Okay, this is the last one. I promise.
So, Persona 4 again. Let me just once more make myself absolutely clear that I love this game, and if you own a PS2 and enjoy Japanese RPG's then I definitely recommend it. That said, there are two points in the game, one in particular, that tarnish an otherwise stellar game. If you've been following my blog so far, you might remember what that is.
Choice. Now, I don't mind a bit of choice in my games, it can make things much more interesting if done right. In Persona 4, however, it is not done right. See, the game itself is very linear. You progress through the game the same way all the time, and the story develops the way it was planned, no funny business there. Occasionally, you are presented with dialogue options in response to various situations. Whatever you choose does not have much impact on the way the story plays out, but rather just add a little personal flavour to some of the dialogue. Sometimes certain decisions can increase your attributes, or maybe improve your relationship with another character. Little things, but important little things.
This is all well and good until you come to the aforementioned major choice in the game. Now, until that point you haven't really been that hard pressed to choose the correct answer (Other than a few pop quizzes), so the sudden introduction of a major choice that affects the plot in such a serious way is extremely jarring. What makes it even worse is the fact that you not only have to pick the correct choice out of three options, you then have to pick the correct choice out of four, and then the correct one out of three again! If you do all that right, you can continue playing the game and proceed towards the true ending. If you make one mistake here, though, it's over. Time skips ahead a few months and the epilogue plays, followed by the credits roll, each individual name on the staff list spelling out a huge "in your face" right, well, in your face.
But if you make the right choice, you're good. Smooth sailing all the way to the end, right?
There is one more critical point where the correct action has to be carried out. Now, I've kept things relatively spoiler free up until now, but from here on I will mention a few things pertinent to the story, so if you want to experience Persona 4 by yourself first hand, you may want to stop reading now. Anyway:
So after beating the "final" boss in December and celebrating your victory, time skips ahead until March again. At this point, I thought I had screwed up somehow and didn't get the "true" ending. I was certain that the boss I just defeated was not the final one, since it didn't get a very epic introduction and basically just came way out of left field. Scared that I might have to play through the whole game over again, I got on the internet to confirm. And what do you know, I still had a chance! I just had to talk to all the characters I had formed a strong bond with during the course of the adventure, and then choose not to go back home. By doing this, the true cause behind all the mysteries was revealed, and the real final battle could begin.
The problem I have with this is how time skips ahead like this. If you, like me, had gotten the bad ending before, it would only be natural to assume that you messed something up again and had to try again. I can kind of see what they were going for, though, making the player feel that there was still something left and relied on the player's own curiosity to lead them to the truth. The problem is that there was no hint whatsoever to this in the game, other than the aforementioned fake final boss and obvious lack of closure. Since time had already skipped, however, the player would likely believe there was nothing they could do and just give up. If they had just made the choice of returning home or not include some sort of suspicious option, implying more explicitly that something was missing, I would have been perfectly fine with this.
Well, maybe it's just me being completely thick when it comes to solving mysteries on my own, but I think the few choices that made such a huge difference in this otherwise choice-free game were quite poorly designed. When I buy a game I expect to be able to enjoy most if not all of what it has to offer without having to rely on a walkthrough or strategy guide to get me through the decisive points. If these choices had been made more clear, I would have been close to calling Persona 4 a perfect game.
And I still think Persona 3 was better.