Persona 4: A Taste of the Opening

By Spencer . September 19, 2008 . 12:11pm

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I got to play an early English build of Persona 4 and three hours passed without entering a single dungeon. The introduction to Persona 4 is long, make sure to save your game in between days long, but I didn’t mind. The story hooked me in. Before I start discussing the beginning of Persona 4 please be warned that this post will contain details from the first few hours of the game. I’m not going to ruin the ending or anything of that nature, but If you want to go into Persona 4 knowing nothing about the story you might want to avoid reading this.

 

Persona 4 begins inside the Velvet Limo. Igor greets you while you enter your name. An animated cutscene explains the protagonist is leaving his school and moving to a new town. His uncle Ryoutaro and his responsible overlydaughter Nanako pick him up from the train station. Ryotaro is a detective in the rural town of Inaba. Nanako looks like she’s in elementary school, but she can fend for herself. In the morning she cooks eggs for you and at night she tucks herself in. Nanako’s favorite thing to do is watch TV, but she has no interest in the love triangle on the nightly news. The commercial for Junes, a modern shopping complex, catches her attention. Nanako sings the Junes jingle every time the commercial airs. By the end of the introduction you’ll know it by heart. Life in Inaba appears to be peaceful. This should be a relaxing break from busy city for the protagonist while his parents work overseas, but we know this isn’t going to be the case.

 

The main character meets his homeroom teacher on the first day of school and he isn’t anything like the warm Ms. Toriumi. The homeroom teacher in Persona 4 greets the protagonist by belittling him. You can respond back by insulting him to increase your stats or not. Like the other Persona games you get to pick your character’s responses. Either way Chie invites you to sit next to her and consoles you for getting stuck with a rotten homeroom teacher. The two teachers I’ve seen so far seem to have different personalities than the instructors in Persona 3. You have a comically mean homeroom teacher and a female history teacher who likes to wear extravagant headwear. When you first meet her she’s wearing a Pharaoh’s hat.

 

Chie, a martial arts buff, Yukiko, a shy and socially detached girl that manages her parent’s famous hotel, and Yousuke, the source of comic relief are the first three classmates you meet. Yousuke is immediately the most likeable, but at this moment the protagonist isn’t friends with him. The main character coldly watches Chie kick Yousuke in the family jewels for damaging one of her martial arts DVDs. An option to help Yousuke or even ask if he’s OK doesn’t pop up. You automatically leave school with the two girls. Yukiko has a mysterious vibe. When a creepy stalker tries to ask her on a date she is oblivious to what’s going on. Her problem seems deeper than simply being shy. Yukiko has some inner, possibly outer, demons you’re going to have to confront since she’s a primary character.

 

On your stroll home you come across a murder scene. Ryotaro is leading the grisly investigation. A rookie runs off screen to throw up, but the three students are rather calm. Haunting music plays in the background to set up the mood and after a bit of dialogue all of the characters head straight home. That night the news informs everyone the murder is related to the love triangle from the news last night, but who did this?

 

After the protagonist lays down in his bed to rest he awakens in a foggy corridor chasing a shadowy figure. In the dream the shadowy figure persuades you to search for the truth.

 

The next morning Yousuke and the protagonist become chums. Yousuke crashes his bike into a trash can for the second day in a row. Being a stand up guy or maybe because the girls aren’t around you decide to help him out. After class Yousuke offers to treat the protagonist to Inaba’s local cuisine. Chie demands Yousuke to pay her back for the damaged movie and forcibly tags along. The three characters toast the protagonist’s arrival by holding soda cups in the air and chat about an ominous television channel. Chie explains if you watch the Midnight Channel late at night you can see who your crush is. All three characters agree to watch the Midnight Channel that night. When the protagonist turns on the TV that night he sees a girl and has his first encounter getting sucked into a TV.

 

Chie and Yousuke don’t believe the protagonist’s wild story about partially phasing into the TV. Who would? They think he was just tired and fell asleep. At the Junes electronics section the phenomenon occurs again. Yousuke and Chie are shocked and during their confusion all three characters fall into the TV world is polished, which is polished with a neat noise filter. Underneath the glow of spotlights you can see chalk body outlines on the stage. Dozens of body chalk outlines. The trio frantically search for an exit and a bathroom. A door illuminated by light pouring out of the cracks is up ahead. Everyone enters the room to find a noose hanging from the ceiling. Red blotches are splattered on the floor. Posters – with the faces ripped out – are pasted on the wall. These visual cues and eerie music work well together to create a tense moment for the frightened high school students. They’re not hardened paranormal investigators. What happened here?

