While I missed the original Persona 3 bandwagon, I was more than happy with Persona 4 as my first experience with the franchise. Back during my college days, a friend casually mentioned that I should pick it up–little did he know it would start an obsession that would continue to this day. I’m pushing 30, and I have Persona to thank for plenty of youthful memories, that’s for sure.
Back in 2016, Persona 5 attracted plenty of new fans, and that has continued with the release of Persona 5 Royal last year. Plenty of people I know are now venturing back to the past, experiencing Persona 3 and Persona 4 for the first time, and allowing me to guide them in their own descent into fandom madness.
This isn’t a game you casually enjoy–it’s a game that you obsess over. I rarely meet anyone who ‘kind of’ enjoyed Persona 4. It’s more like…’I’m naming my first born child Teddie’ levels of passion. And that’s for good reason.
Persona games are notorious for hitting a little too close to home, even with their insane storylines.
Characters deal with plenty of real-life issues that the majority of us have battled ourselves. They fight with their own weaknesses and the mistakes they’ve made, with relationship problems and issues of self-confidence and loneliness. By the end of Persona 4, you feel like the characters are your best friends. Turning the game on, even a decade later, makes me feel like I’m going to a class reunion.
If you’re not sure where to start, that’s understandable. There have been plenty of Persona 4 releases over the years. After reading through this article, you’ll be all ready to jump into Inaba, and a mystery that’s all ready for you to solve.
The game follows a collection of high school students in a small town in Japan, as they attempt to solve a murder which has shaken residents to the core. You may be asking why high school students are getting involved with a police matter–well, these kids have some special powers beginning to awaken deep inside of them. They can also venture to another world, an ability which seems to be the only way to catch the true culprit.
The Playable Characters of Persona 4
- Yu Narukami – While most forms of official media name the protagonist Yu, the player can give him any name they like (and believe me, I’ve seen some funny ones.) The protagonist of the game, Yu has just moved to the countryside to live with his uncle and cousin for a year while his parents work abroad. Something about him is unique, however, and he is the first to discover the world beyond the TV and his strange powers.
- Yosuke Hanamura – The signature comic-relief, Yosuke is Yu’s first friend in Inaba. His father manages the Junes Department Store, and he deals with a huge amount of guilt for the many small shops that have gone out of business due to its popularity. He gains his Persona soon after Yu, and his arcana is The Magician.
- Chie Satonaka – Obsessed with martial arts and the typical tomboy, Chie discovers her Persona after Yusuke. For years, she hid her jealousy over her friend Yukiko’s femininity, and also wanted to be the only one in her friend’s life to avoid facing her own loneliness and insecurity. Her Arcana is The Chariot.
- Yukiko Amagi – With long black hair and impeccable manners, Yukiko is the elegant beauty of the group. Her family runs a traditional inn, and Yukiko is expected to be the next heir–the expectation causes her immense stress, and she becomes the next to discover her Persona because of it. Her Arcana is The Priestess.
- Kanji Tatsumi – Every game revolving around high schoolers needs the delinquent. Kanji is seen from the outside as a huge bully and a massive tough-guy, though he’s hiding a massive and more sensitive part of his identity. Behind the scenes, he’s excellent at crafts and sewing, though he’s rather no one knew about that. His Arcana is The Emperor.
- Rise Kujikawa – A popular idol throughout Japan, Rise is tired of constantly being in magazines and on television. Her inner rage stems from how other view her–she is constantly thought of as stupid due to her stage presence. Facing that anger, she gains her Persona, and joins the group as a navigator. Her Arcana is The Lovers.
- Teddie – When the protagonist first falls into the other world, he meets Teddie, a strange creature that looks like a bear stuffed animal. Throughout the game, he gives advice during battle and helps navigate towards those in trouble. His Arcana is The Star, and as it turns out, he may have a more complex past than the player realizes…
- Naoto Shirogane – The last one to join the group, Naoto is a detective who comes to Inaba to assist on the notorious serial-murder case. While originally appearing as male, Naoto is actually female, and this disconnect between her perception of her gender leads to her Persona manifesting. Her Arcana is The Fortune, and while this may not interest you in the least, she’s my favorite character by a long shot.
