Today, with this blog posting, I am officially saying goodbye to my favorite videogame of all time. A game that has been with me on and off in various forms for almost eight years, or a little under a third of my life.
When I first heard about Persona, it was from a friend who told me about this weird JRPG where teenagers shot themselves in the head to summon monsters. I picked up a copy of Persona 3: FES on PS2 mainly because I wanted to see what the hell this game was for myself. Despite the weird premise and some of the otherness that came with the game, I quickly became hooked on its gameplay mechanics, the routine, the Social Links, the music, the style, the characters, and the narrative. Every day I would go to school, come home, sit down in front of my TV, and play through Persona 3 in three hour stretches until the game was finished.
Looking back on this period, it almost feels like I planned everything out this way. By the time I finished Persona 3, its sequel, Persona 4, was finally coming out in the west. I asked my brother to buy me that game for Christmas and I ended up marathoning my way through it over Christmas break. (In fact, was halfway through my New Game+ before Jeff and Vinny even started recording their let's play) A lot of the positives I have to say about Persona 3 can be directly applied to Persona 4, except even moreso. In addition to the strengths Persona 3 had, Persona 4 was more vibrant, it had more colorful, defined, and relatable characters, and it is still the funniest game I have ever played.
Since those three months, Persona turned into one of my favorite franchises, with Persona 4 ranking as my Greatest of All Time game, where it has more or less remained there ever since its initial release. Despite Persona 4 turning eight years old this year, it turns out that 2016 turned into another year jampacked with arguably way too much of this game, primarily with me wrapping up my eighteen month long New Game+ file for Persona 4: Golden around the same time I finally decided to start watching the Persona 4 Endurance Run.
On the Endurance Run
Years ago, I was browsing the internet when I came across a let’s play series for Persona 4. I didn’t watch it--because who would be crazy enough to watch somebody else play through this game to completion--but I did skip to the last video for some reason. The closing moments of that series had two people talking over the New Game+ screen, reflecting on the incredible journey they’ve just been on, amazed that they actually finished this game. It turns out this was my first exposure to Giant Bomb two to three years before I even became aware of the site, the Bombcast, or anything else.
Since I became a Premium member, I have looked through the back catalogue on the site and ended up watching a few older videos: a few random Quick Looks here, a BioForge play through there. I even watched the first three or four videos of the Endurance Run a year or so ago, before I threw my hands and exclaimed, “Man, I don’t have time for this!” I guess this was one of those things where it wasn’t an issue of time, but had more to do with the right opportunity.
This February was a perfect storm of sorts. I was finishing my on again, off again New Game+ file in Persona 4: Golden around the same time I started to upload random, dumb Giant Bomb videos on YouTube. And then somebody on the forums posted how the Persona 4 Endurance Run started seven years ago. And then somebody else started to create “HD remakes” of the Endurance Run. It was a combination of all of these things that got Persona 4 on my mind to the point where I started to think about watching the Endurance Run again, in earnest.
When I finally committed to the task, it took me a solid seven months, but I finally finished it. All I can say is I am sincerely happy that I watched this series. Sure, it took me over half a year on and off to get through all of these videos. Sure, I could have played more Overwatch or I could have finished up DOOM. And yeah, I could have watched a lot more 2016 Giant Bomb content if I didn’t decided to open up this time capsule. To give you an idea, I have not watched any of Brad and Dan playing through Hitman, I have not watched a majority of this year’s Unprofessional Fridays, in addition to not seeing random Quick Looks or Premium Features I would have otherwise watched if I didn’t decide to do this. (And don’t even ask about whether or not I’ve watched the new Shenmue Endurance Run. I’m only human! I can’t tackle two of these simultaneously!!)
But at the same time, if not now, then when, dammit? And if one were to spend 99 hours and 45 minutes watching Giant Bomb videos, they could certainly do worse. It’s a little difficult for me to say whether this is my favorite piece of Giant Bomb content (In all honesty, I don’t think I have one), but this is definitely on my shortlist of some of the best stuff on the site.