 

You don’t wait in the room to find out. The group runs back to their starting point where a rotund bear greets them. Teddie (aka Kuma in the Japanese version) is a resident of this world and warns players that someone has been tossing bodies in here, shadows are on the rise, and they should get out if they want to survive. But, there isn’t any escape route! Teddy has to bring them back to the real world by summoning a tower of 1980′s TV sets and pushing the group inside the TV screens.

 

Back in the real world everyone heads home and the next morning an animated cutscene greets players with a dead body strapped to power lines. This is the girl you and Yousuke saw on the Midnight Channel! The death hits a soft spot for Yousuke since the victim is one of his friends. Determined to solve the connection between the vision on the Midnight Channel and the murder Yousuke requests your help. Chie, Yousuke, and you head to Junes after school with a plan to return inside the TV world. Yousuke ties a rope to himself and hands the other end to Chie. In theory she should be able to pull Yousuke out when he wants to escape. This idea is crushed in seconds when Yousuke realizes the rope got cut during dimensional travel. Good thing you’re armed this time. The main character is equips a golf club. Persona 4 throws out the strike/pierce/slash weapon types found in Persona 3. Weapons are just weapons and seemingly boring real world items can act as weapons. You actually use the golf club in battle. Another character you meet later on smacks shadows with tables.

 

While standing on the stage looking guilty Teddie approaches both of characters. At first Teddie isn’t pleased to see you again. He correlates the increase in bodies is due to your increased visits in the TV world. You have to convince the hollow bear you aren’t responsible. After Yousuke and the protagonist attempt to prove their innocence Teddy hands both of them glasses. These are not used to summon personae. Even with the glasses the main character is the only one who can call out a persona now. You’re escorted to the first fight against floating shadows with huge tongues. The main character mutters the words “persona” and the fight begins. His persona, and all of the persona, are called out by crushing tarot cards. A few blasts of lightning finish the shadows off which allows Yousuke, the protagonist, and an impressed Teddie press forward.

 

In the next area you can hear the thoughts, the troubled thoughts of people living in the real world. Small business owners are upset at Junes. The mall run by Yousuke’s parents is threatening their livelihood. Suddenly, the deceased girl’s voice echoes in the shop and she has a different tone towards Yousuke. When she was alive she was friendly, but now she detests Yousuke. Things are about to get more deranged…

 

Out of the corner another Yousuke appears. He’s glowing purple and notably upset about the move to a rural town. While Yousuke claims to have come to terms with the transition from the city the shadow insists he is bored and boredom is the main reason Yousuke is seeking the killer. The shadow rages out of control and you fight Shadow Yousuke. The giant crab-like creature is your first boss and you don’t have any help. Shadow Yousuke can also hit you with wind spells, which just happen to be your weakness. You can cover up your vulnerability and avoid getting knocked down by selecting guard before Shadow Yousuke uses a wind spell. Shadow Yousuke is weak against lightning so this fight is pretty balanced even though you’re alone.

 

When the fight with Shadow Yousuke ends, Yousuke realizes he has to come to terms with his dissident feelings. These negative feelings are a part of him and through acceptance Yousuke earns his persona. The persona power is neatly woven into the story unlike Persona 3 where at the beginning of the game the group of teens seemingly got their persona powers out of thin air.

 

My hands on with Persona 4 ended here. I didn’t reach a dungeon and barely scratched the surface of combat, but I dug the story. Persona 4 gripped me more than any other RPG I’ve played this year. Part of it is the murder mystery setting. Yeah, Sigma Harmonics has this too, but Persona 4 does a better job of creating suspense. Atlus also invests an inordinate amount of time setting up the world and introducing characters. The result is Persona 4 feels more fleshed out and accessible even though the characters are in rural Japan. And you’re going to get to know these characters very well. Each ally on your team has their own side story and Social Link to master. You’re encouraged to grow closer to your party members since they gain combat abilities when you build up their Social Link. Yousuke learns an ability to take a blow for the main character when you start a relationship with him.

 

Wow, if you read this much you must really be interested in Persona 4. You’re probably a fan of the Persona series. When I stopped by to try Persona 4 out Atlus gave me another yellow Persona 4 t-shirt and instead of keeping it I’m going to pass it out to another fellow Persona fan. Post a comment in this thread with the reason you’re planning to buy or not buy Persona 4 when it comes out this winter. I’ll pick a winner (US / Canada only) next Monday (Sept. 22) at random to receive the shirt.

 

Please note a winner has been chosen for this contest.

Images courtesy of Atlus.


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  • Bluejuan85

    Man this is going to be awesome.

