Like the leaves on a tree

I’ve only put 15 or so hours into Persona 4 right now -ā€“ meaning I’ve barely scratched the surface, if its predecessor is anything to go by — but I’m enjoying it very much so far. Shocking, I know. I’ve found a good deal of enjoyment stems from getting to know the NPCs in the town, much as I did in Persona 3. As time marches on, you see the same people react to various plot events, holidays, the weather, etc. — and in the process, each and every one starts to demonstrate a minor personality, despite delivering only one line of dialogue at a time. Sure, all the main characters have loads of personality too, but who cares what they think when I can hear from the cowardly kindergarten teacher?

[[image: ar_122208_persona_01.jpg:C’mon Yukiko, I’ll get to my point eventually!:center:0]]
It was pure coincidence, but I’m glad I started up Persona 4 right after finishing Mother 3. Playing the two back-to-back has given me some perspective on why exactly I like this so much. In Mother 3, there’s an incredibly deliberate push for you to get to know the village and the townsfolk living there, which is only obvious after some spoiler-y changes occur and you suddenly realize how attached you’ve become. In Persona 3, as the game (and the school year in the game) came to a close, I sincerely felt sad when I realized that I wouldn’t be visiting these people every day anymore. In both cases, growing accustomed to the people and setting was exactly why I look back on them now so fondly.

I thought about this a lot as I was visiting family this weekend for the holidays, and honestly I don’t think it’s something I could have really appreciated up until a few years ago, when I first started returning home after college. As anyone that’s ever moved far from home can attest, there’s a strange feeling when you visit a place and it isn’t quite the way you left it. As silly as it sounds, I once was actually mad that the Wendy’s in my home town closed — not because I had any particular affinity towards it, but simply because something that had always been there had suddenly disappeared while I was away. In the same way, the lengths these games go to making me feel attached — and subsequently breaking that attachment — is something that I appreciate, because it mirrors a feeling that’s becoming more and more familiar to me these days.

It’s a no-brainer, but it seems like it’s often the case that the games that stay with me over the years are the ones that I can really identify with in some small way at the time. Suikoden II‘s story hit me just right when it came out because the things I cared about most at the time were my friends, and how life was already beginning to change our relationships; much more recently, by far my favorite part of Metal Gear Solid 4 was its theme of aging and obsolescene coming only a year after I’d graduated college and suddenly found myself wondering if I had already settled into an unexciting lot in life. (On a related note: I can’t wait to see if my opinion of Metal Gear Solid 4 is raised when I’m 70 and exhausted of battle.) And you know, I’m sure there are even thousands of people out there that to this day are drawn to Final Fantasy VII because their inner 1997 teenager still identifies with Cloud Strife’s angst-ridden struggle. This is part of the reason I’m really looking forward to Dragon Quest V next year; the theme in that game is one of family, and — much like what I’ve been describing here — it strikes me as something that will be more appreciated the older I get, especially as I watch my parents grow old.

[[image: ar_122208_persona_02.jpg:Screw that, I’m playin’ hookey.:center:0]]
Of course, I feel kind of bad that I’m thinking like this and I’m only 23. If I’m feeling this maudlin already, I’m really not looking forward to the next (hopefully) 60 or so years. In any case, I am noticing that the older I get, the less I’m interested in the spry young adventurer than I am lamenting the way the world around him changes. It’s fun to say that games need to grow up more, and in many cases it’s very true ā€“ but recently the few games I’ve played are all at least tangently related to these themes, and it makes me wonder if games aren’t in some small way more mature than we give them credit for.

8 thoughts on “Like the leaves on a tree

  1. I totally agree with this – most of my favorite games are ones where I identify with the characters or the setting on some level. Shenmue, for example, hit me just right b/c I was in High School dreaming about the day I’d get to wander the fascinating distant shores of the Far East. Suikoden II, which you mentioned, was exactly the same for me, along with Chrono Trigger. I saw myself in those roles and experiencing those events with the characters. The npcs in the game world just added to the entire thing.

    FF7, too, was my favorite game when it came out, but I don’t think it was fueled by the “angst-ridden” main character. I was genuinely interested in the bleak, alternate-future-ish fantasy world, the battle system, and the legendary stories of how my friends bested Ruby & Emerald weapon. I DID indetify with some of the characters and themes, but I was not unhappy or “emo” by a long shot. Really wish FF didn’t have that association.

  2. This is making me want to play Persona 4. I must keep reminding myself that I’ve never liked the gameplay of an SMT game…

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one getting old and maudlin before your time. Apparently it’s happening to a lot of people our age – the quarter-life crisis.

  3. Lucas, I’ve never enjoyed a Megami Tensei game either. Persona 2’s combat was simply too tedious. But I got Persona 3 as an early Christmas gift, and have been loving it. The masses are not wrong!

  4. Off topic, but I love how you put the little hover over text into all the images you post. I dunno what that’s called but I think it’s a cool touch.

  5. Thanks, SwimOdin. I try to every time, but it’s hard to think of anything worth putting. Glad I have a fan, though!

    Lucas- quarter life crisis, really? Ugh. I think I’m more depressed by the fact that I’m not the only one like this.

  6. Calories, I’m the same age as you and I’ve been feeling similar things to you for a while now. So you’re not alone. But at the same time, I think giving it a label like a “quarter life crisis” is a bit ridiculous. I think “anxiety” and/or “stress” is far more appropriate.

    Either that, or you/I/people like us are just way too emo for our own good. Or maybe both?

  7. B-but…it isn’t emo! I’m not always SAD about it…I’m just more into games giving me that feeling, since I can relate.

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