In terms of what I thought about Jeff and Vinny playing Persona 4, well, watching this gave me the impression that I definitely would have been one of those guys telling Vinny and Jeff what to do. I probably would have said things like, “Casting Diarama to recover 40 HP is wasteful; conserve your SP”, or “When the Arcana card is spinning around, it just stops randomly; pressing X does nothing”, or “No, actually Tentarafoo is a worthless spell; don’t listen to these fools”, or “You should put the ice evasion item on Yukiko since she will always be weak against Bufu; now she’s always going to get hit”, or “You should always be buying new armor and weapons; it does make a big difference”, and so on. There is an endearing charm to seeing Jeff and Vinny fumble their way through Persona 4, that is until they become surprisingly good at the game, and seeing random accidents and mistakes always brought a smile to my face. That said, I still got that itch whenever I saw some of their poor decisions. I know that makes me somewhat intolerable, so I’ll take this moment and apologize on behalf of my hypothetical self for telling them what to do.
On Making the Best Of Series
So when I decided to watch the Endurance Run, I knew two things going in: 1) I was definitely going to commit myself this time to watching the series from beginning to end; 2) I certainly wasn’t planning on watching this from beginning to end more than once. This series is a hair under 100 hours long, which is so long I could personally replay all of Persona 4 Golden, which is noticeably longer than vanilla P4.
I have mentioned this randomly before, but the main reasons why I made this Best Of series was to condense the Endurance Run into something more manageable; to create something so I didn’t have to watch all 155 videos to relive Jeff and Vinny’s play through. The other main reason, besides seeing and laughing along with this series for myself, was because there was so much about their time with the game I didn’t previously know about. How did they find out who was the killer? How did they find out about the True Ending? How did they react to the more dramatic moments in the game? What other funny stuff happened besides that one time Vinny casted Bufu? That’s why I set out to capture the “highlights” and not necessarily the “funniest” of funniest moments. (Although, I’m pretty confident that most of those ended up in here too.) I wanted to represent as many different aspects of this game and the Endurance Run, so somebody could sit down, watch these videos, and think, “Oh, so this what it is like playing Persona 4”.
Looking back over the series, I am proud of my work and hope that this stands out for future duders. It was great to hear the positive feedback from everyone after I uploaded a video, but I also hope that somebody who hasn’t even heard of Giant Bomb yet will watch this three years from now, or somebody will see this pop up on YouTube and will be inspired finally watch all of the Endurance Run for themselves.
The one thing that has given me pause was just how damn long this series ended up being. Granted, I had to go through 155 videos, but I didn’t anticipate this series would be 18 episodes long. I’ve had conversations with myself that are probably unbelievably boring to everyone else about how long should this episode be or whether or not I should shorten this part up. Without going into all of those details, I still think I did the best job I could, and I think I achieved my original goal with this series...even if this abbreviation is itself pretty damn long.
Before I move on, I would like to give a few quick shoutouts. First, I would like to thank @zombiepie for featuring the Best Of series on the Community Spotlight every single week (in addition to the other dumb stuff I made this year). The Giant Bomb community is a dedicated and interesting group of people and he has done a great job showcasing the work and discussions that happened in the community week after week. Seeing my work promoted along with all of the other awesome stuff is an honor.
I would also like to thank the people who have commented in the Community Spotlight, on my blog posts, and the YouTube videos themselves; especially to those who have routinely left comments. Since I enjoy random video editing like this and I honestly would have made this entire series regardless, even if not one single person watched these videos, knowing that a couple thousand people also watched and enjoyed these videos is pretty cool and I appreciate the encourage and feedback I received. Additionally, I would like to thank MonoPingo and the other people who uploaded highlights from the Endurance Run on YouTube. It was these random videos that gave me an idea about what kinds of hilarious jokes, twists of fate, and mishaps happened in the Endurance Run. Without these videos, I probably would have never watched this for myself.
