Person 4 Golden, Fini!

Well I finally went and finished Persona 4 Golden. Why’d I go and do a thing like that? I’ve started various Persona games (including this one) at least half a dozen times, but this is the first time I’ve ever completed one, and goodness gracious did I ever enjoy it.

What’s odd is that all the times I’ve bounced off a Persona game it was because of all the ‘social stuff.’ If you’re completely unaware of the series, it takes place in a contemporary setting where you, as a student, have to balance things like school work and part time jobs with hanging out with friends to improve “Social Links.” Then there’s another whole facet of the game where you’re doing dungeon crawling. You are staying with an uncle and your young cousin in a small town for a year. When the year is up, the game ends, so there’s a certain amount of time pressure. Each day is broken up into day and night sections and you have to pick, generally, one activity per section. Do you go home and study in order to get your Knowledge attribute up so you can do well on an upcoming test, or do you go hang out with one of your friends to increase your Social Link?

Higher Social Links let you create more powerful Personas. Personas are like facets of your personality that you can draw on while in the dungeons to use skills. You can collect a lot of Personas and fuse them to make even more Personas. While this is fun I found the UI for doing this to be pretty clumsy; one of my few gripes with the game.

Previous to this time playing, I’ve never given the social stuff a chance and found it boring and that’s why I bounced off the games. This time I stuck around and it didn’t take long for things to completely flip. I started LOVING the social stuff and when I had to go do a dungeon and fight I found it almost annoying. I wanted to get back to hanging out with my friends!

I found the main plot in Persona (basically a murder mystery) quite engaging, with some ‘twists’ that I saw coming a mile away, and others that legit surprised me. Even more endearing was the messaging; there’s a lot about facing and accepting the different facets of one’s personality and it was a real ‘feel good’ experience over all. The characters are all very well written and I grew quite fond of them. I played with the English voices and the actors did a superb job. When the game finally ended I had that melancholy feeling you get when you have to say goodbye to an ensemble cast that has become quite real to you. I’ll miss these Persona kids!

The Tzitzimitl Persona. Basically a medusa only with arms instead of snakes coming out of her head.

I’d guessed that I’d finish at 100 hours and I think it was 107. My main team of characters (you can take 3 of your friends with you into a dungeon) were all in their low 90s (with a cap of 99) and I was playing on Normal difficulty. I did pretty well with the Social Links and maxed 11 or 12 of them. I think there were a few I never even touched, and one (Ai Ebihara) which I wanted to max but ran out of time.

There are a few possible endings you can get and thanks to consulting a guide I got the best one, meaning I fought through every dungeon and beat all the bosses. I’d spent a lot of time in dungeons grinding during mid-game and that really cut the difficulty down for me. The Internet says you should be around level 70 to beat the final boss and I was 20 levels past that so… I was grinding not just for levels but to farm Personas because I had this idea of catching them all, but eventually I gave up on that. (The Persona designs are delightfully weird.)

Anyway, that’s it. It’s an old game and most everyone has played a Persona before so I don’t have any great insight to share. But this will NOT be my last Persona game. I’m a little sad, though, that each game stands alone. I’d like to see Yukiko, Yosuke, Naoto and Nannako one more time.

Shot from an in-game dialog segment showing Rise.

Persona 4 Golden: Hollow Forest after action report

Another goal accomplished in my Persona 4 Golden play-through: the Hollow Forest has been cleared. After all my worry about how hard it was going to be and whether I should even do it, it turned out to be fairly easy. It did take me two evenings but that’s more to do with real life getting in the way of the important business of gaming, rather than any difficulties with the dungeon.

Factors that mitigated the difficulty? Well the big one is, I read a guide first. 🙂 Knowing what to expect helped a lot. And just being high level and in particular having Rise high level and with a maxed Social Link. The big issue, you’ll recall, is that your Spell Points are halved after every battle, which seems like a huge hardship. Turns out it really wasn’t since between Invigorate, Rise’s Vigor Song (which replenishes 10% of the party’s SP after each battle) and the various SP restoring accessories that drop in the Hollow Forest (they give some SP back after each turn), each character will have enough SP for a spell or two each battle. That was more than enough to wipe out the enemies throughout most of Hollow Forest.

