dkirschner's Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2)
| [February 18, 2014 11:14:23 AM]
| Didn't expect to beat it so fast, but uh, I played the hell out of this in the past week, including an unexpected marathon on Sunday. Sooo yeah. Turns out I got one of the BAD endings. I won't spoil plot points, but I punished the wrong person for the murders and ended the game early. I watched another ~3 hours of dialogue scenes on Youtube to see the real ending. That's some serious extra play time I cut out by my decision! 3 hours of dialogue PLUS an extra dungeon and more random side quests and social links...Probably ended 10 hours early, haha. And there's even ANOTHER ending that you can get after that.
I don't really know how I got the bad ending. I kind of think the bad ones are the default ones. To get the real ending, you had to make these specific dialogue choices, which I obviously did not make. I chose "wrong." Although I made the dialogue decisions on purpose according to what I really thought, I can't help but feel a little...cheated? Like, how was I supposed to know? Maybe it would be better if my ending wasn't called the BAD ending. Why is it bad? It's an ending. Anyway, if you get one of the bad endings, do go on Youtube and watch the real ending. It was pretty awesome and had some scathing social commentary on modern life, consumption, ideas and images, religion, TV and other entertainment media...very pomo.
A couple things I decided I didn't like toward the end that I have to mention are a lot of the side quests. 90% of them are fetch quests. They feel mostly like busy work. You can also go back through all the dungeons a second time to fight special bosses (who aren't very difficult) and get a special weapon for each. This sort of makes it more worth it to do some of the side quests in the dungeons, but all of it felt like busy work, yet I was compelled to do it to some extent. In such a long game, I guess I sort of resent that I spent however much longer doing busy work side quests that are ridiculously simple and force you to rely largely on chance for specific enemy spawns and item drops.
One thing that made revisiting old dungeons way more monotonous was the Arcana Chance stuff. So when going back to old dungeons, they are super easy, so you go through lots of quick battles. You don't want any of the arcana cards that drop because they are way low level, but the game still keeps doing the arcana cards, which last like as long as these short battles. Then when I choose the "no card" card, because I don't want a card, it so often would give me "Another Chance!" or do the "Arcana Chance!" thing, which made me shuffle cards AGAIN. Massive waste of time in those low level dungeons. And even in the high level ones, I quit wanting to take arcana chances. I wish I could have just turned that off.
Anyway, this game was pretty incredible. I loved Persona 3 and 4 is even better. I'm sure I've enunciated most of the reasons in other entries. I just think how different from the norm the Persona games are and it makes me hopeful that developers are being so creative. I mean this game is a mix between a JRPG and a social sim game. Weird, right? It just does such a great job of making you care about characters, of crafting excellent and detailed stories.
So. Persona 5?
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| [February 12, 2014 07:34:43 AM]
| I was reading a book the other day, called, in fact, How to Read a Book, and in it the authors suggest tips for reading various types of books. For fiction, they suggest reading in long chunks of time so that you can get sufficiently absorbed in the book. I wholeheartedly believe this is the best way to play (story-rich) video games as well. You develop such a more coherent sense of what is happening if you play longer gaming sessions than if you play in fits and starts. I mean, for about 3 weeks, I put like 10 hours into Persona 4. I remembered basically what was going on each time, but each time the details were fuzzy. I would forget which personas I had equipped, forget the dates that I could work on social links with particular NPCs, forget the enemies I was fighting and their respective weaknesses (which is VERY important to success!). Playing for an hour here and there over a few weeks just made each hour like a refresher to get back to where I was in my mind. It's sort of like working for me. It takes me a while to get into it, and once I'm into it, I want to stay there for a long time.
Anyway, this weekend, my girlfriend was out of town and I decided to spend my time in Persona 4. I played as much of the game this weekend as I had played for over a month. How do I feel about that? I like the game way more because my experience feels more coherent. For the first time in nearly a month, I haven't forgotten important details. I am able to catch my girlfriend up on the whole story and tell her who characters are and what the side stories are. I am able to remember enemy weaknesses, who has what personas, which social links and personal traits I need to work on. Playing long sessions allows me to PLAY instead of just CATCH UP.
