After the slow burn of last week’s introduction to Persona I felt like I was ready for some serious dungeon crawling. Thanks to Yukiko being thrown into the TV world the ominous Yukiko Castle beckoned for me.
For some silly reason I thought this first real excursion into battle would be a gentle and forgiving experience. Like I said, silly. It turned out that I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. My armour and weapons were still the original equipment and a brutal first few levels of the castle sent me running back to town. After upgrading and feeling thoroughly ashamed that I’d forgotten that this was an RPG, the real battle commenced and the quest to rescue Yukiko was back on.
I was surprised to see quite a lot of variety in the monsters. Some looking very bizarre and reminiscent of a Rolling Stones album cover. Others were more typical of JRPG monsters although the aggressive babies were a disturbing enemy I wasn’t expecting to deal with.
If I’m honest I thought this opening dungeon was pretty generic and dull. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular but the environment was a little too plain compared to what I thought might be inside Yukiko’s mind. But once I encountered her shadow side none of that mattered. The fantastoic way the shadow side of each of the companions is shown was something I really enjoyed. It’s probably a lot to do with my own shamanic interests, but the process of facing the darker side of one’s nature and being at peace with it really showed the mature side of this game to me.
After rescuing her the next few days I spent interacting with my friends and joining the school clubs. Although the combat side of Persona is pure JRPG fodder, I still can’t get over how different this game is to anything I’ve played before. Putting such an emphasis on Social interactions in any other game would seem like a franchise suicide act. But here it’s an integral part of the whole experience and so far I haven’t been bored in the slightest.
Having friends in GTA 4 became a millstone round the game’s neck. There was something detached about those characters and they became completely uninteresting almost from the start. But in Persona 4 all the people I come across to build social links with seem far more real. From the mousey music student to the arrogant basketball jock; their lives and stories are what make the non-combat part of Persona so fascinating to me.
But before I get too involved with playing social games I better start the grind train. Even though it excels at characterisation, Persona 4 is still a JRPG. And JRPG means grinding.