    One of the reasons why I’m picking up Persona 4 is because the SMT series are the best M rated RPGs I have ever played. It all started when I kept an eye out for SMT: Nocturne when the game came out and I purchased it I was determined to get any games with the Shin Megami Tensei name on it. The series got really popular in North America when Persona 3 came out. Atlus used to be in the darkness but with Persona 3 it became a well-known, well-liked company because they listen to what the fans want.

  • James H.

    Great impressions. I was glad you went about the opening section in great details.

    I played Persona 3 and Persona 3: FES and thoroughly enjoyed them both so it was a no-brainer for me to pick up Persona 4, especially considering Atlus’ fantastic pre-order bonus.

    I have high expectations that P4 will do everything better than P3, except for Yukari – I don’t think anyone in P4 can match her character.

  • jeffx

    I was wondering what happened with that shirt contest!

    My reason is simple: It’s an Atlus game. Atlus are by far the best publisher out there and it’s like all of their games were custom-made for me. At this point, Etrian Odyssey II is my Game of the Year, and only Persona 4 can top it. They listen to their fans and give them what they want: hardcore RPGs. It also helps (IMHO) that the Persona franchise has made significant improvement since the first outing, which was extremely rough around the edges (not to mention the translation is legendarily atrocious). I’m definitely proud to support Atlus games by purchasing all of their games; though I really wish they’d open their own webstore so my money could go directly into their pockets.

  • Tristan N.

    After playing hours and hours into Persona 4 in Japanese, now I finally know what I was doing in that LONG introduction. First battle scene and boss? Awesome.

    For sure, I’m getting Persona 4. After getting into the MegaTen series with Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne, I’m hooked. I’ve played Persona 2, Persona 3, SMT:N, and the Digital Devil saga games, and I definitely look forward to playing Persona 4 in English.

  • Spencer

    @jeffx – Actually, the other shirt from Anime Expo was already given out. I was just lucky that Atlus gave me another shirt when I went to play P4.

  • jeffx

    @Spencer: Damn! I thought I was a hardcore Siliconera reader… I only remember you giving one clue and I never read about the shirt being awarded. They better make more of these shirts available.

  • Mazzic

    After beating my first Shin Megami Tensei gama, Persona 3, I hunted down every other MegaTen game I could find in English. I’ll be getting Persona 4 for all the same reasons I got the other ones: great story, interesting characters, great gameplay. My only complaint is silent protagonists have always irritated me.

  • T-Twistin

    I’ve been planning on buying this for a while, despite the fact that I’ve played the Japanese version to the bone(two playthroughs, full compendium). I just feel a need to own all things related to the Persona series(while the main smt series is fine, I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for the Persona series.), and have felt that way ever since I fell in love with my JP copy of Persona 1 many many moons ago. While I do wish the series would step back a bit and remember previous Persona games, I do enjoy the new steps they are taking. Hopefully the next Persona game will be a giant mesh of new and old(I bet the next summoning system uses demon cell phones.).

  • http://neondeathparade.net R

    I became interested in P4 after I learned it corrected the biggest mistake of P3–allies not being fully controllable. (That was actually THE biggest reason that I did not buy the game.)

    …However, I’m not sure I have the time or patience for 3+ hour cutscenes and hours of grinding (masked as “micromanaging your protagonist’s social life”) anymore!

    So yeah, it kinda pains me to say this, because I’m curious about how the story plays out, the game’s aesthetics are really pleasing and OMG EVERYONE WEARS GLASSES <3…but I’m not buying it day one, or even month one. I’ll be keeping a close eye on what the internet has to say about it, though. Maybe it’ll end up in my backlog someday…

  • prettyprophet

    I know Megaten ‘fans’ who hate P3 for making Megaten ‘popular’. I use both terms loosely, since the fans I know are indie-hipsters and hate anything that turns remotely commercial, while ‘popular’ will never be a term tied to any Megaten. At least not here in the Wild West.

    Anyways, I’m going to piss my friends off even further by supporting the hell out of P4 on all merchandising levels. Oh, and I guess there’s the fact that I’m a megafan of Megaten, but since when did THAT matter?

  • Kay

    I was a very picky gamer. I still am though, but Atlus made me see things in a different way with their line up of games. I was the type of person who easily gets sucked up by companies that I become eternally faithful to. I love turn base RPGs and never touched something outside of the Square Enix and Pokémon boundaries. I was scared of buying something I didn’t like.