When it wasn’t, my party was high level enough to take some hits while Guarding for a couple of rounds to build SP back up. My superstar wound up being Yukiko, who was supposed to be my healer but her Burning Petals skill with Fire Amp was just devastating.

Once Hollow Forest was cleared, time moved quickly. It’s like Lord of the Rings after the ring is destroyed (oops, SPOILER WARNING). There is one more semi-hidden dungeon after Hollow Forest and in fact I initially missed it and hit the ending animation and credits. Had to reload an earlier save to rectify that. I’m now a level or two into the last dungeon. Not sure I’ll get back to Persona before the weekend, but I’m pretty confident I’ll have the game wrapped up by Monday. My last save was at 103 hours or so.

While I’m quite ready to enjoy all the other games I’ve been wanting to play, I’m going to miss these Persona kids. I’ve come to be very fond of them all.

Kanji and Naoto doing their special move in Persona 4

Persona 4 Golden: The Hollow Forest

OK here’s something new. Let’s write a blog post about a part of a game I haven’t actually played yet!

I’ve been really focused on Persona 4 Golden since writing the November recap post. At the time I had about 70 hours into the game and estimated I’d be finished with it at around 100 hours and I hoped I could do that by the end of December. Since then (I actually wrote the post a few days before it published) I’ve been playing P4 whenever I had a free moment (thank you, Xbox Quick Resume) and thanks to a dreary, rainy weekend I’m already at 90 hours. I’ll definitely hit 100 hours well before the end of the month; however I’m no longer confident I will have finished the game by the 100 hour mark!

My next challenge is The Hollow Forest. I won’t spoil any story elements but this is a unique dungeon with some added challenges. (When P4 warned me that my choices would start having large consequences I started glancing at guides since I didn’t want to miss anything; I can’t see myself re-playing a 100+ hour game.) When you enter the Hollow Forest, all your gear is lost and you are given starter gear. While you can find better gear in chests to aid you, it remains to be seen how much better. I have pretty epic gear on most of my characters so losing access to it is going to hurt, and my physical attacks are going to be pretty weak.

But what is more concerning is that after every battle, your mana is reduced by half. This is huge. After just a couple of fights against trash mobs you’ll be basically out of mana and with physical attacks nerfed by losing your good gear, I am just really curious how this is going to go. Once again, there are items you can find that will restore mana that can help but still…after basically one-shotting enemies with powerful magic spells in the previous dungeon, this seems really scary.

I’m only on the 2nd level and look at my mana (bottom bar under character portraits)

A few other bits and bobs: you stumble into the Hollow Forest after a fairly long sequence of story events where there’s no opportunity to save, and once you get in there you can’t really leave. So if you are under-leveled I think you’d have a hard time. You CAN save in there but you can’t go back to earlier dungeons to level up. And you only have 1 (in-game) day to beat the dungeon. If you don’t beat it you won’t get to experience certain parts of the game. I’m not too worried about my levels. I have my party member social links maxxed out and my active party is all in the high 80s (99 is cap). If I need to draw on my second stringers, though, they’re much lower level and could struggle. Hopefully I won’t need them.

Anyway I arrived at this point pretty late in the evening and only did a couple of levels of the dungeon. So far the mobs aren’t too tough but the fights can take a while once your mana is gone which, of course, happens very quickly. I guess the trick is to avoid fights, open chests for better gear, and once you find a boss, warp out of the dungeon, get the fox to replenish your mana, then jump back in and do your best to avoid any fights until you find the boss again. The Invigorate skill which replenishes a bit of mana after every turn is going to be super useful, and if you have Rise leveled up and her Social Link maxed she has skills that will help, too. Thankfully I pushed hard to get her social link to max over the winter.

I initially considered just blowing off this dungeon since I’m kind of eager to move on to other games, but after sleeping on it, I’m kind of excited for this challenge.

Looking forward to seeing how it goes tonight!

I’m REALLY glad I finally made the effort to “get into” a Persona game for the first time. It did take a little while to get its hooks in me but now I am LOVING this game and I’m glad to know there are several others waiting to be played!