I figured I should probably update my blog more often, so I’ll give a brief review and comparison of a couple of video games I’ve recently played: Persona 4 (for PlayStation 2) and Persona 5 (for PlayStation 4).
Persona 5, the most recent of the two I just finished playing, seemed like a long game, but then again, so did Persona 4. It’s hard to tell which one I like better, but I think Persona 4 still has a special place in my heart because that was the first Persona game I had ever played. Let me talk a bit about what I liked and disliked about each game . . .
SETTING: P4 takes place in a rural setting, a small island called Inaba. I recall enjoying the quieter, slower atmosphere of that one. I feel that the foggy rural setting enhanced the sense of “mystery.” In P5, everything is louder, brighter, bigger, and more “exciting.” It takes place in the big city of Tokyo and you can go to famous places such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. I think the game designers did a great job at depicting the setting in a very realistic way, so I’m not complaining, but I still kind of miss the more mysterious, subdued, “empty” atmosphere of Inaba.
CHARACTERS: A few characters I missed from P4 when I played P5 are: Naoto, a detective struggling with identity and society’s gender roles; Chie, the tomboy martial-arts fanatic; the tough-looking Kanji who fears exposing his feminine interests even though those are the things that bring him joy; and Teddie, the teddy bear who turns himself human. I also like some of the non-party Social Links, such as the uncle, Dojima, and the cute little cousin, Nanako. Of course, I do like some of the characters in P5, as well. My favorite two characters in P5 were Futaba, an eccentric hacker who has long hidden herself from society, and Yusuke, whose passions in life are art and enjoying good food (he’s a literal “starving artist”). I also liked the cat, Morgana; and the intelligent, badass woman, Makoto. Some of the non-party Confidants (social links) I found interesting were Chihaya the fortune teller and Takemi (a rogue doctor who dresses in punk-Goth fashion). The player’s character in P5 (Akira) has more personality and is more expressive than the player’s character in P4 (Yu), which is fun (He even talks on occasion!). At some points in the story, however, Akira turns out to be a crappy friend to some of the characters (Spoiler: When Ryuji is kidnapped by a couple of men in the Red-Light District of Shinjuku, Akira doesn’t care. He just walks away as if nothing occurred, Ryuji doesn’t tell what happened, and the player has no ability to ask him. I really hated that part, not just for Akira’s reaction, but also how the only obviously gay men in the game were portrayed as predators preying on high school boys. Ick!).
GAMEPLAY: One of the features I loved about P5, is that you can choose what skills your Personas inherit. In P4, this was left to random chance, which was a real pain in the butt. I liked the feature where you could hide and wait to ambush an enemy, even if that enemy was quite far away. It made ambushing enemies far easier than it was in P4 — where you had to rush up right behind an enemy as its back was turned and hope it didn’t see you before you strike.
MUSIC: After having listened to the P4 OST again, I have to say I like the music of P5 a lot better. P4’s music is good, and there are a few gems I still enjoy listening to, but P5’s music definitely contains more memorable and energetic songs than P4 does.
PLOT & THEMES: Every Persona game has a main theme. The theme of P5 is about rebellion against corrupt authorities, while P4 was about seeking the truth. How well these themes are expressed throughout the game is sometimes questionable. I especially noticed this in P5. For example, right after defeating an adult bully and sexual predator and going on about how wrong it was for this man to have exploited female students sexually, your character and the other male characters in your team seem to soon forget that lesson and try to convince a reluctant female member of the team to strip for some stranger even though clearly she doesn’t want to. This contradicts the message that was just previously driven into our heads, and it’s not the only time when such moral hypocrisy by otherwise the characters, the game itself, or both, occurs.
Also, for a game about rebellion, you sure don’t get many choices to oppose what people (especially in your team) want you to do and a lot of your choices don’t even matter because they don’t influence the plot and outcome of the game in the least. In fact, most of the time what you say to other characters doesn’t even influence the conversation — everyone will say the same thing, no matter what you say. There are maybe one or two BIG choices that you have to make that influence how the game ends, but that’s about it.
Persona 5 and Persona 4 both have their flaws and their strengths, and the more I think about what I like and dislike about them, the harder it is for me to decide which one I like best. A lot of the gameplay in P5 is less frustrating and more fun than in P4 — with the exception of some of the gimmicks in certain dungeons/”Palaces” (I’m looking at you, overly repetitive mouse maze!). In P4, I liked a lot of the characters, palace designs, and how the plot more closely followed the theme. I also thought the murderer in P4 was more shocking and far creepier than the overly obvious “Traitor” in P5 — not wanting to spoil anything, but if you’ve played both of the games, you’ll probably understand the two characters I’m talking about.
So, that’s my review and comparison of Persona 4 and Persona 5. This is the first time I’ve ever done a video game review, so I didn’t analyze the games as thoroughly as someone else might have, but hopefully it was still an enjoyable read and perhaps got some people interested in playing the games. I like media that is both fun and makes me think, and so the Persona games are great for that. The Persona games offer a unique and rich experience filled with mystery, mythology from real-world cultures and history, philosophy, obscure trivia, and LOTS of symbolism (it’s EVERYWHERE!). Go check them out!