So what's been going on in the game? The team has grown and prevented more murders, going into the TV world, locating people and defeating their shadow selves, forcing them to accept their shadows as a part of themselves. I don't feel the team is that much closer to solving the mystery and catching the killer because each kidnapping throws off old theories. So, the first theory, that it was local women, was debunked. The second theory, that the victims were all related somehow to the first murder, was debunked. The team's third theory that everyone kidnapped first gained some notoriety from appearing on TV, being interviewed or whatever, has been proven false now. Then my personal theory that it was all people who had to do with the local businesses in town doesn't seem to hold water anymore. So what's the connection between the victims? What's the motive? Who could be doing this? Luckily they might be moving toward some answers soon. A detective they have been sort of communicating with has gotten himself kidnapped on purpose. Something interesting will come of this!
What else have I been doing in the game? Leveling up like crazy. I've had some kickass personas with some kickass skills. I'm getting into the strong damage skills now around level 44. I've maxed out 3 social links and successfully completed a significant other one. In Persona 3 I screwed up the dating element because I moved too quickly with too many girls, and they all got jealous and mad at me. This time though, I picked one and just quit talking to the rest for a while. Now that the social link for Yukiko is maxed out and we're dating, I don't think she can move backwards and get pissed off at me for talking to other girls. We'll see. Should be funny if it happens though. I think I have two more social links left to find. I'm missing Tower and Fortune at least. I keep thinking one will be the detective, Adachi, and the other will be the secretary from the beginning of the game, the guy who cheated with the news reporter and got her murdered and kicked off the whole story. I see both of them around town sometimes but they always just give me snippets of dialogue with no follow-up.
One reason I like this series so much are for the little narratives and the character development. I still remember a handful of the social link narratives from Persona 3, and that was like 5 years ago. There are a bunch of interesting ones here too. The one that is intriguing me the most right now is with this old woman who you meet if you take the part-time job at the hospital. She's mourning the death of her husband but feels guilty. Why? I don't know yet. But I want to know what happened. She told me all about their meeting and dating and marriage, and said I look like him, but she blames herself...hmm.
Another standout is the Nanako / Dojima intertwined narrative. Nanako is your cousin and Dojima is your uncle, her father. You currently live with them. Dojima is a detective working on the murder cases. He is really busy with work and really not a great father, doesn't spend hardly any time with or thinking about Nanako. Nanako, consequently, is a lonely little girl. She's sweet and sad and loves for you to hang out with her, really looks up to you, always calling you "big bro." Her half of the story is about being torn up over why her dad spends all his time away from her. Is he her "real" father if he doesn't spend time with her? Does he even like her? Dojima's half of the story is about being torn between work and Nanako. He always chooses work, but has recently, through your insistence and advocating for Nanako, begun to spend more time with Nanako. His wife/Nanako's mom died in a hit-and-run car accident, so their story is also about coming to terms with their new family arrangement after she has died. It's just really believable, emotional and touching, as a lot of these stories are.
Anyway, that's all for now. I'm going to start the detective's TV world area next. More later!
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| [January 13, 2014 09:30:27 AM]
| Hour 3: Wow, that was a long introduction. Not as bad as Final Fantasy XIII (not by a long shot), but man am I glad to be controlling my character for the first time.
I'm really excited to be playing Persona 4. Persona 3 was the game I was playing when I moved to Singapore 4.5 years ago. Funny how I measure time by what games I was playing. My girlfriend started it with me back then and we made the best accidental character name. Persona always asks you to input your character's Last Name, First Name, but we didn't read the instructions and assumed it was just Name. So my girlfriend typed in Dickslammer. I don't know who or what a dickslammer is, but the game read the input and produced my character name, Mer Dickslam. When we leveled up for the first time, it said "Mer Dickslam felt a surge of power inside!" and we laughed for a long time.
Now that I'm back in the US and my girlfriend and I are living together, I felt it was appropriate to play Persona 4. I left the country with 3 and came back with 4. I named my own character this time, after my girlfriend's sort of pet name for me, which is also a funny name, Drangus Kerber. Drangus sounds like a mix between dingus and something Tim & Eric would say, so it makes me laugh every time. And Kerber I think she got from mixing my last name with the "Ermahgerd" meme (http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ermahgerd). Anyway, I especially like when the other characters refer to me as Drangus-san or use some other honorific with the name.
