Thursday, December 6, 2012

Early Persona 4: The Golden Impressions

I haven't played a lot of Persona 4:  The Golden, but that's mostly because the start of the game, moreso than Persona 3, I believe, is a lot of talking and cutscenes and making sure you go this way and that way.  The actual 'game' part, where you can go around and do whatever you want to do unrestrained, is something that I've finally gotten to a handful of hours in (admittedly some of it is idle time) and it's fresh and new, but familiar all the same.  Familiar even though I have not once played Persona 4 prior to The Golden, despite having bought Persona when it came out.  I believe back then I told myself I would only play it after I beat Persona 3 which I was going to play after I played something else, and well, you all know how that kind of thing goes.  It was only with Persona 3 Portable and my Vita that I was able to fell the JRPG beast that is Persona 3, and it's only fitting that I similarly tackle the new behemoth on the very same platform - especially with the enhancements The Golden has to offer.

Of course, having never -played- Persona 4, said enhancements are often fairly hard to spot and it's only with very careful counsel skimmed from the internet that I have a rough idea of what is new.  Aside from what is very blatantly new, of course, such as the SOS system.  It is blatantly new because, well, even though the PS2 had internet capabilities of a sort, I'm sure Persona 4 didn't make use of them.  I find myself wondering about the SOS system as well - it's neat in concept and theory and I'm willing to say execution as well, but there's still something off about it.  Basically what it is, if you haven't already experienced it or read up on it yourself, is whenever you're in a dungeon, you can hit the SOS button in the upper left corner of the screen.  Doing so sends a broadcast over the network that will, in turn, bring up help requests on the screens of other dungeon dwellers.  Those people can choose to tap the "Send aid" button (which is just there, doesn't pause the game or anything like that) and if they do that before you enter your next battle, you will receive a nominal HP/SP refill before it gets underway.  And I mean nominal like 10 HP, 8 SP total for a few people aiding you.  So don't -rely- on it for your HP and SP needs, but hope that it'll be a nice little bonus to help you out.

Similarly, the function that I believe is just referred to as "Voice" is an ability to get a little tip about where others who are playing the game have gone when faced with the same situation as yourself outside of a dungeon.  So, on April 21st, if you want to have an idea of some things you can do in the evening, you hit the voice button (where the SOS button is in a dungeon) and it'll bring up a mess of bubbles stating different actions.  Some people read a book, some people studied, and others just went straight to bed.  This is particularly helpful for someone who hasn't played the game before since, well, at times I've been informed of things I can do already in the limited experience I've put in the game.  "Oh, someone talked to Marie?  Yeah, I suppose I -can- do that, hadn't even thought of it."  "Someone studied?  Hrm....why?" and then I walked to the library, talked to the girl outside of it who informed me that studying on rainy days meant you could receive a higher bonus from increased concentration.  Seeing as I'd already read the "increase Knowledge gain from studying" book, that was a no-brainer (huuuurrrrr) and three Knowledge bonuses later, that little edging in a direction proved to be a good one.

Newness aside, The Golden feels familiar because it takes a lot from Persona 3 and refines it, not drastically changing a lot of it.  As Persona 3, you spend quite a bit of time -outside- of dungeons and what you do there matters almost as much as what you do in dungeons, if not matters equally so.  Social links are the name of the game, and you'll want to do whatever you can to build them up unless you're more interested in bettering yourself so you can, in turn, get -more- Social Links.  There's no wrong answer here - just whatever works for you since you'll inevitably have to do your heavy lifting on a New Game + unless you want to meticulously follow a guide to a T.  That's never much fun, so it's really not recommended of course.  I do see how experience with Persona 3 has affected my experience with 4 already, however as, even though a lot of 4's improvements saw their way into Persona 3 Portable, there's many more that didn't and I can appreciate those for what they are.  Beyond that, I'm familiar with how the game works, so I don't need to stress out over Social Links and such as I did with 3 - I can simply relax and enjoy the game as it comes.

At the moment, I'm simply interested in actually getting into the meat of the game as I'm still entirely too early on in it.  I've started unlocking some Social Links and exploring them and I have a renewed reason to dungeon crawl again after the initial on, but it's still all introductory.  The time where I find myself overwhelmed with choice still hasn't dawned and that's the point where I'm looking forward to it most, since it'll ensure that I don't have to worry about figuring out something to do, more that I'll simply have to decide what I need to do of everything available.  I want to find out what my protagonist (named Masamune Noboru btw, Last/First) is like after answering enough of the (sometimes silly, as you see above) social link responses and otherwise, and after enough of day-to-day activities.  Not to mention the learning of the finer points of the rest of the cast along the way since I'm assuming that's going to be 4's strength as it was one of 3's.  To that end, I think it's time to hop back into the Castle and slay some more shadows, as money for weapons and armor is not just appearing in my pockets any faster by not doing that.

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