Unfinished business, what a joke! If my backlog were made of wood it could easily be the literal ton’s worth of dead pine. Well not dead since I do plan on going back and finishing the vast majority of what I’ve started. Yakuza 0, Prey, System Shock 2, Just Cause 3, Final Fantasy V, Halcyon 6, Ace Combat 7...It’s not just gaming either. There are TV shows that I started and never really got back into. I only just started season 4 of My Hero Academia for example. I feel compelled to give Haruhi season 1 another try because I stopped watching around episode 5 and didn’t even know about Endless Eight until earlier this month. I also remember being really into Food Wars and Silver Spoons but I don’t remember if I finished them or if new episodes were added.
So what I did this month was, I stuck to a single game and a single anime and it just so happened that it happened to be the same thing, Persona 4 Golden. I never owned a PSVita, and when I owned a PS2 it was long after it was relevant and I wouldn’t have known to look for the earlier version of this game anyway. Luckily, I’m an old man now who’s played Persona 5 and had it change my life. When Persona 4 Golden launched on Steam, out of nowhere, I clenched my teeth and waited for the very first time it went on sale before I dove in and started playing through my copy.
(Literally everyone in this image needs a hug)
Narukami Yu has just arrived in the small town of Inaba, a transfer studio from “the big city” who’s going to spend a year with his uncle Ryotaro and cousin Nanako, the Dojimas. Things seem mostly normal at first, except for Yu feeling a little car sick on the way to his new home for the next year, but things don’t get really odd until his first day of school. A body is found close to the school, and it’s that of a reporter who’s been in the news recently. A couple days later, another body is found and Yu finds that he can reach through the screens of televisions. What follows is a harrowing journey into the TV world as Yu and his classmates attempt to rescue the people who appear on The Midnight Channel, a TV program that only comes on at midnight on rainy nights.
Each rescue mission takes place roughly a month to complete before the person who appeared on the Midnight Channel is lost forever. In between each of these journeys into the TV world though, is a month’s worth of studying, reading, hanging out with friends, taking on part time jobs, and engaging in afterschool activities. I’m assured that it’s possible to read all of the books, max out all of the social links, and basically finish everything in one playthrough (except for a few NG+ exclusive things), but I haven’t figured that out quite yet.
The social links play out like mini-episodes of an anime and they nicely flesh out the side characters who populate Inaba. My main motivation to run through some of them started out as, “I want to be able to fuse Beelzebub” or whichever other high ranking Persona, but that eventually changed to me caring about the S-link characters in general. It was also cool how some of the S-links rewarded me by making my party more powerful, or gave them extra abilities. Then there’s that one S-link that unlocks an entire bonus dungeon and extra good things that could happen during the ending and epilogue.
(I COULD use you...or I could use my 99x5 Izanagi with Wind Null...so...)
Then there’s the TV world, a designated dungeon area where all of the fighting happens. I would say this is the low point of Persona 4. The creatures here get palette swapped really early on, unique bosses are few and far between, the layout of each dungeon is procedurally generated but they all have a very basic layout to them. What makes each dungeon different is the set dressing, the dungeon music (not the battle or boss themes), and maybe a gimmick or two on A floor of A dungeon. The hidden Aeon dungeon stands out because of how it debuffs your party, but otherwise the dungeons and combat in the first part of the game is virtually identical to the dungeons and combat in the late game, except for the numbers involved and skills you may or may not have unlocked. Damage sponge bosses are also an annoyance, but it was possible for me to unlock incredibly powerful late-game abilities by the third dungeon so it evened out somewhat.
There are some games that I play specifically because the story got me through it. Games that have gameplay, but which I strongly preferred the plot, but since I was definitely feeling a sense that I was getting stronger Persona 4 Golden was a satisfying game for me to play even in the face of spongy bosses. The plot, the social links, and the multiple endings, drew me in effectively as well, so it’s no surprise that I spent nearly 90 hours on my first playthrough. Persona 4 Golden is orders of magnitude longer than most of the other games I’ve played through this year, while also being much longer than the few anime series I’ve watched in general. I was surprised when I got through Retsuko season 3 in a day for example. Then there are games like Doom and Bioshock which I played a lot of, but still put less than 20 hours into both before I moved on. Once I realized that all of the dungeons had very similar layouts, and once I realized just how many enemies were palette swaps, I could have easily dropped out. That didn’t happen though: I blitzed through Persona 4 Golden like a madman, and even started a new game+. I guess...damn, that makes this unfinished, doesn’t it? Whatever, I’m counting this as being mostly finished business.