Finally I would like to thank @turboman for his countless work highlighting the best of Giant Bomb. Over the past few years, Giant Bomb has turned into my favorite videogame website, both in terms of how it covers games and for its countless, unusual, and surprising comedy gems that these dudes have produced over the years. That said, the biggest critique I have with the site is there isn’t exactly a great way to discover these gems through Giant Bomb Dot Com itself. Because of his Best Of videos, I have gone back and watched more classic Giant Bomb, when I probably would not have otherwise. If I didn’t go through his Best Of series, I’m honestly not sure how into Giant Bomb I would be, if I would have ended up becoming a premium member, or if I would have watched this Endurance Run, let alone start making my own videos.
On the Future
There may be one or two people out there wondering what’s next, if anything, for me. Well, there is one more Persona 4 video I have sitting on my computer that needs to be rendered. However, I’m not sure if I’m going to upload it. Here's a peak behind the scenes: As I was watching this series, I have been keeping notes on the progress of episodes, what clips I have used, and what clips I have not used. This includes some really funny scenes that appeared in the same video as another really funny scene or extended sequences--like the school campout and the trip to Tatsumi Port Island--that I couldn’t justify fitting into a video like that. Originally I was going to upload this video to act as a coda for this series, but after seeing how this could be a two hour long video, that feels like overkill.
Besides that, I have a random short video idea that is closer to the Evangelion or Life is Strange videos I posted earlier this year. I would like to try and get that done before the end of the year, but I am still in the clip gathering phase and don’t know yet how everything will come together. If that doesn’t work, I have a few other ideas that may come to fruition. (Fortunately, all of these plans somehow leads to more )
In terms of if I am going to do this type of thing for another Endurance Run....no comment.
On Saying Goodbye to Persona 4
And so, with all of that said, I’m ready finally saying goodbye to Persona 4.
Persona 4 / Persona 4 Golden is the single video game I have spent the most time with. I mean, at this point it has to be. I have played through this long ass game to completion four times in under eight years. Beyond that, I watched not one, but two animes covering this material, played through Persona 4: Arena, and yes, even that dancing game. (Hey, it turns out that’s actually a really great rhythm game!) And after all of that, I decided to watch two guys spend nearly 100 hours playing through this game.
I think I'm done. I love this game to death, and I still think it is great on so many levels. If I started a new file tomorrow, I will probably still have a great time with it. But I’m done. I can’t come back to this game. At least, not for a very, very...very long time.
At this point, I don’t quite see this as me turning my back on Persona 4, but rather it is finally time to move on. Beyond how much time I’ve spent with this game and how many other great games there are left to be played, there is also the simple fact that people who don’t live in Japan / can’t read fluent Japanese will soon be able to play Persona 5. Does anybody else remember that first teaser trailer that said this game was going to be released in 2013? Did anybody else hear about random Persona 5 rumors back in 2010? The wait is (almost) finally over!
While it feels like The Internet continues to talk about Persona 4, and with good reason, it is worth mentioning that I don't think Persona 4 was a fluke or anything; Persona 3 is an incredible game in its own right. Persona 3: Portable in particular is an exceptional game that is in many ways just as good as Persona 4. The Persona series speaks to me on a level few games ever do and if Atlus is able to create another game that is even close to what they were able to accomplish with Persona 3 and Persona 4 on a PS2, then there’s a very good chance that Persona 5 will be another game I will absolutely love.
While I have spent a lot of time with both games over the years, Persona 4 in particular is my videogame equivalent of comfort food. While there is great joy and value to have something like that on and off in my life over the past eight years, I want to find my next Persona 4; whether that game ends up being Persona 5 or something else entirely. I have the general mindset that my favorite movie, song, novel, or videogame doesn't actually exist yet, because somebody has yet to create it; there will never be a time where people aren't creating truly beautiful or masterful works of art, so there is always something great to discover. So when I say goodbye to Persona 4, I am saying that with the anticipation that there is perhaps an even greater game out there to play.
In any case, for the time being, the road to Persona 5 has been a long one, but the end is in sight. I can’t wait to finally play that game for myself.
In case if anybody asks, I am dying to see whether or not the gang is going to do an Endurance Run for Persona 5. And if they do end up doing a Persona 5 Endurance Run, I will most definitely make a Best Of series for that game too at some point. So stay tuned(?)