Persona 4: ‘One of the Greatest Games of All Time?’
Released in Japan and the US in 2008, Persona 4 was immediately met with rave reviews across the board. The director of the title, Katsura Hashino, has said that the game was greatly inspired by classic mystery novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, and that it was made to be more goal-oriented than its predecessor Persona 3.
The country town created for the main setting, Inaba, was truly designed to be a ‘nothing-town,’ allowing developers to focus more heavily on character development and making the player relate more to the main character’s adjustment to his new rural home.
Persona 4 blends typical RPG turn-based combat with more simulation elements. While the player explores dungeons from time to time, a large portion of the game is spent simply living a daily life–going to school, shopping, running errands, cooking, studying, and just doing things a normal high schooler would do.
The most important part of the game is your social links–basically, spending time with your friends. Doing so will increase your power in the other world, and the player has to carefully juggle how to spend their time each day in order to receive the most benefit.
As is to be expected of a Persona title, the music of Persona 4 is pure R&B style perfection. Shoji Meguro was, again, the composer and producer of the music for the game, as he had done with Persona 3 and Persona 5 years later.
The original US release even came with a limited soundtrack, and I think we can all agree, Meguro sold his soul to be able to write music so profound. ‘Never More,’ the theme of the game, even made it to the top of the weekly Oricon charts in Japan, along with the Billboard Japan charts.
Original Playstation 2 copies are quite cheap to buy, for those who want to experience the vanilla game without the bells and whistles. Or, to just get your hands on that sweet soundtrack…
You can also find Persona 4 on the Playstation 3 shop.
An Expanded Version: Persona 4 Golden
Just as Persona 5 achieved with Persona 5 Royal, Persona 4 Golden was released in 2012 for the Playstation Vita. Originally meant to be released on the PSP, this would have meant removing certain features due to technical restrictions. Instead, the release on the Vita allowed developers to add even more features to the game, including new social links and new story elements.
It also adds new character outfits, more voice-acted dialogue, additional Personas to discover and more anime cutscenes throughout the game. Because of the Vita’s networking abilities, players can also call in help from friends during battle.
Basically, a ton of people bought the Playstation Vita just to play Persona 4 Golden. If you somehow own the console but never played it, you better get on it. Copies on Amazon are pricey, but GameStop offers some used copies for a quarter of the price.
Could Persona 4 Become a Fighting Game? Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax
I would have expected Persona 4 to become a dating sim before a fighting game, but here we are. (I would be a failure if I didn’t mention Persona 4: Dancing All Night here, because yes, we got a rhythm game too. If you, for some reason, need to be convinced to play it, here.)
The title spawned two of them for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012 and 2014. Persona 4 Arena was originally released in Japan in arcade form, and was developed by Arc System Works, known for Guilty Gear. Plenty of characters from Persona 3 also appear in Arena.
The story takes place a few months after the original game ends, and sees the group pulled back into the other world to fight in a fighting tournament. (Well, no one said that fighting games needed to have complex stories.) All that matters is that it’s addicting, and it’s an excuse to see your favorite characters again.
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax takes place only one day after the events of Arena, and, yes, it’s another tournament. But it’s worth picking up if Arena tickled your fancy, again, on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.
An Anime Series was Inevitable: Persona 4: The Animation
Given the anime-look of the game’s art and the amount of anime cutscenes throughout, Persona 4: The Animation was the perfect evolution of Persona 4’s hold on the pop-culture scene. Airing between 2011 and 2012, it simply retold the events of the game over its 25-episode run, with voice actors from the game returning to reprise their roles.
The anime series is licensed by Sentai Filmworks in North America, and episodes can currently be purchased on Amazon Prime Video. (Sadly, it used to stream on Crunchyroll and Hulu, but apparently, we can’t have nice things.)
A second anime adaptation based on Persona 4 Golden titled Persona 4: The Golden Animation was released in 2014, and produced by A-1 Pictures, the animation company behind Black Butler and Blue Exorcist. All 12 episodes are, luckily, available to stream on Crunchyroll now.