On the Setting of an RPG – or, why I like Persona 4 more than Persona 5

Persona 5 is a great game with great UI and a great sense of space. It’s set in modern day Tokyo, and it’s probably one of the most faithful depiction of the city in video games so far, with all the details and clever design tricks to make it, not accurate per se, but to make it feel like you’re inside this big interlocking system that is a metropolis like Tokyo. The overworld is filled with people minding their business, the loading screen depict them strolling left and right, the commercial streets are filled with stores and wares in all colours, and you can occasionally hear bits of conversations floating up, too fast for you to read. It’s brilliant.

I hate walking around in it. I really try to enjoy it though. Some parts of me like how vibrant it is, I know, but the other parts balk at the idea of running around Shibuya’s stations again.


Jakarta isn’t quite Tokyo. If anything it’s messier, noisier, filled with so many people, so many small spaces crammed between all the roads, so many roads crammed in limited space. There’s reason and rhyme to it, perhaps, and if you live here long enough you’ll find one whether or not it’s the right one. If you live here long enough, like I do, you get used to it. You have to. Or I guess you’ll just get constant migraine, like I do.

In a lot of ways, Tokyo is a lot like Jakarta. And the Tokyo depicted in Persona 5 is perhaps a little too much like the sprawling, stupid, metropolis I live in. So much noise, so many people, so many, too many things to see on the screen. My probably-ADD brain can’t handle all this excessive details.

So often while playing Persona 5, I’m tempted to just reset the PS3 and play some other calmer games. The first NieR isn’t as wonderfully dull-looking as Automata, but it’s just as soothing. Dragon Age: Inquisition has an enormous world and so many things to do in it, but its open-world plains don’t drive me crazy the way Persona 5’s tight city-spaces do.

Most of all, I start missing Persona 4.

I can’t be the only one who finds it interesting that despite taking place in a small idyllic town, Persona 4’s main theme is trashy television. They’re great contrast for each other. A small town is rocked by change, newcomers, and attention while its younger residents struggles to find their place in an increasingly broadcasted  world. In the meantime, everyone in town still knows practically everybody else and the weather still greatly affects how they live.


The small-town, close-to-nature vibe makes it extremely pleasant to simply walk around town. Or to just simply be there. To know in the middle of some dangerous shadow-hunting run inside the television that there’s that small town to get back to. While I’m not much for gaudy televisions, the theme makes me appreciate the simple backdrop more.

Persona 4 isn’t a better game than Persona 5. Oh, no, obviously not. The team has learned a lot from their experience and poured it all into making Persona 5 a much better game. Better gameplay, crazy good (and thematic) UI, just better designed all-around. I have reservations on how the story unfolds, but picking apart two 100-hour RPGs is gonna take a much longer article, yeah?

But I will say that, for me personally, Persona 4 is a much more comfortable game to play. While I so want to continue on with Persona 5 and see what happens next, to bash more shadows with my perfect planning (ha!), there’s also a part of me that do not want to see more of it, purely because of its setting and how it depicts it.

Guillermo del Toro once said that he doesn’t do homework with his life, that he doesn’t bother doing what’s supposed to be done for pleasure if it doesn’t engage him. Well, I’m kinda on the fence with Persona 5 here. It’s not, in some meanings of the world, fun to play for me. I’m reluctant to spend part of my life on it, really. But I’m pretty decently engaged and it’d be a shame if I don’t finish it.

I don’t know. I’ll see how this goes.


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