Monday, 25 May 2009

The Persona Diaries - Part three > Social links and combat walls

You know what I said last week about grinding? Yeah it never happened. Not because I found that it wasn’t needed - later on I found that it most certainly was - but because the game suddenly threw some unexpected depth at me.

What I thought last week about the characters was barely touching the surface. After another four hours of just playing normal school life I’ve become so involved with my social links that I could happily forgo the combat side completely. It demonstrates the power of these beautifully crafted characters that I genuinely enjoy spending game time with them.

Not long after rescuing Yukiko I had the choice of socialising with Chie and leaving Nanako, my little cousin at home, or I could take her with us. Usually little girls in JRPG’s are schooled to be as irritating and obnoxious as possible. But Nanako is perhaps the most giving of all the characters in Persona 4 so far, being the cleaner and cook for her (and my) household. It’s not the biggest choice I’ll face in the game or the hardest, so taking her with me was immediately what I did.

But just this simple act and the positive effect it can have on her is incredibly rewarding. It deepened the social link between us, which has a practical use when creating persona’s, but it also provoked sympathy for her. Breathing a bit of life into a lonely characters world is always rewarding and being referred to big Bro thereafter always gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

The associations with the Tarot are also starting to get a bit clearer as well. Each new social link has its own specific Major Arcana card and there are a few similarities between their meaning and the person or group involved. It won’t be clear (at least not to me) until most of the links are formed but its proving a fascinating development. I’m not sure how commonplace Tarot cards are in Japanese culture but I hope the developers really did their homework with this and make it uniquely relevant.

But I couldn’t play social games forever and the next victim was soon whisked away into the TV world. At this point I realised that I probably should’ve been grinding, earning money for new equipment and levelling up. I dove straight into the rescue mission and was promptly spanked by the lowest enemies. So badly spanked that I went back to the first dungeon to remember how to win a battle.

This is the first part of Persona 4 that stopped me dead. I really hate it when overpowered enemies (or my underpowered party) get in the way of the story - it’s a testament to Persona’s over arching story that I’d forgotten about the combat. It’s a poor reminder to me that I’m really bad at levelling up in RPG’s.

Hitting my first wall in a game after nine hours is pretty good going though. With Persona’s friendly dungeon crawling mechanics I know I’ll get there eventually. Given my love of the Persona mechanic I imagine I’ll spend the next four hours creating and merging persona’s until the PS2 explodes.

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