Personal stories aside, I'm really enjoying the game. It's quite similar to 3. You split your time between school, hanging out with friends, and fighting in some alternate dimension. You move through a calendar year and play each day separated into Early Morning, Morning, Lunch, After School and Evening. In this case, the alternate dimension is a world inside the TV. Drangus moved from the big city to live with his uncle and cousin in Inaba, a small town in the countryside. The day after he moves, there is a brutal murder of a TV newswoman who was having an affair with a politician. She is found hanging dead from a TV antenna. The girl who found the body goes missing soon after.
Around school, a rumor spreads that if you look into the TV at midnight on a rainy night, you see the "Midnight Channel" and you'll see your soul mate in the screen. Drangus and his friends try it and see the missing girl, who is also a student at their school. The girl is found dead the next morning hanging from a telephone pole. Drangus and his friends find this strange, and through a series of events, realize that they can go inside the TV.
So begins a series of rescues as they see people on the midnight channel, and go find them in the TV world, and try to solve the mystery of how people are getting in the TV, who is killing them and why. There are a bunch of subplots and it's more complicated than what I've written here of course.
Most every system is the same as Persona 3. Combat, using personas, social links, etc. etc. The big addition in 4 is weather. You can only view the midnight channel on rainy nights. That is when you will see the next person who will be abducted. Then you have until the fog comes to save that person. The fog comes after a long period of rain. So you have to watch weather forecasts to stay prepared and determine how long you have to rescue the person. If you fail to rescue them before the fog comes, they die and it's game over. The weather factors into other systems and player decisions as well. For example, if you join the soccer team, they won't practice when it's raining. You get more out of studying when it's raining.
Another addition is part-time jobs. You have various personality traits (knowledge, diligence, expression, courage, understanding...1 more) that you need to get certain jobs, and that certain jobs will increase. You sign up for jobs and can go to work when you have time. You'll often get boosts in some personality trait and some cash. So I've taken a baby-sitting job that pays well and increases my understanding, and I can take the bus to work on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I've also taken an envelope folding job that pays hardly anything but increases my diligence because it's boring work. I can do that any night in my room.
At this point in the game (15 hours in or so) I have rescued one person from the TV, and she joined my party. I've gone through all the story bits and am primed to go into the TV world again to rescue the next person, who is a punk whose family owns a textile shop in the town's shopping district. All the victims are related somehow (I think it has to do with the fact that they're all involved in local businesses, and there's a big department store come to town putting them all out). I also just got this fox companion who will heal my party and restore SP (magic) in the TV world. Previously, I had to leave the TV world to heal. It will be great if I can stay in the TV world, because once you leave the TV world, then it becomes the next day. So if you don't leave, you don't waste time having to go back there multiple times, and you can spend the time instead working on improving social links or personality traits.
My main goal right now is to figure out strategies for maximizing increasing social links and personality traits. Each social link represents a certain arcana (Strength, Justice, Priestess, Magician, whatever...all the types in the SMT universe in every SMT game). If you have a persona of the arcana matching that social link, then hanging out with that person will boost your closeness faster. This is awesome with party members in this game because as your social links with them level up, they gain abilities in battle. So far Yosuke (social link level 3) can take a mortal blow for me and can occasionally counter. Chie (level 2) can take a mortal blow. Yukiko (no social link yet!) can't do anything. And then increasing personality traits is good for all kinds of things. Having certain traits at certain levels unlocks quests, unlocks conversations and the ability to form social links, unlocks part-time jobs, and more. For example, I studied a lot before exams to try and increase my knowledge. Consequently, I did really well on the school exams, which made me more popular. Each level in diligence makes me able to catch one more fish while fishing (you can trade fish to a vendor for items) before I get tired and have to go home. Anyway, maximizing efficiency in these areas will make Drangus Kerber a better character.
Aaaand that's that. I suppose I'll update again if something crazy happens. I expect the game to take me like 80 hours, so unless something crazy does happen, this log will be silent for a while!
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dkirschner's Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2)
Current Status: Finished playing
GameLog started on: Sunday 5 January, 2014
GameLog closed on: Monday 17 February, 2014