3 Reviews liked by quantumegg

Interesting concept, but that's all the game really is. Ludo without the Narrative. Musics excellent though, and there's some cool character moments.

A walking simulator with an uninteresting story about grief with questionable writing and voice acting. Fire watch teases supernatural horror elements but doesn’t actually have any is just a game where you move forward and some guy whines about how sad he is.

It's been over a week since I finished this game. I have a lot of thoughts, most of them negative, and I didn't really know how to put them all together coherently. So instead I'm using a format that I've always disliked: a list of positives and negatives. TLDR this game is super cancellable, Persona 5 does 95% of what this game does substantially better, and with how much I disliked the majority of this I'm scared to play Persona 3 and might just watch the movies instead.
I love Kanji; easily one of my favorite characters in a video game that I've seen in years
I didn't like Dojima and Nanako at first, but they both really came around for me
I like the Investigation team collectively, and I think they're a more consistent group of friends than the Phantom Thieves are
Naoto in particular is a well handled character; she's the most important party member to the plot and has several interactions with the main cast long before joining the investigation team, so she doesn't feel like a shallow final party member
The style is pretty good. The TV aesthetic and the yellow color scheme, the menus, the use of horizontal & vertical lines and the use of depth of field lines (idk how to describe this sorry).
The core Persona gameplay loop is just as solid and addicting as Persona 5. The "just one more" mentality is strong with this one.
Even though I'm not a fan of the ost as a whole, there are some undeniable bangers, (Pursuing My True Self, Signs of Love, Specialist, Heaven, Backside of the TV, I'll Face Myself, and Heartbeat, Heartbreak)
Goddamn, do Persona games know how to make incredibly emotional endings
P4 handles a lot of things very sloppily
- None of the side characters are introduced in the plot, making it cumbersome and unintuitive to unlock the majority of the social links
- Both dungeons and social links with party members are locked behind dialogue with NPCs, which is one of the worst parts about the game and is both confusing and pace-breaking
- There are so few things to do in the social sim half of the game that at night and especially when it rains, pretty much the only worthwhile thing you can do is power-level your social stats by shoving meat and rice bowls down your throat
- The randomly generated dungeons and lack of complexity in the battle system make the rpg half of the game uninteresting and only fun by making it as easy possible and steamrolling everything
- The game doesn't really care about the plot until the sixth dungeon, leading to a long time where it feels like there's no momentum in the story
- The villain is a lame twist villain who doesn't give off even the most remote inkling that they're evil until the reveal and then their personality completely changes, and they straight up tell the main characters that they have no motivation for all the murders they commit.
- Some social links seem to retcon themselves by the end in a way that doesn't fully realize the theme of facing yourself, and many characters suffer from a difference in how the game portrays them at the end of their social link and how they interact in the main story/special events.
But there are three enormous problems that made me not enjoy my time with this
The homophobic and perverted tone and "comedy"
- Yes, this game comes out of 2000s Japan and is filled with cringey, dated anime tropes that come at the expense of women and the LGBTQ+ community. Every character, even the gay one, act like talking about sexuality is some unforgivable taboo. It's blatantly and unapologetically homophobic, transphobic, fatphobic, and misogynistic. That being said, the culture around homosexuality and gender roles in Japan is very different than it is in the west, so there’s definitely commentary and intention that gets lost in translation, and it’s possible that this direction was intentional in a way that makes more sense and/or tells a more important message in Japanese culture. However, I still think the portrayal in this game is ultimately antagonistic and needs to be called out, especially since Persona 5 isn't like this and it's good that the series seems to be moving away from it (although I would love to hear a different take on this topic from someone more knowledgable about it than me).
- There's also a section of the game where the high school that the protagonists attend put on a beauty pageant, cross-dressing contest, and a swim-suit competition where the participants (both students and a teacher) are judged by the collective student body. It's so distasteful and this tone persistent throughout the game.
A cast of extremely unlikable and shallow characters
- Yosuke, despite being one of the more complex characters, is one of the main catalysts of this game's ridiculously perverted and homophobic tone; Chie is more childish and obnoxious than Nanako, a literal six year old; Yukiko and Rise are very archetypal and often fail to offer more than a couple running gags as character quirks; Naoto is well written into the story but is just kinda there as far as personality goes, so she ends up feeling inoffensive at best but still ends up as a victim of the game's transphobia and the game hardly does an appropriate job of respectfully addressing her queerness.
- Now for the most part, these characters are tolerable because their worst character traits are not at the forefront at all times. If there's one thing that the game does right, it's making the Investigation team a believable and healthy group of friends, and I found the team enjoyable as an entity that was more than the sum of its parts.
- None of this applies to Teddie, who is an abomination to humanity. In a game filled with one dimensional characters, Teddie takes the cake for being easily the most despicable and least empathetic.
- Kanji is also an exception, but for the opposite reason. Kanji is miraculously an incredibly layered and likable character both in his social link and in the main plot, the only character aside from Dojima who has complex and well developed character growth in their social link, and ultimately feels like he was written for a completely different game and shoved into Persona 4. The contrast between the quality of the writing for Kanji and everyone else is insane.
An exceptionally mishandled theme that tells a straight up bad message
- Conceptually, the idea that everyone has a dark side that they don't show and that they don't acknowledge to themselves, but that undeniably exists and needs to be faced in order to grow as a person is a great theme. Many great works of art tackle this subject, and video games are no stranger to darker versions of ourselves. Celeste is a masterpiece in part because it handles this theme so well.
- Persona 4's take on this theme is handled poorly and I would argue is an unhealthy message. I have two main reasons for this argument. First, we don't know these characters for long enough to make the shadows seem believable; in fact, they seem completely out of character for nearly all of them. Secondly, the game has absolutely zero subtlety when portraying these shadows. They’re portrayed as being the hypothetical worst version of each character. It's not just out of character, it's comical how they portray these characters' "evil sides."
- The ultimate message with the party members accepting their shadows is that we should accept that these comical portrayals of our worst personality traits and inner thoughts manifested are our "true selves," and that's a bad message; it allows no room for inherent goodness in people and says that we shouldn't believe anyone has any. It's also a bad way for these characters to think about self-image and self-actualization.
- This problem is at its worst with Kanji’s shadow. Again, I’m not knowledgable about how this portrayal would be perceived in Japanese culture at the time of its initial release or now, and by extension I can’t begin to guess precisely what the intention was, but Kanji’s shadow is just the manifestation of his queerness, and putting that on the same pedestal as the portrayals of Yosuke, Chie, and Namatame’s shadow isn’t good. This is a really big point. Personally I'm straight and cisgender, and again have no insight into Japanese cultural understanding of LGBTQ related topics, so if anyone reading this identifies as LGBTQ and interprets this differently please let me know, I'd love to hear another take on this if someone has one.
- But to top all this off, the game retcons itself with Namatame's shadow by saying that the shadows we see are just what our subconscious mind wants to see in these people. All of a sudden it completely shifts how we read into the shadows, the game's approach to writing them, and the presuppositions behind the cast.

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