisms, it turned out to be way less complicated than I thought, and it was definitely worth getting familiar with. P4’s world is open world enough for me, and I could see why Chris said that I would love it. It’s pretty much a study on character and personality, as it shows characters growing up with different struggles and them overcoming their own selves. It’s that thing I like about watching anime and this game is quite intentional about it.

So uh… I guess that’s it for this post. I think I should maybe mention that I usually play with cheats/trainers. Like a little 2-4x exp and money from battles is all. Oh and, as usual, which I think is affectionately indicative of my relationship with Christ, I tend to see our relationships projected onto other things. So here is today’s Christian animeme that I made:

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PS
I started the day with a shower to help clear my head. And in the shower, ideas about this post just flowed out and I was super stoked on sharing… And then I came out of the shower and after drying my hair and all that, I could feel the enthusiasm dissipating. This has been a really big problem for my post on Korea, and let’s just say that I learned once again the valuable lesson that I can’t just rely on passion and inspiration to finish projects. Sucks though.

PSS

Shout out to Yukiko for dissolving most of the self conflict that I experienced in this post in mere 2 sentences.

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PSSS

According to BuzzFeed (I know, right?), “Korean students study up to 13 hours a day”. I mean, regardless of the exact average, looking at multiple sources including my dad, it’s definitely up there… kind of puts it all into perspective how I have it so good.

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