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  • Game Narrative Review - Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

    [09.24.10]
    - Patrick Hayes
  •  [In an effort to get more student developers thinking about game narrative, the Writers' Summit at GDC Online supported an annual contest in association with the IGDA Writers SIG. The board has challenged students to produce in-depth analyses of the narrative elements of their favorite video games.

    The goal is twofold: to encourage students to look at game narrative and writing with the intensity and depth that they do other aspects of game development, and to reward the students who excel at game narrative analysis.

    GameCareerGuide is once again happy to present the student entries which have been awarded poster sessions at the event this year.]

    Platform: Sony PlayStation 2
    Genre: Japanese Style Role Playing Game
    Release Date: December 9, 2008
    Developer: Atlus
    Publisher: Atlus
    Game Writer/Creative Director/Narrative Designer: Katsura Hashino (Director)

    Overview

    Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 continues long-standing tradition within the Persona series of making high school students overcome their psychological shortcomings through the students' involvement in extraordinary events. The story is presented as a murder mystery where the murderer throws his victims into a bizarre world that exists inside of televisions. While a victim is within the TV world, their "Shadow" manifests physically and torments them until a certain point in time when the "Shadow" turns on the person and kills him, depositing him back in the real world.

    The protagonist gets caught up in this mystery by coincidence during a one-year stay at his uncle's house in the rural town of Inaba. The player controls this protagonist and must balance his attempts to save the victims from the TV world while maintaining a social life and attending classes at school. Early in the game, the protagonist awakens to his Persona, a powerful deity that represents his inner strength. The principle characters that the protagonist befriends are explored through their encounters with their "Shadows" which, when overcome, awakens them to their own Personas. Other characters the protagonist meets, as well as these principle friends, are explored through "Social Links", events where the protagonist meets with friends during his free time. The protagonist is characterized by the decisions the player makes during "Social Links".

    Characters

    • Protagonist - The protagonist is the character that the player controls. He is staying with his uncle in Inaba for a year while his parents are working overseas. He is given a name by the player at the start of the game and much of his personality is left up to the player. The protagonist only speaks when the game prompts the user to select from a list of dialog options; as such he is a "silent protagonist" whose personality is dictated by the player. The protagonist is the leader of the "Investigation Team", a group of students who use their mysterious powers to try to find out the identity of the serial murderer that is throwing people into the TV world.
    • Yosuke Hanamura - Like the protagonist, Yosuke moved to Inaba from a larger city. The two are in the same class and Yosuke had a crush on one of the girls in the senior class, Saki Konishi, but she ends up being the second victim of the murderer. With the protagonist and another classmate, Yosuke discovers and explores the TV world. Yosuke is the character that comes up with the idea to create the "Investigation Team", but since the first character to develop powers is the protagonist he is elected to be the leader of the team after Yukiko is saved from her "Shadow".

      Yosuke's shadow represents his hopes for something interesting to happen as well as his negative feelings for living in the rural, generally quiet town of Inaba. He learns to come to grips with his sadness over the death of Saki Konishi if the protagonist spends time working on his "Social Link".
    • Chie Satonaka - Chie is another classmate of the protagonist and the protagonist sits next to her in class. She is good friends with Yukiko and she originally joins in the investigation to try to save Yukiko from the TV world. Chie is a tomboy who loves Kung Fu movies and sees herself as a defender of Yukiko. Her "Shadow" represents her desire to maintain dominance over Yukiko in their relationship as well as her jealousy of Yukiko's feminine qualities and skills. If the protagonist spends free time advancing Chie's "Social Link", she will learn that her desire to control Yukiko was actually a desire to protect people and that their relationship is one of mutual caring.
    • Yukiko Amagi - She is another classmate of the protagonist, a close friend of Chie, and the first person that the protagonist, Chie, and Yosuke successfully save from the TV world. Yukiko's family runs the historic Amagi Inn and she is next in line as manager of the inn. Yukiko is very popular among the students and is frequently asked out, though she never accepts any of the propositions. Once Yukiko is saved from the TV world, she decides to join the "Investigation Team" so she can use her powers to save more victims like herself. Her "Shadow" represents her feelings that as the heir to the Amagi Inn, her destiny had been secured as soon as she was born. Yukiko's "Social Link" involves her decision to either stay in Inaba and take over the Amagi or head elsewhere and pursue her own dreams. Ultimately, Yukiko decides to stay in Inaba because everyone she cares about is there and she is happy to make her own decision to take over the Inn.
    • Kanji Tatsumi - Kanji is a year younger than the protagonist and is the second person saved by the "Investigation Team". Kanji is known throughout the school as a delinquent and this reputation causes some problems for Kanji's mother, who owns a small textile shop. Because Kanji is raised by the owner of a textile shop, he is very good at sewing and dealing with handicrafts in general. His talent with handicrafts leads Harima to have a confused image of what masculinity and manhood are and this leads him to have a confused sexuality; he is not sure what his sexual orientation is, he's just himself and he wants people to accept that. Kanji's "Shadow" represents his confusion over manhood and sexuality. Working through Kanji's "Social Link" helps him learn to be himself and introduces him to more people who accept him for who he is without worrying about hiding it.
    • Rise Kujikawa - Rise is another underclassman at the school the protagonist attends and she is the third person that the team saves. Rise is a popular teen idol who decides to take a break from the spotlight by living with her grandmother in Inaba. Her "Shadow" represents her perceived lack of a personal identity which was born from being an idol told what to do, eat, and say all the time. When the protagonist spends time advancing Rise's "Social Link", Rise learns that her identity was an idol and that she could do good acting as a role model for people.
    • Teddie - Teddie is a mystery entity that the protagonist meets the first time he enters the TV world. It is revealed, ultimately, that Teddie is a "Shadow" that had such a powerful desire to be loved by people that he took the form of a bear mascot and learned human language. Eventually, Teddie overcomes his own "Shadow" that represents his fears that his existence is hollow because his bear body is hollow. Once he overcomes these fears, he manages to gain his own power and he develops a human body that allows him to enter the human world and continue spending time with the "Investigation Team". During his "Social Link", Teddie learns that he is accepted as true friend by the team, even though he's a "Shadow".
    • Naoto Shirogane - Naoto is a young private investigator that is introduced to the party as a boy, but is actually a girl who disguises as a boy to be accepted more easily by other police that she has to work with. She is one year younger than the protagonist, but she comes off as being one of the more mature characters in the party. Naoto came to Inaba because of the unsolved murders that the regular Inaba police force has been unable to make any headway in solving. She is immediately suspicious that the "Investigation Team", that works completely independently, is holding information back on her. After she is saved from the TV world, she understands why the team had to work independently and she joins up.

      Naoto's "Shadow" represents her desire to be taken seriously as a detective in spite of her gender and age. Naoto's "Social Link" teaches her that she really does love being a detective and that she is not simply becoming a detective to carry on her family's tradition.

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