Back in 2014, whilst listening to Podcast Beyond, then co-host Greg Miller would mention a game that would go on to change my gaming life, that game is Persona 4 Golden for the PlayStation Vita.
A little back story. I’ve been playing games since the mid 90’s and have always been infatuated with them. As a recluse growing up I could lose myself in games on the Mega Drive & PlayStation, but one genre I never played, due to no fault of my own, was Japanese Role Playing Games or JRPG for short. As games where expensive and my father didn’t like “boring” games, Final Fantasy 7 was off the cards. My much more understanding mother got me Pokemon Red though, and what a game it was and still is.
I was hooked from the get go. I enjoyed watching Pokemon growing up, but Pokemon Red grabbed me like no other game before had. I would play it day and night, at school on breaks, in the car on trips, if there was a light I’d be playing. By the time Pokemon Yellow launched, I had completed Pokemon Red around 10 times including catching every Pokemon on Red and trading with a childhood friend who had blue to complete the Pokedex. Yellow grabbed me the same way for the first few playthroughs, but I stopped playing until Pokemon Crystal. As this was the second generation of pokemon, there where more pokemon than ever to catch and train, but it was also the complete edition of gen 2, much like Yellow was the complete edition of Red & Blue before it. Crystal remained my favourite game for the next 10 years. Without really knowing so, I had grew to love JRPG’s with what most would call baby’s first JRPG.
I missed out on Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and other great JRPG’s growing up and it wasn’t until my mid 20’s I would rekindle my love for the JRPG with Persona 4 Golden. Persona is a spin off series of a classic JRPG staple, Shin Megami Tensei, a hardcore JRPG with dungeon crawling and monster taming mechanics not too different from Pokemon. The series started on the Japanese Super Famicom and grew from strength to strength. Revelations: Persona released in 1996 in Japan on the PlayStation led to a series that would grow from strength to strength over the next 20 years culminating with Persona 5. Released in 2016 in Japan and 2017 in the west on the PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 3. Persona 5 reached a much broader audience in the west then any of its predecessors, and is critically and commercially loved by millions of fans, but it isn’t my favourite in the series, that place is reserved, and probably always will be for Persona 4.
Persona 4 is a blend of life Sim, dungeon crawling and monster collecting all wrapped up in an incredible, brightly coloured, emotional roller-coaster. From the get go you meet incredible characters like Yosuke, Chile who is to this day my favourite kick ass girl in video games, Teddie and many more. As the story develops into a murder mystery, the race is always on to free someone from the Midnight Channel as well as living a normal teenage students life and balancing relationships with your friends to get perks and new Personas, to make exploring the Midnight Channel as fun and enjoyable as possible. There is so much to do in this 2008 PlayStatioin 2 classic. Teach homeschool, cook dinner, try to date as many women as possible, delve into the adult issues that face teenagers growing up in Japan and many many more, all while blending in an amazing turn based combat and shadow capturing gameplay. Much like Shenmue on the Dreamcast, Persona 4 is much more than just a dungeon crawler or beat em up, it’s a massive story that will be different for each person depending on the conversation they have, the people they talked to or didn’t. The multiple endings also added to an already diverse story and getting the true ending left the player happy and sad, sad that this 60 to 80 hour adventure with friends would come to an end. Not to worry though as New Game plus would let you keep your money and social skills but would reset all friends social levels for you to explore again.
Persona left such a impact on my life that for my honeymoon my wife and I went to Japan in 2015 for Tokyo Game Show in September. Whilst there we saw Persona 5 and got lots of merch. I was hooked by the turn based gameplay, incredible story and length of JRPG’s so I decided to play some I missed whilst growing up. From 2014 to 2016 I played Final Fantasy 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 15, Persona 3 & 4, Shin Megami Tensei: Lucifer’s Call & Digital Devil Saga & Ni No Kuni. I grew to love the JRPG on a different level. Everything about them I loved, yes some had weaker stories then others or weaker combat but I loved the chilled out battle system and the difficulties that a simple battle system could present. This bring me to Final Fantasy 15, Star Ocean and some other JRPG’s from recent years, they ditched the turn based battle system for a more action oriented combat. I admire them for changing the formula, after all everything can get stale, but for me JRPG combat is turn based strategy at its core,which leads me to the main reason I am writing this article, Dragon Quest.
I anticipated the release of Dragon Quest 11 with baited breath, would I love it? Would I get bored? Would my excitement lead me to disappointment? After 35 hours with Dragon Quest 11 I’m thrilled to report i’m having a blast. The combat is exactly what I had craved for since my last delve into JRPG’s with Persona 5 in 2016. The character design is just so perfect and fits the world and story so well. I may only be half way into the story and then all the additional post game content awaits after that, but i’m excited to keep playing, the same way I was when I first played Pokemon Red 20 years ago.
My full review and thoughs will be up in GGD when i finaly get around to finishing this epic adventure. Thank you for reading and I hope this delve into my gaming life has served as an intrsting little tid bit, and hey maybe try Persona or Drago Quest, you may be like me and end up loving them!