LOST IN THE FOG: Wed, 4/20

“Ooh! Maybe he’s playing hide-and seek in the fog! Ready or not, here I come!” – Yukiko

Anybody who’s ever done anything remotely difficult on a deadline knows the feeling — that creeping sense of dread in the back part of your skull, a voice repeating, softly, “you should be working on the thing, you have no excuse to not be working on the thing, and you will not feel better until the thing is done.” This is the eternal struggle of the procrastinator, its reach long and its effect very persuasive.

4/20 could have easily been a day Yu spent in class, getting stoned on his lunch break in the bathroom with Funky Student. But sometimes that unfortunate voice is made manifest, and so it was, by none other than Best Partner Yosuke. He danced around it too, like a real jerk. “Oh, I just wanted to talk about the Midnight Channel some more. Wanted to touch base. No real reason.” Fuck you, Yosuke.

Guilt has a funny way of catching up to a person, and on 4/20 it seemed as if Yu just couldn’t take it anymore. Like a tumor spreading across his brain, Yukiko’s cries for help took priority. Tonight would not be another spicy tofu night. He would not visit the shrine after dark. Funky Student would have to wait.

Tonight, he was going into the TV, and he was gonna take his friends with him.

Impulse isn’t the only thing that drives Yu, though. He’s a logic-minded individual. With Chie as a fresh new face in their adventuring party, he stops by Daidara Metalworks to pick up some fancy new shoes. Why a blacksmith would make and sell shoes is beyond me. Unless they’re metal shoes? But I really, really don’t think they’re metal shoes.

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New sneaks in tow, Yu calls an official Investigation Team meeting at their Special Headquarters — the Junes food court. After briefly sizing up the situation (Yukiko, TV world, castle, fog, etc.), they all held hands and jumped.

I’ve mentioned how easy it is to lose sight of surface-level delights in this critical analysis/improvisational narrative thing I’m working on, so here’s a step back: Persona 4 is a damned good dungeon crawler. It’s less repetitive than Persona 3 and less inscrutably difficult than a mainline Shin Megami Tensei game. It’s remarkably easy to settle into a rhythm that’s comforting rather than grating: scan the floors, find the stairs, fight the monsters, swap and collect more Personas.

It all fades slightly into the background, just enough to let the visual design of the dungeons really pop. Persona 3‘s Tartarus was a legendary grind — dozens of floors passing with no real distinction. As a matter of responsive design, tying each dungeon in Persona 4 to a character’s internal arc is a masterstroke. A lot of video game sequels tend to focus on unnecessary bullet points to distinguish themselves. Here’s an example of a developer truly understanding what’s special about their series and refining it as the years pass.

So, anyways. Yu, Chie, and Yosuke went into Yukiko’s castle. They made it to the fourth floor before collapsing, after downing a handful of peach seeds and nabbing a couple new Personas for Yu’s private collection. All told, it was a good day, and I think it made Yu feel good too. I have to admit that I’m itching to get back to a part of Persona 4‘s narrative that I can really chew on for this series, but I can’t claim a stroll through your friend’s demon-infested mind palace doesn’t make for a good breather once in a while.

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