Dedicated fans of us here at Level Clear may have noticed we’ve been a little quiet lately.
The podcast has been on hiatus while we’ve prepared for ‘Season 2’, technical issues have plagued the streaming shenanigans, and even Bonus Level’s been out for a couple of weeks, which is entirely my fault.
Why? Well, honestly I’ve not had much to write about because I’ve just not been playing that much. With Souls 3 a mere two weeks from launch and my copy of Diva X apparently crawling its way here from the Far East, I’ve spent more time anticipating new releases than I have playing existing ones.
Recently though, salvation manifested itself as an endearing troupe of TV-travelling teenagers; and I found myself totally immersed in the world of Persona 4.
In spite of numerous attempts at the 2009 original and a further 30-odd hours sunk into 2013’s Golden, I’ve never actually finished Persona 4. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy what I’d played, far from it in fact. But interruptions and long breaks between play sessions meant that I’d restarted the adventure just enough times to put me off starting again.
So when the itch to return to Inaba crept up on me the other day, the game’s anime adaptation seemed like the perfect way to go. The idea of being able to enjoy the narrative across 26 20-minute long episodes, without having to commit any time to actual gameplay, had a definite appeal.
Sure, it felt a little like cheating, but at least I had a chance at actually finishing the story this time.
It’s impossible not to fall in love the P4 universe and it’s genuinely difficult to pin down any one particular highlight. Between the vibrant art style, peculiar detective/fantasy narrative and stellar OST, Persona 4: The Animation makes for a brilliant adaptation. For me, it’s the characters that hold the greatest appeal. Each one contests with some very ‘real’ personal issues like sexuality and self-worth, before ultimately accepting themselves and emerging all the better for it. But the serious stuff is balanced out with a typically Japanese sense of humour and a strong emphasis on the importance of friendship.
I don’t want to be so clichéd as to call it heartwarming… but it’s totally heartwarming.
Immediately after finishing the show, I was online ordering the rhythm-action spin-off, Persona 4: Dancing all night. The system itself isn’t quite as tight as Diva, and the difficulty curve is upsettingly steep. But for the sake of more time with the cast, it was an unquestionable purchase; and once it’s finished, I will be going back to Golden again. Plus, the conveniently timed release of Insert Coin’s Persona 4 range saw me picking up (and now proudly sporting) a Yasogami High varsity jacket; and I’m dropping some pretty unsubtle hints to friends and family for a Junes shirt too.
My point is, following up on that fleeting itch to return to the world inside the TV, has turned out to be one of the best games-centric-decisions I’ve made all year. Few IPs have ever arrested me with such intensity, but perhaps more importantly, it’s got me playing things again.
All credit to Atlus for restoring a bit of my faith in the medium. If you’re feeling bored or uninspired with the games on offer right now, go back to something you never quite got round to finishing and give it another crack. You might just find yourself with a whole new obsession.
‘Cos Naoto’s great… of course.