The following may contain minor spoilers for those who have never played Persona 4 or intend on playing Persona 4 Golden, but I don't go into detail about major plot points.
I have a confession to make. I don't know anything about Megami Tensei games. That is until 96 hours and 26 minutes ago. Aside from a few, totally forgotten hours of Revelations: Persona on the PlayStation fifteen years ago, I'd never even played one. Not only that, but I have not watched the Endurance Run……*ducks*……I KNOW! How could a moderator of this site have avoided it this long? "Blasphemous" is probably an accurate exclamation to shout at me right now. Please, put your pitchfork down and let me explain.
Like many people (I assume), Final Fantasy VII was the first RPG that I sunk a ton of time into. For several years after that, I fell in love with the genre and played a ton of stuff. Then this thing called EverQuest happened. Being neck deep in EQ for a number of years doesn't allow for investing 100 hours a pop into RPGs. That, combined with some other factors, means that I have a ridiculously long Shamefully Shameful Pile of Shame, which unfortunately needs to be updated. In my warped sense of reality, I still believe I'll get around to playing these games. So, when presented with the idea of watching two dudes play through one of the most acclaimed RPGs of all time, I avoided it like the plague because I wanted to experience it for myself first. Four years later, I finally got around to Persona 4 thanks to the added convenience of playing it on my Vita. Miraculously, I made it without having any of the major plot points spoiled for me.
It took me a dozen hours or so before I got past that "am I doing this right?" phase, but that was to be expected. At one point, I looked at a Social Link guide and just decided I wasn't going to worry about it. Go with the flow and whatnot. The only thing I "cheated" on was making sure I made the right dialogue decisions on 12/3 to get the opportunity to experience the "true" ending. I'd like to thank for his spoiler free guide in helping do that without totally ruining the twists and turns in the story.
I'm not here to review the game, though. Chances are, if you're reading this, you already know how great it is. I guess I'm partially here to say that I get it now. I understand the hype, obsession, and love shown for this game. It's still too raw in my mind to responsibly say it's one of my favorite games of all time, but it's definitely up there. More importantly for now, I also feel that my experience with Persona 4 is somewhat rare considering I came into the "Golden" version of the game knowing virtually nothing about the original. In a way, I feel like it must be similar to Brad's experience with Mass Effect 3. Looking at the excellent breakdown of what's new in Golden on its wiki page, it seems like there's a significant amount of new stuff that I got to experience as if it was always included. Many of the new additions are gameplay mechanics that streamline the experience. Some of the more notable additions are fan service such as the group concert with Rise at Junes. It seamlessly fits into the story, but it's not all that important. But, then there are the additions that I can't imagine playing through the game without. The best example of this is Marie.
I knew ahead of time that Marie was new of course. What I didn't know was how she would be integral to the backbone of the entire game. I feel like an asshole for just assuming she'd just be a somewhat throwaway Social Link character. I don't want to spoil anything for those intending on playing Golden, but Marie is of the utmost importance to the entire mythology under the surface of the game. Her involvement adds a whole extra layer of emotional impact as well as providing (in the true ending) a better understanding of the world of Persona 4 as a whole. I promise that I'm not exaggerating here.
It may sound like a dick thing to say, but I almost feel bad and/or sad for fans of Persona 4 who have not and will not experience the "Golden" version.
To iterate what I said before, I get it now. Consider me on the bandwagon even if it's a few years late. In the end, especially with the additional epilogue that's new to Golden, a sense of sadness equalled, if not outweighed, the sense of joy and accomplishment I had in just finishing a game. After leaving all of your friends behind, the new epilogue brings Yu back to Inaba the following Summer for a visit. In this extra ending scene, everyone looks different. It's at this point that it really hit me that all these friends I'd made were growing up without me. The sense of sadness and nostalgia I felt in this scene was probably amplified by my own life experiences, but it speaks to how good of a job the game did making me care about everyone in it.
Part of me wants to dive back in with New Game+ and see the stuff that I didn't get to see. Hit the Social Links that I skipped and/or paid less attention to and whatnot. But, I don't think I will. Not because I don't want to invest the time again, but because I don't want to taint the experience I had. The benefits earned by the decisions I made in terms of who to spend my time with should also have the consequences of missing out on whatever else there was that I didn't get to see. What I got is what I got. Am I crazy for thinking that way?