    But I heard a lot about Persona 3, a lot of positive feedback for it, and I was very interested in the game. I bought Persona 3 FES and immediately fell in love with the story, the characters, the battle system. I started buying more Atlus games as a result and am starting to really love dungeon games. (Baroquewas what convinced me.) When I heard about Persona 4, I was ecstatic. I’m really liking the character design/artwork/art style and the music; they’re what sold me to the game. I’ve pre-ordered it and am very looking forward to receiving my copy (and hopefully the extra swag that come with it).

  • bvowles

    I am insanely excited for Persona 4. In my opinion, each game is better than the last, which is rare for a series so long running. I love everything atlus.

    I can’t understand all the Megaten fans who got upset about the Nocturne reprint, or the success of P3. I hope everyone plays this game.

    Also, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t read anything after the first paragraph. I need to go in blind! I’ve already pre-ordered P4, and hope to beat it before my winter semester.

  • blanksyndrome

    Hell yeah, I’m picking Persona 4 up. I’d like to say it’s just because I’m a long-time fan of the Persona series – I am – but it’s mostly because it’s something my best friend (who lives several states away now) and I can do together. Y’know, playing the game and talking about our favorite characters / comparing our relative progress. We did the same thing with Persona 3 and FES.

    Pretty nerdy, I know. We’re “Megaten bruddas,” as he puts it, so the series has become sentimental for us.

  • EvilAkito

    Persona 4 will be a day 1 purchase for sure, but I unfortunately doubt I’ll ever get around to playing through it. I was completely hooked on Persona 3, but never reached the end, and I’m sure the same problem will occur in Persona 4. The SMT games are so damn addictive, but they just take way too much time to complete. On top of that, I don’t really have a ton of free time anymore.

  • Frank

    I will definetly be picking this up come release day! I LOVED P3 and simply cannot wait until this comes out in fact as soon as i finish Wild Arms 5 ( I know i’m a little behind) I won’t be starting anything else until P4 so i can devote all my time to that. I only wish that it came out this week since it’s my b-day on the 22nd…

  • http://www.infinite-bits.com NickyD

    I’ll be picking up Persona 4 as soon as it releases because it’s the closest thing we’ll ever get to a “slice of life” or “school life” anime that we actually play through. That’s what drew me into Persona 3; not the dungeons or battle, but the interactions with other characters and sense of importance every conversation had.

    It was a great relief in days of generic tomfoolery in games and a brave move by Atlus, just as brave as continuing to keep their MegaTen games genuinely challenging/frustrating. So, I’ll support their ingenuity and keep RPGs from becoming stale recycles as long as possible. Or something.

  • moominsean

    yeah i’m picking it up, most defnly…always an interesting series!

    i need to pick up the first again…played it so long ago on ps1.

    so many rpgs, so little time.

  • Graeme Howard

    Persona 3 was pretty good, so it stands to reason that Persona 4 should be pretty good as well. I’m reasonably upset that ATLUS refuses to do away with the Japanese honorifics, but I suppose I’ll take what I can get.

    Persona 4 is definitely safe bet for the holidays. I’m going to buy it because it’s virtually guaranteed to keep me entertained over the holidays.

  • Jennifer

    the SMT series on a whole has interested, the Persona series has had a better run with me for its more contemporary setting. I was already planing the buy P4 before Atlus sweetened the deal, and I still plan on buying it :)

  • nika

    reason to buy this game? the plot! from what you’ve written down the plot looks like it’s going to become really interesting. a murder mystery instead of the destruction of the world isn’t something that you’ll find often ^^

  • IdrizzleD

    Persona 3 is the best RPG I have ever had the fortune of playing, and the SMT series as a whole has impressed me immensely. Needless to say Persona 4 is probably my most anticipated game for this year, even more so than Gears Of War 2. Also, the plot seems much more compelling than P3′s (which i still thought was very good). Lastly the soundtrack is awesome (for P3 and P4).

  • JP

    I accidently stumbled across the SMT series. A friend was telling me about a game earlier in the day, I think he was talking about Eternal Sonata, and when I went home from work I wanted to go look it up. I couldn’t remember the name then someone mentioned the name Persona, so I looked up Persona 3 and watched game play. I was instantly hooked, I went to the local GameStop and pre-ordered the game. Needless to say, I loved it. It was the only game I’ve actually played through 4 times. From what I hear, Persona 4 just improves everything that made Persona 3 so great, how could I not pick it up?

  • Ninjaman

    Im going to pick up P4 because it is a sequel to the most unorthadox JRPG. P3 kept me busy for a whole year. The story was great. The charcaters develop , mature, and are actually interesting (esecially Junpei). The music is the best part. I jam to the music on my ipod all the time. P4 will be more of the same, but better!

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