It’s a rainy afternoon and I’m done with school for the day. My partner and I are walking home, talking about a terrible story we saw on the news.
Okay, I lied. None of this is actually happening to me. It is, however, happening to Yu Narukami. And so, it might as well be happening to me. Let’s go back a little…
some people have books; I have video games.
By that I mean, a perfect day to some people would be reading a good book. Replace the book with a game, and you’ve figured me out. And to make it even better, games have soundtracks (when I fall in love with a game soundtrack, I fall hard - and Persona 4 has one of the best around). That brings us to the game and topic at hand: New Game + of Persona 4 Golden.
I’m relatively late to Persona, joining the rabid fanbase with P4G. After being wowed by Shin Megami Tensei 4, I sought out every game in the series I could find, and it led me to Persona 4.
For those who don’t know, Persona 4 follows a group of high schoolers in the small town of Inaba who are trying to solve a murder case. They discover and begin entering the television world (“The Midnight Channel,” where the murderer is leaving the victims to be killed by the Shadows within), where they must save people before the next foggy day (when the next victim is killed). They fight Shadows by summoning their personas, which are powerful demon-like creatures. You play as Yu Narukami, a silent protagonist and on the way recruit a very lively cast of characters (my favorites are Yosuke Hanamura, Chie Satonaka and Kanji Tatsumi). In between forays into the television world, Yu interacts with friends and other residents of Inaba cultivating “social links”.
I devoured the game on my first playthrough, but only saw a “good ending” and not the “true” one. But I was very pleased to find that upon completion I could start New Game + with all the nice equipment I had collected from the prior game and more yen than I could spend.
What I loved so much about my first New Game + P4G (and the countless times I’ve replayed it since then) is that the difficulty is knocked down to baby-easy due to having every persona, every piece of equipment and receiving massive exp, I could clear out a dungeon in a single game day, leaving me extra weeks to cultivate my relationships (such as my Yu’s OTP, Yosuke), whose panic about Kanji is there because Yosuke is clearly gay), practice my acting, play basketball with Kou, eat steak bowls with Chie, make stuffed animals with Kanji and help Death get over her husband.
who cares about all that stuff when yu, yosuke, kanji and teddie are having a moment on a heart-shaped bed in a love hotel?
I could go on and on; I’m completely caught up in their personal lives. Yeah, there’s the whole thing about who is killing people and what the hell is the Midnight Channel and, oh yeah, the world is ending, but who cares about all that stuff when Yu, Yosuke, Kanji and Teddie are having a moment on a heart-shaped bed in a love hotel?
I care so deeply for these characters, who are not just battling their own demons, but also learning to see the world from a different angle. Every interaction with them is special and often hilarious and I’m so glad that NG+ allows me to maximize the time I spend with them, until of course, the year comes to an end and I have to get on that train that takes me away from the people I’ve come to deeply love.
Even now, as I sit writing this, I can’t believe how vividly and immediately the game resonates with me. It found it’s way in, and now it holds vital memories for me. It’s done so in a way that I wasn’t sure I could feel as an adult. I’ve been playing video games since I was two (that’s 27 years for the curious) and so many of my fondest memories are tied to games I played as a kid/teen (Majora, Earthbound, FFX). And while I truly adore some games that I’ve discovered as an adult (Skyrim, FE:A), none have the same pull as the games I played as a child. Persona 4 created instant, deep nostalgia and now with New Game +, I can jump back in with all the hard work basically finished. While I am eagerly anticipating Persona 5, I will very be sad to leave Persona 4. I will never tire of the Investigative Team’s beach fiasco or the terrors of cooking. Or those rainy afternoons when Yosuke shared my umbrella with me.
The song “Heartbeat, Heartbreak” plays each time it rains in Inaba (which is most of the time). And that’s exactly how I will feel when I have to close my Persona 4 chapter.